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.
Discoveries have a habit of changing the course of history. Take, for example, a discovery made by Karl Benz. In 1885, he did something no one had ever done before: married an internal combustion engine with a three-wheeled carriage, and the automobile was born. I think we’d all agree that cars have come a long way since that first “horseless carriage” that had a top speed of 10 mph. Little did he know where that discovery would lead!
Fast forward 133 years. In the same city where the multi-billion dollar Mercedes-Benz car company has its headquarters today, some other exciting discoveries are being made.
I recently spent three weeks in Stuttgart, Germany conducting an evangelistic series. Scores of people in that very secular city came out each evening to discover what life was all about. Entitled “Power. Faith. Hope.,” the series was designed to help people find answers to the big questions in life. And people responded.
Here are just a few of their stories.
Zehra and her family are from Turkey. She was raised in the Muslim faith, but it didn’t seem to be working for her. One day, she was walking through downtown Stuttgart and came across a literature table that had been set up by a local Sabbath-keeping church. What she read intrigued her, and she began attending church…and loved it! When the “Power. Faith. Hope.” seminar began, she was all smiles as she started to see everything fall into place.
Sam was an atheist who had been living in Iran. He felt something was missing in his life and started searching for meaning. His search led him down several wrong paths, and he ended up more discouraged than ever. When he came to the “Power. Faith. Hope.” seminar, he knew he’d finally found what he had been looking for and the smile on his face was proof of that.
Sofie was attending a Christian church, but she wasn’t finding answers to the deep, heartfelt questions that she had inside. Then a young man who had just finished training as a Bible and health missionary moved into the apartment above her. They started exchanging pleasantries as they would pass in the hall. He offered to give her Bible studies, and she loved them! Then he invited her to the “Power. Faith. Hope.” seminar, and all of the pieces finally came together.
The stories of Sam, Zehra, and Sofia are just a few of the many who have made decisions to step forward in their walks with Jesus and get baptized. There’s no question that the Lord is at work in Stuttgart.
Today, the automobile industry that Karl Benz began with his three-wheeled car is worth a whopping $1.7 trillion. But if you asked Sam, Zehra, and Sofia what their discovery of Jesus is worth, I imagine they’d tell you it’s worth a whole lot more.
When It Is Written moved from Southern California to the Chattanooga area in 2014, we did not fully understand the blessings in store for us. After much prayer, research, advice, and more prayer, we moved to an area with wonderful people, a lower cost of living, close proximity to both students and volunteers, and a large number of churches to live and work among.
Anyone who has visited our temporary location on Bonny Oaks Drive in Chattanooga has seen that we are incredibly tight on space. We have converted closets, corners, and hallways to offices and are still bursting at the seams. We are unable to film many of our productions in our current studio, and we cannot add the staff we need to produce these new programs in our current space. So, with your support and God’s blessings, we are building the new It Is Written headquarters.
The groundbreaking was in July 2017 and was followed by earthworks. Building construction began in May and has progressed as fast as the weather and various construction needs have allowed. As I write this, trucks are preparing to roll in and pour concrete on the second floor. With the steel framing up, it is really starting to look like a proper building.
We do not know exactly when we will be able to move in, but when we do, we will be able to create more, record more, develop more, and evangelize more. We will be able to reach more children with the My Place With Jesus resources. The new It Is Written TV channel will continue to grow and share the gospel around the world. New programs will be developed, recorded, edited, and broadcast from this new home.
So far, about 70 percent of the funds needed to complete the building have been raised. Investing in the new It Is Written Ministry headquarters is an investment in evangelism and soul-winning. In fact, it is an investment in everything that It Is Written will do as we embrace the opportunities God presents to us. Thank you for your prayers and support of this vital work!
Click here to donate toward the building project or keep up with construction updates.
Here are six short stories from our mission trip to Pretoria, South Africa.
Pastor Justin Lyons’ nightly presentations were heard by a person he was not even aware was present: the custodian of the church where the series of meetings were held. Outside in the shadows, the custodian sat, listened, and learned. His heart was so moved that on the night when Pastor Lyons invited people who wanted to be baptized to come forward, he stepped into the church and came forward. I guess some eavesdropping is actually very good.
