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.
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!
Family memories inspire the most believable stories…
T. M. Brown, Southern & Inspirational Author
Folks have asked about my Christmas in Shiloh backstory timeline and how family plays such a key role in the story of Sanctuary. Here’s a kernel of inspiration that came from one of my grandsons performing in front of the Christmas tree when he was but five. These are the moments to be treasured and worthy of inclusion in my stories of Theo and Liddy Phillips overcoming their fears as they unravel mysteries in Shiloh. Their love of family is the fiber that binds their courage as they confront scandals and uncover dark secrets in their new small-town community.
Click the book cover images below to order your copy of Sanctuary or Testament today. Buy an extra copy or two as gifts for your book-loving family or friends.
Don’t forget to share this with your friends and family.
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!
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.
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than receive.” Acts 20:35
To become an encourager to others, we need to allow encouragers into our life. To encourage those who are weaker, we must identify our weaknesses. To feed the hungry, we should know the pangs of hunger.
Fasting has a personal purpose that emphasizes our dependent relationship upon God, but it also reminds us what it means to do without and experience genuine hunger.
I challenge you to fast; learn what it means to feel real hunger pangs. You will find yourself closer to God through the experience, which will allow you to better sympathize with others in genuine need. God can use you then to become a better encourager effectively reaching out and caring for others in need.
For stories that reflect the lasting benefit of being a genuine encourager, visit TMBrownAuthor.com and order a copy of Sanctuary or the sequel, Testament.
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.
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.
Y’all Southern mystery lovers, Sanctuary is the holiday read you’ll enjoy this year. Here is a sneak-peek to whet your appetite so you’ll be sure to get your copy.
Click on my photo and I will present some images that reflect Theo’s and Liddy’s first morning in Shiloh, a time-lost South Georgia town they have chosen to reconnect with their roots. However, they end up wrestling with far more excitement and adventures than they bargained for after they arrive.
In Chapter 2 they awaken to the new sounds and sights that draw them back to their earlier days before college, marriage, and a career that kept them in the shadows of Atlanta for the past forty years.
Get your copy of Sanctuary. Checkout the links on the sidebar of my page, or contact me directly for your own personalized, signed edition.
NOTE: Testament, the sequel due out early 2018! Stay tuned for more details soon.
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?)
Sanctuary covers a specific timeline as Theo and Liddy’s story unfolds in the late Fall and ends on Christmas Eve in Shiloh. This makes this heartwarming small-town Southern mystery a wonderful holiday gift for family and friends.
Nothing changes about the original book cover, however the promo images infuse the “Christmas in Shiloh” imagery.
As a proud author-member of Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA), I personally encourage you to contact your local independent bookstore to purchase your copy of Sanctuary.
For those in the Greater Atlanta area, visit Horton’s Books and Gifts in Carrollton, GA. I’ll be there on Saturday, September 23rd. They already have Sanctuary conveniently available on their online shopping page… Horton’s Online Book store
REMEMBER: There are two current noteworthy promotions underway.
(1) From all the reviewers of Sanctuary, twenty-five will be selected after December 31st to receive advance copies of Testament, the sequel due to release early 2018.
TESTAMENT, available 2018 – “Shiloh wrestles with an unexpected visitor from its past…”
(2) On a first come first serve basis, there are four (4) Kindle versions of Sanctuary available. Just go to my Facebook Author Page and comment why you love Southern mysteries or what you find intriguing about Sanctuary. Remember this is a limited offer so don’t hesitate to respond.
For schedule of all my author events in the coming weeks please go to my Facebook author page. As the holidays approach, do you think Sanctuary might make a convenient holiday gift for your book loving friends and family members on your Christmas list.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
So remember your Creator in the days of your youth: Before the days of adversity come, and the years approach when you will say, “I have no delight in them”; before the sun and the light are darkened, and the moon and the stars, and the clouds return after the rain; on the day when the guardians of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, the women who grind cease because they are few, and the ones who watch through the windows see dimly, and the doors at the street are shut while the sound of the mill fades; when one rises at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song grow faint. Also, they are afraid of heights and dangers on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper loses its spring, and the caper berry has no effect; for man is headed to his eternal home, and mourners will walk around in the street; before the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken, and the jar is shattered at the spring, and the wheel is broken into the well; and the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Everything is futile.” Eccl 12:1-8 (HCSB)
Most decisions about one’s relationship with God originate during one’s childhood, before the age of accountability. An innocent time before a child leaves the safety and security of their home. This fact impacted me many years ago but also continues to serve as a primary motivation for my desire to teach and write at my stage of life.
