Do You See Him?

There is an old story, yet true, of three Jewish teenagers.  Their real names are hard to say, and spell, so let’s call them, Jerry, George, and Bob.  Bob was kind of strange, but there were moments when he would say or do something that caused Jerry and George to laugh, so they accepted him.

Their country was currently controlled by a foreign government.  Along with new rules to live by came a demand to conform to the foreign country’s religion.  One that included worshiping before a golden idol of their god.

Jerry, George, and Bob believed in the one, true, God, but their faith was about to be put to an extreme test.  When the king, of the foreign government, learned of their devotion to their God he demanded they bow down to the idol, or to be thrown into a fiery furnace.

“Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Said the king.

Bob spoke up with boldness in his voice and said, “King, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

This made the king so angry he ordered the furnace to be heated up seven times hotter. The three young men were tied up and when they were thrown into the furnace, three of the king’s guards died from the heat coming through the opening.

Then the king leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Yes, almighty God delivered Jerry, George and Bob from the fiery furnace, and from the hand of the king.  As a result, the king ordered that all the land worship the one, true, God of Jerry, George, and Bob.

Last week I wrote about life’s problems, and your attitude toward them.  I know that is easier said than done for some, or perhaps even most.  But know this; when you are facing a storm, or even a trial that challenges your faith in God, look around for the Son of God who is in the fire with you.

He may say, “Peace be still” to your storm, he may extinguish the flames, or he may choose to walk through either with you.  The bottom line is this;

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Your God has not forgotten you, or abandoned you.  He has heard your prayers, and has counted every tear.  He loves you more than you will ever know, and when you hurt, He hurts.  We are created in his image, and so God does have emotions.  Trust him.

(If you would like to read the above story for yourself, you can find it in the Bible; Daniel chapter 3.)

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

What’s the Problem?

Life can come at you hard and fast at times.  Bills you can’t pay arrive in the mail.  A routine checkup delivers a death sentence.  Your spouse announces their love for you has run dry.  Yes, these may be the extreme cases of life, but even the everyday life can cause you to gasp for air.  You feel, “If I could only reach the surface, I could breath.”

It is in those moments having a trusted friend helps.  So does having a church to go to where God has prepared a meal for you from his word via your pastor.  There are also an abundance of messages online, or on YouTube.  Listening to someone else’s testimony can encourage your faith, but keep in mind, just because God did something in one person’s life in a particular way does not mean He will do it that way in your life.  The point of a story, or testimony is to help you believe, be convinced, God sees you, knows you, loves you and wants to be active in your life,

Keep this fact in mind; Jesus went to the cross.  He died on that cross.  His body was removed from that cross, so he is no longer suffering to the point of death.  Then, three days after his body was placed in the tomb to rot, to decay, to go away, he overcame the chains of death.  He arose from the dead.  The stone was rolled away and the light of the morning became his “exit” sign.

My point is this: if you believe in Jesus and the power he demonstrated, and you place your trust in him and you believe that he overcame and can empower you, and lead you to be an overcomer then what’s the problem?

It’s not ignoring the issue(s) of life, but placing them in the hands of the One who overcame not only life, but death!  The problem you are currently dealing with does not own you.  It does not define you.  It has no power over you, because if you give it to Jesus, then you will overcome it.  Not only will you look at it in the rearview mirror someday, but you will recount the story of it, to others, to encourage them.  To help them overcome their current situation as well.

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”  John 16:33 (MSG)

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

So What?

Have you ever noticed how quick some people get upset, and at times over the littlest things?  It can seem silly at times, but don’t tell them that.  It could only build more frustration.

The funny thing about these individuals is this; they “choose” to get upset.  I learned that truth many years ago while attending marriage counseling with my first wife.  The counselor pointed out my wife can’t “make me mad” just like she can’t “make me hungry”.  That made sense.

Ignoring things in life that bother you can be a challenge, but not impossible.  One technique is to look at the overall situation and to ask yourself, “Does it really matter?”  Finding a way to say. “So what?” is important.

The alternative is flying off the handle.  Spouting words that can hurt, cut and potentially do permanent damage to the receiver of those “acts of rage” that could take years to overcome.