One of our volunteers took a taxi to run some errands. Unbeknownst to her, her wallet fell out of her purse while riding the taxi back to the hotel. This is a story that had the potential to have a very costly and stressful ending. However, God preserved the wallet from being found by the wrong person. The next person to ride that very same taxi was none other than another member of our evangelism team. God is good.
Pastor John Bradshaw’s meetings were held outdoors in a park surrounded by apartment buildings. Hundreds of people from the community attended every night. The best thing, though, was seeing people with their windows open or standing on their balconies listening to Pastor Bradshaw preach. Can’t beat a location like that.
A wonderful Christian writer wrote: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’” Two of our volunteers did just that. First, they went to grocery store and bought bags full of groceries, and then began to deliver food to poorest of the poor in a squatter community. The response of the people was: “No one has ever done that for us,” followed by some joyful spontaneous singing and dancing.
Our video projectors have American plugs. In order to use them in South Africa, we had to purchase an adapter. When Donna, one of our volunteer preachers, plugged in her video projector, the adapter started to spew sparks. She immediately pulled it out from the outlet and wiggled it to make sure that it was properly connected. Then she plugged it again but it did the same. Without the adapter, no sermon slides. Disaster. So, Donna invited everyone present to pray with her. According to a witness, it was one of the most powerful prayers he ever heard. As soon as she said “Amen,” she plugged the adapter in the outlet again and NO problem. The presentation went forward without any more glitches. However, once the presentation was done, the adapter quit working again. Don’t tell me God doesn’t take care of little things too.
Our medical team has seen hundreds of patients. Though limited in what they are allowed to do, they are still doing an amazing job. Case and point is the young man who came to our makeshift clinic in a poor section of Pretoria. After listening to the young man, the doctor did a quick exam and discovered that his cervical, axillary, and inguinal lymph nodes were swollen, firm, and non-movable. A strong sign that this dear man had cancer. The doctor passionately recommended that he get help at the hospital immediately. Before letting him leave, the doctor prayed with the man, connecting him to the Great Physician.
I’m at the Atlanta airport awaiting my 15.5 hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. I’m headed there along with Pastor John Bradshaw and 30+ volunteers to take part in a big outreach endeavor in the province of Gauteng. Gauteng is home to two very large cities, Johannesburg and Pretoria, and over 12 million people.
We are going to be conducting 25 series of Bible presentations in and around Pretoria. Pastor John will be at the largest venue, an outdoor venue, at a place called Fountain Valley, where thousands are expected to attend. Our meetings start on Sunday night, October 7, and conclude on Saturday, October 20.
In addition to our nightly meetings, we have a small team of health professionals who will be working alongside local health professionals to provide basic screenings. The needs are great and the health message is a great way to introduce people to Jesus.
Please keep Pastor John and the team in your prayers. Where God is at work, we fully expect the devil to show up and try to disrupt. However, we know Who wins.
This past weekend at our It Is Written Partnership event in Orlando, Florida, I was told an incredible story I want to share with you. You’ll be amazed and blessed as you read.
My friend Adriana Pasos told me that some months ago she attended a seminar in Georgia. She met a woman–whom I’ll call Maria–who had come from California to attend. “Couldn’t you have attended a seminar like this in California?” Adriana asked. Maria replied that although she could have, she felt the change of scenery would be good for her, and that Atlanta would provide her with an opportunity to get away from home and learn the material without distraction.
She shared with Adriana that she came to the United States from Mexico when she was a teenager. Adriana replied by telling her that she too had come to the United States from another country when she was younger.
“I came from Romania,” Adriana told Maria.
Maria then shared more of her experience.
“For some time, I was battling depression, and I began to feel like I had no reason to live. I thought about ending my life. But then I found a television program called It Is Written. I started watching regularly and found new reasons to live. God truly changed my life through the It Is Written program. I found a hope I had never had before.”
