Author: John Bradshaw

Why Would Jesus Die for You?

It’s a remarkable verse in a remarkable chapter. In a chapter loaded with power and promise, this one line seems to stand out somehow, expressing a thought unparalleled in its majesty.

Isaiah 53 deals with the life, ministry, and death of Jesus. The chapter is quoted in the New Testament by Matthew (Matthew 8:17), Mark (Mark 15:28), Luke (Luke 22:37; Acts 8:32-33), John (John 12:37-38), Paul (Romans 10:16), and Peter (1 Peter 2:24). The human subject of Isaiah 53 is sometimes referred to as the “suffering servant.” And while some may choose to question the identity of the chapter’s focus—among Jews there is no consensus on what the passage is about, with some suggesting the subject of Isaiah 53 is Isaiah himself, or Jeremiah—it is apparent to most Christian believers that this 2,700-year-old passage centers squarely upon Jesus.

According to Isaiah 53, Jesus would be unextraordinary (humanly speaking), despised, rejected, wounded, bruised, beaten, the sacrifice for sin, buried among the wicked, innocent, and yet considered a sinful man. Isaiah 53 is in large part the story of the first Easter weekend, when Jesus, as the true paschal sacrifice, gave His life to redeem a fallen world.

The story is too vast to distill into only a few paragraphs, but one thing stands out as we consider the events at Calvary 2,000 or so years ago. Jesus knew all about the circumstances of His death before He came to the earth. Jesus knew every word of Isaiah 53 before He left the security of heaven for the danger of a distant planet. Jesus knew. He knew He would be beaten. He knew He would be nailed to a cross. He knew the sin of the world would be placed upon Him. He knew He would come to His own, and His own would not receive Him. And knowing, He chose to come to this world and die as a sacrifice for sin. He knew He would be the victim of a nauseating miscarriage of justice and endure indescribable pain, and yet Jesus “laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16).

Jesus understood the horrors of crucifixion. Victims would often be tied to the cross on which they died, but as David wrote in Psalm 22:16, Jesus would be nailed to the cross, “cursed” as He hung there (Galatians 3:13), His life slowly draining away. Archaeological evidence suggests that the nails would have been driven through his ankles and wrists. Although tormented by excruciating pain, a crucifixion victim could be expected to survive several days on the cross, shifting their weight from their feet to their hands, desperately yet vainly seeking even a modicum of relief. Yet it was not the pain, the shame, or the rejection He experienced that caused Jesus’ death. As Isaiah wrote, “The Lord… laid on him the iniquity of us all,” (Isaiah 53:6). He “bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). Paul wrote that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).

It was the weight of the sins of the world that crushed the life out of Jesus. In order to hasten their death and prevent them from hanging on a cross during the hours of the Sabbath (John 19:31), the legs of the two criminals crucified with Jesus were broken. Crucifixion victims typically died from asphyxiation. As the Encyclopædia Brittanica records, “Death ultimately occurred through a combination of constrained blood circulation, organ failure, and asphyxiation as the body strained under its own weight. It could be hastened by shattering the legs [which was called crucifragium] with an iron club, which prevented them from supporting the body’s weight and made inhalation more difficult, accelerating both asphyxiation and shock.” This is why Pilate “marveled that He was already dead” (Mark 15:44). Jesus ought to have been alive when the Roman soldiers intended to carry out their grim task, but in a mere few hours, Jesus had died. He died for, and because of, our sins.

How hideous must sin be if the only possible remedy for sin had to be the death of the divine Son of God? One author wrote, “The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God” (Education, p. 263.1).

But the question remains: Why would Jesus, fully cognizant of the horror of sin, die for the human family? During a recent visit to the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center in Chattanooga, I read the story of Lance Corporal Kyle Carpenter, who served with the United States Marine Corps from 2009 to 2014. In November of 2010, while serving in Afghanistan, Carpenter used his body to shield a fellow Marine from the blast of an enemy grenade. Corporal Carpenter survived and has undergone more than 40 surgeries since sustaining his injuries. His act was truly selfless and done for the benefit of others. But unlike Jesus, Carpenter gave himself to save his friends, his fellow Marines. Jesus died for his enemies! “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

John 3:16 gives us the answer to our question. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Which brings us back to the verse I mentioned earlier. In it, Isaiah magnifies the words Jesus spoke to Nicodemus in John 3. Just 13 words, and they’re unforgettable. Isaiah writes in Isaiah 53:11, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.”

Satisfied! Jesus looked down through the reaches of time, saw the results of His crucifixion, and was satisfied. Jesus allowed wicked men to apprehend Him because He was satisfied with what would follow. He endured inhumane mistreatment at the hands of men He had breathed life into, He hung on the cross with searing pain raging through His body, He bore the sin of the world… and He was satisfied. Satisfied that His death would purchase pardon for all who wished to be saved. Satisfied that the brutality He endured would be worth it in the end. Satisfied, because you would consider the story of the cross, and have the opportunity to come to faith in Jesus.

