The 99

I heard of a teacher who was nervous about her first year. As the school year went on she became aware of one child who did not like her. As a result, the child’s mother did not like her and in her slight way, made it known.

As you might have guessed this upset the new teacher to no end. She focused on trying to win the one over and became very frustrated as her efforts fell on the green speckled tile floor. She talked about it and complained about it a lot!

At the end of the school year, the new teacher received an outpouring of cards, flowers, gifts, and gift cards. The written words spoke of love and appreciation because they witnessed how hard this new teacher taught their children, of how she showed her concern for them. Even the other teachers tangibly showed their appreciation, but there was that one child, that one mother.

It is just like Satan to try to get us to place our focus on the wrong person or in the wrong direction. He wants that discontentment to fester and grow in our hearts until it chokes out any remaining love of God that was once in us. We must not allow this to happen!

The teacher’s husband spoke gentle words that turned her head to see the 99. To take note of the mighty outpouring of love and appreciation for a job well done. He challenged her to never think of the “one” ever again.

Yes, there are times to not go after the “one”, but to leave them lost and behind. Truth is, no amount of words will change their mind anyway. Trying to get them to see what the others see so easily is a waste of time and energy. In Matthew 18, Jesus talked about leaving the 99 and searching for the one that was lost, but in the new teacher’s case, the one that was lost purposed in their heart to sow hate and discord of their own free will. A lost soul has not heard about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. There is a distinct difference between the two.

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

What To Do

A whole lot is going on these days in our world, in America, and most likely in your private lives. It would be easy for one to look at others and focus on what they are saying or doing. One may be invading a country another maybe ignoring that a lot of Americans are financially struggling, and a lot of people are more concerned about their own selfish rights than the life of a child who can’t yet protest their opinion of wanting to live.

I can just see the devil having a hay day laughing while so many people are running around screaming trying to get their view heard. He is behind these evil things, unjust actions, and selfish rights.

Instead of joining those trying to be heard I implore you to keep your eyes on Jesus! To keep a good, strong, and tight connection to the vine. Continue to bear, produce much fruit, the fresh fruit of God.

Psalm 1   The Message

How well God must like you—
    you don’t walk in the ruts of those blind-as-bats,
    you don’t stand with the good-for-nothings,
    you don’t take your seat among the know-it-alls.

2-3 Instead you thrill to God’s Word,
    you chew on Scripture day and night.
You’re a tree replanted in Eden,
    bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
    always in blossom.

4-5 You’re not at all like the wicked,
    who are mere windblown dust—
Without defense in court,
    unfit company for innocent people.

God charts the road you take.
The road they take leads to nowhere.

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Craig

I met Craig at a church called Redeeming Grace
Like he understood my “I don’t want to be here” face
I felt out of place and I smelled like beer
But he just shook my hand, said “I’m glad you’re here”
He said “we’ll all be judged”
But he was never judgemental
And even though my songs don’t belong in no hymnal,
He’d quote me my lyrics, slap me on the back,
Said “Man you’ve got a gift! How you write like that?”

I know, he sounds cool right?
Not your typical kid from Sunday School, right?
I still ain’t figured out church yet
But Craig, I get
Nah he can’t walk on water, turn the Napa Valley red
But he just might be tight with a man that did

Yeah he’s not the light of the world,
But I wish that mine was bright as his
Yeah he just might be tight with a man that is

You lose a record deal, all the perks fade fast
Dealership said, “We’re going to need to get that mini-van back”
So we were down on one car
And broke as I felt,
My wife and six kids with only five seat belts
I needed help but couldn’t admit, I was strong
Said, “Craig, it’s all good”
But he knew it all wasn’t
A “Hey man I’m praying for you” would’ve been sufficient but nah
He took roadside assistance to a
Whole other level, to sacrificial heights

Showed up at the ballpark after my son’s game one night
In two cars, with his wife Barb watching from the other
Said “What in the world are y’all doing here, brother?”
He just laughed inside that old Chrysler Town and Country van
With the keys, and a title, and a pen in his hand
Said “Man, all you got to do is sign and it’s yours”
I said “No, no way”
But he wouldn’t take “No” for an answer
Said “Please do,
Somebody did this for me once, just let me do this for you”
We argued about it for a little while
Then I teared up, and Craig smiled