As you can imagine, I was encouraged when Adriana told me this. We’re always encouraged when we hear about God touching lives–and saving lives–through the ministry of It Is Written.
But then the story became even more amazing. Maria continued.
“I visited It Is Written’s website, and saw a book that interested me. It was called Hope in Present Danger. I bought the book, and through that book God gave me strength to face each new day. The book was a lifeline to me. It was the story of someone who, like me, came to this country…”
“Wait,” she said. “The woman in that book came to the United States from… Romania.”
Maria stared at Adriana in disbelief.
“Was that you I’ve been reading about?” she asked. “Did you write that book?! Is it your story that helped me so much?!”
After watching It Is Written and deciding not to give up on life, Maria read a book she found on It Is Written’s website that gave her strength and encouragement. And at a seminar three time zones away from her home, she sat down next to the very person who had written that book, her lifeline.
There were tears, smiles, hugs, and a realization that the God of heaven really is an amazing God.
Just a few weeks ago, Pastor John Bradshaw, It Is Written staff, and 74 volunteers converged in the Philippines to conduct 57 two-week Bible presentation series as part of a big Philippines for Christ evangelism project. As a result, 3,147 people have been baptized and more are preparing to make that commitment.
The It Is Written evangelism team was composed of pastors, retirees, students, teachers, health professionals, business people, and entrepreneurs with one thing in common: a passion to share Jesus with others. The meetings conducted were held in churches of all sizes, basketball courts, rooftops, rented halls, outdoor spaces, warehouses, streets, and alleys. The evangelists went to the streets, where the people live. And many people responded, especially smiling young people. Not only did the people attend, but they also responded positively to the nightly presentations. Countless made decisions to make Jesus the Lord of their lives.
Benilda, unsatisfied with the church of her parents, went on a quest to find the right place for her to worship and walk with Jesus. Over the years her search was fruitless. One day, recently, when riding public transportation she overheard a conversation between two people. They were talking about an exciting series of Bible meetings being held nearby. Her curiosity got the best of her, and so she interrupted the two ladies and asked if it would be okay for her to attend the meetings. That night, Benilda was present as Dale, one of the volunteers, preached his heart out. When he made the appeal for people to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, Benilda responded. She attended all the following meetings and declared that she had found what she was looking for all these years.
Pearl, another of our preachers, noticed that one of the people attending her meetings was a man who always wore a mask. Many people in Manila wear masks outdoors because of the pollution, but he kept his on when he came indoors. Pearl was curious, so after a meeting, she caught up with the man. He told her his name was Danilo and that he was very thankful for the messages she was sharing. Pearl asked him why he wore the mask indoors. With sadness in his eyes, he explained that he hides his face because of ugly boils. Pearl immediately asked if she could pray for him. He said yes. And so she prayed for God to heal Danilo of his boils. A few nights later Pearl noticed that Danilo was missing. Actually, he wasn’t. She hadn’t recognized him because he had removed his mask. His face had no boils, just a big bright smile. Danilo, like many others, is preparing himself for baptism.
Tina, a volunteer preacher from Tennessee, was on her way to her nightly meeting when she was invited to a funeral service being held near her preaching site. When she arrived, she was told that the family wanted her to say a few words. With fear and trepidation, she stood before the crowd—but that’s when the Holy Spirit took over. With much compassion in her heart, Tina talked about the love of Jesus and how He had conquered death at the cross. It was an impromptu message, but it touched the hearts of many unbelievers.
God works in so many amazing ways to reach people. He empowers humble vessels to do it because, as Paul put it, “When I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Corinthians 12:11. Our It Is Written team has left the Philippines but the Philippines is still very much in our hearts. We went to be a blessing to others but in reality, we are the ones most blessed. Volunteers made some encouraging comments as they parted ways:
I have hope and renewed energy to work for souls back home and to encourage all, both young and old, to follow Jesus all the way. -Dean
All I can say is, “Praise the Lord!” I have to say that this was the most overpowering move of the Holy Spirit that I have ever experienced in my life. –Ed
This is one of the most blessed trips I have ever taken. –Rosemary
It Is Written is gearing up for its next evangelism mission trip to South Africa, October 4-21, 2018. We’d love for you to be a part of that very special experience. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your spot.