As the Christian world commemorates the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, Jesus Himself considers Calvary and His abhorrent, repulsive death, and is satisfied. The question now becomes, Are you satisfied? Are you satisfied with the love of God, the sacrifice of Jesus, and the certainty of everlasting life?

Jesus is soon to return to this earth. If you are waiting to see Him, waiting to spend eternity with Him, He will be satisfied again.

Under Attack

The truth is that what we have seen in recent days should not shock us.

I’m not suggesting images of tanks rolling into towns, bombs causing devastation, people fleeing their homeland, and of men going off to war with the possibility of never returning home should sit well with us. They should not. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t be shocked by what we see.

War has been a fact of life on Planet Earth for thousands of years. Every country on every continent has at some time witnessed war and its accompanying carnage. Our parents or grandparents lived through the horrors of World War II. Their parents witnessed World War I. Add Korea and Vietnam and the Gulf War, and the many wars not as visible to the Western world, and we realize conflict is a fact of life. A regrettable, bitter fact of life, but a fact of life nonetheless. This generation should not expect to avoid senseless sorrow on a massive scale. What generation has?

Although we understandably feel we should. This is 2022! Invasions, needless killing, and unprovoked aggression? Exactly. None of it makes sense, at least from where we view the world. But why should we be shocked when a larger nation invades its smaller neighbor? This is what nations do. It’s what they have always done.

Sanctions and weapons and fierce resistance and humanitarian aid are entirely appropriate at a time like this. But they won’t stop future invasions from happening, nor will they dissuade despots and dictators from doing what despots and dictators do. The war in Ukraine will one day be over, and before long another will begin. And when it does, we’ll ask ourselves the same questions again: “Haven’t we learned from the lessons of the past? How can one country do this to another? What about all the innocent people and the tragic loss of life?” 

Ignoring the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit, rejecting reason, compassion, and mercy, it is human to dominate, to subjugate, and to take at the expense of others. What we see in Ukraine is the inevitable outworking of fallen human nature, sin showing its true colors like an outgoing tide reveals a rocky coastline. It was there all the time, the right circumstances enabling us to see what had been obscured from human vision.

We’re shocked by oppression, ambition, and greed? How easily we forget. This world has been shaped by such forces. Like a glacier slowly but steadily carving huge chunks out of a mountainside as it slides downhill, hostility between nations has shaped the geopolitical landscape of today. Animosity and violence are hardwired into the human psyche, and given time, will be expressed. With tragic results.

Less than halfway through the fourth of the 1,189 chapters in the Bible, a man kills his brother. Just two chapters later, wickedness fills the earth in such a measure that God is moved to say, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth,” (Genesis 6:7). One chapter later, the planet is destroyed with a flood. Only eight people survive the deluge and its attendant destruction.

When the landowner in the parable stated “an enemy has done this” (Matthew 13:28), he was stating an eternal truth. The reason for destruction and devastation, incursions and invasions, suffering and adversity, is the corrupt human heart, bent away from the heart of God due to the cancerous influence of sin.

So how do we react in light of such a stark revelation of human brokenness? The world will endeavor to help the people of Ukraine with humanitarian aid. Weapons will be sent. Diplomacy will be undertaken. We genuinely hope such initiatives will relieve suffering and foster peace. But in addition to helping the people of Ukraine, the Christian believer must see in this conflict—in all such conflicts—a call by God to help the world. Followers of Jesus Christ possess the solution for all human misery and suffering: only the gospel can so radically alter a heart that thoughts of domination and conquest are banished. 

Political and humanitarian responses to a global crisis are necessary. But if we want to see lasting change in the world, we will strive to shine the light of the gospel into the hearts of others. The world desperately needs a revelation of the power of the love of God. And it is essential to remember “the world” starts in our own homes, neighborhoods, and communities.

A friend once told me he stopped for gas on his way to commit suicide. It seemed to him life had become so completely hopeless he had no better option than to end it all. While he was walking back to his vehicle after paying for his gas, he heard a voice calling his name. A man he vaguely knew approached him. “What are you doing Tuesday?” the man asked him. “Would you be interested in attending a Bible study in my home?” My friend paused, considered the invitation, and accepted. He drove home, resumed his life, and looked forward to Tuesday night. Months later he was baptized. Today he is a lay leader in his local church, having been used by God for many years in Christian ministry, and very much alive. The reason? Someone intervened, someone reached out, someone followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to invest in the life of another.

There’s a war raging in hearts everywhere. The great controversy between Christ and Satan is playing out before our eyes. As we see an armed conflict taking place in the world, we mustn’t forget the even greater war that is raging in hearts and minds, in the lives of defeated people who desperately need intervention.

