Hemmed In

Your back is up against the wall.  You have found yourself in a corner, or down an ally with no apparent way out.  Your mind is limited on how to resolve your situation.  You cannot see any reasonable way out.  Your resources are gone.  Your bank account, savings, or 401 has been depleted.

Now what?

Such was the story of a woman in the Bible.  She is one of my favorite heroes, for she was a woman of great faith who despite what she saw with her natural eyes she believed, “My situation doesn’t have to be this way.”  She knew when to tie a knot and hang on.  She was hemmed in, her back was up against the wall.

Yes, I’m talking about the woman with the issue of blood.  She suffered from a physical aliment that lasted for 12 whole years.  She spent every dime she had visiting multiple doctors trying to find a cure.  What’s even worse, those who knew her, called her, “Unclean”.  I’m sure they assumed God was punishing her for some sin in her life.  You think the thought, “I want to die!” never entered her mine?  Or, how many times did she question God, “Why?  Why God is this happening to me?”

People, who haven’t earned the right to put on a robe,
judge anyway.

What are you facing?  What challenges are you dealing with?  Can you identify with this woman?  I too am facing a situation today as I write these words that I honestly cannot see how the situation is going to end.  My emotions got on a roller coaster today, and I did not enjoy the ride at all.  Then I saw one of my friends, Jeff Lossau, posted a new blog. (https://jefflossau.com/)  As I read God’s words, from Psalms 34, I cried.

Listen to my testimony: I cried to God in my distress
and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears!
Gaze upon him, join your life with his, and joy will come.
Your faces will glisten with glory.
You’ll never wear that shame-face again.
When I had nothing, desperate and defeated,
I cried out to the Lord and he heard me,
bringing his miracle-deliverance when I needed it most.
The angel of the Lord stooped down to listen as I prayed,
encircling me, empowering me, and showing me how to escape.
He will do this for everyone who fears God.
Drink deeply of the pleasures of this God.
Experience for yourself the joyous mercies he gives
to all who turn to hide themselves in him.
Worship in awe and wonder, all you who’ve been made holy!
For all who fear him will feast with plenty.
10 Even the strong and the wealthy grow weak and hungry,
but those who passionately pursue the Lord
will never lack any good thing.
11 Come, children of God, and listen to me.
I’ll share the lesson I’ve learned of fearing the Lord.
12–13 Do you want to live a long, good life,
enjoying the beauty that fills each day?
Then never speak a lie or allow wicked words
to come from your mouth.
14 Keep turning your back on every sin,
and make “peace” your life motto.
Practice being at peace with everyone.
15 The Lord sees all we do;
he watches over his friends day and night.
His godly ones receive the answers they seek
whenever they cry out to him.
16 But the Lord has made up his mind to oppose evildoers
and to wipe out even the memory of them
from the face of the earth.
17 Yet when holy lovers of God cry out
to him with all their hearts,
the Lord will hear them and come to rescue them
from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to all whose hearts are crushed by pain,
and he is always ready to restore the repentant one.
19 Even when bad things happen to the good and godly ones,
the Lord will save them and not let them be defeated
by what they face.
20 God will be your bodyguard to protect you
when trouble is near.
Not one bone will be broken.
21 But the wicked commit slow suicide.
For they hate and persecute the lovers of God.
Make no mistake about it,
God will hold them guilty and punish them;
they will pay the penalty!
22 But the Lord has paid for the freedom of his servants,
and he will freely pardon those who love him.
He will declare them free and innocent
when they turn to hide themselves in him. (from, The Passion Translation)

The woman with the issue of blood risked everything, and went into a crowd. She pushed her way through it until she was where Jesus would pass by.  She even violated her society’s rules, because she knew with what little faith she had left, if she could just touch the hem of his garment she would be healed.  She no doubt had heard the testimonies of his healing power.  She did, He passed by, and she bowed to touch the hem of his garment, and she was healed instantly.  In a single moment, that she never could have foreseen, her issue went away, and so can yours! (Mark 5:25-34)

THEN, you can proclaim the first part of Psalms 34:

Lord! I’m bursting with joy over what you’ve done for me!
My lips are full of perpetual praise.
I’m boasting of you and all your works,
so let all who are discouraged take heart.
Join me, everyone! Let’s praise the Lord together.
Let’s make him famous!
Let’s make his name glorious to all.