I know, he sounds cool right?
Not your typical kid from Sunday School, right?
Nah he can’t walk on water, turn the Napa Valley red
But he just might be tight with a man that did
Yeah he’s not the light of the world,
But I wish that mine was bright as his
Yeah he just might be tight with a man that is

My pride was way too ashamed to be adequately grateful at the moment
But I signed the dotted line, and I drove the kids home
And when the cop pulled up beside us
At the light, they didn’t have to duck
Because thanks to Craig
They were all buckled up

“Craig” by songwriter: Walker Hayes.

Marking Your Journey

Do you mark your journey? I don’t, not in a physical way that is. Like by keeping a journal, or something. Perhaps I should because it is good to look back. We are usually caught up in the moment thinking and praying about today’s needs and tomorrow’s.

But looking back is a good practice. I tend to end each day by saying, “Well, God, you got us through today. The bills that were due today were paid. The needs were met today. We ate today, and there was gas in the car to go where all we needed to go, today. Thank you, God!” And the truth is this; last year at this time I was praying about the day’s needs and the future back then. Yet, I made it through and have come to this point one year later.

You could say my journey is marked with “Mile Markers”, yet others are marked with “Tombstones”.

A mile marker indicates how far you have traveled. A tombstone indicates your journey ended. A living person’s tombstones could be where their job ended, their marriage, or even their relationship with God.

The Israelites used to pile up stones to mark where God did a great thing for them as part of their journey.

“Each of you heft a stone to your shoulder, a stone for each of the tribes of the People of Israel, so you’ll have something later to mark the occasion. When your children ask you, ‘What are these stones to you?’ you’ll say, ‘The flow of the Jordan was stopped in front of the Chest of the Covenant of God as it crossed the Jordan—stopped in its tracks. These stones are a permanent memorial for the People of Israel.” Joshua 4:5b-7 (MSG)

Be mindful of what God has done for you in the past, because the truth is, He is doing it today as well!

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

What Happened?

Have you ever wondered, where did it all go wrong? Or, how did they end up like this? I have. You look at someone’s life and you can’t quite figure out how they got where they are today.

I heard it said the other day, “I made a wrong turn on the way to church!” That kind of says it all. Somehow the individual took their eyes off of Jesus and looked instead at what was around them. Kind of like Peter when he was walking on the water. He let his circumstances disrupt his fixed gaze on the Master, on Jesus.

“Church” doesn’t save you, or even just “going to church” doesn’t either! I know a couple of women who “go to church” every time the doors are open, but there is no love of God in their hearts! As a result, people get hurt.

Back to the people who have strayed from the truth; they started looking at what Satan was offering them “now” that would fulfill that longing desire in their heart instead of waiting on God to provide something or someone pure, holy, and a part of Him.

The wonderful truth is this; it’s never too late to backtrack and take the right street to the church. In other words, it’s never too late to return to God. Most likely there is someone who is praying you would and God is sitting on the front porch staring down the road as far as He can hoping to see you come over the horizon toward him! He is waiting with open arms.

Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living
    and reorder our lives under God. Lam. 3:40 (MSG)

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Despite What May Be

One of the hardest things on this journey we call, “life” is overcoming. It seems as if it will never happen. Either the hole of debt we have dug is too deep, or the struggle with the one we once loved hurts too much. Perhaps the sickness seems as if it will never get better. You know, all too well, what I am talking about, and so do I.

When Jesus taught the multitudes he would often direct their attention to nature to emphasize the point he was trying to make. He didn’t have a “whiteboard” or a “PowerPoint” presentation. He used what he had, and it worked!

To borrow this method from the great Teacher, let me show you some illustrations from nature about overcoming.   Notice this Ferris wheel will someday be totally overcome by this growth in nature. It has probably taken a few years to get this to this point, but what one might of once thought was impossible, has become possible.