You can definitely pray and ask God to help you, and partner that with help from key identifiers.  Signals inside you that may indicate your tolerance level is rising to a boiling over point.  That can be the time to walk away quietly, or simply correct the frustration issue without commenting on it.

It is easier to change yourself, than to try to change another person.

The Bible says this about the importance of responding correctly:

Respond gently when you are confronted
    and you’ll defuse the rage of another.
    Responding with sharp, cutting words[a] will only make it worse.
    Don’t you know that being angry
    can ruin the testimony of even the wisest of men?
When wisdom speaks, understanding becomes attractive.
    But the words of the fool make their ignorance look laughable.
The eyes of the Lord are everywhere
    and he takes note of everything that happens.
    He watches over his lovers,
    and he also sees the wickedness of the wicked.
When you speak healing words,
    you offer others fruit from the tree of life.
    But unhealthy, negative words do nothing but crush their hopes.  Prov. 15:1-4

One thing to remember is; your outburst can ruin your witness of the love of God before others.  That’s a sobering thought.  People tend to remember a single outburst instead of the countless acts of love that came in the days before.  It’s not fair, but unfortunately true.  Choose to react with one of the fruits of the Spirit of God.  “Love, joy, peace, self-control, kindness, goodness, forbearance, and gentleness.  It’s a better way to go. Oh! And in the spirit of transparency, I needed this post probably more than anyone else!

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

The Results Will Be Worth the Pain

“Dad, I’m scared,” said my ten year old son.  He had a lymph node die in his throat and it was decaying causing swelling and in a few hours it would completely suffocate him.

I decided to do something perhaps I shouldn’t have, but at the time it seemed wise.  I told him, “Having surgery is up to you.  If you decide to have the surgery they will make you go to sleep, and they will remove the problem and you will wake up and be on pain meds until you are better.  If you don’t have surgery, you’re going to die.”  He laid there in his hospital bed and thought for a few minutes and then said, “I think I’ll have the surgery.”

I don’t understand why, but we are usually afraid to let those who know what they are doing remove something that is hurting us.  The choice should be obvious, but yet we fear.

The same thing tends to happen when God wants to remove a part of our personality that hurts us, and or others.  Usually others.  I am currently lying in a hospital bed (figuratively) about to undergo the removal of one such part of me.  I know God knows what He is doing, but I’m afraid.  I think I fear what I will be like after the procedure.  I know time is of the essence and this cannot be put off any longer, so I am saying to God tonight, “I think I’ll have the surgery.”

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” PHI. 1:6 (MSG)

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Which Way Do I Go?

Direction.  We seek it a lot, especially for those who have a strong and thriving relationship with God.  We want to go in the correct direction and not waste time or resources.  I sure messed up the other night.  I live in a city that doesn’t receive huge amounts of snow that often and as a result the city doesn’t have the equipment to remove it as say, Chicago does.  So when the meteorologist were predicting 6, 8 to 10 inches of snow, and hyped it up, I left where I was sooner than I needed to in order to get home safe.

I realize now I could have asked God for direction on when to leave, but I didn’t.  I acted out of fear instead.  At times, it’s hard not to.  There is something innate about us that wants to be moving.  This inward motivation makes it difficult to sit and wait, and when it comes to waiting on God for direction it is even harder.  Do we not trust Him?  We should!  We have His word we can go to and read of His promise to guide us:

1–2 I look up to the mountains and hills, longing for God’s help.
But then I realize that our true help and protection
come only from the Lord,
our Creator who made the heavens and the earth.
He will guard and guide me, never letting me stumble or fall.
God is my keeper; he will never forget nor ignore me.
He will never slumber nor sleep;
he is the Guardian-God for his people, Israel.
Jehovah himself will watch over you;
he’s always at your side to shelter you safely in his presence.
He’s protecting you from all danger both day and night.
He will keep you from every form of evil or calamity
as he continually watches over you.
You will be guarded by God himself.
You will be safe when you leave your home
and safely you will return.
He will protect you now,
and he’ll protect you forevermore!  Psalms 121 (TPT)

I was having a conversation this morning, with a friend, about this very topic.  He has been asking God for direction when it comes to finding his spouse.  There are a few potential mates and he has been trying to discern God’s will on the matter.  As we continued to speak, it became obvious to both of us that he needs to stay in “neutral” right now.  If you think about the gear shift on a car from neutral you can go forward or backwards, but you can move in an instant.  Your only other option is “Park”.