The woman made God famous, and I’m willing to endure what my wife and I are going through, for someone else, so I can make God famous.

How about you?

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Seeing the Invisible

Let’s face it, faith is difficult.  It’s not hard to find it as we all start with a measure of it, according to the word of God. (Rom. 12:3b)  But growing your faith is something else.  One of the best ways is to listen to testimonies.  If God can do it for them, then it’s possible for him to do it for us.  That’s one of the reasons we have the Bible.  Reading the stories of God doing the impossible when a solution looked improbable.  Also, faith grows by hearing the word of God, according to Romans 10:17.

We can use our invisible faith
to believe in the invisible God!

If we learned anything from 2020 we should have learned that no one knows what a year will bring us.  Some had good years while others have bad years before Covid, and I have even heard of a few thankful people for 2020.  What?  Yeah, some have given thanks that the pandemic forced them to slow down, take a survey of what was really important in life, while others are grateful for the time they got to spend with their immediate families.

Businesses found out people can work from home, which reduced commuting, which reduced pollution, which has allowed nature to return to some areas where it has not been seen for a long time.  There are other things to be seen that we often loose site of when things are going well.  Like how precious life itself is, and how valuable time is.  By taking walks, some saw the beauty of nature again.

You know, perhaps 2020 did open our eyes after all, if you were looking.  So the point to this blog has to be, “open your eyes, and keep them open”.  Always be looking for the invisible in life.  Always be looking for God, because he speaks, he ministers and he teaches us despite any circumstances going on around us.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Looking For Jesus (Part 4)

King Herod.  He was not looking for Jesus, at first.  But after the wise men came to him asking, “Where is the one who is born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” King Herod became interested.  In fact, the scriptures say, “he was alarmed, and all of Jerusalem with him.”  They must have liked things the way they were.

This is one of the main reasons why people don’t look for Jesus.  They like things the way they are.

King Herod gathered all the chief priest and experts in the law.  They knew the scriptures, the Old Testament and told the king exactly where Jesus would be born.  He then schemed to use the wise men to be his spies, and after finding the Christ child to report back.  Even as a child, Jesus threatened the status quo.  When the wise men found Jesus in Bethlehem they were warned not to return to the king, so they went back home via a different route.

An angel warned Joseph to take his family to Egypt so he did.  Soon after King Herod saw he had been tricked by the wise men, he became enraged.  He then sent men to kill all the children in Bethlehem and throughout the surrounding region from the age of two and under.

So now King Herod was looking for Jesus, but only because he was influenced by Satan.  The devil did not, and still doesn’t know God’s plans, but because he was once in heaven he knew the name of Jesus.  Satan, the devil used Herod to apply a shotgun approach to kill Jesus before he could grow up and do the will of God, and that was to defeat sin and death.

Satan will never win over God.  And he doesn’t know what God is doing in your life either.  Life with God is so much better than without him.  When you surrender your life to God, and ask him to lead you and guide you, I assure you, life will be so much better.  This season, look for Jesus for the right reasons.  You will soon be glad you did.

Copyright © 2020 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Why Do You Love God?

A true story:

One day when the angels came to report to God, Satan, who was the Designated Accuser, came along with them. God singled out Satan and said, “What have you been up to?”

Satan answered God, “Going here and there, checking things out on earth.”

God said to Satan, “Have you noticed my friend Job? There’s no one quite like him—honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil.”

Satan retorted, “So do you think Job does all that out of the sheer goodness of his heart? Why, no one ever had it so good! You pamper him like a pet, make sure nothing bad ever happens to him or his family or his possessions, bless everything he does—he can’t lose!

“But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He’d curse you right to your face, that’s what.”

God replied, “We’ll see. Go ahead—do what you want with all that is his. Just don’t hurt him.” Then Satan left the presence of God.

