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!
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
Let us not become weary when doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
When things are going well we should feel like nothing can stop us from continuing to do good. But, what happens when doing what is right and good becomes hard, and others are watching? Will you remain steadfast and NEVER NEVER NEVER QUIT or buckle under the burden?
What happens to our enthusiasm when we receive the recognition we feel we deserve for doing good?
What about when choosing to do good means you may be the only one doing it?
No matter what, we are encouraged to stay the course, choosing to do what is right and good. There is a promise connected to staying the course, but the reward may be merely getting to see the fruit of our efforts – a changed life although nothing materially changes for us.
If such is our reward, will you continue to choose to do good? That is the test that God may place before you. Will you stay the course no matter what?
Please know doing what is right and good can be a challenge, taxing our willpower, but we also have a stronger power than our willpower — God’s spiritual power within us. Make sure God’s spiritual power empowers our willpower. Then you will NEVER NEVER NEVER QUIT doing what is right and good!
Would you trust God when the choice you have to make conflicts with what may be in our personal best interest and cost more than we think we can afford? What price do you place on doing what is right and good? Consider the plight of John Priestly and Theo Phillips in Sanctuary.
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.
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.”
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
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: 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)
Why do so many people desire to read a myriad of motivational books? Why do so many people pursue a regiment of religious writings for encouragement in their lives? What benefit is there in reading all that has been written based on various proverbs, parables, and other renown passages of wisdom? Will an end ever come to man’s attempts to expound upon, interpret, and translate all the ancient writings regarding God’s relationship with humanity?
Why do I write what I believe God has inspired me to share? Well, simply put, because, just maybe, someone else needs to hear the same message that God has placed upon my heart. Besides, I have discovered over the past decade, or so, writing and sharing my systematic Bible-based expositions, I have benefited the most! As I prayerfully pondered each passage and wrote, and often re-wrote, a relevant message, I grew closer to God. The feedback I have received has also provided affirmation and encouragement to my ongoing regiment. However, the greatest blessing has been a feeling of God’s smiling approval every so often.
Am I wise? Certainly not! There are far more knowledgeable people that have crossed my path. Am I a good teacher? Not as good as I desire to be. There are far better educators that I have met in my life. So what validation can I offer for what I have shared all these years with family, friends, and those I may never meet? The only validation that matters at theend is GOD’s inspiration and confirmation that someone might receive after reading what I have written.
Is what I have written new and unique? No! There is nothing new under the sun, as the Teacher in Ecclesiastes shared. What I merely tried to do is translate the wisdom I found in each passage into a real and relevant application for our present life circumstances. So that we all may live in a better relationship with others, in a manner pleasing to God, and reflects God’s will, ways, and wisdom.
Beyond our full and fast paced lives, at the end of all things, the wisest thing we can hope to know is that God waits patiently for us. All our actions, attitudes, and thoughts, whether spoken and written, will record how we lived our life before God.
What will be your record say about you when you stand before God? What relationships can you claim earned God’s smile?
I pray what I have been able to share with you has helped you to reflect more on your life and with all your relationships and most importantly with God as your daily guide.
Who is like the wise person, and who knows the interpretation of a matter? A man’s wisdom brightens his face, and the sternness of his face is changed…For every activity there is a right time and procedure, even though man’s troubles are heavy on him. Yet no one knows what will happen, because who can tell him what will happen? No one has authority over the wind to restrain it, and there is no authority over the day of death; there is no furlough in battle, and wickedness will not allow those who practice it to escape. All this I have seen, applying my mind to all the work that is done under the sun, at a time when one man has authority over another to his harm. In such circumstances, I saw the wicked buried…This too is futile. (excerpted from Eccl 8:1-13 (HCSB)
We shall never fully understand all the reasons under the sun why some evil people seem to prosper while innocent people suffer. Yet, God’s wisdom teaches us to be patient, to persevere, and to persist in the face of such futility because wisdom is not dispensed like candy from a vending machine or doled out like a side dish in a buffet line. God alone has sovereignty over wisdom and the dispensing of it to each person.
I believe there are times and reasons when God guards us by withholding wisdom on certain matters, because we would fail to comprehend God’s greater purpose(s) that allows evil to exist. Whenever wickedness or calamities appear to thwart God’s purposes, God reveals his mercy and compassion amidst the ashes and rubble.
