Diabolical

In pouring through the case file I came across a photo of the woman, we were after, and her young son.  As I studied the photograph I saw he was holding a large, light blue teddy bear.  The photo was old because the bear was almost as big as he was back then, but now he is much older.  “That’s it!” I thought.  “We’ve got her now.”

A few hours later, we were in place.  The woman was hiding out in an old abandoned warehouse.  She had been on the run for a few years now.  She made no purchases herself or appeared in public.  She had help, a support network to keep her whereabouts secret.  That is until one of those with her turned against her and disclosed her location to one of my associates.

I walked up to the front of the warehouse carrying the bear.  The same one her son used to have.  I walked away and then we announced over a bullhorn that we had her son.  A few minutes later the door to the warehouse opened and someone, other than her, reached through it and grabbed the bear.  About fifteen minutes later the woman gave herself up.

This peaceful capture of a fugitive worked because we hit her where she was weak.  We realized she probably struggled every day with the guilt of leaving her son behind in order to live a life of crime, and to stay hidden so she could be what she thought was free.  But what kind of freedom is it to never be able to show your face in public, or hug your son?

Okay, in full disclosure, I borrowed the above plot, with a little bit of tweaking from a well written, popular TV drama on Netflix.  I did so to make a couple of points:

  1. Satan knows where you are weak, and he will do anything to attack you in that place.  He does not play fair at all. His operation is completely diabolical. He hates God, and to him, you are nothing but a pawn in the battle over souls.  The devil lies, steals, and cheats to build his kingdom.  God uses love to build his kingdom. And He gave as well.  He gave us his only Son to die for us, so we could live.
  2. True freedom is in Christ Jesus.  Having your sins forgiven, your wrong doing wiped away by the action of Jesus on the cross.  You see, when your sins are forgiven there is nothing the devil can use to attack you.  You don’t live with guilt, or regret.  You have the word of God that can be used against the devil to resist temptation as well.  But wait, there’s more!  You have the power of all of heaven on your side to help fight the battle and to stand firm.

Stop the sneaky attacks of Satan once and for all.  Accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and enter into a realm of living in freedom.  Bask in the love of God and share this Truth with others, so they too can experience God, experience life the way God intended it to be.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Aren’t You Glad She Ain’t God?

I was sharing with my friend that I had been talking to a woman last week, who questioned how in the world could King David be considered such a man of God?  “After all,” she said, “he had an affair with Bathsheba, and after learning she was pregnant he had her husband killed.”  Yes, King David sinned, had a moral failure, but after being confronted by the prophet Nathan, repented and begged God not to remove his Holy Spirit from him.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

The entire chapter of Psalms 51 is a prayer of repentance.  King David was confident that God could, and would forgive him.  He also knew the feeling of awesomeness of being in the very presence of God, and he knew of the power of the Holy Spirit, because he had experienced it firsthand.

God did forgive him.  If God would forgive him, then why wouldn’t the woman I was talking to forgive him?  Mankind is the one who rates sin.  Has the woman never sinned herself?  True forgiveness forgives and then moves on.  Even God separates our sins as far as the East is from the West. (Ps. 103:12)  Another important issue is this; if the woman hasn’t truly forgiven King David, can God forgive her of her sins?

14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Mat. 6:14-15 (NKJV)

This makes me wonder, who else has she not forgiven?  Perhaps even her own family members?  If that is the case then how sad for her.  Those not forgiven by her will go on with their lives regardless, so the result only hurts her.  At the end of my sharing with my friend he said to me, “Aren’t you glad she ain’t God?”

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

“One Way, or Round Trip?”

Unfortunately, death has been all around me lately.  Not in my personal family, but in the families of others and some people I know.  My mother-in-law informed us on the street she lives, there is one person, or more who die every day.  She lives in the Philippines.  Covid is a thief of life!

