…the kindness of God leads you to repentance… Romans 2:4b
It is funny, once a child of God experiences the personal joy of God’s kindness in his or her life, that joy is shared with someone else by acts of kindness in return. In sharing the joy of God by acts of kindness, God’s purpose is realized. Only His children can receive His joy, and only His children can share His joy with others through sincere acts of kindness…that is how God works through us to reach those in the greatest need of receiving His joy. Once those in need of God’s joy in their life receive joy from one of God’s children through some act of kindness and they recognize the source of that joy there can be but one response: repentance, or turning from a life of sorrow and strife towards a life of hope, optimism, and peace only found through receiving God’s joy in their life.
Right now in our community, there is a lot of bad news touching lives, and families are struggling as parents are at risk of losing jobs and homes. Our community needs to sense of joy through many acts of kindness that leads them to have a real sense of hope, optimism, and peace. The only stimulus plan that will last is the plan God has for us not what man can deliver. God’s resources are unlimited whereas man’s are certainly limited and cannot last. Share with someone today the hope of God through an act of kindness and see how it can stimulate joy in others.
(This devotion was originally written to a host of students, teachers, and friends caught up in the financial crisis of 2009. Our current crisis is not the same but the challenges and fears of uncertainty are the same as before. Kindness remains a gift of God that will save lives from despair and destruction. Whose life will you impact by your acts of compassion and kindness today and tomorrow?)
Visit TMBrownAuthor.com for stories that reflect the value of kindness in times of crisis in the Shiloh stories.
Here I am with the children the Lord has given me to be signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of Hosts who dwells on Mount Zion. When they say to you, “Consult the spirits of the dead and the spiritists who chirp and mutter,” shouldn’t a people consult their God? [Should they consult] the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the Â testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, there will be no dawn for them. They will wander through the land, dejected and hungry. When they are famished, they will become enraged, and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. They will look toward the earth and see only distress, darkness, and the gloom of affliction, and they will be driven into thick darkness. Isaiah 8:18-22 (HCSB)
We often lose our focus on what are the really important issues of life and we discover the light fades along the path we are on in life. Darkness prevails because we grow ignorant to what is happening to us and to our loved ones. Darkness morphs to distress and despair along our path and we discover only an uncertain, gloomy, fearful journey lies ahead. When that happens many of us realize they are helpless and attack anyone else for the feelings of despair. When that fails, God becomes our target for our frustration.
People will resort to consulting “dead” spirits for answers in their darkness hours of desperation. But, “what benefit can the dead be for the living?”How can light be shed from searching the darkness of the grave? Why not search for the source of all light?
“Why do bad things happen to good people?” is an age old question that many struggle with in their hearts and minds. However, God allows times of trials, testing and tribulation to strengthen our relationship with him not to cause despair. As we walk by faith in difficult and dark times seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom to guide and protect us during those dreaded dark times, the dawn will reveal a stronger faith within us that binds us closer to God than before the darkness overcame our lives.
Centuries after only the truly faithful survived the trying days that fell upon Israel and Judah shortly after the days of Isaiah, a faithful remnant huddled in an upper room in Jerusalem in the darkest days after the crucifixion of Jesus. However, where no hope is found, God’s grace restores hope and his glory sheds light upon our dark and gloomy fears. Why is it that God separated the day from the night? Is it because it makes us appreciate the light of day and fear the dark uncertainty of night? Without times of darkness how would we know to love and appreciate the light?
So why would we try to save our own life and seek light from darkness? There is but one source of light and he also is the Creator of life. No one enjoys darkness and despair, but oh how we all love the dawn of light when we darkness and despair envelop us. Run to the light!
Please allow me to begin this story by sharing that over the many centuries, since the beginning of what we now celebrate as Christmas, our societies have painted a much different picture of the Christmas story. We have gotten sidetracked from the real story.
In each of our homes, a simple manger scene might be tucked away on a shelf or tabletop somewhere, symbolically placed without any real fanfare or notice. It has become just another ornament or decoration in our home already filled with lights, candles, bows, and assorted Christmas ornamentation. There is far more interest upon the gaily wrapped gifts under the tree, and we wonder, “What is under the tree for me?” Our attention turns to preparing and sharing scrumptious candy, cookies, and cakes with family and friends gathering while that Christmas manger depicts the real story and magic of Christmas.
Is it wrong to think about all the other wonderful treats and gifts and ornamentation that now identify with Christmas? Is it wrong to sing Jingle Bells and Grandma Got Run Over By the Reindeer on Christmas Eve? Is it wrong to talk about Santa Claus, the North Pole, and Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer? Is it wrong to watch the myriad of Christmas stories Hollywood has created that we seem to enjoy each Christmas season? No, all are a by-product of how Christmas has become shaped by our modern society.
However, for some of us, we embrace our heritage and the family traditions passed down to us as our way to celebrate the “Spirit of Christmas.” Though there are more and more outside influences competing to shape the Christmas traditions our children and grandchildren are allowing into their homes, we faithfully pass on the heritage and traditions as they grow up and raise their our family.
Just maybe, if we stop and pull aside all the shiny trimmings and colorful decorations, and mute more of the commercialized messages of Christmas, we might avoid missing out on the true meaning and joy of Christmas. But, if we allow ourselves to fall prey to all the glitz, glitter, and glamour, the real reason for the season might fade totally away; we might as well follow suit with the rest of the world and stop calling it CHRISTmas, as many in the world would prefer we do.
Why does the world want to avoid the real reason for CHRISTmas? Is it because if they join us in celebrating Christmas (the CHRIST MASS, as it originally was called), they will hear the true message and the story represented by the manger scene resting on a shelf somewhere? The celebration of Jesus’s birth is so we may acknowledge God’s love. In the confusing, chaotic and combative time we live in today, there has never been a greater time for the world to grasp ahold of the real meaning of Christmas.
That very first Christmas Eve, though the term we now embrace as Christmas would not be known for decades, was a genuine, historical event involving real people; its story passed from generation to generation and recorded over the centuries so it could endure the test of time and become the anchor of our faith that God’s love was, is, and forever will remain available to us.
