I Was Begging for God

Photo by: Timur Weber

I knew how life was supposed to be lived, but I struggled every day to meet that challenge. I failed to finish high school, failed at being a husband, and now, as a father. So I found myself, despite the weather, on the side of an off-ramp, begging for money.

I understood it was hard for passers-by to give. They didn’t know my story. I looked normal; therefore, they wondered why I didn’t have a job instead of sitting there. As if I liked doing it. They probably thought I was just lazy and didn’t know about the mental illness I struggled with, which made it difficult to concentrate. Employers expect so much, and I found it hard to remember what I should be doing—I needed help!

One bright and sunny Sunday morning, a couple waiting for a green light gave me a $10 bill. I remember thinking, “Oh wow, they’re generous.” The following Sunday, they did the same thing. Now they had my attention. Whether they knew or understood me, they reached out to help me. They gave me the ten dollars the third week and asked, “Hey, we’re on our way to church. Would you like to go with us? They have free snacks, good music, and you’ll hear a positive message from the word of God.” I replied, “Church people don’t want me in their building.” They quickly came back with, “Our church accepts everyone.” I thought, Why not? I could at least get some food and use the bathroom.

The people at this church were friendly, and they actually shook my hand. I used the bathroom, grabbed some snacks, and my hosts got some for me, also. We found our seats, and the service started. The music was loud, upbeat, and positive. I didn’t know the words, but I liked it. Then they took up the offering. But this church was different and announced that if you needed help, feel free to take any cash out of the bucket when it came by. I couldn’t believe what I had heard.

Then they showed a video of the senior pastor. He preached a message about love, God’s love, and how it was for anyone, even people like me. For the first time in my life, I felt hope. I responded to the pastor’s invitation to accept this loving God into my life. There were tears, but they were cleansing. After the service, my hosts had me meet the local branch pastor. I told him what I did, and he hugged me and welcomed me to the family of God. Then he paused, looked at me, and said the church had developed a new program to help people in my situation.

Now I have a job, working for the church, working for people that understand me and my struggles. I contacted my ex-wife, and she is happy for me. She is even considering allowing me to see my kids. I still see the couple who used to give me $10 but giving me the opportunity to hear a message from God was worth so much more than the money.

The above story flashed through my mind while sitting in church last Sunday. April and I had just given a man sitting on the side of an off-ramp $10. I suggested inviting him to church, and April wisely said, “Build up a relationship with him for a couple of weeks.” I’ve been praying for him and looking forward to the coming weeks. Who knows what can happen by meeting someone’s physical needs first? After doing so, they might be open to an invitation to come and hear about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. There are many ways to build the kingdom of God.

But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? Romans 10:14 (MSG)

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. John 3:16-18 (MSG)

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady. All rights reserved.

Telling The Truth Can Cost You

A father was acting out concerning a relationship. He was unhappy about how it was going, and the other person was not acting the way “he” wanted them to, which upset him to no end. There were some names spoken that were not flattering. The father talked about the situation over the phone with his son, and his son listened, but when he tried to correct his father’s attitude, the father got mad and hung up the phone. When the son called back again, he was rudely hung up on by his father.

The son’s motivation was pure as he wrote his father a letter. He tried to get his father to understand how he was treating people in several relationships and was pushing them away, and people did not want to be around him anymore. The son tried to tell his father the truth as lovingly as possible.

The father went ballistic and set out to get revenge on his son. He lied to his son and tricked him into going down to the bank to get him to sign a document that would remove him from all of his accounts and his safety deposit box. Then he removed his son from the deed to his house and even cut him out of his will. Apparently, he really did not like hearing the truth!

When Jesus walked the earth, he successfully told people the truth. Some heard him and accepted his message, changing how they lived, but others did not. They chose to get enraged.

People may not want to lose control over their life, so they will not accept the truth. Or they may fear not knowing what life will be like if they change. Others are deceived into thinking they are fine the way they are, and some feel they will lose status or power if they change. Then there are those who blame others for their actions instead of accepting the truth.

The truth is; the truth will set you free! (John 8:32)

I know of one pastor who won’t share with his wife what the word of God says about how marriage and the home should be set up. On this matter, he once told me, “You may be right, but you will be alone!” What he was saying is that “he” feared being alone if he dared to share the truth with his wife. The sad thing is the problem in their home of the wrong person being the head of the household transferred into their ministry. Whenever the home is not set up right, or the ministry, people get hurt! And in the case of their church, there is a very long list of people who have gotten hurt and have left. If the truth were accepted, their home life would be different, and the wall preventing their church from becoming a world leader would finally be lifted.

Yes, telling the truth can cost you. It could cost you thousands of dollars, your inheritance, a job, or family relationships It cost Jesus his life which is the ultimate price to pay for sharing the truth. Jesus wasn’t afraid of being alone. You may be isolated from friends and family, but you will live in freedom. If you find yourself alone, know that you are not, for you are in the company and presence of God.

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady. All rights reserved.

“Open?” (cont.)

Continuing about the church, or churches; a church really is about the people inside the walls. The structure only facilitates those people coming together to learn about God and worship him. They also learn about each other and some of those people model the early church in Acts Chapter 2.