Consider this pile of rubble. One may make the comparison that this mess is similar to their own life. I know I once did, after making, what I thought, was a mistake that would end my service to God forever. Turns out, I was wrong on that point. In the midst of my personal, broken pile of a mess life, He slowly began to rebuild me and make me useable to him and others once again.

Then there is this tree. It found life close to disaster. It lives on the edge. Some may consider that exciting, while others would find it nerve-racking realizing that at any moment, a strong storm could come and it would lose its grip. The tree seems confident trusting the hold it has on the unmovable rock.

One can learn from this tree that finds itself so close to falling, so close to going over the edge, from becoming firewood.  Burnt up and consumed, yet today, it stands tall. If we trust our “Rock and salvation” we too could stand tall no matter what storms may come.

Admire this flower. It bloomed and grew despite not being in a beautiful garden. It has no dedicated gardener to provide daily watering, plant food, or bend down and remove any weeds that may try to enter its territory. Yet it survives and fragrances the environment around it with a sweet smell.

Maybe you’re not currently living in a garden, and maybe you struggle to have your basic needs met. Take a lesson from this flower; bloom, grow and be a pleasant odor in your world.

With God’s help, you can grow and survive despite your past, or present situation. Regardless if you have a lot or a little. Make it part of your mind to be an overcomer. Set it in your heart and mind despite what may be today.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
James 1:2-4 (MSG)

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Don’t Follow the Recipe

April made the dinner in the photo the other day. She made sweet and sour chicken that I thought was better than most Chinese restaurants’ versions, and I would know. I asked her how she did it and she replied, “I just followed a recipe.” It’s funny though how you can give 12 cooks the same recipe and the final dishes will all taste differently. Most likely due to each individual’s uniqueness.

A few years ago, while attending a church service that featured a semi-famous man of God, I witnessed individuals taking notes, as if they were there to learn the recipe of how to get God to do the same thing in their lives as He had done for them. They failed to realize the man of God was giving his testimony in hopes to boost one’s faith. Knowing that God did something for one can help you believe that God can do something big in your own life.

When one such note-taker tries to implement the same practice in the exact same way but fails to get the same result they can become disgruntled and dissatisfied with God. Attitudes Satan can use to draw an individual away from God.

Keep in mind, that God is extremely creative. He does things in unique ways. Not because He gets bored, but to exhibit just how vast his power and imagination are. He likes to do things in new ways. He may ultimately do for you, what He did for the man of God, but He will do it in a new, fresh way. In a way that is most likely due to each individual’s uniqueness.

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? Isa. 43:19a (NIV)

God’s word assures us He likes to do new things.

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

I Was Found Guilty!

“Mark, you have the right to remain silent. In fact, just don’t say anything at all unless I ask you to. Anything you do say will definitely be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you can’t afford an attorney, and at the age of seven I doubt you can, one will be appointed for you, but you won’t find any available.”

I appealed to have my hearing moved to the neighbor’s house, hoping that would allow for a fair trial, or at least a lighter sentence. The judge denied my request. As we begin, I looked around and failed to see a jury of my six, seven, and eight-year-old peers.

“Mark, where were you on the morning of July 7th?” asked my mother.

“I was in my bedroom, building a new train station,” I replied.

“Did you or did you not take cookies from the cookie jar after being told not to?” she persisted while raising her voice hoping I would crack.

Sweat began to bubble up on my back. “No. It wasn’t me.”

“You sure?”

“Yes!”

“That’s odd because I have an eyewitness that says you did.”

Gees! My accuser struck again. Seems like my older sister always caught me doing what I wasn’t supposed to be doing, and then she would run and tell my mother. In this case I was found guilty as charged. I would forever be known as a convicted cookie thief.

We all will stand before God one day. And the accuser of the brethren will be there telling on us. Informing God what we did wrong, our sins while we were on earth. We will be found guilty. But then, Jesus Christ will step forward and say to his Heavenly Father, “No punishment will be necessary. I have already paid the wages of their sin. We will escape eternal damnation, and not spend eternity in hell.