The Bible records that the Apostle Paul saw the Christ child event as significant because it reflected God’s deliberate act to demonstrate His love for us by introducing Himself through what would become the life and legacy of Jesus, born into this world just as we too are born into this world. In writing to the early churches, decades after the birth, Paul wrote the WHAT and WHY of that first Christmas Eve.
WHAT: But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Galatians 4:4-5 The Message
The timing of Jesus’ birth was not arbitrary. It was established by key events and came directed by the providential hand of God for His good purposes.
WHY: Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of an intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave (a nobody), but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance. Galatians 4:6-7 The Message
The why is much more important! Until this point in history, the people of God had lost contact with the personal God who led His them from slavery in Egypt and delivered them to a better place, a better life. Like many of us today, they had taken God’s goodness and love for granted and alienated themselves from God for over 500 years. In fact, many suffered exile and were driven into foreign lands – a reminder of what being a slave, a nobody felt like again. Even those who continued to live in the lands we know as Israel today, and those scattered throughout the known world at that time, faced Roman rule, no longer able to experience a “King” of their own to lead them from the oppression they endured. But, many clung to God’s promises of a Messiah, a Deliverer, to rescue them once again. They yearned for the relationship and inheritance they once trusted in because they were God’s children. Each day they prayed and hoped that “today would be that day” – and then it happened. God answered their prayers, and that first Christmas Eve unfolded into history.
About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiance, who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel. Luke 2:1-7 The Message
This brief passage and a couple of equally short passages in the Gospel accounts of the Bible reveal the story. Today, we hear those timeless words at church and in the embedded lyrics of Christmas songs and carols, such as Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Joy to the World, etc. Though many churches still perform manger recreations, how you personally respond to the story matters.
How about you and your family, will you take the time to share and reflect upon the story and message of that first Christmas Eve? Will you allow that manger scene in your home to be treasured above all the other Christmas decorations and symbols of today’s Christmas season?
Also, rather than read the cute but created story about “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to your (grand)children, maybe this year read them the real, God-inspired true story about “The Night that Brought Christmas into the World! Below is how Hershel Hobbs wrote about that special night, recorded in his Illustrated Life of Jesus.
In faraway Rome, Augustus Caesar ruled his vast empire with an iron hand. True to Roman fashion he was primarily concerned that his subjects should keep the peace and pay their taxes. In 8 B.C. he had inaugurated a periodical census every fourteen years in order to enroll his people for taxation. According to Tacitus (Roman Historian) even the regna, the independent kingdoms under the Roman Empire, were included in this census.
Probably two years later this census was carried out in Palestine. Herod, the vassal king, would not think of disobeying Augustus. Yet, knowing the Jew’s aversion to paying taxes to Rome, he delayed it as long as he dared. Even then he sought to placate the Jews by adhering to their customs in dealing with them along tribal lines. So when the order for enrollment was finally given, it called for every Jew to be enrolled at the place where the tribal register was kept.
Thus Joseph and Mary journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem, for they were descendants of David and members of the tribe of Judah. Though they were peasants (poor, everyday common folks), royal blood flowed in their veins. By this time Mary was great with child (in her final days of pregnancy) and this journey of approximately 100 miles worked a great hardship on her. Nevertheless, Caesar’s decree must be obeyed.
However, she and Joseph moved under a greater word (inspiration) than that of the Roman emperor, for God had said that His Son, the Messiah, should be born in Bethlehem. Augustus knew nothing of this prophecy and cared less. But unknowingly he was an instrument in God’s hands, as his decree like an invisible cord drew the virgin mother toward her destiny.
After several days of travel, late in the afternoon, these weary travelers climbed the last rocky, steep ascent leading into Bethlehem. The streets were crowded with hundreds of other men and women bent on the same mission. Clouds of dust boiled up from the stirring of the hundreds of feet of men and animals. A bedlam of noise characteristic of such a scene filled the ears of the weary couple from Nazareth as laboriously they made their way to the village inn. But it was already filled to overflowing.
So because there was no lodging to be had, Joseph bedded his wife down in the area provided for the animals. Here Mary “gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a manger (animal feed trough)” Luke 2:7.
Thus the Son of God was born – not in a king’s palace or in a home of the wealthy or mighty, but to a peasant mother whose delivery room was a stable. No physician stood by to assist. Only the gnarled hands of a village carpenter came to her aid, but they were hands made tender by a conquering love and a devotion to God. As the newborn babe slept through the night, He was under the watchful eyes of His mother and Joseph, but most of all He was secure under the never-failing gaze of His Heavenly Father.
The next morning, Bethlehem roused from her sleep. It was business as usual as the bazaars rang with the noise of commerce. The enrollment was finished, and the crowds moved out to return to their homes. Caesar’s bidding had been done, and the village of David returned to normal. Only a few simple folks knew that on that night in the little village there had transpired the greatest event in the history of the world.
…Jesus’ birth was largely unnoticed by the world. Outside of the Bible, no ancient historian took note of the event. They were so bent on the recording the affairs of men and nations that they failed to recognize God’s history within history, whereby in the person of His Son He entered into the arena of time to answer the universal cry of men’s hearts. But it did not occur without recognition by those whose hearts were prepared to receive it.
Heaven itself rejoiced over the glorious event. For the angelic hosts burst asunder the barrier of invisibility to proclaim the Savior’s birth and to sing the Christian anthem dedicated to His praise. For their audience, they had a handful of lowly shepherds, the simple folk who counted for little in the tides of history whichever beat upon the shores of time. But their hearts were firmly fixed in God’s promises upon which they meditated in the quiet hours of the night. In Bethlehem’s fields where Ruth had gleaned in the fields of Boaz, later to become his bride and the Moabite ancestress of the Savior; where David had tended his sheep, all the while contemplating God’s glory and on Him who was to be born; there the shepherds first heard the glad tidings that unto them had been born a Savior, Christ the Lord.