Arrogant, self-aggrandizing authority figures abound, but God has allowed them to rule for a season of time for His grand purpose which leads to our greater good. Therefore, while they flaunt their power and authority, we are told to prayerfully persevere under their tyrannical yoke, because in God’s promises we will witness His blessings by remaining faithful. His wisdom will destroy the chains that bind us. There will always be wicked who walk among us, but they will discover in God’s timing that they cannot escape Scot-free their self-serving attitudes and actions. They will be held accountable, and despite their best efforts, God’s justice will not be forestalled or softened.
The faithful pursue God’s will, ways, and discover the wisdom needed to recognize the wrong and wicked ways of this world, and receive the patience and endurance to persevere through all their difficult and disastrous times. Christian courage enables the faithful to walk in this world recognizing the existence of evil and that bad things happen to innocent people. For a season, bad people may appear to get away with their wicked schemes, but in the midst of those horrendous times, God reveals sufficient wisdom to destroy the chains that bind us to ignorance and fear.
Without darkness and evil that lurks within, how would we know the sovereignty of God’s light and goodness? There resides the beginning of Godly wisdom for us to thrive in this unpredictable and imperfect world.
Wisdom makes the wise man stronger than ten rulers of a city. There is certainly no righteous man on the earth who does “good” and never sins. Don’t pay attention to everything people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you; for you know that many times you yourself have cursed others. Eccl 7:19-22 (HCSB)
Wisdom exceeds knowledge. Wisdom acknowledges our limits, especially when interacting with others. Wisdom knows the power of silence. Wisdom pursues honesty rather than applause. Wisdom pursues a humility nurtured in the honesty of imperfections and shortcomings.
Wisdom is a powerful, God-given gift accessible to all. However, it can never be fully acquired in one’s lifetime. In fact, to some degree we all have acquired a measure of wisdom. Even the fool stumbled across a bit of wisdom along his bumbling ways, just not enough to recognize what he still lacks, but enough to believe he has attained it.
The fruit of wisdom is honesty and humility. Therefore, the more wisdom one acquires, the more one is inspired to pursue it. In the pursuit of wisdom, goodness and sin, right ands wrong, righteousness and evil, co-exist to expose the other. The further one pursues wisdom, the more one understands the eternal value of honesty and humility that wisdom reveals, because apart from God’s forgiveness, only a fool claims to be righteous on their own.
Have you invested time each day pursuing God’s will, ways, and wisdom? How can you know if you are becoming wiser? Do the attitudes and actions of others affect you like they used to? Are you embracing honesty and humility? Finally, whose approval and applause do you seek? The wise person seeks first and foremost the acclamation from the author of wisdom, because in the end our relationship with God matters. But, wisdom also reveals that along the journey of life, we reveal our honesty and humility before others God sends our way. He does not hold us responsible for how others relate to us, rather how we relate to them. God offers each of us with the wisdom we need in even the most difficult relationships and circumstances of life, because through them we discover honesty inspires humility in the truly wise.
Wisdom is as good as an inheritance, and an advantage to those who see the sun. For wisdom is protection as money is protection, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of its owner. Consider the work of God; for who can straighten out what He has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider: without question, God has made the one as well as the other, so that man cannot discover anything that will come after him. Eccl 7:11-14 (HCSB)
Consider the value of wisdom versus wealth. Which of the two is more valuable and enduring? Which of the two once obtained cannot be taken away? Which has only increasing value and does not fluctuate unless not used properly by the owner?
All the treasures of the world cannot guarantee happiness and contentment. Wealth consumes and can never satisfies what resides inside a man. Power, prestige and position may be bought with gold and silver, but can wealth satiate the lusts within man’s heart? Wealth stirs envy in others and lures the thief and robber to steal the possessions we claimed with wealth. And, before we brag, one thief exists no one can prevent from distributing our wealth to others: Death! What wealth exists beyond the grave?
Now, consider wisdom. Wisdom continues to grow as we nurture and reap the fruit it bears while we mature through life nourished by wisdom. Yet how does anyone gain wisdom? The seed of wisdom is a gift from God. It is the only investment man can profit from through time and faith. If we seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom each day and apply what we learn from God, wisdom sprouts within us and changes our lives.
Wisdom and knowledge are commodities always in high demand, but short on supply. Thus, in the end, wealth migrates to the wise who understands that wealth has short-term, relative value. A wise man understands what absolute value wisdom offers, because God alone is the alpha and omega of all knowledge and wisdom.