I have recently become aware of one such group of people in Louisville, KY. They gather at Third Avenue Baptist Church. Don’t get bogged down by the name on the church building. That’s really just there so a new person can find the place. What really matters is the people inside and the attitude inside their hearts.

The people there genially care about each other. Whenever there is a need, any need, they respond. A fellow blogger told me when they first moved there, the day before Thanksgiving her refrigerator had a meltdown. An email went out to the people and by the end of the day, she had 6 offers either for a low-cost purchase or to use one free of charge. She went on to say they not only respond to when one needs assistance like meals for the sick, but also everyday things like rides to the airport.

This group of individuals is the church. The type of church Jesus inspired by the example of how He lived his life when he walked the earth. You see these people get it, and they demonstrate that they get it. They love God first and then they love their neighbor as themselves, and to them, everyone is their neighbor.

44 And all who believed (who adhered to and trusted in and relied on Jesus Christ) were united and [together] they had everything in common;
45 And they sold their possessions (both their landed property and their movable goods) and distributed the price among all, according as any had need.
46 And day after day they regularly assembled in the temple with united purpose, and in their homes they broke bread [including the Lord’s Supper]. They partook of their food with gladness and simplicity and generous hearts,
47 Constantly praising God and being in favor and goodwill with all the people; and the Lord kept adding [to their number] daily those who were being saved [from spiritual death]. Acts 2:44-47 (AMPC)

37 Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Mat. 22-37-39 (NET)

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady. All rights reserved.

“Open?”

I am writing this blog post while at a church. I’m not listening to the sermon, for one is not being given. That’s because today is Thursday. I’m assuming the main doors are closed. The office is probably open, but I have no business inside. Although I would prefer to be inside because it is warm outside and there is not much breeze.

Some churches utilize their buildings all week while others do not. Kind of like people. Some people only have a use for God on Sundays. The rest of the week, they live however they want to. It seems as if I will never be able to forget the shocking statement of one of my classmates when I was in the eleventh grade. That was a long time ago! She said, “I love being (popular religion). I can have my sins forgiven on Sundays and live like hell the rest of the week.” I think I recall almost falling out of my desk after she made that declaration.

Her statement seemed to go against everything I had been taught about God and living for him instead of living for myself. Sadly, a few months later, her life was cut short when her husband put a shotgun in her mouth and pulled the trigger. I have often wondered if she regrets living the way she did.

“Going” to church doesn’t guarantee you will make it into heaven. It comes down to accepting Jesus Christ into your life, asking him to forgive you of your sins and wrongdoings, and then living for him. It’s about the attitude of your heart, and only God can know that. So maybe it doesn’t matter if the “church” is open or not; God is! It never hurts to attend church, though. There you can find people like you, and together you can encourage each other as we all face the challenges of living like God in an ungodly world.

So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. Heb. 10:22-25 (MSG)

I wish this building was open, and I had the nerve to go in and ask to use their bathroom. That is my most significant need right now!

This church’s building is beautiful! I only hope the people who attend here are as well. I know for sure two of them are because they are my neighbors, and this is their church.

(This blog post continues on Friday, July 8th, 2022)

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady. All rights reserved.

Zone, Free of Judgement

Photo by Ivan Samkov

“I can’t believe they are wearing a hat in church!” said one man. “You should be glad they’re here,” I replied. I wanted to say, “The Pope wears a hat in church”, but I didn’t. “How dare they wear shorts in the sanctuary,” another person commented out loud.  “Perhaps they would have missed church altogether if they had stopped at home to change first.” “All they do is sit there while the pastor is speaking and play on their phones,” one griped. “Were you aware that many people have a “Bible” app on their phones these days and they are following along with the pastor as he reads the scriptures?”

I have recently joined a gym. Their slogan is, “Judgement Free Zone®”. And I have seen all types of individuals in a variety of shapes and sizes there. Some good and some, well, like me out of the proper shape. But true to their slogan, no one has ever judged me. They are just glad I’m there.

Shouldn’t the church of God be a zone, free of judgement as well? After all, who are we to judge anyone?

for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, Rom. 3:23 (KJ21)

Not everyone who enters the church doors is in the best “spiritual” shape just as those who enter the gym are not in the best physical shape. April says, “I’m still the same woman you fell in love with. I’m just a different shape now.” It is best if we smile, greet them, make them feel welcome in the church, and be ready to help them if they ask. They need to develop a spiritual workout that is best for them. One that meets them where they are.

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.

Crumbs of Rumors

“I admit I once lived by rumors of you;
    now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!
I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise!
    I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”

Job 43:5-6 (MSG)

There are a lot of people who only hear about God, but they have never “experienced” God for themselves!  They “go” to church thinking that He takes attendance, or something. He doesn’t! As if their “going to church” is the only thing required of them in order to go to heaven. I would think after hearing how great God is, how marvelous, how wonderful, and how loving they would want to spend time getting to know him. You know, reading his number one, bestselling, book, and talk to him on a regular basis.