A parked car doesn’t need to be steered,

because it isn’t going anywhere!

So I challenge you, if you find yourself needing direction, guidance from God, be patient and be willing to sit in neutral for a while.  Keep your foot on the brake. You are ready to move, and you will, when the time and direction is right, therefore not wasting either time or resources, and when it comes to matters of love, possibly not suffering another heartbreak.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

This Side of Heaven

I was “Two Way Journaling” this morning, a spiritual practice I don’t do enough of.  It’s writing out your conversation to God, and then waiting to hear in your spirit what God would say to you.  I was thanking him for using me to be his “Man on the street” if you will.  In other words, it seems as if whenever I am out in public I come across a soul that needs encouragement, acceptance, love, or to be introduced to God.

It humbles me knowing that God would work with me, or I should say through me for I don’t do life in a perfect manner all the time.  I think one reason He does reach people through people is to put a physical dimension to the encounter the person is having, for after all, we are made in God’s image, and I strive to be made in his nature.

I often think about those God directed me to, and I wonder, how is their relationship with God now?  Are they closer to accepting Truth?  Have they learned to take God’s hand and overcome with him their struggles?  Below is a comment from one of my faithful readers of this blog, and what she said about a woman God directed her to in a coffee shop.  (You can also get to her blog posts by clicking on the link.)

From seekingdivineperspective:

“Thanks for taking the time to write, Mark, and especially for praying. We’ll probably never know this side of heaven what happened to that young woman, but God knows, and I hope we will meet her when we all get there.”

There are a few times we do get to know how things turn out, but those are seldom.  For instance; did the lady at a Quick Trip get reacquainted with God and go back to the church her grandmother took her to, or is she still living with the guy she was with that day, hoping for real love?  Will a woman at work accept God and his love and allow him to comfort her in the loss of her mother?  Did the gentleman I talked to while sitting on a cold sidewalk give God a chance to restore his life and his relationship with his wife and kids?

So it’s important to not hurry out there to run our errands and then hurry back home, or to just go to work and only do what is expected of you,

but while living life, look for opportunities to give life.

For as Life Church declares all the time,

“Whoever finds God, finds life.”

You may not know the results, this side of heaven, but something will happen, and one day, when you get to that side of heaven, you will know, and if the results were good you will probably tear up, and give thanks to God for using you, and be thankful for the work God did in the life of the other person.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

It’s Not My Fault

One thing that gets me upset faster than most is encountering someone with a self-righteous attitude.  You’ve met them too I’m sure somewhere in life.  It doesn’t take long to discover them.  As soon as they tell you their life story, or if they hit your car and jump out and say it was your fault even though it wasn’t.

Well, I had another run in this past week with such a person.  I have known them for a few months now and have heard how their current life issues are a result of everyone else.  Sure, other’s actions do affect us, I get that, but at the same time we have to take responsibility for our part, and for our decisions.

After the person blamed me for their current displeasure I will be honest and say, I got mad!  Very mad, and I made enough noise to let them know of my displeasure.  I’m trying to learn how to respond to everyone and in every situation with one or more of the fruit of the Spirit, but I failed that day. I didn’t say a word, but they knew I didn’t like it.  I decided the best thing to do was to remove myself from their presence.  Being honest, I was concerned I would say something that they would use against me in the future.

But the whole time I was stewing I kept thinking this:

“When you stand before God, are you going to try to blame someone else for not accepting Jesus?”

These self-righteous individuals may think they are getting by with it here on earth, but in heaven I’m confident it will be a different situation.  I’ve often wondered if their attitude makes them feel better about themselves.  I mean what’s so bad about being wrong?  Apologize and then move on.  We are human after all, and in heaven, if you have accepted Jesus Christ then your wrong doing have been forgiven.