Jesus Christ did that for every one of us, out of love. Out of obedience to his Heavenly Father, God. It’s there for the asking, and it’s free. His forgiveness of our wrongdoing means we can no longer be known as a cookie thief or be forced to wear any other degrading title. We will be known as children of God and invited to enter heaven, and live happily ever after.

Salvation and power are established!
    Kingdom of our God, authority of his Messiah!
The Accuser of our brothers and sisters thrown out,
    who accused them day and night before God.
They defeated him through the blood of the Lamb
    and the bold word of their witness. Rev. 12:10-11 (MSG)

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Magkano?

I heard it said the other day, “Every relationship is a transaction.” This expression caught my attention, and I have thought a lot about it. What the man who said those words went on to share was this, “In each relationship, you are either giving or taking.”

In my lifetime, I have been in a lot of different types of relationships. Working relationships, family relationships, friendships, general acquaintances, and marriage to name just a few. So what the man was saying was that in each one of those relationships, one was giving and one was taking, or at least some percentage of both.

Was I the giver? Or was I the taker? Or somehow did I manage the relationship to give and take? Did I take more than I gave? In some of those encounters with those individuals was I fair? Was I ever starving for so much that I partook first before considering the other’s needs?

I know me and in full disclosure, I have to consciously make an effort to stop talking and purposely make myself ask the other person questions about them. I like to talk, I like to tell stories, after all, I am a writer. But there are times when it is best to not say a word about me, and to listen, to inquire, and show that I care about them.

Jesus certainly was a giver in every relationship. He gave comfort, hope, and teachings on how to live an abundant life, and He still does! He also gave his life so that we may live eternally with Him in heaven.

Are you a giver, or a taker? Magkano (ma-con-o) in Tagalog (language of the Philippines) means “how much?” A phrase I learned to ask my tricycle driver when he would taxi me into town, or back home. It wasn’t long for the local ones to not answer me when I asked them, “Magkano?” I think word had gotten out that the American who had married April Joy Santiago Cruz was generous, and he would often pay more than the actual cost. This was a good reputation to have.

Be a giver. When meeting someone, ask yourself on the inside, magkano? Meaning how much is this going to cost me? You may have a lot of untold stories pent up inside, but investing in another person is always a good investment to make. They will certainly be richer for it, and in many ways, so will you! This will be a good reputation to have.

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Battle Plan

Do you know who your enemy is? Do you know their name? I tell you this; it’s not the name of your spouse, your boss, a family member, or the name of your neighbor. For we wrestle not with flesh and blood. (Ephesians 6:12) We see the people in our lives, and we can’t see into the spiritual world, unless God reveals it to us, or else we would be able to see the demonic forces at work behind the people we see. I’m not saying they are bad, or demon-possessed, but the devil can use them to get to us.

As Joshua, and the people of Israel were about to cross the Jordan River and enter into “The Promise Land” God revealed to them who their enemies were. In Joshua 3:10 the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites. I know, those sound like diseases sort of. As they went to possess the land that God had given them, He also provided a different “battle plan” to defeat each one.

God has given you land to possess too! Your home, your job, your city. He wants you to claim your territory or like He told Joshua, “Every place upon which the sole of your foot shall tread.”

Every place upon which the sole of your foot shall tread, that have I given to you, as I promised Moses. Joshua 1:3 (AMPC)

Also like Joshua, every battle you face in life will have a unique “battle plan” that will help you defeat, or overcome it. Jericho was inhabited by the Canaanites. They were wicked, idolatrous people descended from Noah’s grandson Canaan, and God did not want them to remain in the land because they could turn the Israelites away from Him. The same goes for you. When you do not defeat an issue in your life, it too could eventually turn your attention, your heart away from God. Jericho was defeated by the Israelites marching around the city walls. On the seventh day, the walls fell. A unique “battle plan” for this city, for this enemy.

Seek God. Ask him about certain people and or situations in your life. Ask him what He would have you do with them, or about the situation you find yourself in. How to eradicate it from your life. If you do this, you will have peace in your land.

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.