The Bible offers a strong emphasis on the proper rearing of our children. Parents have a divine mandate passed down through the ages, generation to generation, to teach their children about God. Beyond the setting of the home, parents expose their children to a church’s children or youth ministry, even though the parents may not even attend that church?
I am not declaring that everyone who has received the biblical message taught in the church will ultimately live out all the teachings they received, all the time. Each of us must travel through various stages during our life-long journey with God. Many, if not most, mature their faith as they grow beyond mere blind acceptance to a maturing, questioning of what and why we believe about God. However, each of us experiences a desire to connect with our Creator. Hopefully, we receive our initial introduction to God during our formable youth, long before the stresses of life have choked most of our receptivity to God away from us!
It is also a fact, most teenagers, especially after they leave the house, will wander testing their abilities and understandings about life for an extended period as young adults. Many will listen to others question God’s reality and existence, and hear differing opinions about the authenticity of the biblical writings in academic circles. Freedom of thought and self-understanding are important stages in each person’s life. I believe, God allows us to challenge our faith.
For those who received a solid grounding during their youth about God, the challenges in life will draw them closer to God again, with a stronger relevant understanding and conviction than ever before. I believe, the parable of the prodigal son reveals this to be true. You see, people in pursuit of all the options life affords them, sooner or later, come to the reality that no acceptable option exists beyond our faith in God. Some may try to live in denial of God, but even in fighting against the reality of God one struggles with the origin of God’s gifts in their life.
There is no greater, more unequivocal evidence regarding God’s existence than the fact people around the world believe in God. Even scientists, doctors, engineers, architects, and philosophers admit their journeys of discovery almost always conclude with them staring at God for the answers they seek about life. From a worldview, all the religions found across our planet may never fully agree about God, but they all exist because of man’s desire to connect with and understand God.
Why is this so important? In life, times of trials and tribulation will happen that will be beyond our abilities to cope and survive. They will cause each of us to acknowledge we cannot make it without our faith in God. God allows such formidable challenges to nurture our faith in God as we grow older with God. Yes, our life-long journey with God may falter from time-to-time, but, sooner or later, most all of us return to seeking out God’s will, ways, and wisdom as the cornerstone of our life. God enjoys receiving each person who realizes that life without God risks an end whereby the laughter of children fades, the colors of the seasons fail to change, the clouds become swallowed by darkness, and the wind offers no relief at our last gasp of breath. What happens next rests with God…
Send your bread on the surface of the waters, for after many days you may find it. Give a portion to seven or even to eight, for you don’t know what disaster may happen on earth. If the clouds are full, they will pour out rain on the earth; whether a tree falls to the south or the north, the place where the tree falls, there it will lie. One who watches the wind will not sow, and the one who looks at the clouds will not reap. Just as you don’t know the path of the wind, or how bones [develop] in the womb of a pregnant woman, so you don’t know the work of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hand rest, because you don’t know which will succeed, whether one or the other, or if both of them will be equally good. Eccl 11:1-6 (HCSB)
Just as God counseled the disciples of Jesus, we too cannot stand idle waiting for what has been promised to happen someday. Just because something will happen in the future does not guarantee it will occur in the present. We must choose to live in expectation, not anticipation. We cannot forgo living in the present because of what we believe about the future. What we do in the here and now bears upon how the future unfolds. God made it very clear: He has chosen to use humankind to prepare and build his kingdom on earth until such time he unites the kingdoms of heaven and earth together. However, until then, he patiently perseveres with humanity’s capriciousness, not because of those hesitating and struggling to act as he wishes, but for those who will benefit from what will take place. God’s forbearance is for the good of all, especially those who have yet to hear and respond to ’his will, ways, and wisdom.
For those who know God but struggle in obedience to ’his will, ways, and wisdom; God disciplines those who know him, yet willfully disobey – not to punish but instruct and guide.
All will face judgment someday for how we have responded or failed to respond to God’s guidance. None of us will ever comply with his instruction entirely, yet God always works faithfully using our shortcomings to reveal his kingdom purposes. To become more obedient and responsive to his will, ways, and wisdom, we must stop anticipating the signs that will tell us his return is near. That marks all religious procrastinators who blindly seek to predict the Lord’s arrival so that they can then scurry and scramble about doing what they should have been doing all along. In the meantime, they sit, stare, and secretly hope his return stalls another day.