But yet others have passed away from illnesses and diseases we are more acquainted with, like cancer.  Losing a family member, friend, neighbor, or a coworker hurts.  We mourn, grieve, and cry, because we will miss them, and that’s understood.  Although the pain can be great, when one we know passes but has first accepted Jesus Christ as God’s son, and has made a public confession of their faith in him, then we can be assured we will see them again.  Our grief is temporary as the sting of death first hits us.  That statement is only true if we too have accepted Jesus Christ into our hearts, asking him to forgive us of every wrong thing we have ever done.  I sense I need to write that there is nothing you have done that God will not forgive, nothing!

I had a coworker several years back that believed in reincarnation.  I learned that as we talked about life after death while riding the commuter train out of Chicago, IL.  We respected each other’s views and opinions.  You might say he believed that life offered up “Round Trip” tickets.  My view was it’s a “One Way” ticket.  Meaning, you only get one opportunity to make that important decision to accept Jesus.

27 Every human being is appointed to die once, and then to face God’s judgment. 28 But when we die we will be face-to-face with Christ, the One who experienced death once for all to bear the sins of many!  Heb. 9:27-28 (TPT)

As my friend and I debarked the train, I turned to him and said, “If you are right, and I am wrong, then I have nothing to be concerned about.  But if I am right, and you are wrong, then you will find yourself standing before God explaining to him why you didn’t accept him in your one life.”  I went on to explain that the wages of sin, unforgiven wrong deeds, is death.  For eternity!  As one of my cousins said, “Eternity is a very long time!”

So I ask you, before you die, “Would you like a one way ticket?”  Oh, and by the way, no charge.  Jesus paid the price for you when he died on the cross.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

You Have a Friend in Me

friend

  1. a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.

So what’s your definition of a friend?  A true friend is difficult to find.  And when you think you have found one, it can take more time to know if you can completely trust them.  Do you have such a friend?

The Bible talks about, “Confess your sins one to another.” (James 5:16)  After becoming aware of this scripture I first thought, “No way!”  And for many years I didn’t.  How in the world could you trust someone with the darkest side of you?  Here is a good test to see if you can trust a friend with something you did wrong.  You tell them something, that if it got out would be embarrassing, but not career ending.  Then, you can feel safe confessing your sins.

I have such a friend.  It took a few years of getting to know him before I knew I could trust him with anything.  I have told him things I have not spoken of to any other living person.  He has shared likewise.  I value my friendship with him very much.  We talk to each other every week.  As well, we pray, intercede, and there are times when one of us has to correct the other’s attitude toward another person or situation.  I thank God for him, for he is a sure gift from God.

The great philosopher Woody, from the movie “Toy Story” put it like this:

You’ve got troubles, and I’ve got ’em, too
There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you
We stick together and we see it through
‘Cause you’ve got a friend in me

I hope you have such a friend.  If not I pray you would find one, and if you don’t, you should ask God to help you find one.  You will be glad you did.  I should also add, if someone opens up their heart, and confesses a sin in their life to you, please do not speak of it to anyone else.  The damage you could cause may take years to heal in them, if they ever do.

Like my trusted friend once said, after revealing a sin in his life, “Wow, I feel so much better, and lighter after sharing that with you.”  That is something you can’t put a price tag on.  It’s priceless!

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

PAULssible

Do you wrestle with trying to do the things you want to do, but in reality you wind up doing the things you don’t want to do?  You are not alone.  A lot of people deal with this struggle. Some every day.  It can be frustrating, disappointing to you and possibly to others.

What is one to do?  Get down and defeated?  Throw in the towel?  Stop trying all together?

One of the most famous followers of Jesus Christ wrote about dealing with this issue:

14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

1-2 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

3-4 God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

5-8 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.

9-11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

12-14 So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

15-17 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!  Rom. 7:14-8:17 (MSG)

The Apostle Paul said it better than I ever could have.  I hope you found his words encouraging.  Never give up the fight, for the prize awaiting you at the end, is worth it.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, …

You become aware, in a moment that your very life is in jeopardy.  When this happens, as we have seen in movies, people tend to think about what happens after we die.  They think about God.  Some will even, in that moment, attempt to make deals with God.  He will answer sincere prayers, because only He knows the attitude of the heart, but I don’t think God is in the “deal making” business.