Sometime later, while Job’s children were having one of their parties at the home of the oldest son, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys grazing in the field next to us when Sabeans attacked. They stole the animals and killed the field hands. I’m the only one to get out alive and tell you what happened.”

While he was still talking, another messenger arrived and said, “Bolts of lightning struck the sheep and the shepherds and fried them—burned them to a crisp. I’m the only one to get out alive and tell you what happened.”

While he was still talking, another messenger arrived and said, “Chaldeans coming from three directions raided the camels and massacred the camel drivers. I’m the only one to get out alive and tell you what happened.”

While he was still talking, another messenger arrived and said, “Your children were having a party at the home of the oldest brother when a tornado swept in off the desert and struck the house. It collapsed on the young people and they died. I’m the only one to get out alive and tell you what happened.”

Job got to his feet, ripped his robe, shaved his head, then fell to the ground and worshiped:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth.
God gives, God takes.
    God’s name be ever blessed.

Not once through all this did Job sin; not once did he blame God. Job 1:6-22 (MSG)

Wow!  What would your response be if this happened to you?  Many people blame God for evil, and pain in this world, but we can see here God doesn’t cause it, the devil does.  2020 has been a very painful year for a lot of people around the world.  Have people, or you blamed God, or the men that created the virus for evil?  Do those who on January 1st, 2020 who praised God and confessed their love for Him still do?  Do you only love God when He is good to you?

It is so important, no, it is vital that we keep our perspective true when facing difficult times.  To know God didn’t bring, or cause the pain although He did allow it knowing that if we keep our focus on him we will get through it.  Job loved God simply because, He is God!

We don’t know when the events of 2020 are going to end.  We don’t know who will still be above ground and the totality of it all, but don’t for one second take your eyes off of God.  Know He is still God, and love him accordingly.

The end of Job’s story:

God blessed Job’s later life even more than his earlier life. Job 42:12 (MSG)

Copyright © 2020 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

The Yolk, The White, The Shell

A lot of people recognize God.  Some will acknowledge Jesus as God’s son.  Few though, it seems, mention the third member of the trinity, the Holy Spirit.  I am so thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.  For it was He who drew me to God in the first place.  It was He who convicted me of sin.  Though I was only 7 years old, I knew right from wrong, and my pastor preached with God’s authority, that being wrong was sin, and that sin lead to eternal death in hell.

I am thankful, for now I will not be lost forever in the pitch darkness of eternal damnation, alone, and with the feeling of falling forever.  For the pit of hell is bottomless.  Mankind needs two things to feel human, time, and gravity.  Time provides a schedule, a rhythm to life, and gravity helps us feel grounded.  In hell neither exist.

Many years ago, I spent a few hours in jail.  Shocked? Yeah, well, whatever. It happened. Anyway, I noticed there were no clocks, and I didn’t like not knowing what time it was.  The only way to know was by what food items they served us.  Pancakes; must be morning.  Bologna sandwich and chips; has to be afternoon.  Chicken; it’s got to be evening now.

The Holy Spirit also provides great comfort in the times when I don’t understand what is going on with life, or when my heart is breaking for one reason or another. He may not calm the storm, but He calms me down, and helps me know I will get through it.

More than leading me to Jesus, which accepting his work on the cross grants me access to the throne room of God, the Holy Spirit gives me power.  Like Jesus promised us in Acts 1:8. The power I need to speak, and minister to someone in need.  Honestly, many times I wouldn’t have a clue what to say, but I rely on the Holy Spirit.  I open my heart to be willing, and then I open my mouth and God’s words come out.  I know it is God, through the Holy Spirit, because I am usually just as amazed as the one I am speaking to at the wisdom, or love of the words spoken.

But I promise you this—the Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be filled with power. And you will be my messengers to Jerusalem, throughout Judea, the distant provinces—even to the remotest places on earth!”  Acts 1:8 (TPT)

Every person who believes in God should ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  It is a separate event from salvation and water baptism.  For the scriptures say that when Jesus came up out of the water, meaning after his baptism, then the Holy Spirit lit upon him.  It was the work of the Holy Spirit that empowered Jesus to endure the cross.  In his own human strength it was more than He could bear.