The shepherds hastened to Bethlehem to find it as the angels had said. They found Mary and Joseph and the Babe lying in a manger. God in a cradle! Upon hearing from the shepherds about the heavenly declaration, Mary placed the event alongside the message of Gabriel, pondering them in her heart. And she knew that God had fulfilled His promise. The shepherds returned to their work, carrying back into their mundane sphere the memory of an experience which would forever cast an aura of glory about them and about all others who in humble trust some to Him who fills the universe with His presence, yet who for a little while was contained in a baby’s impromptu cradle – a manger!
Hope you’ll visit my TMBrownAuthor.com page and discover “Christmas in Shiloh” attempts to exemplify a grandfather’s love for sharing Christmas with his grandchildren.
The Purpose of Proverbs and Parables Lies Behind the Stories I Write
Written so we’ll know how to live well and right, to understand what life means and where it’s going; a manual for living, for learning what’s right and just and fair; to teach the inexperienced the ropes and give our young people a grasp on reality. There’s something here also for seasoned men and women, still a thing or two for the experienced to learn—fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate, the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women. Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning. Proverbs 1:1-7 The Message
Reading the Bible’s psalms and proverbs are highly recommended as a foundation for a daily study of God’s Word. There are so many common-sense truths to be found in them. They touch upon one’s common sense to discover the spiritual sense that establishes the understanding of what it means to live rightly before God. Yet, how many of us take the time to really read and study the deep thoughts of wisdom found in the Bible. Even Jesus quoted and often referred to the psalms and the proverbs. In fact, through the telling of his parables, he continued the long tradition of speaking truths in riddles and proverbs.
So what is the purpose of these proverbs and parables? These first verses in Proverbs indicate that the purpose is as follows:
…for learning what’s right and just and fair
They help us to become more open to the wisdom found by reading God’s Word which guides us in living rightly before God. Right living offers evidence of knowing what is the truth, as well as how to live it out in our relationships with others. In essence, it helps us to live our daily lives according to God’s perfect, pleasing, and goodwill.
…for teaching the inexperienced the ropes
The proverbs and parables help us to walk more confidently and thus steadily through life as a child of God. Where we lack practical experience about many of life’s issues, they provide the advice we need to make the right decisions. Demonstrating good judgment before others come with experience unless you have someone or something to provide wise counsel. The proverbs and parables offer sound counsel for most all situations and relationships.
…for offering young people with a grasp on reality
The teacher’s goal is to become obsolete with each student because the student has learned how to learn without the instruction of the teacher. This is the ultimate goal of instruction from one generation to the next. Once the next generation has achieved knowledge, applying that knowledge in real-life situations and relationships establishes the grasp on reality needed to succeed in life.
…seasoned men and women continue to listen and increase their learning
The proof that one has matured in knowledge and understanding is his or her constant thirst and hunger to learn more and pass what has been learned onto the next generation. Wise seasoned people also realize that no matter how much we learn we never will know it all. The more we learn, the more we discover there is more to learn! Only God is omniscient—all-knowing! For us, wisdom is but a life-long journey, not a destination.
…only fools thumb their noses at wisdom and learning
A wise person never attempts to walk through life alone. Only a fool would ignore and bypass the signposts and guides God provides throughout life’s journey. Only a fool rejoices in his or her ignorance and stumbles and falls in limited vision and understanding. A wise person chooses his or her way through life without haste and with confidence, never alone and always open to wise counsel.
How about you? Do you read and contemplate God’s Word? Do you seek to justify your understanding or to discover fresh, new “aha” moments of truth and understanding? Though the Bible was written by mankind, its inspiration comes from mankind’s desire to understand and know God’s perfect, pleasing goodwill for us.
Remember, the first step of wisdom begins shuddering at the fear of never knowing God and his love for us. The Bible is a good place to start the journey.
He (Jesus) would speak the word to them with many parables like these, as they were able to understand. And He did not speak to them without a parable. Privately, however, He would explain everything to His own disciples. Mark 4:33-34
What did Jesus want his disciples to learn by teaching them in parables? The closer you are to God, the clearer the parables and proverbs become for you. We are only as intelligent and mature as our ability to communicate our understanding and knowledge to the next generation.
Here lies the motivation behind the stories I write–a legacy of love for my grandchildren.
Maintain [your] competence and discretion. My son, don’t lose sight of them. They will be life for you and adornment for your neck. Then you will go safely on your way; your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; you will lie down, and your sleep will be pleasant. Don’t fear sudden danger or the ruin of the wicked when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from a snare. Prov 3:21-26 (HCSB)
Godly wise people share common traits: Competence, Discretion, and Confidence.
The Importance of Competence
Being competent comes from not only knowing what one should know about any particular discipline but as a key trait of a wise person, being competent means you know how to properly and rightly utilize the knowledge you have acquired. You want more than just knowledge but also the proper understanding to apply that knowledge in practical, every day relationships and situations in life for the benefit of everyone, not just yourself.
The Importance of Discretion
A wise person understands the importance of Discretion which understands wisdom is more than just knowing how to do something right. A wise person also understands there is a right manner, right time, and the right purpose to demonstrate Competence. Discretion prevents a wise person from taking advantage of others or doing something just because you know how to do something well. A discrete person considers the implications of their competence as it may affect others.
A Godly wise person considers relationships as more important than revelations of knowledge.
The Importance of Confidence
Beyond competence and discretion, one who has sought the wisdom that comes from God has unshakeable confidence about his or her life. Not only does a wise person know how (competence) and when to use (discretion) they also display the confidence to act in the right ways at the right time for the right purpose, even when their actions may prove dangerous to others. A wise person knows God is the source of his or her confidence. A wise person acts without fear or reservation when they know they are using their godly wisdom for the right purposes, in the right manner, at the proper time, according to God’s wisdom, will, and ways.
Competence + Discretion + Confidence = Godly Wise Person
A godly wise person knows there will be times when God uses them to confront and challenge the wrongs in this world for the good of others though that can come with a price. When a person has competence, discretion, and confidence, that person is a formidable force because they know wisdom comes from God. They know there is nothing that a wise person cannot handle because God guides and directs all that a wise person does; the former fears and anxieties that hold them back are gone. A godly wise person lives life with no reserve, no retreat, and no regret.