It was Sunday afternoon when I was looking through the news and learned that a volcano had erupted in Guatemala. I immediately contacted one of my close friends from Guatemala to ask about the seriousness of the catastrophe, and he told me: “Carolina, it’s not a big deal, Volcán de Fuego is always erupting.” I was very concerned because in the next two weeks my local church would visit Guatemala on a mission trip that had been planned for over a year.
Next, I contacted the mission trip coordinator, Danny, to see if anything had changed. He said there were no changes, except that we needed to be there more than ever to help as much as we could. The following Monday I requested for prayer during worship at It Is Written. That’s when the general manager, Jesse Johnson, approached me to offer the ministry’s support during this mission trip. What a blessing!
The truth is, this wasn’t just another small eruption. The devastation went much further than we ever imagined. This became visible when we reached the community of San Miguel los Lotes to film a program with It Is Written Speaker/Director John Bradshaw and Escrito Está Speaker/Director Robert Costa. The town was completely buried. It was heartbreaking to see survivors returning to their streets, only to find volcanic material covering their houses and relatives. One lady came to us crying: “You’re standing on what used to be my home. My mother didn’t escape. She’s buried under your feet.”
I asked another man who he had lost during this eruption. He said, “I only want to mention my mother and my wife. If I count my uncles, cousins, and other relatives, the number will be more than forty people. But I don’t want to even think about it, the pain is overwhelming.”
As we walked through the once-populated town, smoke still ascended from the ground. The smell of sulfur and death were all around us. I couldn’t stop wondering why people didn’t leave their homes and escape before the eruption. Some said that their loved ones didn’t receive warning in time. Others said that people didn’t take the warnings seriously because the crater was facing a different direction and lava had never descended their direction. People had become so used to living next to the danger of an active volcano, that they didn’t take the warning seriously. They believed, as they had done in the past, that locking themselves inside their homes would be enough to keep them from harm. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Today, the total number of deaths is still under debate. The national government counts are close to 300, but locals argue that the death toll is in the thousands. Unfortunately, finding all the bodies is almost impossible, so we will never really know.
According to the communications coordinator for CONRED, the disaster relief agency in Guatemala, warning people to evacuate on time is challenging. Communication law in Guatemala does not allow for the government to send free text messages to alert people whenever they are in danger. Because of its location, Guatemala is prone to multiple natural disasters and millions of people are vulnerable to earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions. The best way to prevent loss of life like this is to keep people from living in dangerous areas and to train them to be aware of imminent danger.
Today, the road to recovery for this nation and the thousands affected by Volcán de Fuego is long and difficult. Hundreds of people are currently amassed in temporary shelters and will soon be moved to transitional homes. The government will have to implement plans to establish people in a new location. Nobody really knows what will happen next. People have little hope for the future and no trust in their government. Right now is when they most need to hear about the second coming of Jesus and the mansions He has prepared for us – a real future and hope. As vulnerable as they are, the people of Guatemala have open hearts and are seeking God for answers to life’s deepest questions.
During our visit to Guatemala, we tried to share Christ’s love and glimpses of hope in the midst of unbearable pain. Thanks to It Is Written’s support, we were able to see 4,000 patients in our health clinics. We gave medication and over 750 pairs of glasses. We distributed 100, 55-gallon barrels to hold potable water. Twelve full-size family tents were delivered to people who lost their homes and were living in the streets. We handed out 600 t-shirts with the Escrito Está logo and the message “God Is Love” reminding the people who had just lost everything that they were loved by a merciful God. Finally, we gave out year-long scholarships to 68 local children displaced by the volcano so they could continue their education at the local church school.
I’m so grateful that I was able to be a part of this trip. I’m grateful to It Is Written for their support and to our donors for so quickly responding to the need in Guatemala. This is the love of Jesus in action. Thank you for your support! As Escrito Está approaches its 25th anniversary, we plan to return to Guatemala in 2019 to share more of Jesus’ love and hope of a new beginning.