How is God asking you to intervene? The victimized, the displaced, and the fearful need you. Right now. They’re all around you. Surely it’s time to do all we can to save God’s children.

The Boy With No Future

His story is the stuff of legend. Raised by sharecroppers in the American South during the Jim Crow era, Jesse Owens was born without any real prospects in the world. By dint of the color of his skin, he wouldn’t have access to a decent education, would never be able to attend a good college, and would more than likely end up working the land like his parents.

Be sure to watch our upcoming program, “Running the Race,” which features the Jesse Owens story, available February 11.

But wanting a better life for their children, Jesse’s parents, Henry and Mary, joined the hundreds of thousands of African Americans who headed north in the Great Migration. After Jesse’s prodigious athletic talent caught the attention of a teacher at his high school in Cleveland, Ohio, he attended Ohio State University and ran and jumped his way into history by setting four world records in 45 minutes during the Big Ten championship at Ferry Field in 1935. The feat has been referred to as the “greatest 45 minutes in sports history.”¹

Fifteen months later, Owens won four gold medals in front of German dictator Adolf Hitler at the Berlin Olympics. Returning to his home country, Owens was greeted with a hero’s welcome. That is, a black hero’s welcome. Owens wasn’t permitted to use the front entrance of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City in order to attend a reception held in his honor, being forced instead to use a freight elevator. While much has been made of Hitler’s “snub” of Owens in Berlin, Owens believed he experienced a greater indignity at the hands of his own head of state. “Hitler didn’t snub me,” Jesse Owens said. “It was our president who snubbed me. The president [Franklin Delano Roosevelt] didn’t even send me a telegram.”

Owens went on to eventually earn a comfortable living. He was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United States government and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter in 1976. 

Jesse Owens died in 1980. He is remembered by history as an American hero, a trailblazer who broke down barriers, stood up to a tyrant, and lived his life with dignity. But had Jesse Owens followed the script written for him by American society, you would have never heard of him. He would never have been the subject of documentaries, movies, and books, and he wouldn’t be remembered as one of the greatest athletes to have ever lived. In fact, he wouldn’t be remembered at all. 

An interesting aside: Dave Albritton, Mack Robinson—older brother of baseball’s Jackie Robinson—and Ralph Metcalfe were other African Americans who won medals in Berlin. Like Owens, they were all born and initially raised in the American South. Like Owens, they all moved north during the Great Migration. And like Owens, if they had stayed in the South they would have been denied opportunities and would never have become champions. Owens’ great rival before the Olympics, Eulace Peacock, was, like Owens, born Alabama, but was raised in New Jersey after his parents moved their family north.

It was expected that Jesse Owens would have no future. He would be another statistic, another casualty of a system deliberately set up to prevent him from becoming what he might be. In the same way, many people today—even many Christians—believe they have no future, the system conspiring to prevent them from fulfilling their potential.

Jesus died that “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). He said that He would accept anyone who came to Him in faith (John 6:37), and would draw all to Himself (John 12:32). Paul wrote that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3). In other words, every single person alive may become a child of God and inherit everlasting life.

But not everyone feels that way. For some, personal history stands between them and everlasting life. For others, a life of repeated failure convinces them that they’re not worthy of the love of God. But like Jesse Owens, every person who walks on heaven’s streets of gold will have overcome significant challenges. A fallen nature, a sinful heart, and a spiritual enemy determined to rob everyone of everlasting life. The book of Revelation speaks of the saved, saying, “And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:11). They overcome. They succeed. They triumph.

The message of the Bible is not “Yes, you can,” but, “Yes, He can.” There’s never a need to believe the devil’s propaganda: “You’re no good. You’re not worthy. You’re not deserving.” The devil’s accusations are true, in part. We are not good, we’re definitely not worthy, and there’s no doubt we are not deserving. But no person alive needs to be good, worthy, or deserving in order to be saved. Jesus is all of those things. Faith in Him sees us credited for His goodness, worthiness, and deservingness. “By His stripes we are healed,” says Isaiah 53:5. Our hope is in His righteousness.

In spite of the obstacles you face—your weakness, your predisposition to fall into sin, your broken promises—God is able. And He will, if you are willing to have Him do so.

Don’t miss It Is Written’s Black History Month programs this month. “Running the Race” (available February 11) focuses on the story of Jesse Owens, who overcame immense obstacles to become the greatest athlete in the world. “The Hero” (available February 25) looks at the stories of multiple Medal of Honor recipients, including Robert Augustus Sweeney, the only African American to have received the Medal of Honor twice. Watch “Running the Race,” “The Hero,” and other It Is Written programs here: itiswritten.tv/programs/1


¹https://www.si.com/more-sports/2010/05/24/owens-recordday

8 Lessons From the Coronavirus

There’s much we can learn from the coronavirus crisis. Let’s look at a few coronavirus lessons, in no order of importance.