The wise man never frets as worldly wealth ebbs and flows because he understands God brings both good times and bad times for a purpose. Ultimately, all things work to the good for those who love and trust God – no matter the circumstances they find themselves facing in life. (The Story of Job sits as a book of Wisdom for this reason.)
Wealth ebbs and flows, but wisdom from God never loses it value. However, be careful not to mistake man’s wisdom for God’s wisdom. One is absolute, the other relative and unreliable. Always identify the wisdom you desire. Filter the wisdom you discover against God’s Wisdom, if what you claim is from God it will offer unshakable truth. Otherwise, it is from man. Likewise, time always increases the value of wisdom that flows from God. That is the final test of God’s wisdom versus man’s wisdom.
Choose wisely between wisdom versus wealth. Wealth comes fraught with risks, wisdom overcomes all risks. Final thought: Only one can master the other. Choose wisely.
Whatever exists was given its name long ago, and who man is, is known. But he is not able to contend with the One stronger than he. For when there are many words, they increase futility. What is the advantage for man? For who knows what is good for man in life, in the few days of his futile life that he spends like a shadow? Who can tell man what will happen after him under the sun? Eccl 6:10-12 (HCSB)
Okay, let’s face the fact that we are the creation; God is the Creator. Everything we know and will ever know is by God’s grace and grant. Does that mean we will someday know what God knows? Of course not! As I used to tell my sons: I’ll teach you everything you need to know, but you’ll never know everything I know. Some things you must learn about through time and experience.
Then, if that is true, why do we struggle so hard to control what we can never fully understand? Why do we fight for what we can never fully possess?
There is no originality that man can truly claim in this world, except who we choose to become – yet, we were created to become as we uniquely are at this present moment by the will of God, our Creator. With that said, why does man strive to have dominion over everything and everybody else? Is the Created seeking to usurp the Creator? As the Teacher asks, “What advantage do we have in such a struggle?” Our Creator does give us the choice to seek after the wisdom we need from him, or choose to rely on our own abilities in a world that can never be possessed by mankind. Even the things that man tries to grasp, he cannot hold onto nor fully understand. Like a vapor, every Created Being leaves this world in the same fashion he arrived, empty handed and alone.
Why would anyone try to walk in this life on their own understanding, or try to accept another man’s understanding as their guide? Was man with the Creator when he was created? Which man helped God create this world?
Every attempt man has made to understand creation is but a shadow of truth, because man can only speculate about what he does not know, nor will he ever know for certain in his finite lifetime. Man’s own biblical testimony poses this quandary – “Who has gone to heaven and returned to share the truth about God?” The Bible also says that “no man has seen God as He is and lived.” Created Man has not earned the right to stand before his Creator — the temporal creation would be consumed by the Creator’s eternal glory. Only by His grace and mercy will we receive His invitation to reside with Him after our temporal life has come to an end, and we have come to the point in our life that we have surrendered our selfish lives to God’s will, ways and wisdom. Only then we will begin our eternal journey to understand the Creator and His love for all Creation.
For those who desire to walk in the light of their own understanding, I pray you will come to the point when you will realize what you assume to be truth and knowledge is but a fleeting shadow that keeps you from knowing the truth and the author of truth.
Madness of man’s desire to possess wisdom and knowledge: The more we think we know, the more we understand how much we actually don’t know. Absolute wisdom and knowledge only rests with the Author and Creator of it.
What advantage then does the wise man have over the fool? What [advantage] is there for the poor person who knows how to conduct himself before others? Better what the eyes see than wandering desire. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind. Eccl 6:8-9 (HCSB)
Often we identify success by material rewards. Even in the biblical era, the Hebrews held the common belief that wealth was a sign of divine approval and reward. If that was so, then Solomon must have been nearly perfect according to earthly standards. His wealth was unrivaled in his day, yet he struggled in life and by his own admission he understood the futility of pursuing the elusive wind.
The wise person experiences dreams like anyone else, and the wise person desires to better their conditions in life like anyone else, but the wise person understands how to live rightly in their present circumstances and find contentment in doing so.
When we constantly seek what we do not have, contentment becomes equally elusive. When we continually grow anxious about what we do not have, we feel cheated, shortchanged by life. We become bitter and dream only of what could be, rather than what exists. We become the fool pursuing the wind.