Those who beg the Lord’s return are tired of waiting and have feigned obedience outwardly while inwardly they struggle.
Those who have been faithful and obedient have lived in expectation, not anticipation. The faithful have chosen to live each day with a purpose, seeking to grow in obedience to God’s will, ways, and wisdom, because not only does that please God, others may be watching so that their yearning heart yearns might be filled with what we have.
Do I need to understand all the signs? No! All I need to know is God holds my future in his hands. The past is behind me and thankfully God’s forgiveness has allowed me to move beyond the past. God only holds me accountable for the choices I make in the present. If the dark clouds bring storms, so be it. Let the wind howl. I do not care from whence it came, only that I must face it. I praise God for all newborns conceived without trying to comprehend God’s miracle of creation beyond what God allows me to grasp. Daily I pray to plant a seed and do my part of witnessing its development as it prospers to the benefit of God and His Kingdom.
Am I perfect? …absolutely not! However, I am being made perfect by God’s grace. How about you?
Again I saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, or bread to the wise, or riches to the discerning, or favor to the skillful; rather, time and chance happen to all of them. For man certainly does not know his time: like fish caught in a cruel net, or like birds caught in a trap, so people are trapped in an evil time, as it suddenly falls on them. Eccl 9:11-12 (HCSB)
Why is it that good people experience tough times? Why does evil find its way to good and very talented people? What is God’s purpose for the presence of evil in everyone’s life at one time or another? What if we were able to outrun or overcome evil through own strength; be sufficiently wise enough to not stumble into evil’s trap; be rich enough to pay the ransom on our own to remove evil’s effects upon our life; be so skilled that we could out-maneuver evil’s wily schemes, would we still fall prey to the temptations that evil lays out for us in the choices we make throughout life?
It is clear, God has allowed evil to use time and opportunity for its wicked purposes to test and try the soul of man. Evil’s broad net entraps the best of man along with the least of us equally. When it is evil’s time to spring upon us, there is nothing but a our faith to deliver us from the foreboding times of tribulation that evil intends to put its through. Only an unshakable faith in God’s goodness can protect and thwart evil’s diabolical plans that can cause even the most prepared soul to stumble.
Consider the story of Job in God’s Word, he was a man who sought to please God in all he did and yet God allowed evil to have its way to test Job’s faith.
What are you unwilling to surrender that may cause your faith to falter in a time of testing and temptation? Would it be held so dear that you would risk setting your faith in God aside to protect what you claim as your own in this lifetime?
Job declared that even if evil took his life, he would never surrender his faith in God. When he sat alone and felt he had lost everything and even questioned his relationship with God, God intervened and rewarded Job; everything he had lost God replaced, plus more.
We all have a choice when evil finds it way onto our path: (1) try to fight it in our own strength, wisdom, skill, wealth and face the consequences alone; or (2) seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom and stand fast in the face of evil’s efforts, placing our faith in God’s goodness and promises. Psychologists agree, there are two innate responses when we are confronted by evil – fight or flee. But, I suggest one more, stand fast, anchored by faith. Evil desires each of us to quit the fight and admit we cannot flee what we cannot outrun or outmaneuver. At that point evil wins. The moment we choose to stand firm trusting God, evil cannot win. Enjoy the fruits of strength, wealth, wisdom and talent, but remember they are God’s gifts and are never as powerful as your faith in God when confronting evil. No one can ever be their own savior inmate fight against evil.
I increased my achievements. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made gardens and parks for myself and planted every kind of fruit tree in them. I constructed reservoirs of water for myself from which to irrigate a grove of flourishing trees. I acquired male and female servants and had slaves who were born in my house. I also owned many herds of cattle and flocks, more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. I also amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I gathered male and female singers for myself, and many concubines, the delights of men. Thus, I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; my wisdom also remained with me. All that my eyes desired, I did not deny them. I did not refuse myself any pleasure, for I took pleasure in all my struggles. This was my reward for all my struggles. When I considered all that I had accomplished and what I had labored to achieve, I found everything to be futile and a pursuit of the wind. There was nothing to be gained under the sun. Eccl 2:4-11 (HCSB)
Solomon offers the greatest example of when we live a self-centered, self-focused lifestyle, self-satisfaction is not possible.