1. People can make you sick. I heard a sermon more than 25 years ago, preached by a man who sadly is now no longer a believer. He said that if you grow a garden, you wouldn’t be wise to locate it right at your property line if your neighbor’s property was filled with weeds. Because even if you do everything right, seeds from your neighbor’s property are going to blow into your garden and fill it with weeds. Proximity is a serious consideration. The same is true with the coronavirus, which affects people via other people. We need to be careful about what we catch from other people.

That’s especially true in a spiritual sense. It’s vital that we’re careful about what we catch from other people. Associations matter because attitudes rub off. If you’re in school and the popular kids aren’t serious about God, having them in your inner circle could be hazardous to your spiritual health. If your work associates or friends are corrosive to your faith, be exceedingly careful about how you let that association influence you. People have influence. We’re all influencers. Be careful of the influence of others.

2. Be careful how you spray. We’ve been reminded again and again to cough or sneeze into our elbows, so as not to affect or endanger others. Too many people “spray” their anger, bad language, and hateful attitudes on other people, who in turn are adversely affected by that. Your racist, sexist, or demeaning “joke” might be funny to you, but it’s going to harm others. Venting your anger might be acceptable to you, but it “sprays” on others. When you see a skunk, your first reaction might be, “I hope that thing doesn’t spray near me!” Some people evoke the same reaction as skunks. “I hope he doesn’t blow up.” “I hope she doesn’t start criticizing other people.” We have no right to “spray” others with our dysfunction. If you can’t muster up self control, if you can’t surrender your anger and frustration to God, it doesn’t make it okay for you to spray it upon others. It’s unfair, and it brings others down.

Lesson 3 from the coronavirus. It’s important to separate fact from fiction. “10 percent of the world’s population is going to die.” “This will last 18 months!” The truth is, we don’t yet have all the answers. I’ve seen numerous emails being forwarded containing miracle cures, the “truth” about the coronavirus, and remedies that are guaranteed to keep you safe. It’s almost certain that they won’t. The internet is like the Sears-Roebuck catalogues of yesteryear. You can find almost whatever you’re looking for. The same is apparently true of the Bible, because there are people who can appeal to the Bible to support just about anything at all. It’s important–from a Biblical perspective–to separate fact from fiction. Don’t fall for every last thing someone tells you about God, or about the Bible. The devil has no shortage of people wanting to lead you astray, divert your attention, and weaken your faith. The Bible is the truth. What someone says about the Bible is not necessarily the truth.

4. It’s good to think about the common good. We’re in this together. Your actions have a reaction. That’s why EVERYONE is being asked to act responsibly, to consider others. It might be that the coronavirus is going to bounce right off you. In fact, statistically speaking, there’s a very good chance that you’re going to be barely affected, physically. But even if you’re okay, you don’t want to be a carrier, a transmitter, of this illness. Spiritually speaking, you can be a negative force or a positive force in this world. You get to choose what you’re going to be. Consider your influence and use it for the good of others. And notice: at no time have you heard it said that only people who are specially qualified can pass on illness. You just have to be alive, and you can be a carrier. It’s the same with faith. You don’t have to be special, just special to God, and you can act for the good of everyone.

Lesson 5 from the coronavirus. Do the simple things to protect yourself. Wash your hands, avoid the sick, eat well, exercise, get rest. These are simple things. In faith, it’s the same. Read your Bible. Talk to God. Let your light shine. There’s nothing hard about these things. Spiritually, you want to do the simple things to protect yourself. If you’re not reading your Bible, then you’re not spiritually strong, and you shouldn’t fool yourself into thinking you are. Prayer and Bible reading are habit-forming. Do them, and you’ll want to do them more.

6. Things change fast. Two months ago, precious few people were talking about this. Now it’s the topic of almost every conversation, and it is dominating the news. When 2020 began, we had no idea that less than three months later the economy would be shutting down, cities would be under lockdown, people would have lost jobs, schools would be shut… Someone once said that the final movements would be rapid ones. That statement couldn’t be any more correct.

7. A final lesson from the coronavirus (and there are certainly many more.) It’s always right to do the right things. It’s always been right to look after your health, to cough into your sleeve, to stay away from work when you’re sick or contagious, to get exercise, to get adequate rest, and to think about the wellbeing of others. It’s best to incorporate these principles into your daily life anyway. It’s wise to simply make good practices part of everyday life. The same is true in a relationship with God. You don’t want to wait until tragedy strikes to discover prayer. You don’t want to be in the midst of a crisis to turn to the Bible. The wise things are always wise. Right is always right. God’s principles for successful living are simply the best things to do.

8. A final final lesson! Have faith in God. God has not given us the spirit of fear, according to 2 Timothy 1:7. God truly exists (Hebrews 11:6), He is love (1 John 4:8), He loves you (Jeremiah 31:3), Jesus is coming back to this world (John 14:3), and eternity awaits (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This is a great time for faith in a great God. The best is yet to come!

