Initial Words

“What’s that symbol tattooed on your back?” I asked the girl I worked with.  I knew, I thought, what it was, but had not seen one that elaborate.  “It’s a pentagram,” she replied.  “I’m a Pagan.”  “Oh, well I don’t judge,” were my initial words.  She said, “I know.”  I wasn’t exactly sure why she said that, but she did.

Because of my cautious and prayerfully planned out approach to the inquisition, I found out later it’s what I “didn’t say” that allowed for an ongoing conversation concerning her beliefs and spiritual practices vs. my own to take place.

Now, you may find it odd knowing a Christian is even talking to a Pagan, but I ask you, “Why?”  Jesus was misunderstood for talking to tax collectors, or prostitutes, and he about gave the so called “religious leaders” of his day, a heart attack if he dined with them.

Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and misfits?”

Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” Mat. 9:10-13 (MSG)

Why venture outside of your comfort zone, and talk with those who choose to live a different lifestyle than you?

Because they need to know, see, and hear the love of Jesus as much as anyone else, perhaps more!

They need to feel what is authentic and that might help them reject, cast off, Satan’s cheap substitutes or imitations of what is real.

So what was it that I “didn’t” say to the self-proclaimed Pagan?  After hearing what she was, I didn’t say, “Oh, I’ll be praying for you.”  She explained hearing those words infuriates her, and she refuses to listen to anything else a person who says that has to say.  She said it immediately makes her feel as if her choice is wrong.

Say a prayer before engaging one that you know is living a life less than what God intended.  Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your tongue, as you dare, or take a risk to speak words of life to them.  Your initial words may be the only ones they hear, but hopefully they’ll stick around to hear more, and perhaps even dine with you.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

A New Chapter

America.  She changed today.  Maybe the reality is, she changed a long time ago from the innocent days I once knew, but this truth is obvious today.  I grew up in Oklahoma, in a middle class family that somehow, always seem to have enough and then some.  I watched as my parents made good decisions and choices who worked hard for what they wanted.  “The American Dream”.  I believed in this dream and I too sought it out.  I wanted to own my own house, well after paying 30 years of payments.  I desired a good job, a loving wife, 2.5 kids, one of each sex, and to be a happy family.

The truth is, it took me 35 years to buy the house that will be mine in 26 and 1/2 years.  I have two kids, one of each sex, who don’t talk to me, and, their mother divorced me after she made a huge mistake, but convinced everyone our marriage failed solely due to me.  As a result, my biological family doesn’t want to have anything to do with me, so you could say I don’t have the happy family I desired.  Many Christmas days have been spent filling the empty stocking with tears.

After years of checking the “Divorced” box on forms I met and then married a Filipino woman.  I thought perhaps now I would get the happy family I desired.  You know what?  There are cynical, greedy, lying family members in all cultures, but the woman I married is the exception to a few members of her own family.  I have written about it a few times; my wife lives out God’s definition of love.

After our wedding, I was with her for seven months in the Philippines, until I needed a medical procedure, so I left her there thinking immigration wouldn’t take that long and she would come to America on my heels.  There was some delay in the process, but as we were reaching the finish line Covid hit.  Another year without her, another moist Christmas day.  A lot of crying out to God, and asking, “Why?”  The big three set in: Discouragement, Disappointment and yes, even Depression.  As I crawled through those dark days way down, deep inside me, was a mustard seed of faith that was whispering, “God knows what He is doing.”  In full disclosure, my mind was asking, “Are you sure?”

January 7th, we received an email stating my wife has her long awaited interview with the U.S. embassy in Manila.  LIGHT pierced our darkness.  I wanted to wait to share this until she was actually here, but someone needs to read these words now.  We are hoping we will be together by Valentine’s Day.  What a time to reunite our love for each other and for our God who loves us beyond belief.

When my wife is in our home in Oklahoma a new chapter of our lives together will begin.  Unfortunately, she will never know the “America” I grew up in.  Today, those with money want more, and those who “think” they have power want total control.  I sense days may be coming that perhaps will not be comfortable.  Standing up for what is true, for what is right could prove to be difficult.  There will most likely be a separation of those who have a solid relationship with God from those who were pretending, because in the America I grew up in, it was popular to say you were a “Christian”, but not anymore.

Yes a new chapter will be starting soon in my life, but also a new chapter in the life of America.  Our country’s slogan, printed on our currency, may no longer be, “In God We Trust”. Sometimes I wonder who is really holding the pen, writing each chapter.  As for my life, I want God to, because whether I understand his ways or not, He does know what He is doing!

Isaiah 55:8-11(MSG)

8-11 “I don’t think the way you think.
    The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
        God’s Decree.
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
    so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
    and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
    and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
    producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
    not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
    they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Fat Christians

Charlie 012520Yes, they’re out there.  They do exist.  In fact, I’ve seen them.  They can be difficult to spot, because they live their life without revealing their secret, they’re Christians.

