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.
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.
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 uniquely special. However, though we may be unique in many ways, we all travel the road of life that is well-traveled and well-marked by many before us, and many more will follow us on this same road. The choice you get to make is how you walk this road of life among all the others on it with you. Yet, let it be clear, there are no new paths to take, just dead-ends should you choose to wander onto your own ways. God has clearly stated that there is but one way to follow Him, and all other ways are futile and paths of destruction for those who decide to walk in their own ways.
Are there genuinely unique new ways?
Just look at the world around us and see how His creation is marked in a similar way. The winds blow and waters flow certain ways, and the stars, planets, and heavens above all guide their ways through the evening sky the same way for centuries without change either. The creatures in the forests and oceans and in the sky migrate and roam the planet in the never-ending cycle of life as well.
However, God has given man the inquisitive mind, and pursuing the unknown and the new is an instinct of challenge that we have, but when we do not check with the Creator first along the way, we allow our eyes and ears to be filled with the prospects of things we perceive as new, but in consulting God we learn that what is new to us is not new to Him. Nothing new can be created outside the will, ways and wisdom of the Creator God.
So what must we do?
A new understanding is a part of our maturity, but we should realize just because it is new to us, an astounding revelation of eternal truth and magnitude, it is not new to God. The moment we assume something to be of original thought, a revelation of our own mind, we assume the role of God.
Our life is to be a life in pursuit of new thoughts and revelations that flow from the Creator, and He alone knows what we are capable of understanding and benefiting from for His greater purposes. Therefore, as we walk along the road of life, seek daily to uncover and comprehend God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word! Trust in Him alone, and never unto our own understanding – because its destination is a dead-end! Life eternal is God’s purpose for us. Which do you choose?
If you are a creative writer, how can this understanding influence your work? Do we really write unique stories?
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.
Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: the ants are not a strong people, yet they store up their food in the summer; hyraxes are not a mighty people, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; locusts have no king, yet all of them march in ranks; a lizard can be caught in your hands, yet it lives in kings’ palaces. Prov 30:24-28 (HCSB)
Around my house one can find an ant, a rabbit (cousin to the hyrax), a locust, and no doubt a lizard. Each one on their own is but an amusement or curiosity, but one fact of interest is that each is a member of a larger group that can demonstrate how they find safety and security in their numbers. All four of these creatures that God has placed upon our earth has demonstrated their propensity for survival that is more independent than that of man. Even when they are not obvious to us, they thrive because they understand how to survive in even the harshest environments.
Ants understand the importance of saving and storing food for the period of the year when they disappear deep into the ground during the extended cold days of winter. Long after man has been removed from the land, the ant will scurry across the landscape, because God created them with their instinct to survive by planning ahead and taking nothing for granted.
Hyraxes are rabbit-like rodents, actually more akin to the elephant, because they are hooved-animals that burrow in the cliffs of the Middle-Eastern world. They are common;y found in colonies of 50 or more. Yet, they understand for their security that they must find a safe place, a refuge from predators and the elements. The hyrax knows that to wander from the safety of the cliffs or their burrows means almost certain death. No matter how curious they become, they remain ever vigilant and close to the safety of their homes.
Locusts move in huge groups foraging for food. A single locust is a novelty, but when a horde of locusts appears, watch out! Unlike other groups of insects that have a queen or king, locusts travel in mutual cooperation with one another. Their survival rests solely upon their numbers working together for their common good.
Lizard are survivors. They adapt to their environment, changing colors, blending into the rocks or foiliage they call home. They are easy prey when found; harmless when caught, yet they thrive in many out of the way places; anywhere they can camoflage themselves to survive through adaptability. They attempt not to stand out or make themselves obvious to predators or their prey.
Each of these creatures is almost insignificant in of themselves but when we take the time to learn about their ways, God has sent us a message about our own survival. There is a lesson from each about how to live our lives successfully. And, the most important difference between them and us is this: We can know our Creator by seeking His will, ways, and wisdom, and discover a relationship that secures our life far safer than any man-made or natural scheme we may devise on our own.
God is our faithful Rock, Refuge, and Shield.