Is becoming a godly wise person what you desire? Seek after God’s will, way, and wisdom and you’ll discover the inseparable importance of competence, discretion, and confidence as God shapes you as a godly wise person.
For those who have read the Shiloh Mystery Stories: Which character(s) in the series demonstrate godly wisdom by their actions and attitude toward others?
Our Circle of Friends Should Spur Not Spurn Others
And let us…spur one another on to love and good deeds, and let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another… Hebrew 10:24-25
In the hustle and bustle of life, we may discover, if we take the time, there is at least one person that is hanging around our circle of friends who is looking to be asked to join you and your friends.
Why? Maybe, they feel left out or are merely curious, or even a bit jealous. Either way, they do not know what they must do to join you and your circle of friends.
Could it be you never took notice and extended an invitation?
What motivates people to want to join your circle of friends?
It could be pride: They desire to have what you and your circle of friends possess because they do not have it.
It could be fear: They are afraid they could be wrong about you and your circle of friends.
It could be ignorance: They simply do not know why they want to join but feel drawn to know more about you and your circle of friends.
Whatever their motivation, should it matter?
The fact is they have a need ripe to be spurred on and encouraged. Inviting them regardless of their motivation provides the opportunity for them to discover that your relationship with God makes your circle of friends so inviting. They will realize sooner or later that it has nothing to do with anything you and your friends have but what you share. In the end, it should never be because of who we think we are but who we represent.
Therefore our motivation for offering the hand of friendship should never be based upon what will be in our best interest, but for the one seeking our friendship. God providentially grows our circle of friends as we unselfishly connect with others and then spur and encourage one another. Fellowship and friendship are gifts we receive from others and are necessities to our social well-being in this life.
Remember what Jesus is quoted as saying on the matter. How different our society might become if more of us walked each day with this message on their heart.
“But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give [mercy and forgiveness], and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:27-38
How inclusive is your circle of friends? Have you offered genuine invitations to others? Do you extend the hand of friendship with sincerity? Does your attitude toward others reflect the same mercy and forgiveness that others have extended to you?
Our daily walk was never intended to be a lonely, lifelong sojourn. Fellowship and friendship offer an eternal connection found in the many “one another” encounters we experience each day.
Remember this final point, we are not responsible for the actions and attitudes of others unless we are the cause. How would you define your circle of friends?
Never instigate a fight with others to be right, rather fight to do right before others.
Then I turned to consider wisdom, madness, and folly, for what will the man be like who comes after the king? He will do what has already been done. And I realized that there is an advantage to wisdom over folly, like the advantage of light over darkness.The wise man has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness.
Yet I also knew that one fate comes to them both. So I said to myself, “What happens to the fool will also happen to me. Why then have I been overly wise?” And I said to myself that this is also futile. For, just like the fool, there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man, since in the days to come both will be forgotten. How is it that the wise man dies just like the fool? Therefore, I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me. For everything is futile and a pursuit of the wind. Eccl 2:12-17 (HCSB)
The difference between the wise man, the mad man, and the fool is this: If all are at a busy crossing on a street corner–
The wise man will wait and look both ways before proceeding across the street, making certain there is no traffic;
The mad man will look but will begin walking across even though he sees traffic, but in his estimation, he can make it across before getting hit;
The fool, well, he starts walking assuming no one will hit him, and never bothers to look if it is safe or not.
Which of the three will likely live longer and avoid injury? Which will avoid death altogether?
The answer is clear, the wise man may outlive the other two, and the mad man likely will outlive the fool, but all have the same destiny–death!
If all three share the same fate, is there any logic that concludes why not live like the fool or the mad man, and ignore the light (clarity) that God’s gift of wisdom offers us?
Consider there are many people in this world that you may know who live like the mad man or fool. They walk a riskier path, always seem in a hurry, throwing caution to the wind. They seem to believe they are invincible, but sooner rather than later, they discover after it is too late that such a lifestyle presents risks that eventually includes hazardous consequences.
Does Life Require Some Risk?
However, is it not true, life without some risk prevents a man from exploring new horizons?
If wisdom is so good for us, then why do so many people opt not to apply it to their lives?
Why do so many walk away from the pursuit of it?
Why do some people embrace the thrill of living on the edge of danger? Is it madness or folly?
On the other hand, does God desire us to live a totally safe and cautious lifestyle?
I believe the Bible states otherwise. One can be wise yet still walk boldly and confidently in the face of danger if it is for the right purpose.
When we walk in the light of God’s will, ways, and wisdom, we realize there is a mission we have deep inside of us to make a difference in this lifetime. Sometimes that mission will undoubtedly place our lives at risk, but we are never alone to face the danger. When we are attuned to the Lord’s direction in our life, his presence is ever-present in the valley of the shadow of death, and we can feel his presence when we face our enemies (fears). The Lord’s presence will always calm our fears, comfort our soul, and guide our steps as we pursue our God-sanctioned mission in life. There lies the difference between a wise man and the mad man or the fool.
The Teacher in Ecclesiastes saw the folly in it all. He argued over and over, in the end, we all face the same inevitable fate–death. However, when we walk in concert with God’s will, ways and wisdom, death becomes merely a predestined portal to something much greater. The wise man approaches each crossroad assessing his course of action in the light of his mission in life. The mad man and fool only stumble through life unclear about their mission in life and thus rush off the street curb with reckless abandon only to cross to the other side.
Which course you pursue matters…
What about you, are you challenging the wind, chasing the wind, or are you being capturing the wind? Three sailing ships with similar rigging head out into the ocean. One is determined to navigate headlong into the wind, determined to challenge the wind. The second ship decides to chase after the wind no matter where it ultimately takes him, determined only to go fastest. The third steers a course that captures the wind and adjusts his course to make headway toward the ultimate destination that all three ships desired. Which will flounder? Which ends up chasing the wind without considering the ultimate destination?
Many of the Coach devotional messages appear in T. M. Brown’s Shiloh Mystery Novels. Visit TMBrownAuthor.com to order your copies and follow the exploits of Theo Phillips and his wife, Liddy, as they get drawn into dark secrets and scandals and solving mysteries that only lil’ ol’ Shiloh can muster.