The truth is; no man knows when the countdown clock of his life will reach “0”!  I once took a youth group to a cemetery and it became obvious some life’s lasted years, while others only lasted a few, or even just days.  Like the song by Kansas, “Dust in the Wind”:

Same old song
Just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do
Crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Now don’t hang on
Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away
And all your money won’t another minute buy

No one likes to think about dying, but it is one of the most important decisions you can make BEFORE you die.  For once your last breath escapes your body your soul is ushered into eternity.  The only options are: heaven or hell.  By using your freewill and not choosing to recognize God’s son Jesus as your savior who died for all of the wrong things you have done in your life, then you are choosing hell.

God doesn’t send any human to hell, they send themselves.

A lot of people thought about life and death during the peak of the Corona Virus, and as a result, several made the decision to accept Jesus, forgiveness, and life.  Now times are getting better again, but as we witnessed in the collapse of the condo building in Surfside, FL., one never knows when their life will be required of them.  One moment sleeping sound in bed, and the next, standing before God.

“But you don’t have a clue what tomorrow may bring. For your fleeting life is but a warm breath of air that is visible in the cold only for a moment and then vanishes!” James 4:14 (TPT)

Please, purpose a moment to make that important decision, before the clock of your life reaches “0”.  If you choose God, I assure you will be glad you did.

I pray now for everyone who hasn’t taken the time to do this and I ask God to help you and to help you overcome the obstacles that might be holding you back from choosing Him.  Blessings.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Put it into Practice

Have you ever met a dreamer?  They come up with all of these great ideas, and sometimes they actually put those ideas on paper, but they never seem to carry them out.  Then there are those that move slower than a glacier.  They have to have all the “I”s dotted and the “T”s crossed before they are free to move on.

Neither kind of individual is particularly bad, just not very productive.  Kind of like working with a committee where all the members think their way is best.  Not much gets accomplished.

I have often thought, what would the earth look like if it had been designed by a committee?  And would God’s son, Jesus have ever made it to earth at all?

God was clear about what He wanted to do and how He wanted it done.  With creative, artistic, beauty.  With grandeur and microscopic details.  Every aspect functioning in pure balance with the rest of creation.  God was also clear about his son coming to save us from our sins:

“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)

The above was God’s mission statement and vision, and I would say, it is still working!

I saw this the other day in an email and I thought, that should be my mission statement and vision:

Practicing the presence of God.
Operating in the gifts of the Spirit.
Demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit.
Drawing the people of God into the glory of God.

I hope I am as successful as God in living out the above declarations.  But instead of hanging them on a wall as a nice plaque I’ll have to put them into practice.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

Graffiti

Graffiti Building – Tulsa
Gum Wall – Seattle

I was driving my wife, April around downtown Tulsa the other day.  It was her first tour of the big city.  We went under a bridge and as in most urban areas, there was graffiti painted on the sides.  There was also a couple of buildings with it as well.  One building’s graffiti has become a little famous, but it’s nothing compared to the “Gum Wall” in Seattle, Washington.

A couple of days later, while I was having a moment with God, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “What kind of graffiti have you allowed to be written on the walls of your heart?”  Ouch!

I began to think about the messages I see, hear, and the stuff that shows up on TV.  Those messages affect us more than we realize they do.  For example, we may start accepting the lifestyle as okay, or normal that some choose to live that God calls sin.  We will always love the individual, but never the sin in their life.  That’s God’s approach.  We might chose to stay quiet instead of calling it out for what it is, “destructive lifestyles”, or accepting Satan’s substitute for what God has for us.

I realize now, I need to wash the walls of my heart from time to time.  To get the, what some may call, “expressive freedom” removed and put things back to having only the words of God written there.

