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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/

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

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.

Women of Faith: Mary

Of all the women on Earth, Mary was chosen to bear and raise the Savior of the world. Although she was not wealthy, well-educated, or privileged in any earthly way, spiritually, she was just who God needed to help guide Jesus into His years of public ministry.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.”

Some of the best advice Mary ever gave was to a group of servants at a wedding feast in Cana. In a time of crisis, she pointed them to Jesus and said, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” That’s some of the best counsel that has ever been given.

Caring, humble, dedicated, and supportive, Mary was handpicked by God.

Do you want to make a life-changing impact on a child’s life?

Be inspired by Mary, a woman of faith.

Read about Mary in Luke 1 and John 2.

 

This is the fourth in a series of posts honoring women of faith for Women’s History Month.

Women of Faith: Lydia

“A seller of purple.” Those four simple words introduce us to Lydia, one of the most inspiring women in the New Testament. Tyrian purple was the “in” color of Lydia’s day. The dye, which came from Murex sea snails, was popular with emperors and served as a status symbol for the social elite. Lydia lived in Philippi and was undoubtedly a successful businesswoman. She was also a seeker of truth. Her faith in God wasn’t hampered by the lack of a synagogue in Philippi. When Paul met her at a prayer meeting by the side of a river, he introduced her to Jesus, and she immediately led her family into the waters of baptism. From a heart overflowing with gratitude, she opened her home to Paul and his friends.

Courteous, hospitable, sincere, and successful, Lydia was the first convert to Christianity in Europe.

Be inspired by Lydia, a woman of faith.

Read her story in Acts 16.

 

This is the third in a series of posts honoring Women’s History Month.

Women of Faith: Abigail

Abigail was the beautiful, kind, and intelligent wife of Nabal, a harsh and evil scoundrel. When David’s men protected Nabal’s shepherds in the wilderness, Nabal repaid David’s kindness with rudeness and disdain. David allowed his anger to get the best of him and purposed to destroy all the males in Nabal’s household. When Abigail heard of David’s plan, she gathered together a feast for David’s men and hurried out to meet him.

Courteous, generous, beautiful, and decisive, Abigail entreated David to spare her family. The blessings she spoke touched David’s heart, and when Nabal died shortly thereafter, David took Abigail as his wife.

Are you facing a crisis in your life? Are other people’s actions causing you to fear for the safety of your family?

Be inspired by Abigail, a woman of faith.

Read her story in 1 Samuel 25.

 

This is the second in a series of posts honoring Women’s History Month.

Women of Faith: Ruth

“There was a famine in the land.” Thus begins the story of one of the most inspiring women in the Bible. Ruth, a Moabite widow, experienced tremendous tragedy and loss. But despite the challenges she faced, she knew she had found the God of heaven and refused to let Him go.

“For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God,” she told Naomi.

Faithful. Determined. Caring. Tenacious. And part of the lineage of Jesus.

Are you facing challenges in your life today? Are you wondering how all of this can be part of God’s plan?

Be inspired by Ruth, a woman of faith.

Read her story in the book of Ruth.

 

This is the first in a series of posts honoring Women’s History Month.

Will God Forgive Me?

I received a question recently that didn’t surprise me at all. It was a sincerely-asked and very important question. The answer to the question was very simple. But I’m finding that more and more people need the reassurance that comes from basic Biblical answers to what can be simple yet very challenging questions.

His question was this:

“If you have sinned for a very long time, is God going to forgive your sins after you have confessed your sins?”

Reading that question, it isn’t hard to imagine it was written by someone who is struggling owing to feelings of guilt for sins committed and is under great conviction. It’s easy to imagine this question came from someone who feels bad about poor choices.

Thankfully, the Bible answers the question very succinctly.

1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

That’s all there is to it, really.

Although, sin is a tricky thing. It’s not only wrong, and bad, and harmful, but it’s also deceptive. Like someone else’s glasses, sin affects your vision, causing you to see indistinctly. Guilt will cause you to see yourself in a way that God does not.

As bad as sin is–and it’s bad–sin in your life does not cause God to stop loving you, or to refuse to forgive you. Psalm 86:5 says, “But you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive.” Jesus went to great lengths to communicate the importance of forgiveness when He spoke about this to His disciples. He told Peter, “‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven’” (Matthew 18:22). While speaking about the way people should extend forgiveness to each other, Jesus is allowing us to see how God extends forgiveness. He does so again, and again, and again, and…

Forgiveness shouldn’t be equated with a free ride. God’s willingness to forgive does not mean that He treats sin lightly. But the reason Jesus came into the world at all is to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3).

The good news of the gospel is that God will forgive you, no matter what you have done and no matter how long you have been doing it. “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men,” Jesus said in Matthew 12:31.

As basic as the subject is, an enormous amount of people have trouble believing God will forgive them. I know because I meet them. A woman I met once told me that she had been confessing a certain sin “many times a day” for more than fifty years. Do the math. Even if “many” was just “three” times a day, that’s more than a thousand times a year for fifty years. She had confessed a particular sin more than fifty thousand times! I saw her a few days after we spoke, and she told me that the night we talked she had her best night’s sleep in fifty years.

If you’re struggling with your own sinfulness, don’t add to that struggle destructive thoughts about God not being willing to forgive you. He is willing. He will forgive. It’s what He does. Knowing that God is a God of forgiveness does not mean He is not a God of justice. But in God, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10).

As Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

The question isn’t, “Is God willing to forgive me?” The answer to that question was settled thousands of years ago. The more pertinent question is, “Are you willing to be forgiven?” If the answer is yes, face the future with confidence and trust yourself to the forgiveness of a gracious, loving God.