Why do you call Me “Lord, Lord,” and don’t do the things I say? I will show you what someone is like who comes to Me, hears My words, and acts on them: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The river crashed against it, and immediately it collapsed. And the destruction of that house was great! Luke 6:46-49 (HCSB)
In my Shiloh Mystery series, Theo clings to time with God with uncertainty envelops him as he and his wife Liddy realize thay must expose the scandals and dark secrets haunting their new community. TMBrownAuthor.com
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.
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.
In Sanctuary, my premier Southern mystery, readers are introduced to the quaint, time-lost South Georgia town of Shiloh. The story begins as Theo and his wife Liddy desire to relocate and retire back to their country roots, after investing four decades of their lives in the shadows of Atlanta. According to the story, it is Liddy who discovers an advertisement for a quaint Craftsman home that convinced her Shiloh would be a perfect fit for them.
But, it’s what readers sense early on as they arrive in Shiloh that draws them into the story? First of all, Shiloh’s reputation paints a serene picture about this time-lost town, but like its namesake from biblical lore, reputation and present reality are subject to the whims and shortcomings of men.
Like the Shiloh of old, Sanctuary reveals that the once proud Shiloh had lost its luster and position as the county seat decades earlier. Alexandria, like Jerusalem in biblical lore, surpassed Shiloh as the center of power and influence, leaving the proud people in Shiloh with their beautiful, antebellum courthouse on the town square a victim of progress. According to the story, Alexandria blossomed during the post-WWII boom and expansion in Georgia, while Shiloh stagnated and struggled, like many real-life small towns in South Georgia. Shiloh’s conciliation came in the preserving of its beloved courthouse as it received a facelift and became reconfigured into the town’s city hall. However, the facelift and remodeling of their sesquicentenary courthouse left the edifice’s skeleton of 19th Century hewn timbers and ornate woodwork intact. Decades later, their beloved historical courthouse would be razed to the ground and steal away the life of a town hero, who rescued others from the growing inferno.
Biblical Shiloh became the first seat of governance once Joshua and the nation of Israel completed their conquest of the Promised Land. The ark of the covenant and tabernacle that had traveled for forty years found a seemingly permanent resting place in Shiloh. Israel’s priests and judges (leaders) established Shiloh as the central seat in the Promised Land until Israel felt unsettled about the way Israel was governed, and desired to be like the other nations. Not long after Israel turned to the rule of king’s, rather than priests acting on God’s behalf, Shiloh fell victim to King David’s selection of Jerusalem as his site for his palace and the building of the new temple. A rival army burned and ransacked Shiloh not long before David ascended the throne as the second king of Israel. However, he turned his back on Shiloh and chose Jerusalem for his palace.
The name Shiloh to this day still paints a different picture than the historical reality which its namesakes have experienced. One of the bloodiest and decisive battles fought during the Civil War became known as the Battle of Shiloh, in Tennessee.
Even the Hebrew origin of the name Shiloh means “place of peace,” but as history revealed, “peace” requires the cooperation of men to live up to the expectation of maintaining peace in their community. Sanctuary and its sequel play on the dichotomy of Shiloh’s reputation and the reality of its present state as Theo and Liddy soon discover upon their arrival to Shiloh that there’s a rift in the tranquility of the community.
I’d love to connect with you and offer the latest on my book tour schedule and insight into this Southern author.
Please leave any comments or questions you may have about Sanctuary or about me. Also, feel free to ask other questions concerning the upcoming sequel, Testament, An Unexpected Return, coming out March 29, 2018.
All good fiction is deeply planted and nourished in the soil of truth and reality. The settings and characters in our novels do not spring up ex-nihilo (out of nothingness). Good novels blur the lines between what is fact and fiction allowing the reader to enjoy the totality of the story as though it is real. Nothing brings a smile quicker than to be asked, “Where is Shiloh, I want to go there.”
Here’s the first of several “Sneak peeks” at Sanctuary. In this scene, Theo and Liddy have packed up and left the shadows of Atlanta in their rearview mirror. They in the midst of their drive south to their new home in Shiloh…
On the outskirts of Albany, Liddy stirred and wiped her eyes as the late afternoon sunlight glistened between the tree tops. She cleared her throat, lowered her sunglasses from the top of her head, and surveyed the passing scenery before she asked with a drawn-out sigh, “Where are we?” I pointed to a well-timed road sign. “Albany’s 30 more miles. Looks like we’ll arrive in Shiloh a little before six.”