When “I” dominates our thoughts and motivates our life, we are focused on pleasing ourself first and foremost. However, “I” focus leads only to futility, and in time, growing futility morphs into frustration, which ultimately develops into hate for our insatiable self. Even when all the prestige, power and pleasures of this world are available, our “I” focus can never be adequately satisfied. Why? Because, God did not create us to be selfish creatures. We were created to serve and share with those within our circle of family and friends.
The richest people in this world have repeatedly testified that when they got caught up in their growing wealth and fame, only loneliness shared that wealth and fame. Why do so many rich and famous people resort to lifestyles that are so destructive, risking all they have? Even the great Solomon discovered his insatiable desires nurtured the loneliness he found himself surrounded by – his concubines failed to satisfy his desire for true love; all his servants could not offer him true friendship; and his enumerable slaves were not a replacement for family.
There is a decision we all must make in life: a crossroads of two choices. One road offers glory, fame and fortune found through a lifetime following our own will, ways, and wisdom – much like Solomon. The other road leads to a destination that can only be discovered by faith. A faith that requires the surrender of shortsighted, selfish desires in exchange for trusting God’s will, ways, and wisdom. At the crossroads, our decision depends on whether we trust our eyes or our heart.
Solomon asked for wisdom, and God gave him his wish, but what he got was a lifetime of misery and frustration. History reveals, his selfish choices affected all the families of Israel. After his death, the clans that made up Israel split, went their own ways and never reconciled. They all entered the slippery slope on the road to destruction. Likewise, if we choose wrongly, we too can land on that same slippery slope and discover we too caused the demise of others as well. Which way is the right way? The one with a favorable destination your eyes can see, or the one with an unclear destination but your heart feels is the right choice? Choose wisely, but unselfishly. Success is never determined by the value of things we accumulate, but by the growing number of people we serve and share with in this world.
On that day his burden will fall from your shoulders, and his yoke from your neck. The yoke will be broken because of [his] fatness. Assyria has come to Aiath and has gone through Migron, storing his equipment at Michmash. They crossed over at the ford, saying, “We will spend the night at Geba.” The people of Ramah are trembling; those at Gibeah of Saul have fled! Today he will stand at Nob, shaking his fist at the mountain of Daughter Zion, the hill of Jerusalem. Look, the Lord God of Hosts will chop off the branches with terrifying power, and the tall [trees] will be cut down, the high [trees] felled. He is clearing the thickets of the forest with an ax, and Lebanon with its majesty will fall. Isaiah 10:27-34 (HCSB)
This passage is about the historically accurate period in the history of Judah when the Assyrians had wreaked havoc on the lands of Judah and were fast approaching Zion, the mountain upon which Jerusalem rests. God had used the Assyrians to exact judgment upon the arrogance of his people who began to worship other gods and exalted themselves in their minds with allegiances of their making rather than cling to the faith in their Lord God who promised to preserve and protect them. Though a remnant survived as God promised in the lands north of Judah in Samaria – northern tribes of Israel – the threat of devastation and destruction caused fear to spread in the remaining southern tribal region in Judah. However, when their capital and sacred city of Jerusalem found itself at risk, the Lord lifted the burden his people feared. It fell upon the arrogant and prideful, disobedient Assyrians. The Lord placed himself between the Assyrians armies and the walls of Jerusalem, and he cut down the army that surrounded the city while the people trembled inside the city of Jerusalem.
God used Isaiah as his messenger to change Hezekiah’s heart back to the Lord. As a result, Jerusalem was saved from God’s wrath because their hearts recognized that the Lord was true to his word. We too should realize that in the face of the various trials, tests, and periods of tribulation we will face in life, the Lord never forsakes or leaves us. As long as we stand firm in our faith, we will witness the Lord’s loving-kindness and mercy through all of our difficult times. Our faith will break the yoke of all our burdens.
How is your faith today? Do you turn to the Lord in tough times, or do you seek to flee by your own efforts or worse yet fight against your adversaries through your own resources and short-sighted schemes that are certain to fail. How can we know what is the right thing to do? Invest daily seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom searching God’s Word. You will undoubtedly learn how to stand firm in your faith and how to face your fears by allowing God to release the yoke of your burdens.
We all may mess up in life at one time or another and the consequences will pursue us, but those who recognize the errors of their ways and turn to the Lord will be saved. That is a promise found over and over in God’s Word.