Futility reigns whenever we seek to live the life we do not possess. We buy through borrowing what we have not yet earned and cannot afford, pretending to possess what we really do not own so that we can identify ourselves with what we are not, all the while struggling with the reality of who we truly are. This is the futility that has led our country into near economic collapse. Our nation continues to write checks that cannot be paid without borrowing more money we do not have, transferring the costs of wanting what we believe we deserve onto future generations.
We mortgage wisdom for the sake of wealth, and pass on the consequences of our foolish, futile choices to future generations.
Our Nation will never turn this futility around until we accept our own limits and live contently with what we have, and not seek to live beyond our means. Corporate America grows daily promoting a lifestyle beyond our means because they know how to prey upon this weakness in all of us. They justify their actions by declaring that by borrowing to purchase what we cannot afford helps America to be strong. They dispel the notion that our country is being sold a bill of goods that declares, in the 21st Century we have the technology to pursue the wind and we can one day grasp it!
Who’s the fool now? The elusive wind will always remain just beyond our grasp and serves only to stir dreams and make fools out of those who pursue it outside of our dreams.
Our only hope is to remember who makes the elusive wind blow. May we seek to understand the author of the wind rather than try to possess it by seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom once again. How different life would be when we truly trust what God has allowed us to possess and to be content in that before we chase what we do not have. We just might be surprised by what blessings will follow in that wisdom.
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)
Consider the differences between the wise person, the mad man, and the fool. At the same busy street corner, the wise person will look both ways before proceeding across the street, making certain there is no oncoming traffic. The mad man will look as he begins walking across the intersection even though he sees oncoming traffic but in his estimation he can walk safely across without being hit. The fool, well, he starts walking without hesitation assuming no one would certainly hit him, and never bothers to look either way for oncoming traffic. Which of the three will likely live longer or at worst avoid injury? Yet, which will likely avoid death all together? The answer is clear:The wise man may out live the other two, while the mad man likely will out live the fool, but all have the same destiny with death! So, should then choose to live the life of the fool or the mad man, and not bother to walk in the light of the wisdom that God offers us?
There are many people in this world that you may know who are like the mad man or fool; they walk through life at a brisker and riskier pace, throwing caution to the wind. They believe they are invincible, only to discover after it is too late that such a reckless lifestyle eventually comes at a price. So, why do we espouse that life is too boring and mundane without some inherent risk? If God’s wisdom is so good for us, why do we opt not to apply it to our own lives? Why walk like the madman and the fool, turning from the pursuit of God’s wisdom? Why prefer the thrill of walking on the brink of danger at every intersection of life? Do we prefer the madness or folly, or have we been turned off by the drab notion that God desires us to only choose a totally safe and cautious lifestyle? Actually, I believe the Bible testifies otherwise. One can be wise yet still walk boldly and with confidence 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 discover times when God sets before us a mission that will take us out of our comfort zone. However, when on mission from God, though we may very well face inherent risks and imminent danger, we are never alone. When we walk daily with the Lord’s guidance, we are never alone, especially when latent dangers lurk among the shadows of death along the journey. The Lord promises to comfort, guide and protect us whenever we follow his will, ways and wisdom. There lies the difference between a godly wise man, the mad man and the fool.
Solomon recognized the folly in trying to avoid the risks and dangers in life, because in the end, we all face the same inevitable death. However, when we walk with the Lord in His will, ways and wisdom in this lifetime, death is nothing more than a portal to a much greater eternal mission. The mad man and fool are blinded and thus lost as to their destiny beyond death, and even the wise man who seeks his own will and ways sooner or later discovers the folly of his choices.
Are we chasing the wind, or being guided through life by it?
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 each one of us uniquely, yet we all carry a similar insatiable desire to understand and master our individual lives. However, the harder one pursues knowledge and understanding, the mysteries of life reveal their unfathomable depths. Exploring an ocean floor abyss or the depth of a black hole in space is man’s ultimate but finite quest to understand infinite God and eternity, and frustration awaits. Knowledge is neither finite or infinite – ultimately absolute knowledge defines what is temporal and eternal, fathomable and unfathomable. Ultimate knowledge reveals itself as dynamic, ever-changing and expanding. No matter what level of knowledge man can attain, there is always more to learn, more to understand. Absolute knowledge is reserved for God. When King Solomon pursued the gift of wisdom from God, he learned this lesson from God: Be careful what you ask for, as knowledge increases, grief increases.