We soon turned onto the Flint River Highway, the homestretch leg of our journey. The amber glow grew darker as the sun disappeared below the distant treetops. Liddy bit her lower lip and clenched my hand. “Do you think we did right? I mean … buying this house and leaving Peachtree?”
My wink and affirming grin brought a smile to Liddy’s relieved lower lip. “You’re right,” she said. “But how well do you think we’ll fit in?” My smiling face bobbed up and down. “Trust me. A town like Shiloh won’t allow us to remain anonymous long.”
Liddy’s attention diverted to weathered barns and sheds with rusted tin roofs along the side of the road. “We must be getting close.”
* * * *
Though a contemporary mystery, its colorful characters are timeless and reflect values and traditions governed by their reluctance toward change.
Come join Theo and Liddy Phillips as their story unfolds after they arrive in lil’ ol’ Shiloh expecting a peaceful retirement in a town much like they grew up in decades beforehand, only to discover Theo’s curiosity about a tragic event does not receive a warm and welcome response by everyone in their new rustic town.
Click the image below and visit Amazon to purchase your copy of Sanctuary. Available in paperback or Kindle editions.
Would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or question.
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
Whether you prefer reading the Kindle version or the paperback, Sanctuary will draw you into time-lost Shiloh. you’ll mosey alongside newcomers Theo and Liddy Phillips seeking to quietly retire near their country roots. But, God has other plans! Before they can kick back and relax on their porch, happenstance becomes God’s harbinger of past secrets, impacting their plans through unexpected providential encounters.
discover for yourself why Sanctuary has become a must read for “all audiences” this summer. Visit T. M. Brown’s Author Facebook Page. check out the latest reviews and purchase a copy for your upcoming summer vacation. quick links help you order your Kindle (free to Kindle Unlimited Subscribers) or the paperback versions. make sure to “like” the page before you leave!
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I have seen what they do, but I will heal them anyway! I will lead them. I will comfort those who mourn, bringing words of praise to their lips. May they have abundant peace, both near and far,” says the LORD, who heals them. Isaiah 57:18-19 NLT
Can we trust in the comfort that is made possible by God’s great mercy and his heavenly grace?
Whether surrounded by a large circle of right-minded, faithful friends, an abundant library of inspirational books offering beautiful prose and poems, and reassuring sweet songs and inspirational hymns keep you company, all offer but temporary relief should God’s grace depart our midst leaving us in spiritual poverty. In such times no better remedy exists than to wait patiently, remaining resolute in the pursuit of reconnecting with God’s will, ways, and wisdom. It is there where we can rediscover the comfort made possible only by God’s great mercy and his heavenly grace.
Everyone, no matter the depth or breadth of their spiritual walk, will experience times when the comfort of God’s grace wanes. Never has a saint been so highly enraptured and enlightened that they never faced temptation sooner or later. In fact, no one grows closer to God without enduring the challenges of life-changing trials and tribulation.
Temptation serves as a harbinger signaling a time of comfort is yet to come, because God promises such as a blessing upon those tested by times of trials and temptations. God’s comfort galvanizes a person’s resolve to endure the certainty of adversities in life. Also, God allows temptation to prevent us from growing proud of any good we might feel we initiated because God knows the carnal lusts and desires that remain a threat to us. We must never cease preparing ourselves for the battle at hand; our enemies continue to be all around us. However, we can find solace in the revelation that we are not alone in our times of trials and temptations that without fail will confront us. All of us must take to heart the donning of the full armor of God for the battles we must face each day. His comfort is the reward for the victory that he enables us to win when we place our trust in him alone, rather than try to fight the battles alone.
Commit our hearts unto patience to find comfort and then engage the crucible rather than pursue pleasure. Because, who in this world would refuse the joy and comfort that God has revealed, if we firmly believe that it is available to us? There is no comparison to the eternal joy and comfort available from God that this world can offer. In fact, all worldly delights and pleasure are empty, worthless, or short-lived. Whereas, the pure pleasures that come from God are pleasant, overly-abundant, free and unequaled. However, we cannot claim God’s blessings anytime we desire, he alone dispenses them according to his will.