I feel sorry for people like the one I encountered this past week.  They are believing lies the devil puts in their mind, and those lies may, someday, determine where they spend eternity.  That’s a long time to regret your decisions! It’s possible that blaming others most of your life will make it difficult to identify as someone who does this, but perhaps there is a sliver of truth in you somewhere.

If you consider yourself self-righteous then I pray you will learn to be bold and brave and stop believing the lies, and face the reality of the truth and stop hurting others, but also stop hurting yourself.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Drive thru God

Then Eliphaz from Teman spoke up:

“Would you mind if I said something to you?
    Under the circumstances it’s hard to keep quiet.
You yourself have done this plenty of times, spoken words
    that clarify, encouraged those who were about to quit.
Your words have put stumbling people on their feet,
    put fresh hope in people about to collapse.
But now you’re the one in trouble—you’re hurting!
    You’ve been hit hard and you’re reeling from the blow.
But shouldn’t your devout life give you confidence now?
    Shouldn’t your exemplary life give you hope?  Job 4:1-6 (MSG)

Do you find it difficult to encourage yourself, even with the very words you have used with others?  I do.  At times it seems impossible to find hope and peace when you look at your own life.  Funny, how sure you are of the power of the words you spoke to another, but when it comes to applying them to your situation, not so much.  They seem empty.

In the above portion of scripture, Job’s friend, Eliphaz (it’s ok, I don’t know how to pronounce it either) was trying to remind him of what he has done to help others.  What he has said that encouraged, lifted up, and gave them hope.  Then he asked two very good questions. “Shouldn’t your devout life give you confidence now?  Shouldn’t your exemplary life give you hope?”

The answer is, “YES!”  It should, and will if you allow it.  God hasn’t changed, just your current situation has.  I struggled with this myself as I have described in recent post.  Yes, I knew better, and after giving it a lot of thought I think I have figured out partly why.  Time.

We live in such an instant gratification world that we expect everything to get resolved fast.  I mean, we have fast food, Prime same day delivery, one hour photos, why not “Fast God”?  Would it be asking too much for God to open up a drive thru?

Time seems to do a work in us.  Someone once said, “Time heals all wounds.”  Not sure about that.  It does seem to make us take survey of our lives though.  I think there are some things we go through when God gives us the time we need to know the bottom line is, we need him to do his best work in the situation.  I know the end of Job’s story and that is what happened in his life.  God did a work in the heart of Job by allowing tragedy to strike.

God really does work all things to his glory.

“That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”  Rom. 8:26-28 (MSG)

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

What Does Your Sign Say?

She’s 19 years old.  Engaged to the man of her dreams, so she thinks, but the longer our conversation went it became obvious to me she’s marrying this guy to escape her mother’s prison.  She’s not happy, not satisfied, and not fulfilled.  I tried to, in a gentle way, point out the flaws in her plans,

but I had forgotten;

19 year olds know everything.

I was asked how my weekend went, and I replied, ”Good.  I enjoyed it.  How was yours?”  “Oh, not so good,” said my friend.  I was surprised.  On the outside his life looks as if it is going well.  Apparently it’s not.  Who knew?  Later I offered to get together and be a sounding post if he wanted to vent, or share.  He said he appreciated that.

It seems, as if most of my life, others have shared with me what is going on in their lives.  Especially when it is not going well.  I was perplexed by this phenomenon for several years until one day I was told that it seems as if I have a shepard’s heart.  I should have known for many people have asked me if I was a pastor.  The truth is, I was supposed to be.  I was on the path to becoming one when I took a wrong turn in that fork in the road of life.

I could have taken the road on the right, and kept going, but I didn’t, and, well, the consequences took me out of ministry, but it didn’t change my heart.  I repented, and tried to get back on track, but it didn’t happen, but I digress.

I ask you today, “What message are you giving others?”  When someone meets you what are you saying to them?  Are you open to listening?  Does your sign tell them that you are only interested in your plans and goals?

There are people all around us that need hope, light in their dark world, they might just need someone to listen, to know someone cares, or more importantly, they might need God.

I try to imitate the life of Christ, and one thing I noticed is this; he took time for people.  I hope you do too.  I hope the message on your sign says, “Welcome.”

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.