Wisdom is the proper understanding and application of the knowledge we have attained. The pursuit of more knowledge comes with the responsibility of rightly applying it wisely. No matter how smart we believe ourselves to be, God ultimately holds us accountable on how we apply what he has allowed us to understand. Ultimately, wisdom reveals the frustration, sorrow and grief of selfishly pursuing what we all seek after – understanding and mastering our own lives. Wisdom reveals the price we pay for that ultimate pursuit.
As God’s creation, we should be receptive to growing in all knowledge, but pray for God’s guidance for its proper application in our own lives and the world around us. Living the abundant life promised by God provides contentment in our life. Yes, we should be open to new knowledge and opportunities God orchestrates into our lives. We should welcome the change knowledge affords us to experience. Our daily growth should inspire us to know God and his Creation more intimately, but that pursuit should not be the totality of our desires. Life does offer immutable truths from God, such as the ones the Teacher in today’s passage shares: What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. No matter how wise, how knowledgable, we become, we cannot change or create what is in God’s control.
There is but one Author of absolute knowledge. We are His creation and thus limited to acknowledging what is and what is not comprehendible in this life. There just are far too many things that God has chosen to make crooked because He had a purpose in doing so. There are far too many things God has chosen to place a limit upon, because where there are no limits, eternity resides. It is not ours to understand the mind of the Creator, but to accept the limits of our own mind in this life.
How deep is your understanding about the things of God? To what depths to you desire to know him? 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 wondrous creation of God, but do not stop living within God’s plan and purpose for your life.
I said to myself, “Go ahead, I will test you with pleasure and enjoy what is good.” But it turned out to be futile. I said about laughter, “It is madness,” and about pleasure, “What does this accomplish?” I explored with my mind how to let my body enjoy life with wine and how to grasp folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—until I could see what is good for people to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. Eccl 2:1-3 (HCSB)
The focal point for most of us is our leisure time – that special time to do what we want for mere pleasure. Yet, what pleasure do we actually get from our leisure time? We certainly crave our leisure time! We even work extra hard to save up for it. But, how much pleasure do we achieve really? Solomon with his great wisdom decided that he would engage in all forms of pleasure and determine what good and practical purpose there was in pursuing pleasure. He first defined pleasure as the reward from doing whatever is good and brings you joy above all other things. Then he identified pleasure as a futile pursuit in this temporal lifetime. He declared it as “madness,” questioning what good does it really accomplish in mankind’s short life span?
I believe God allows us the joy of laughter and the re-energizing benefit when we retreat from the fast pace of life, but Solomon focused on the foolhardy pursuit of insatiable “pleasure seeking activities.” Even 3000 years after the days of Solomon, wine and other alcoholic libations freely flow to dull our senses, but for what purpose? What pleasure thrives when we are not in control of our own faculties? Is pleasure being found the fool in the midst of his folly while under the influence of alcohol or some other numbing potion? What lasting pleasure can be garnished through such artificial, mindless adventures? After the euphoric effects wear off, reality returns and a headache and stomachache linger from the pleasure. Would genuine pleasure provide such awful after-affects to detract from the joy it was intended to provide? That paradox is why Solomon called the pursuit of pleasure: madness!
There is a purpose that God promotes that serves to provide rest and relaxation for our bodies and minds; recreation, or (re)creation. Recreation provides rest our bodies and minds desire to revive and re-energize us for another day. Retreating from the harsh pace and realities of the world, engaging in recreational leisure offers far more lasting benefits than hoisting a bottle of wine or mug of beer or popping pills. And, the aftereffects are far less harmful to your mind and body.
The only time God promotes the use of alcohol is when no hope remains and wickedness has entrapped someone into a life of endless misery and pain, and death is knocking on the door. Then indulging in wine or alcohol to dull the senses is deemed an act of mercy.
Think carefully about why you do what you do in the pursuit of pleasure. Is your pursuit of pleasure aimed at meaningless folly and madness, as Solomon points out? Think about the difference of re-creation versus the folly of pleasure seeking through artificial means. Which best serves and seeks after God’s will, ways, and wisdom?
What is true pleasure are actions and attitudes that bring not only a smile on your face during and after the experience but on the faces of your loved ones and friends in this world. When you consider their needs and desires, you witness the joy of pleasing of others that God intended for you. Learn the wisdom of rightly seeking His purposes, not selfishly your desires. Is the pursuit of pleasure in this lifetime of greater value than the genuine happiness God intends for you?