I cry aloud to the Lord; I plead aloud to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before Him; I reveal my trouble to Him. Although my spirit is weak within me, You know my way. Along this path I travel they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see; there is no refuge for me; no one cares for me. I cry to You, Lord; I say, “You are my shelter, my portion in the land of the living.” Listen to my cry, for I am weak. Rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Free me from prison so that I can praise Your name. The righteous will gather around me because You deal generously with me. Psalm 142
Alone I am Nothing!
In spite of whatever we believe about our own abilities, amidst the battles of life, we discover that we fall well short of the needed strength to overcome our many enemies that surround us each day. When arrogance and pride stand in the way, we discover too late that victory is not ours but that of our enemies. Too late, we learn our strongest adversary and foe lies within us–our SELF. We are our worst enemy amidst life’s struggles. The greatest understanding we can come to grips with is the reality that “Alone I am Nothing!”
There are no forces on earth or in heaven that God cannot overcome, but He will not subdue the enemy that lies within us–our SELF–for us. That is something we must tackle on our own. We must first surrender to the Lordship of God’s Will, Ways, and Wisdom. SELF must abdicate so that God may reign within us. We must become crucified like Christ so that we may live like Christ, free from the tyrannical reign of SELF.
SIN will always dominate our life as long as we rely on our arrogance and pride to stand alone upon our own two feet.
Stop and ask yourself a simple question: Am I better off without the help of our Lord, or have I become my own worst enemy?
Your response, if answered honestly and earnestly, should be a resounding– Alone I am nothing Lor. I surrender to you and accept your refuge and shelter. It is no longer “I” that desires to live within me, but “You.” Only You will set me free from the burdens and assaults of my enemies.
Who has your back? Who will walk side-by-side with you? And, Who can you look face-to-face as a true friend in your time of need? Hopefully, you will decide to no longer walk alone.
Hope you’ll visit TMBrown, Southern Author and discover the life-like stories of Theo Phillips coping with challenges in life in his award-winning Shiloh Mystery novels.
In the Pursuit of Knowledge, the Destination Should Be God!
I, the Teacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. I applied my mind to seek and explore through wisdom all that is done under heaven. God has given people this miserable task to keep them occupied. I have seen all the things that are done under the sun and have found everything to be futile, a pursuit of the wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. I said to myself, “Look, I have amassed wisdom far beyond all those who were over Jerusalem before me, and my mind has thoroughly grasped wisdom and knowledge.” I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly; I learned that this too is a pursuit of the wind. For with much wisdom is much sorrow; as knowledge increases, grief increases. Eccl 1:12-18 (HCSB)
God created us all uniquely. As a unique species of God’s creation, we have an insatiable desire to understand life and to pursue all knowledge. However, what we realize in the pursuit of all knowledge is this: The more we grasp, the deeper we dive into the mysteries of life, the more we come to the realization how little we actually know. The frustration is like pursuing the bottom of an abyss or the origin of a black hole in space — at the end of our never-ending pursuits resides all knowledge of God and eternity.
Knowledge is not finite, but infinite.There will always be more to learn, more to understand. The more we know, the more we discover that needs to be understood. That was the frustration that The Teacher in Ecclesiastes expereinced as he pursued God’s gift of wisdom. That gift became a curse. We can gain wisdom yet never attain wisdom. Wisdom is the proper understanding and application of the knowledge we attain during our lifetime. The pursuit of knowledge comes with the responsibility of wisely using it. Why? God holds us accountable to how we apply the knowledge He has endowed us to understand. In that accountability comes the frustration and sorrow of gaining what we have sought after.
I believe as God’s unique creation we should be open-minded to receiving more knowledge everyday and pray for God’s guidance in its proper application. Yet, the pursuit of wisdom alone is not what life should be all about. Living the abundant life that God promised is learning to be content in our present life circumstances; though remaining open to new knowledge and opportunities that God orchestrates into our life.
We should welcome the change new knowledge creates in our life and be willing to grow daily in our understanding of God and His Creation. However, that pursuit should not comprise the totality of our desires. One of the greatest realities we should learn to accept in life, as the Teacher of this passage says: What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.
There are undeniably some things that no matter how wise we become, we cannot change or create what is God’s to control or create. God alone is the author of creation. We are limited to acknowledging what God reveals and to comprehending what we cannot change or create. There just are some things about life that God has chosen to make crooked because He had purpose in doing so, and there are some things God chose to limit because He decided that had an eternal purpose as well. Ours is not to try and understand the mind of the Creator, but to accept the limits of our own mind.
How deep is your understanding about the things of God? To what depths to you desire to know God? Are you in pursuit of God’s will, ways, and wisdom? That is all God asks of us. God will do the rest.
Ponder the wonder of God and His creation, but do not stop living within God’s plan and purpose for you, which includes treating others as we wish to be treated. Why? They are challenged the same as us in this lifetime we share.
Let us not become weary when doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
When things are going well we should feel like nothing can stop us from continuing to do good. But, what happens when doing what is right and good becomes hard, and others are watching? Will you remain steadfast and NEVER NEVER NEVER QUIT or buckle under the burden?
What happens to our enthusiasm when we receive the recognition we feel we deserve for doing good?
What about when choosing to do good means you may be the only one doing it?
No matter what, we are encouraged to stay the course, choosing to do what is right and good. There is a promise connected to staying the course, but the reward may be merely getting to see the fruit of our efforts – a changed life although nothing materially changes for us.
If such is our reward, will you continue to choose to do good? That is the test that God may place before you. Will you stay the course no matter what?
Please know doing what is right and good can be a challenge, taxing our willpower, but we also have a stronger power than our willpower — God’s spiritual power within us. Make sure God’s spiritual power empowers our willpower. Then you will NEVER NEVER NEVER QUIT doing what is right and good!
My Shiloh Mystery Series carries this message. The first two books in the series are currently celebrating their anniversary. They are both available in paperback and Kindle, and Audible (coming this Summer).
Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories (2018) T. M. Brown (9781641110730)
Testament, An Unexpected Return (2018) T. M. Brown (9781641110846)
Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest (Coming 2020) T. M. Brown
Visit the T. M. Brown Author page for more about my fiction stories and quick links to upcoming author events and how to order.
The paperback editions can be purchased through your local bookstore. For your convenience follow the link to IndieBound.org to locate your nearest bookstore.
The memorable characters in Shiloh will make you ask these two questions:
Would you trust God when the choice you have to make conflicts with what may be in our personal best interest and cost more than we think we can afford?
What price do you place on doing what is right and good?
Will you post your comments on my author webpage after you have read one or both books? Leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or my Facebook Author Page appreciated. You can also find me on Instagram.
Woe to you, land, when your king is a household servant, and your princes feast in the morning. Blessed are you, land, when your king is a son of nobles and your princes feast at the proper time – for strength and not for drunkenness. Because of laziness the roof caves in, and because of negligent hands the house leaks. A feast is prepared for laughter and wine makes life happy, and money is the answer to everything. Do not curse the king even in your thoughts, and do not curse a rich person even in your bedroom, for a bird of the sky may carry the message, and a winged creature may report the matter. Eccl 10:16-20 (HCSB)
Certainly, the common person relates to others who are most like them, but is that a good thing when selecting our leaders to govern over us? Do we want the best and most qualified, or do we want to relate with the people we have placed into office? Well, consider this: if you have a need for life-saving surgery, do you want a surgeon who is chosen out of your pool of friends or those most like you, or would you seek the most qualified surgeon? Governors and Presidents are not meant to be our best friends, but the most ideal person to keep us secure and maintain stability for our life.
The Social Contract theory of man says that we are willing to give up certain personal natural liberties to protect our primary interests of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of property” which translates to Happiness. In that willingness to submit to a government to govern over us, we also recognize that the best government is the one that governs the least while securing our liberties the best. That balance requires competence, and we ourselves are not properly experienced and trained to govern efficiently and effectively – nor are those in our circle of friends or family. So in the end, do not choose people for positions in government because we like them the most or can relate to them best, but simply will I feel more secure with truly competent and prepared people serving our needs if placed into positions of government.
As we look ahead to a future of hope and prosperity, we need to be reminded that our government is allowed to govern only by the consent of the governed – that is the constitutional principle of popular sovereignty. Before we bad mouth those in office lets be reminded that it is the people that have authorized those in office to govern. If there is any bad mouthing, it is towards the general population for deciding to place the people in office that are there. We the people have the final say – but choose wisely at the next opportunity to support or replace those in government.
From God’s perspective, He exercises His divine sovereignty through the hearts of men and women. I pray that recognize that God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word will be ideally revealed when His people seek His guidance and approval for the selection of the servant-leaders who run our government. So when the roof seems as if it is caving in, and there are leaking breeches, we only can blame ourselves for not seeking God’s ideal servants but those we feel most comfortable with.
A Cradle, Cross, and Crown: Christmas Gifts from Heaven
For as many of you, having been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise (God’s Covenant). Now I say that as long as the heir is a child, he differs in no way from a slave, though he is the owner of everything. Instead, he is under guardians and stewards until the time set by his father. In the same way, we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elemental forces of the world. But when the completion of the time came, God sent His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying Abba, Father! So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. But in the past, when you didn’t know God, you were enslaved to things that by nature are not gods. But now, since you know God, or rather have become known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and bankrupt elemental forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again? You observe special days, months, seasons, and years. I am fearful for you, that perhaps my labor for you has been wasted. Galatians 4:1-11
The origin of Christmas: Just over 2000 years ago, on this day – 2 days before Jesus was born – a young girl, in the fullness of her time to give birth to her child, and her husband, in the midst of a long, endured an uphill journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a trip of 100 miles or so. The way was difficult, but there was little to fear along the way since Roman legions were stationed throughout the land to keep the peace, and to police the highways against robbers and thieves. However, imagine the fear of a young teenage girl expecting her first child, having to handle the long walk, knowing any day she would give birth to what God had promised was to be the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah – the Christ.
Their journey was orchestrated by God through history. Caesar Augustus wanted to take a census registration for tax purposes, and King Herod and the Roman governor decided to have everyone to register in their family hometown, which was Bethlehem for both Mary and Joseph. Both of them, though common people of the day, had royal blood in their veins. They both were from the lineage of King David, who was also from Bethlehem. It is also interesting to note, Bethlehem means “house of bread”, and it is there God had chosen long before that His Son, the Messiah would be born there – and during in His ministry, He would proclaim that He is the Bread of Life!
Why did God choose to become incarnate through the womb of a woman as a defenseless newborn child? Why not just arrive into history as a manifestation of God before men? How would a cradle serve as an appropriate throne for the promised Prince of Peace? There would be no royal processions with heralds announcing their arrival into Bethlehem. Rather, God chose to have the mother of His Son walk in the footsteps of common man, sharing the same dust along the way with her husband, Joseph, whom God had hand-picked to be the step-father to His Son. However, through the drudgery of the journey, the echoes of Gabriel’s (God’s messenger angel) message to both Mary and Joseph kept them at peace. Mary certainly would have sensed that God would not have His Son born at just any time, but rather at His chosen, right time – in a place selected for His Son to be born – of God’s choosing, not man’s.
The people had long-awaited the arrival of the Messiah, but they were looking in all the wrong places. They sought a royal birth in a royal palace to a royal family. They expected a worldly prince to come and be born, and to rise up to become the Savior King of His people. They looked to a Savior who would carry a sword and ride a great stead into battle against the enemies that ruled over them. But, God had another plan, because beyond the Cradle there would have to be a Cross to bear long before the Crown could be worn and He assume His rightful place as the King of kings, Lord of Lords, the Savior of the World. Any one aspect without the other would not provide a complete picture of who Christ was: the Son of God.
The Cradle represented the incarnation of God – Jesus was born of a woman and became a man to share God’s love message to mankind.
The Cross represented the presentation of God of the perfect, only sacrifice that would save men from his sinful nature. No sacrifice presented by man could ever live up to standards of holiness that God demanded – therefore, God offered His own Son, perfect as God is perfect to make the sacrifice acceptable to God, according to the Covenant that God made with Abraham centuries before.