P.S. Don’t miss my conversation with Dr. Roger Seheult, a pulmonology, critical care, and sleep specialist. Dr. Seheult shares some vital insights into the coronavirus crisis. Be sure to watch and share with others. You can click here to watch it.

The Coronavirus “And All the World…”

Everyone is talking about it. All over the world.

People are getting sick. People are dying. The stock market has taken a hit. Tourism numbers are now plunging in some parts of the world. It might impact the Olympic games.

As of Tuesday, March 3, there were approximately 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus, known as COVID-19, across the United States. There have been around 90,000 reported cases in the world, with around 3,100 deaths (including six in the U.S.).¹

Where the numbers will eventually go is anyone’s guess. But thankfully, the coronavirus isn’t HIV/AIDS or Ebola. Or even the flu. It’s serious, and it’s highly contagious. But as far as global epidemics go, as bad as it is–and 3,100 deaths is a tragedy, to be sure–the CDC estimates by comparison that as many as 46,000 people have died from the flu since October of last year in the United States alone!²

What we’re seeing is that it takes no time at all for the planet to focus its attention on an issue. The coronavirus as a phenomenon shows us that an issue can become an absolute global phenomenon like that. And that’s something that has prophetic significance.

For more than 25 years, I’ve had people ask me how the Earth’s last great crisis is going to become a global issue. I’ve lost track of how many times people have asked me how authorities will know who is refusing to receive the mark of the beast. “How will they know who’s going along with the mark of the beast and who isn’t?” Of course that’s a fair question, but what we’ve been reminded of yet again is that society is able to focus its attention on an issue, and make that issue the issue for the world, in no time at all. And that’s what’s going to happen in the end of time.

The world has become much smaller in recent years. Electronic communication has increased the speed with which news can travel and the ease with which reports can be beamed from one part of the globe to another. Someone once said that the final movements of this earth would be “rapid ones.” That someone was right.

We need not speculate as to when certain prophetic events are going to take place. We already know the answer. Soon.

The coronavirus phenomenon shows us things can change incredibly quickly. The Bible says that “and all the world wondered after the beast” and that “all that dwell upon the Earth shall worship him” (Revelation 13:3, 8). We’ve seen clearly illustrated in the last few weeks how an issue can become a global issue virtually overnight, how the unlikely can become a global reality in no time at all.

Six thousand years ago the Earth was infected with a disease called sin. It won’t be long and the whole world will be talking about the issues that will dominate the closing scenes of this world’s history.

Everyone will be talking about it. All over the world.

And those who are fully surrendered to Jesus will experience final deliverance when Jesus returns.

Click here to watch a video about coronavirus prevention and implications from John Bradshaw and medical expert Dr. David DeRose. A Spanish transcription of the video is available here from Escrito Está.


¹https://www.cbsnews.com/live-updates/coronavirus-outbreak-death-toll-us-infections-latest-news-updates-2020-03-03/

²https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/preliminary-in-season-estimates.htm

Goals for the New Year

Many people make resolutions at the beginning of a new year. They firmly commit or recommit to a course of action or goal.

Science indicates that goal setting increases our Systolic Blood Pressure, pushing more blood to our brains and bodies, ensuring that we have what is needed to think and carry through with our plans.¹

Additionally, the brain’s Reticular Activating System (RAS) is activated as we write out goals.¹ The RAS helps our brains focus on the things in our environment that are associated with achieving the goal. For instance, if one starts thinking about starting a family, they will take note of couples who have children. What they say, what they do, everything about couples and kids, simply because they set that goal.

And as we behold, we are changed in ways that help us meet the goals that we set before us.

No wonder the prophet Habakkuk was instructed by the Lord to “write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end–it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:2,3 ESV).

Setting of goals in this case was not only to benefit Habakkuk. It would also benefit many others. It would help those who read the goals to know how to “run,” and to persevere in the accomplishing of the goal.

Years ago a specialist in goal setting coined an acronym that has been useful to many as they set goals. For a goal to be effective, it must be S-M-A-R-T. Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound.

Let’s briefly consider each of these suggestions.

S – Specific
Goals are most helpful when they have a particular area of focus. Seneca, the Roman philosopher, once said, “He who is everywhere is nowhere.” We need focus if we are to accomplish things. The Apostle Paul understood the concept when speaking of the fight of life. He said, “I do not run without a goal. I fight like a boxer who is hitting something–not just the air” (1 Corinthians 9:26 NCV).

M – Measurable
If you run a race, you need to know when you have reached the finish line. Likewise, if you are attempting to improve your health, another common goal, it is important to know your numbers.Your goals should be measurable–try setting an amount of time you will work on them each week or a number of items you will complete by a certain date. Luke 14:28 says, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it?” Before you start your new resolutions, make sure you have a metric in place to check your progress.