I find it difficult to understand why they only want to “hear” about God. Perhaps they attend a church service that is lifeless, an hour of following the same rules week after week, therefore thinking that knowing God is not life at all? On the contrary, knowing God is really living! The most exciting adventure you will ever experience!

I have heard others say their priest or minister has told them the Bible is too difficult to understand. The truth is, the gospel of Jesus Christ is so simplistic that even a child can understand and accept it. Don’t over complicate the Word of God, or his plan of salvation. It’s all about an “invitation of the dying love”. That sounds like a book’s subtitle I once heard of.

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Here’s What You Do

What do you do when they correct you and then proceed to give you instructions on how to accomplish a particular task? Here is how God responded to Job:

“Do you presume to tell me what I’m doing wrong?
    Are you calling me a sinner so you can be a saint?
Do you have an arm like my arm?
    Can you shout in thunder the way I can?
Go ahead, show your stuff.
    Let’s see what you’re made of, what you can do.
Unleash your outrage.
    Target the arrogant and lay them flat.
Target the arrogant and bring them to their knees.
    Stop the wicked in their tracks—make mincemeat of them!
Dig a mass grave and dump them in it—
    faceless corpses in an unmarked grave.
I’ll gladly step aside and hand things over to you—
    you can surely save yourself with no help from me! Job 40:8-14 (MSG)

It seems as if God was sarcastic.  Knowing very well Job couldn’t do anything he asked him to do. As we humans are now on Earth, there is no way we can know everything! I was talking to a friend the other day about this same issue, and I mentioned how I had learned to say, “I’ll take that under advisement”.  He laughed and then shared what he says, which is, “That’s a great idea.  I’ll look into it.” Both responses sends the “know it all” away with a sense of pride and accomplishment. They probably feel as if they just helped another one!

God was sarcastic with Job, because He knew Job couldn’t do those things, or even knew how. We don’t know what a person knows, so perhaps what to do is simply listen, and execute our escape as soon as possible. That’s better than hurting the other person or debating and or arguing.

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

He Finished Well

Later today, I am going to the funeral of the man pictured here, a friend.  I have known this man for probably 54 years.  After I heard the news last Friday evening, I was latter on Facebook.  A lady from his church posted his obituary and arrangements.  Below her post, people who knew him, started remembering, and honoring him.  They commented about his smile, his kindness, his servant’s heart, and his laughter. They were good words.

I begin reflecting on this out pouring of love, and thought about what kind of life one lives that moves people to respond as they were.  It didn’t take long for the answer to appear in my heart.

First, and foremost, you love.  You love God, and then love others.  You chose to ignore what other people say about someone, and you love them anyway.

Secondly, you show kindness.  You show it at work, at church, in your community, and at home.  With customers, family and friends.

Third, you serve others, which really is “love” in action. One man posted how my friend came and got them after their car would not start.

You do all this, not to receive kind words spoken or written about you when you die, but because this is the example Christ demonstrated for us while he walked the earth.  It’s simply the kind of life God calls us to.

I have fought an excellent fight. I have finished my full course with all my might and I’ve kept my heart full of faith. There’s a crown of righteousness waiting in heaven for me, and I know that my Lord will reward me on his day of righteous judgment. And this crown is not only waiting for me, but for all who love and long for his unveiling.  2 Tim. 4:7-8 (TPT)

In the above verse, Paul compares living life on earth as a race. It’s not a competition though with others to see who finishes first, second, or third. And unlike youth community sports programs, not everyone will receive a participation trophy! It’s about reaching the finish line, with God, and in my friend’s case, he finished well.

Copyright © 2022 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Not Automatic

I stood there in the bathroom with soap on my hands.  Soap that was dispensed automatically.  In an automatic world there is now a dispenser that tells me how much soap is enough, and a towel dispenser only gives me enough to wipe a finger or two.  So why wouldn’t there be an auto faucet that turns on for me and decides what temperature is appropriate? I’ve seen them before.

I moved my hands up and down, back and forth, closer and further away trying to get the water to turn on.  All the while soap was dripping from my hands.  I tried everything.  Over and over again.  Then, I guess the man waiting behind me had enough.  He reached around me and turned the water on by raising the lever.

Having a relationship with God is not automatic either.  Going to church doesn’t determine your destination for eternity.  Have you ever noticed at most funerals the friends and family assumes their loved one is in heaven?  The Bible says this:

Enter through the narrow gate because the wide gate and broad path is the way that leads to destruction—nearly everyone chooses that crowded road! Mat. 7:13 (TPT)

So odds are, unless their friend, or loved one made a public confession of their faith in Jesus Christ and have asked for the forgiveness of their sins they aren’t in heaven.  Sorry, but that is truth from the word of God.  Not my words.

God wants to have a relationship with us.  He gave us his only son to die for us which paves the way.  God invites us and has done all but make the decision for us.  He leaves that to us and our freewill.  The relationship with God is not automatic.  Your sins aren’t washed away automatically without asking Jesus to cleanse you.  How you live after you are in the kingdom of God is between you and him.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Phl. 2:12-13 (NKJV)

The above words are good words to live by, and to the man who helped me in the bathroom, “Thank you.”

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.