Likewise, the Crown represented the coronation of God, which symbolized the source of power and authority that no kingdom or empire on earth could overcome. Despite their best efforts, even the Great King Herod could stop His birth; not even the Roman Empire and its legions could prevent Christ from fulfilling His purpose – they even were unknowing participants and pawns of God’s divine plan for man.
Christ through His death and resurrection ascended to the right hand of the Father as our perfect advocate, so that our sinful life would not have to face the divine judgment of God. If we were to stand before God on our judgment day all alone, having to present our life to Him and give our own account for all we did or failed to do, then we would have no hope. But, through the Cradle, Cross, and Crown stages of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, we can know by faith that our sins are forgiven, and He will be there when we stand in judgment before God and will be welcomed as joint heirs into His kingdom.
When we think about the next few days as each of us prepares for Christmas, consider how the story might have turned out if Mary and Joseph were not obedient to God, and their storied-faith in His promises had wavered. Would they have traveled on that difficult journey knowing Mary was about to give birth? But their story unfolded with God mounted upon the wings of history dispatching heavenly and worldly heralds onto the stage announcing the birth of a child that would reshape the world…
More coming about the night before His birth in Bethlehem.
My daily prayer: Lord Jesus, it is in Your holy name that we can now enter into the throne of grace in our prayers, and share our heartfelt praises and petitions before God. It is through Your name that we know we have the Spirit of God residing within us to communicate our utterances to a Holy, Almighty Creator God. My faith is anchored in You, Your birth, Your death, and Your Resurrection – all orchestrated by God so that we may walk in the newness of life as He intended since Creation. Thank You, my Lord, and my Savior… Amen.
Understanding the Psalms, Proverbs, and Parables – The Source of Godly Wisdom
The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: For learning what wisdom and discipline are; for understanding insightful sayings; for receiving wise instruction in righteousness, justice, and integrity; for teaching shrewdness to the inexperienced, knowledge and discretion to a young man— a wise man will listen and increase his learning, and a discerning man will obtain guidance— for understanding a proverb or a parable, the words of the wise, and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 1:1-7 HCSB
Reading the psalms, proverbs, and parables found throughout the Bible is highly recommended for a daily study of God’s Word. So many common sense truths reside in them. Yet, beyond what is deemed as common sense, one discovers the spiritual connection within each of us that instinctively links truth with living rightly before God. However, how many of us take the time to truly explore the depth and breadth of wisdom found amongst the Bible’s proverbs and parables. Even Jesus referred frequently to the psalms and proverbs to justify His teachings. His parables are a legendary part of his tradition of speaking truths in riddles and proverbial truths. So what is the value of psalms, proverbs, and parables?
for receiving wise instruction [in] righteousness, justice, and integrity – In other words: they help us to become more receptive to gaining godly wisdom within the Bible, which guides us in living our daily lives in ways that please God. They offer evidence of what is the truth and how to apply it in our relationships with others, in a manner pleasing God. In essence, it helps us to live our lives according to the perfect, pleasing and good will of God.
for teaching shrewdness to the inexperienced – The words of wisdom found in the psalms, proverbs, and parables help us to walk more confidently through life as a child of God. In circumstances when we lack the practical experience to deal rightly with life issues, the Bible provides the godly advice we need to choose wisely the right course of action. Shrewdness or astuteness comes with experience unless a wise mentor steps forward offering advice. However, in the absence of a mentor, the psalms, proverbs, and parables offer the shrewd counsel to help you to handle daily situations and relationships with sound judgment.
for teaching knowledge and discretion to a young man – A teacher’s goal with any student is to become obsolete, ergo every worthy teacher desires to become obsolete because their pupil has learned how to learn for themselves, thus eliminating the need of the teacher – the foremost goal of education or knowledge one can achieve. Once one has increased in knowledge, discretion defines the proper use of knowledge to navigate life’s situations and relationships.
a wise man will listen and increase his learning – This is the test that one has grown in his or her spiritual maturity: the ongoing pursuit of knowledge and the understanding. A spiritually wise man or woman acknowledges their responsibility to pass-on understanding and knowledge with others. Yet, wisdom also reveals to a godly person, no matter how much we have learned, we will never know it all! In fact, the more we learn, the more we realize there is more to understand and learn! Only God is omniscient, or all-knowing! Wisdom is but a journey, not a destination.
and, a discerning man will obtain guidance – A wise person never attempts to walk through life alone. He or she realizes more than anyone that God provides signposts and mentors for us to seek out and acknowledge for our own good. Only an ignorant person, or a fool, walks through life eyes-closed and stumbles and falls at every twist and turn throughout life’s journey. A wise man is a discerning man, choosing his or her way without haste but with confidence.
It is for this reason the passage concludes with this statement of truth: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. This “fear” is not fright or horror but in the sense of reverence and honor. It is the fear that we would miss out on knowing and understanding how much the Lord loves us and desires to have a relationship with us. It is the fear of never knowing the truth and not receiving the blessings that come from living truthfully before the Lord, seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom.
How about you? Have you made the investment in seeking to learn by investing time each day in the psalms, proverbs, and parables, seeking a fresh “aha” moment of truth and understanding? Remember, the first step of wisdom is the fear of never knowing God and His love.
He (Jesus) would speak the word to them with many parables like these, as they were able to understand. And He did not speak to them without a parable. Privately, however, He would explain everything to His own disciples. Mark 4:33-34 (HCSB)
What did the Lord want His disciples to learn by teaching them in parables? The closer you are to the Lord, the clearer the parables and proverbs become to you.
NOTE: For more information about how I transformed psalms, proverbs, and parables into entertaining fictional stories filled with truths about life’s challenges and choices please visit TMBrownAuthor.com.
In Chapter 21 of the Book of Revelation, God defines a Sanctuary.
The foundations of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone; the first foundation jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. The 12 gates are 12 pearls; each gate made of a single pearl. The broad street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. I did not see a sanctuary in it because the Lord God the Almighty is its sanctuary.