A – Attainable
Setting goals that are unattainable can lead to anxiety and frustration. We need goals that push us but goals that are also believable. Both science and Scripture indicate that many times, more is possible than we ever thought. Science documents that our brain cells (neurons) can actually change more than people initially would believe. And Scripture indicates that we can “do all things through Christ who strengthens us” (Philippians 4:13).

R – Relevant
Goals need to line up with what we believe to be true and accurate. Research indicates that when this happens, we are much more likely to find long-term success. Scripture reminds us that “unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1). In other words, make sure your goals match with God’s, and you will avoid frustration and find ultimate fulfillment. Why? Because “the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations” (Psalm 33:11 NIV).

T – Time bound
Goals need to have definite end points, or deadlines. These help focus our attention and keep us moving toward the objectives that define success. Without this, people lack a sense of urgency and forward movement. Jesus illustrated this by His dialogue about a tree that was not bearing fruit (Luke 13:6-9). The man in the parable noted the tree’s lack of fruitfulness and gave it one year to become fruitful.

Remember, God has plans and goals for your life! He says:
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11 KJV, emphasis added).

God’s plans are based on His thoughts. The very thoughts He thinks toward you! Isn’t it wonderful to know that He is specifically interested in you?

But there is more good news. Amos 4:13 says, “For behold, He who forms mountains, and creates the wind, who declares to man what his thought is.”

And how does he do this? Through His Word! That’s why It Is Written continues to focus on the Word of God. I want to encourage you to read God’s word, meditate on His word and share His word, because in it we find His plans for our lives and His plans for the entire world.

In this new year, join us in resolving to:

-Read and meditate on God’s Word.

-Talk with those who read God’s Word.

-Pray that God will reveal His plans for your life.

As we pursue God, we will discover His plans for our lives, and we can claim the marvelous promise of 1 Thessalonians 5:24: “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”

God will not only reveal His plans, but He also takes responsibility for accomplishing them in your life!


¹https://positivepsychology.com/goal-setting-psychology/

Movies and Mayhem: Our Sick Society

Surely this enables us to see the madness of it all.

Hollywood has announced that in the wake of two recent mass shootings, a certain new movie will not be released as planned. Why? Because “now is not the right time to release this film,” according to a statement from the studio that created the film.

But the fact is, there was never a right time to release this film. Nor will there ever be.

The movie is referred to as a “satirical social thriller.” What it actually is is the story of a group of people on one side of the political divide who capture and hunt to kill a group of people on the other side of said divide. But the plot is irrelevant. It’s a movie filled with graphic violence and brutal killing (luxuriously shot and featuring an Academy Award-winning cast).

The politics of it, while disturbing, are not the greatest concern. What is of tremendous concern is that we live in a society where portrayals of brutality and violence are considered, in the words of Universal Studios, “bold and visionary.” Of course this is nothing new. But the hypocrisy of pulling a movie because its putrid content comes a little close to home in the wake of a mass killing demonstrates just how far we’ve wandered as a race. If the movie isn’t good now, it was never any good.

Can’t we just acknowledge that depicting this type of violence, selling tickets to see it, and then making heroes of its creators doesn’t speak well of an enlightened society?¹ We surely are way beyond the time for studies and research papers and debate about whether or not brutality in a movie impacts the way people live their lives. One of the two recent mass murderers was into some truly horrific stuff. One of his friends claimed to see their deranged pursuit as “a joke” and was shocked that the killer acted out the very stuff their group fantasized about. Why would anyone be surprised that a man acted out his fantasies? Of course, not everyone in his clique descended to such depths. But the fact that most people who consume mental poison don’t become mass shooters doesn’t make the poison any less poisonous.

Do laws need to be looked at to address the runaway crime plaguing society? Laws should always be looked at. Is the sickness troubling the country the fault of politicians? To say “yes” would be to choose the lazy answer, but politicians have to do their job. There’s no simple solution. But if a little common sense was employed, things would be radically different. The Bible says that we become changed into what we focus on (see 2 Corinthians 3:18.) I learned to love durian² because I persisted with it. Feed a people group a constant diet of violence and hate and you get, well, 2019.

How can we be surprised when society starts to mirror the utter madness being depicted in pop culture? It might be said that pop culture merely mirrors society. But the movie recently shelved by Universal Pictures mirrors nothing other than the twisted imagination of its creators.

It isn’t free speech or creativity or bold vision that results in movies like this being produced. It’s madness. And while we can’t “stop” violent crime from happening, there are some things we can stop. We can stop leaving common sense out of the equation and start saying, “This just isn’t good. This isn’t appropriate. This isn’t necessary. This shouldn’t be produced.” This would be a good place to start. Society wants to have its cake and eat it too. Violence is bad! Killing people is bad! But violence and killing for entertainment? That’s considered good. Even very good.