God continually demonstrates his love for us by extending his mercy and grace though we do not deserve either, which begs the question: Why should we continue to fail to return to him our heartfelt thanksgiving, especially since trials and times of temptation will never be fully behind us in this world? Remember: Grace always accompanies those who are duly thankful, and what the humble receive always comes at the expense of the proud!
My daily prayer: Gracious Lord God, your word is truth and you have proclaimed that your grace is abundant and free to all who trust in you by faith. Please accept me as an available channel of your grace so that others may discover the same blessings that you have bestowed upon me. I recognize that I cannot continue to grow in your grace unless others around me are sharing in the abundance of grace and comfort you have afforded me. Lord, use me according to your will so I may witness your blessings upon my family because as they are comforted in your grace, I too am comforted. May your mercy and grace provide the confidence we need when temptations attack my family or me. You alone Lord win the victory! Amen
For additional reading: Luke 9:23; 14:27; 1 Timothy 4:4-5; Revelation 2:7; 2 Corinthians 12:6-7, 9; 1 Peter 5:8-9; Matthew 9:37-38; John 7:38; James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. [The people] have rejoiced before You as they rejoice at harvest time and as they rejoice when dividing spoils. For You have shattered their burdensome yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor… For the trampling boot of battle and the bloodied garments of war will be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:2-7 (HCSB)
In this passage of hope for God’s people, the faithful remnant would continue to face the wrath of foreign armies for centuries. Between the Greek and the Roman occupation, the Jews tried to rule themselves during what we know as the Maccabean period for about a century, but there was bloodshed and fighting for control and domination within the nation of the Jews. By the time of Caesar Augustus, early in the first century, God’s people fervently prayed for the promise of God’s peacemaker.
Had Isaiah gotten the message from God wrong? Every time a supposed “messiah” rose up, the people placed their faith in each of them only to become disappointed, but the people kept looking for an earthly champion to lead them. By the time Jesus arrives, the Jews (Roman derisive name for the residents of Judea – repopulated post-exile Judah) were ruled by a quasi-Jew, Herod the Great (an Idumean, not of Jacob but Esau). Consider the irony; the remnant of the nation of Israel (aka Jacob) had a king from Idumea whose lineage was connected to Esau, Jacob’s brother. [Read Genesis 25-36] Herod wanted to claim to be the king of the Jews and feared any rival to the claim.
Jesus stepped onto the scene and proclaimed loudly that the Jews were so focused on earthly kingdoms and rulers for their salvation they had neglected, just as their forefathers had done, to recognize that there is but one king of kings and lord of lords. He alone can be called the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince (Ruler) of Peace. In this historical setting of ironies and ongoing domination, Jesus pointed to God making His presence known through the Scriptures and writings of the Prophets. When the people proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah, he claimed no authority except to glorify God as the Heavenly Father. When Jesus said, I and the Father are one, his message was simply that he only offered the exact message that God wanted him to share. Jesus’ words were the words of God, who alone remains on his throne. God guarantees his kingdom will prevail and prosper. However, once again, the arrogance of religious piety fed by jealousy, greed and fear, crucified Jesus because they realized the good news he brought to the people would remove them from power.
So how did God accomplish this promise given in Isaiah’s passage?
The question remains for each of us to answer for ourselves. It is a question that each generation faces as a matter of faith. Since Jesus pointed us to God’s glory and grace, we have created a whole network of churches still claiming to build God’s kingdom. Each claims to be right and the struggle continues for defining the kingdom on earth. God has promised peace and prosperity, but what prevents us from realizing it on earth? Can all the churches be right? Or are we victims of the same failures of the past generations since the first families heard the promises from God?
Why are we still struggling to find peace and prosperity in our own communities, much less country? Is there a trend toward unifying churches or creating more divisions of the vision that Jesus proclaimed? Just ask yourself, why within a few short decades after entering the land the nation of Israel split up and went their own ways into the land? Why did Isaiah speak as God’s agent to a divided nation, Israel and Judah? Are we living according to God’s will, ways, and wisdom or are we too busy, like so many in history, filtering everything through our will, ways and wisdom?
Final question: Why is it that Jesus found oneness with God, his Eternal Father, but we cannot find oneness in His kingdom? The answer is why cannot find the promised peace and prosperity that God promised to his faithful remnant.