Just like there are three parts to an egg, the yolk, the white, and the shell, it is still only one egg.  So there is Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God, but there is still only one God.  The three are one, and I will be forever grateful for all three, and the work they have done in my one life. If you choose not to believe in the trinity of God, you may find yourself someday with egg on your face.

Copyright © 2020 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Heaven or Hell?

My friend and I were riding the commuter train, from Chicago, home after a long day. Somehow, the conversation turned to God and each of us shared our beliefs on what happens to us when we die.

He said he was convinced, after we die, we are reincarnated.

Then I shared my belief that if we have accepted Jesus Christ, as God’s son, and have invited him to forgive us of our sin, wrong doing, then when we die we spend eternity in heaven. If we don’t accept Jesus Christ, then we spend eternity in hell.

We were able to listen to each other, with respect, but then I told my friend this; “If you are right, then I have nothing to be concerned about. If I am correct, you may have a long time to regret it.

We exited the train, and before heading to our cars, he said, “You sure have given me something to think about.” I hope and pray he has now accepted Jesus, but on that day, he wasn’t ready.

You have to choose one or the other. There is no way around it. There are no excuses for not selecting. You can’t say it is impossible to know, for God reveals himself to everyone.

Romans 1:19-25 (TPT)

19 In reality, the truth of God is known instinctively, for God has embedded this knowledge inside every human heart. 20 Opposition to truth cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance because from the creation of the world, the invisible qualities of God’s nature have been made visible, such as his eternal power and transcendence. He has made his wonderful attributes easily perceived, for seeing the visible makes us understand the invisible. So then, this leaves everyone without excuse.

21 Throughout human history the fingerprints of God were upon them, yet they refused to honor him as God or even be thankful for his kindness. Instead, they entertained corrupt and foolish thoughts about what God was like. This left them with nothing but misguided hearts, steeped in moral darkness. 22 Although claiming to be super-intelligent, they were in fact shallow fools. 23 For only a fool would trade the unfading splendor of the immortal God to worship the fading image of other humans, idols made to look like people, animals, birds, and even creeping reptiles!

24 This is why God lifted off his restraining hand and let them have full expression of their sinful and shameful desires. They were given over to moral depravity, dishonoring their bodies by sexual perversion among themselves— 25 all because they traded the truth of God for a lie. They worshiped and served the things God made rather than the God who made all things—glory and praises to him for eternity of eternities! Amen!

Choose God before it is too late. He has already chosen you, and He loves you more than you will ever know.

Copyright © 2020 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved. 

I Had To

This week I choose to do something I didn’t want to do.  My heart was restless as the date approached.  I discussed the situation with a friend, and also with my wife.  Then two days before the event my wife, my helpmate, said one word.  As soon as I heard it, I knew.  I knew what I had to do.  I was thankful for her hearing God where I struggled.

You see, there are times when someone hurts you, and the pain goes deep into your heart.  You tell them what they did, but they don’t care at all, and their pride keeps them from admitting wrong and apologizing.  When this happens, you find yourself wanting to avoid them to protect your heart from future pain.  As well, you don’t want to do anything for them, as you feel they do not deserve it.  I had forgiven them, but I didn’t want to see them.  I don’t mean to be so secret about the details, but I don’t want to give any clues that might identify the perp.

God’s word tells how to handle hurt:

Lay aside bitter words, temper tantrums, revenge, profanity, and insults. But instead be kind and affectionate toward one another. Has God graciously forgiven you? Then graciously forgive one another in the depths of Christ’s love. Ephesians 4:31-32 TPT

Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. Luke 6:28 NLT

I did do the right thing, but I had to pray, a lot, and ask God for help.  I also asked him to protect me, and help me not bring up the past while I was there.  They did do one thing that bothered me while I was in their presence, but I left before the pain erupted.  God is good at helping us in our time of need. His specialty is loving those who don’t deserve it.

If you are facing a similar situation, pray, and ask God to help you do the right thing that will glorify Him.  You never know, but your loving kindness might just be the catalyst to change things around.

Copyright © 2020 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved. 