The challenge is, of course, hearts don’t change themselves. Only God can change a heart, and He doesn’t change the hearts of those who don’t want to experience change. We’re late in the history of the earth now, evidenced by an advanced society thinking it acceptable to produce truly horrible content and make it available for mass consumption.

The real problem isn’t guns or shooters or laws or politicians. The problem now is society. Sin. We’re sick. Very sick. Our systemic problem runs deeper than we might even realize. In Isaiah 1:5 God spoke of a people and said, “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints.” Sin has led us to the place where we decry violence, wring our hands and shed tears and demand that the violence must stop, while at precisely the same time we celebrate those who produce the sickest stuff and spoon-feed it to a sin-hungry world. On one hand we demand society changes, while on the other we race to movie theaters to buy tickets to the latest splatter movie. And that makes sense… how?

If a movie shouldn’t be released because of mass shootings, it should never be released. Or even produced. As long as we’re so blind to our own illness, society can never be well. And as long as people choose violence and brutality as acceptable forms of entertainment, we’ll continue to get what we pay for.


¹ Actually, we know the answer to that question: “No.”

² So good… 

An Enemy Has Done This

It’s a question I’ve often been asked. And it’s a tough one every time.

A woman I’ll call April wrote to me recently.

“When my daughter passed away at three months old, I was so angry with God. How does God give you something so precious just to take it away? I still love God, but I feel lost, almost like a pinwheel blowing in the wind.”

What would you say in response? It’s a question so many people have. I wanted to share the answer with you that I shared with April.

Dear April,

Thank you for writing. First, I want to say how sorry I am for your loss. I’m sure I can’t even imagine your pain, which has to be immense. I’m so sorry.

You’ve asked a question that ALL of us struggle with. The answer is simple, but it isn’t always satisfactory. At least, not in the heat of pain and loss.

God doesn’t take our loved ones away. In the parable of the wheat and tares, a man discovers his field has been pretty much destroyed, and he says, “An enemy has done this” (Matthew 13:28). It’s the enemy who has done this. There’s a horrible, angry devil who has spread sin and with it, sickness and loss and death.

Because we’ve been in a sinful world for 6,000 years, people suffer disease and loss. Elderly people deal with Alzheimers. People battle Parkinson’s. It’s awful. But it’s because of sin. Your precious baby girl somehow was afflicted with an illness or suffered an accident because the human family has been degenerating for millennia thanks to the devil’s rebellion. God weeps with you, and He hurts with you.

Could God have prevented this? Truthfully, yes, He could have. God has prevented much, much evil. So why did He not? Why did God not preserve the life of your baby girl?

For the same reason as He didn’t prevent the drunk driver running a red light and killing a pedestrian. For the same reason a passenger was killed in a bus crash. For the same reason my friend’s two-year-old died of cancer. And what is that reason? We don’t know. But God does know.

What is important for us is to trust. To have faith. To believe that God is love (1 John 4:8), and to believe that our circumstances–as tragic as they often are–do not represent a lack of faithfulness on God’s part. April, God will see you through this. I know that might sound easy or trite or hollow, but He will. His strength will be there for you. He told the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

And one day there will be a resurrection. You will see your baby girl again. You will hold her in your arms again. And you’ll have the privilege of raising her in heaven, where there will be no more sin or sickness or suffering or pain.

April, hold on tight to God. He is the “God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3), and He will comfort you. When Paul wrote about the resurrection in 1 Thessalonians 4, he said, “Comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). He didn’t suggest the words will take away our pain, but He did say the promise of the resurrection offers hope and comfort.

One more thought: there’s one person who knows more about this than anyone, and that’s God. God lost a child. His Son–who He had been with since eternity past–was cruelly killed by the people He came to save. His own people, in fact. God suffered the greatest loss we could imagine. A resurrection reunited the Father and the Son. One soon day, a resurrection will reunite a mother and her precious daughter. I know you’re looking forward to that day.

“Even so, come Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

May God bless and keep you.

Pastor John Bradshaw
It Is Written

The Cure: Healing More Than Cancer

It was an unsettling article to read. Recently, Atlanta magazine published a story¹ about an unusual cluster of cancer cases in a small town in the state of Georgia. Many people–including young people–have lost their lives over the years to rare cancers such as rhabdomyosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma.

Waycross, Georgia–the closest of any city to the Okefenokee Swamp–has a population of less than 15,000. Over the years, Waycross has been the site of what appears to be the very careless disposal of highly toxic chemicals. Many people contend today that chemical dumps and the enormous quantities of dangerous materials they contained have caused many otherwise unexplainable illnesses.

Cancer is a tricky business. We understand the link between smoking and lung cancer, between obesity and alcohol consumption and cancer, but direct links between a substance and cancer are not always easy to prove. But in Waycross, Georgia there is no shortage of people who are convinced.