What defines a sanctuary? Is it what people take pride in – their wealth in gold and precious stones? However, God declares such things will be nothing more than building materials where he resides? The most valuable thing will be who not what is revered. There the Lord’s light surrounds those who seek sanctuary in him (a clear metaphor for the revelation of wisdom and truth).
Where do you invest your hope in life? Where do you invest your time and energy? Your retirement portfolio might be the envy of your peers, but what good is your grand portfolio at the end of your days?
Unlike Disney and Universal Studios where fantasies are promised to come true, there is a cost to enter their gates. However, God’s sanctuary requires only an affirming, sincere smile to enter and discover God’s invaluable, immeasurable grace.
What is the focus of your life? What relationships are more important, financial or spiritual ones? Remember, Jesus declared, You cannot serve God and money equally? One will influence your interest in the other.
This message rests within the pages of Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories. Discover how the notion of Sanctuary galvanized the folks in lil’ ol’ Shiloh after Theo Phillips arrives in town and sheds light upon the dark secrets, scandal, and tragedy for all to confront. TMBrownAuthor.com
The pursuit of Wisdom is a most worthy and desirable journey. These facts remain true about the pursuit of it.
There will always be those wiser than ourselves. Conversely, this should become true too, others will see us as wise to them.
Wisdom is the application of goodness, righteousness, and justice, ergo godliness, in all choices of life.
Wisdom can never be fully reached in one’s lifetime, but its pursuit remains a worthy destination. The further one travels acquiring and understanding it, one’s relationship with God grows.
Wisdom defines one’s spiritual maturity.
Sadly, each of us recognizes wisdom residing in others long before we recognize it in ourselves.
I believe before one can truly attain wisdom one must grasp the dichotomies in the possible consequences for choices we make in life: Goodness against evil. Righteousness opposed to wickedness. Justice in contrast to injustice.
Yes, my younger friends, the pursuit of wisdom is a most worthy goal in life, and as you likely have recognized some degree of wisdom in others, others will look up to you as you look to your far wiser friends.
Wisdom should be a cherished destination in one’s life; the pursuit reveals God. The further you progress along the way of wisdom fading regrets will lose their grasp; any notions of retreat dissipate; all reserve left behind.
Again, no one attains wisdom, but the pursuit makes you wiser. Embrace the quest it takes you for the rest of your life.
After many years studying God’s Word, I wrote my Shiloh novels about a time-lost South Georgia town with colorful, realistic characters dealing with choices and consequences in life, and the response of others to our choices. I pray my grandchildren will eventually grasp the lessons that reside in the stories and become wiser as a result, and hopefully long before I discovered the value of wisdom in one’s life.
If you choose to read any of my inspirational Southern mysteries, please let me know what lessons you found within the twists and turns between the covers of each story.
At the Conclusion of ALL Understanding, GOD Smiles
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
Love is patient; love is kind; love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in truth; bears all things; hopes in all things; endures all things. Love never ends… Now, these three things remain faith, hope, love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13
Lovedesires to be free and separated from all worldly attachments so that its inward sight will not be obstructed and it will not be entangled by any temporal prosperity or conquered by any adversity. Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing more courageous, nothing higher, nothing wider, nothing more pleasant, nothing fuller or better in heaven or earth, for love is of God and can rest only in God, who is above all created things.
Those who love, fly, run and rejoice – are free and cannot be restrained. Those who lovegive all and have all in all because they rest in the one who is highest above and, from all good comes. Those who love do not esteem gifts but turn themselves above all things to the giver.
Love knows no limit and is fervent beyond measure. Love feels no burden, thinks nothing of trouble, attempts what is above its strength, does not complain about impossibility, for it thinks all things lawful for itself, and all things possible.
Loveis able to undertake all things and complete many of them and cause them to take effect – where the person who does not love would faint and give up.
Love is watchful and alert even when it is dormant. When weary it is not tired, when pressured it is not stressed, when alarmed it is not confused, but like a living flame and burning torch it forces its way upward and securely passes through everything.
Anyone who loves knows the cry of the voice. For the ardent affection of the soul is a loud cry in the ears of God when it says, “My God, mylove, you are all mine and I am all yours.!”
Love is swift, sincere, affectionate, pleasant, amiable, courageous, patient, faithful, prudent, long-suffering, and never seeks its own. For in whatever circumstances when we seek ourselves (our own interests) there we fall from love.
Love is circumspect, humble and upright. It does not give in easily, act frivolous, or pay attention to meaningless things, but it is sober, chaste, steady, quiet, and guard all its senses.
Love submits to its superiors and obeys them, but is unkind and contemptuous toward itself. It is devoted and thankful to God, and trusts and hopes always in Him – even when God does not impart sweetness to it, for without sorrow no one lives in love.
Those who are not prepared to suffer all things, and to submit to the will of their beloved are not worthy to be called lovers of God. A lover should willingly embrace all that is hard and distasteful for the sake of God, and not turn away from Him because of adversities.
My daily prayer: Lord God, my Savior, my Salvation, my Strength, the Spirit of Truth and Life that dwells within me, I humbly come before you to share that I love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I am completely yours, and I believe in my heart you love me, and nothing else in this life I live matters otherwise. I pray likewise that I am able to love others, beginning in my family with the kind of love that you exemplify within me, so that they may discover your love for themselves and surrender their lives to you as well. Thank you, my Lord and Savior, my Heavenly Father for the greatest gift of love that defines what love truly is: Yourself for me so that I can share that love with you. You are truly an awesome God, you are my God, and if all other things in my life were lost, I know your love will remain.
Lord, as Thomas a’ Kempis prayed, so do I pray these words and thoughts to you as well: Increase my love so that with the inward mouth of my heart, I may taste how sweet it is to love, to meet and bathe myself in your love. Let love possess me so that I rise up above myself in exceeding fervor and admiration. Let me sing the song of love; let my soul lose itself in your praise, rejoicing in love. Let me love you more than myself and not love myself but for your sake, and in you let me love all those who truly love you as the law of love that shines out you’re your commands. Amen
For additional reading: Romans 8:19; 1 Corinthians 10:33; Mark 12:30
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