  • A fat Christian is someone who only “hears” the word of God, but never acts on it.

Rick Renner, in his book “Sparkling Gems from the Greek” puts it this way: “But the problem isn’t the Word!  God’s Word was meant to be acted on.  So if you sit and listen to more and more sermons, gathering more and more information but never acting on what you’ve heard, you’ll eventually become so over saturated that you won’t want to hear any more!”

Now that’s a problem.  God says it like this: “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear.”  James 1:22 (MSG)

Anyone, and everyone can say or do something that conveys the messages of God.  A message of love, acceptance, encouragement, forgiveness, help, service, and just being there.  God tells us to go out into the world and share him with others.  If you don’t think you can then ask God to help you see the need, have compassion, and then do what you can or say to meet the need.

A big part of seeing the need is trusting God with your own issues long enough to look out from yourself, to see others.

Let me encourage you to go exercise your faith.  You will find out it doesn’t hurt as bad as exercising your body.  Also, being a follower of Jesus in good shape, is a healthy way to live your life.

Note:  In the photo is Bob Hostetler.  A real man of God who, yes, gave me permission to use the photo.  I will never forget the day he said, after reading some material I had written, which was awful, “Mark, you’re a writer.”  I am so grateful for him.  He’s an author, encourager, and one of the best speakers ever!  His website is: http://www.bobhostetler.com/

Copyright © 2020 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

The movie, “A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD” comes out tomorrow, starring, Tom Hanks.  I wrote a post about Mr. Rogers in April 2018.  In honor of the movie, which I heard was good, I am re-posting it.

FILE PHOTO  Fred "Mister" Rogers Dead At 74

Some of us, old farts, have no problem remembering Mr. Rogers on TV.  Below, are the lyrics of the song he sung, at the beginning of each episode:

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.
So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?
Won’t you please,
Won’t you please,
Please won’t you be my neighbor?

Did Fred Rogers, get it right?  Did he fully understand the 2nd greatest commandment of God?  Lev 19:18  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Most people do love themselves, and sometimes it shows by how they act and treat others.  There are several other scriptures that warn about only loving those that are lovable, but God is commanding we love everyone as much as we love ourselves.  To love him first, and then everyone else second.  Why?  Because love never fails.

It’s hard to hate and love at the same time.  Yes, one can mistreat someone who is loved, but if the love is real the issue gets resolved rather quickly.  Can you imagine saying to your worst enemy, “I’ve always wanted a neighbor just like you”?  That is what we, who love God, are called to do.  Love, overcomes all, overlooks all, and let’s go of all wrong.  Love, is so generous, it causes you to share your resources.  Love, encourages you to get your hands dirty by helping.

Yes, Fred Rogers got it right.  Mr. Rogers wanted you to be his neighbor so he could love you, as he loved himself.  So I ask you, “Please won’t you be my neighbor?”

Copyright © 2019 Mark Brady, All rights reserved

I Could Have Been a Murderer!

Charlie 61I was staying in hotel for a few days.  I decided to go out, and at the elevator met up with this older couple.  They were dressed in their “Sunday go to Meeting” clothes.  That’s what we say here in Oklahoma anyway.  They were dressed up very nice for those who don’t understand.

I said, “Wow!  You all look like you’re going to church.”  It was Thursday.  They both gave me a funny look as if I had spoken English to them in Sweden , or something.  I went on, “I mean, you two are dressed up so nice.”  This time I got a smile from the wife.  This encounter was awkward and getting more uncomfortable as we got into the elevator.  “Where ya all going?” I asked.  I mean, why stop now?

“We are attending a minister’s convention across the highway,” the man informed me in a very stern voice.

“Oh, well, enjoy.  Take care,” I replied.  I got no response.

As I got into my car, I couldn’t help but replay the encounter.  I thought, they didn’t know me at all.  Why didn’t they try to share Jesus with me.  I could have been a murderer for all they know and desperately in need of Jesus!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to judge them or anything, but I guess if one is a Christian, much less a minister, they should make an attempt to talk about Jesus in some way all the time.  A good friend said this recently;

“A disciple of Jesus Christ, is so different from being a Christian.”

What he means is this; a Christian has accepted Jesus as the Son of God, and has had their sins forgiven.  A disciple of Jesus Christ tries to replicate Jesus.  He does his best to share Jesus with the world in whatever form or words are available in the moment.  In some ways you could say, he is useful to God.

Some may be satisfied with only having an “Eternal Life Insurance” policy, but I’m not.  I enjoy helping others find God, or grow in their relationship with God.  Learning how to be an overcomer and stop living below what God intended for his children.  I know it’s hard to speak up, and I certainly don’t always know the right words to say, but I yield my reluctancy to God, and funny thing, with the help of his Holy Spirit, it usually turns out okay.  I think most people I talk to aren’t murderers, but then again, you never know.