Proverbs 7:3, talks about writing God’s words upon the walls of your heart:

“…etch it on the chambers of your heart.”

We are also instructed to guard our hearts.  Why all this care about our hearts?  Because what is in our hearts is what we believe to be true, and that belief comes out of our mouths.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

The Unexpected Sermon

“It’s okay.  It’s all in the past,” said my great niece as she waved her hands back and forth down low by her side.  She had gotten caught doing something that turned out okay, but would not had been sanctioned by either of her parents.

We laughed as my mother shared the story of the incident with my wife and me, but later in the week my wife quoted my great niece after doing something I did not appreciate.  Yes it’s true, I’m a recovering control freak, and I always argue that I like things done a certain way, because to me it seems like the fastest and easiest way to accomplish that task.  I know, there are many ways to doing some things, and there are times when someone would rather do it their way.

It may seem silly, but my four year old great niece preached with conviction a sermon I needed to hear, but more than that, live out!  I have spent the last several days practicing to let things go and not to mention that my wife may have done or said something that turned out okay, but not something I would have done.  And you know what?  Our marriage is better for it!

In those times when we mess up, do things that God would rather we hadn’t, and we go to him and ask for forgiveness, he always says, “Its okay.  You’re forgiven.  It’s now in the past.”

God makes everything come out right;
    he puts victims back on their feet.
He showed Moses how he went about his work,
    opened up his plans to all Israel.
God is sheer mercy and grace;
    not easily angered, he’s rich in love.
He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold,
    nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve,
    nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
As high as heaven is over the earth,
    so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
    he has separated us from our sins.
As parents feel for their children,
    God feels for those who fear him.
He knows us inside and out,
    keeps in mind that we’re made of mud.
Men and women don’t live very long;
    like wildflowers they spring up and blossom,
But a storm snuffs them out just as quickly,
    leaving nothing to show they were here.
God’s love, though, is ever and always,
    eternally present to all who fear him,
Making everything right for them and their children
    as they follow his Covenant ways
    and remember to do whatever he said. (Psalms 103:6-18 MSG)

Forgiveness is not a license to go sin more, or even again, but it lifts the burden of guilt off of us, and allows us to go on, living life in peace.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.

God, My Enemy?

Have you ever heard someone blame God for their troubles?  Or insurance companies label calamities as an “Act of God”?  I have.  Job, from the Bible, he certainly did.  In fact, he went so far as to accuse God as his enemy.  (Job 16:9)  I have also heard people say this, “When I get out of the hospital I am going to start living for God.”  Yeah, as you might have guessed, months later they are still living life in the same manner before they went into the hospital.

I was cleaning a stain from the ottoman we recently picked up with a chair for our new “Conference Room” where we go to meet with God.  I looked at the can of “stain remover” and couldn’t help thinking about God removing stains from our own lives.  The foam that comes oozing out of the can is white, and because Jesus died for our stains, our sins, he makes us white as snow.

Though your sins have stained you like the color red,
you can become white like snow;
though they are as easy to see as the color scarlet,
you can become white like wool. Isaiah 1:18

Did you notice who makes the stain remover?  “Woolite”.  Did you also see the brush on the end of the can?  Even after our sins are forgiven when we accept Jesus and ask for that forgiveness there can be consequences of wrong doing in our life.  And sometimes it takes a lot of work, or “scrubbing” for those results to be removed.  It can take time and commitment to clean up the mess we have previously made with our lives.  Max Lucado once wrote,

“My mess, is His message.”

I also liked on the can where it said, “Triple Action”.  As you know the Trinity is made of God the Father, Jesus, God’s son, and the Holy Spirit.  All three work together to bring us to the saving grace of God.  I am so thankful to know that when I make mistakes I can be forgiven.  Being clean, free from sin, is a good feeling. God is not our enemy, but our friend and loving father.

Copyright © 2021 Mark Brady.  All rights reserved.