As life was being lived a day at a time, it seems that without realizing it, people were being affected in the worst way by something they weren’t aware was harmful to them.

The parallels with salvation and sin appear too obvious to miss.

It’s easy for people to fail to recognize the danger of sin. After all, sin has been glamorized. Over the years, what we once would have referred to as sin has, in many cases, been mainstreamed. But what happens is that over time a little selfishness is indulged, a little lust is indulged, a little dishonesty is indulged, and the cancer of sin starts eating away at a person’s soul. The result is eternal death, because as Paul wrote, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

It’s easy to look at symptoms without considering the cause. That’s not only true in the physical sense, but also in the spiritual sense. Someone with heart disease needs to know more than that he or she is unwell. It’s imperative that the cause of the disease can be found so that an effective treatment can implemented and good health can be restored. A person who is living a sinful life needs to know that sin is deadly. Living with, living in, living affected by sin leads to eternal spiritual ruin. A person’s problem is not really anger, or alcohol, or profanity. The problem in each case is actually a lack of the presence of God in their life, a disconnect between the person and the Savior.

While the cure for many cancers is sadly unknown, the cure for the cancer of sin has long been made known to the human family. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Paul wrote that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3). The cure is available, and unlike many medical treatments, it has no negative side effects.

But Jesus said a curious thing in John 5:40. Speaking to a group of people who were succumbing to the effects of sin, He said, “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

All around us, even in our very midst, are people who are ailing, spiritually sick and dying. The wonderful truth of the gospel is that Jesus invites every sin-sick soul to receive the fail-safe cure of forgiveness: salvation through Christ, pardon owing to what Jesus did for us all on Calvary.

While we can be thankful that great progress has been made in the fight against disease, there’s still no cure for many of the diseases that continue to claim so many lives. But the cure of cures has been found, and it’s freely available to anyone who wants it.

“Come to me,” Jesus said in Matthew 11:28. And when a person comes to faith in Jesus, he or she is cured of every spiritual ill and is made completely well.


¹https://www.atlantamagazine.com/great-reads/why-are-rare-cancers-killing-so-many-people-in-a-small-georgia-town/

Unhappiness: A Generational Issue

You might think that a young man with money, fame, and the adulation of thousands (or millions) of people would be the happiest person on earth. Living the dream, wealthy beyond imagination, hot and cold running everything… What’s not to love?

Evidently there’s a lot not to love. Earlier this year, Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association commented on the mental health of professional basketball players. He said, “What surprises me is that they’re truly unhappy.” He explained that there are “pervasive feelings of loneliness and melancholy across the league” and stated that many players are lonely. “If you’re around a team in this day and age, there are always headphones on,’’ Silver said. “[The players] are isolated, and they have their heads down.’’ He reported that one player said, “From the time I get on the plane to when I show up in the arena for the game, I won’t see a single person.” Mr. Silver’s comments were reported on boston.com.

There are several factors at play here. One is that social media and electronics allow people to very easily become isolated. A generation ago it wasn’t possible to put earbuds in and separate yourself from what was going on around you, whereas today it’s not only possible but extremely common. Smart phones allow people to immerse themselves in another world, away from the reality of what’s happening in their presence. For these and other reasons, young men at the height of their professional powers are miserable, not happy.

But this phenomenon isn’t unique to über-successful sports people, at least not according to Mr. Silver. “I don’t think it’s unique to these players,’’ he said. “I don’t think it’s something that’s just going around superstar athletes. I think it’s a generational issue.’’

If he’s right, then loneliness and isolation and melancholy are a “generational issue.” Put another way, mental health challenges are a “generational issue.” But if young adults earning millions of dollars a year can’t find happiness, who can?

Anyone can. It depends on where you’re looking for happiness, and what you prioritize as truly important in your life. Psalm 16:11 says, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” While that might sound foreign to someone crowding God out of their life, God’s promise is that when you make room for Him—when you spend time at His “right hand”—you’ll experience “fullness of joy.”

What is important to you? Where are you looking for affirmation? From where do you derive your happiness? If your focus is on acquiring money, possessions, and Instagram likes, life will ultimately prove to be a hollow existence. But when you let what is important to God become important to you, life has a way of becoming decidedly more meaningful. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” That’s a very similar thought to the one expressed in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with earning large sums of money and enjoying professional success. But the Bible and society tell us that these things aren’t the key to happiness. They may even be major contributors to unhappiness. Real happiness comes from oneness with God. Paul wrote in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The person whose sins are forgiven has peace in his or her heart. The one who understands the love of God experiences a deep-seated joy. The one who knows he or she is living out God’s purpose is a person who has a settled existence.

Be sure you’re taking time for God. The knowledge that God has your heart gives you the certainty you need to live with meaning and hope.

 


If you are experiencing mental health challenges, please seek professional help.