Copyright © 2019 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Being Noticed

I now know what an animal in a zoo exhibit feels like!  The other day I thought I heard a little boy ask his mother if he could feed the American.  I have mentioned a few times, that I am now living in the Philippines.  Now that I have been here for a while, I forget when I go out, and am near my home, that I am not in America, so when someone stares at me, I start thinking Is my zipper down on my pants?  Did I forget to shower and my hair is a mess?

The point is; I stand out!  I’m noticed!  It’s impossible for me to blend in.  It happened again tonight, as I was walking down the street, to the convenient store.  I smiled and sometimes I wave or say, “Hi.”  I am conscious of the fact I am representing America.  Some have actually told me that I am the first American they have ever seen in person.

This got me thinking, shouldn’t I have the same awareness about being a follower of Jesus Christ?  Shouldn’t I be thinking What if I am the first Christian they have ever met in person?  Or, I am representing God, and the Kingdom of Heaven.  The truth is, it should be my nature and not a thought I have to keep in mind.  And my response?  Smile, wave, say “Hello”, be love.  I know I mention this theme of being love often, but the first two commandments mention love, so it must be important to God.

  1. Love God, and put him first in our lives.
  2. Love others as we love ourselves. (And some of you really do love yourselves a lot, as do I sometimes!)

When you walk around being love, you’re being like God.   “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 JN. 4:8 NIV)  Please stop trying to blend in, and rather, desire to be noticed!
Copyright © 2019 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

God’s Opus

OpusWho’s standing at the podium of your life waving the wand?  Who’s directing you?  Who is orchestrating every step you take?  Who’s responsible for the sound coming from your life?  God, you, or someone, or something else?  If you believe in God and you see in your life things just seem to work out, look up, and smile at the conductor.  God is doing everything you will allow him to, in guiding your life.

I do see some, who say they believe in God, or even who have accepted him, whose lives are a constant struggle.  Yes, I know, it rains on the just and the unjust, and bad things happening does not always point to a life that is less than full devotion to God!

Then there are those who have not accepted God’s free gift of salvation through his Son, Jesus.  Some of those people seem to have very happy and successful lives.  I would dare say something else is directing their life, the devil, perhaps to keep them from thinking they need God at all.

I didn’t even know what an “opus” was until I saw the movie, “Mr. Holland’s Opus”.  I like the following definition:  any artistic work, especially one on a large scale.  I would say that is what God has, is and will be doing until his master piece is complete.  I believe we are in the last days here on earth.  Can you feel the crescendo coming?  I hope you are allowing God to direct your life.  You’re an instrument in the hands of the Almighty who knows how to take what you give him and make a beautiful sound with it.  Even if it’s not the life you wanted, it’s great, because God is in it.  Oh!  I got to go.  My solo part is coming up.

Copyright © 2018 Mark Brady, All rights reserved

The Confession

20180618_161958Confession:  I have never been inside a confessional booth.  I grew up in a church where doing so was not part of our spiritual practice.  I am at a temple where there is one.  I am writing this blog post while sitting inside it.  Not intended, but in order to see I brought a small, but bright LED light.  It is casting such a white glow I think it scared a couple checking out the temple.

Here I sit, in this small, wooden structure.  It smells old, musty, perhaps from tears soaking the carpeted board beneath my feet.  There is carpet on the walls as well.  I guess to absorb the sound, but aren’t confessions meant to be heard?

I think there is also supposed to be a man in the booth next door.  A man to hear my sins?  My wrong doing?  What if he is actually a newspaper reporter?  Wait, when Jesus died on the cross, didn’t his selfless act of love cut out the middle man?  After all, the veil in the temple was ripped from top to bottom.  The veil that once separated man from God.  Now Jesus is our High Priest.

I guess while I am in here I might as well start talking.  Heavenly Father bless me.  It has been 23 minutes since my last confession.  You remember.  Oh, you don’t?  Then maybe I should choose to forget it also.

Now, I confess all my sins.  The ones that denied you, dissatisfied you, destroyed me and demolished others.  The sins that dishonored you, discomforted you.  The ones that would disqualify me from your presence, if it were not for your Son.  The sins that diminished others, disgruntled my employers, and devalued my wife and children.  And don’t forget the one that deflowered me before I was with the proper one at the proper time.  The ones that delayed me from being obedient unto you and your plans.  I also confess the times I digested things that defiled my body, your temple.  The words I spoke that derailed others on track to finding you.  The times my actions denounced you.  The sins that I allowed that wound up discouraging me and damaging my faith.

Forgive me Father.  I ask for your mercy and grace.  Thank you for not deleting my name from your Book of Life.  Thank you for forgiveness, and for your Son, Jesus who gives life through his death.

Now what do I do Lord God?  “Go and sin no more.”

Copyright © 2018 Mark Brady, All rights reserved