The Fruit Section of Life

Your life has come to an end.  As happens after every death, people will reflect on what kind of person you were, or at least what kind of person you were to them.  Without a doubt, their decision will be based solely on how you treated them, or responded to their behavior.  There are times though when you will be judged, and remembered unfairly.  A person’s mind is powerful, so much so, it can bend truth.

What is it people see that makes up one’s mind considering you?  It’s the fruit your life bears.  Is that fruit sweet, or sour?  Does your life, your words, your actions leave a good taste in the mouths of others, or do they want to spit them out?  Jesus even eluded to the fact people are known by the fruit their life bears.

And I don’t mean like, someone is bananas!

I’m referring to the fruit of the spirit.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

If there is no law against these fruits, then they cannot be judged.

The way for the fruit of your life to be, and stay healthy is for you to always stay connected to the vine.  Jesus instructs us with these words in John 15 from The Passion Translation:

Jesus the Living Vine

“I am a true sprouting vine, and the farmer who tends the vine is my Father. He cares for the branches connected to me by lifting and propping up the fruitless branches and pruning every fruitful branch to yield a greater harvest. The words I have spoken over you have already cleansed you. So you must remain in life-union with me, for I remain in life-union with you. For as a branch severed from the vine will not bear fruit, so your life will be fruitless unless you live your life intimately joined to mine.

“I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches. As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless. If a person is separated from me, he is discarded; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire to be burned. But if you live in life-union with me and if my words live powerfully within you—then you can ask whatever you desire and it will be done. When your lives bear abundant fruit, you demonstrate that you are my mature disciples who glorify my Father!

The purpose of operating in the fruit of the Spirit of God isn’t so people will know us as good, or even great, but that God will be glorified.  If you are in need of getting back to the vine, Jesus, then by all means do it.  There are too many people out there who are not connected to Jesus and they do a lot of damage in the lives of others.  And if you need some help, I’ve heard of a product called, “Miracle Grow”.

Copyright © 2020 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved. 

Wife of the Month

090120I would like to nominate April for “Wife of the Month”.  For the month of September, she can use the special parking space.  That is, if she was here in America, and if she could drive.  She has completed the immigration process, but can’t take the final step because her country is still in “lock down” mode, so the U.S. Embassy isn’t doing interviews.  Being separated is difficult, but I can see how God has used it for His glory thus far.

Last week, I sent her the following message, and though it is personal, she agreed to let me share it:

Baby, I love you! I simply love you, because you have God’s DNA in you, and it shows. In you is peace, joy, faith, hope and love. Of course the greatest of these is, love. Because love, never fails! Baby, when you look back over our short marriage, you can see a trail of love that has dripped over the mountains we have overcome, and across the ocean that separates us now. Without love, God’s love, we would not have come this far. The story of “Mark and April” would have been a short one, but as it is, our story, is still being written.

I couldn’t wait any longer Baby April. I know our 18 month anniversary isn’t until next week, September 1st, but I just had to let the words above out. I was unable to contain them any longer. So Happy Anniversary, April. I am so happy to be known as the American, who married April Joy Santiago Cruz, and has so far, survived.  I am a lucky man who is blessed by God. He loved me so much that He hid you from the eyes of others, for such a time as this. I know two, maybe three of those men looked your way, but because of your wonderful faithfulness to God they gave up in their pursuit.

Our story, feels like it is taking forever to be written, but I know we are steadily moving every day toward his destination for our lives. Baby April, each day it gets easier to love you, because you, like God, are love.

To you April, the love of my life,
Mark

I am grateful for God’s love, and for his tender nudge to try marriage again, after checking the “Divorced” box for 24 years.  April struggled with her singleness a lot, and most who knew her started believing  “marriage” had passed her by.  But God had a plan that took years to connect two individuals who were 8,149 miles apart.  It’s like He set her on a shelf, so she would be available for me that one Friday afternoon, in October 2018, when I first saw her face on a Filipino dating site.

It’s hard to trust God, who doesn’t always share what He is up to, but when you do, it’s worth it!  God is so amazing, and I am so grateful, He first loved us.

Copyright © 2020 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.