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 pin wheel 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 Cor. 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 Cor. 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 Thess. 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

Revelation Today: Stories from Melbourne

“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

Exciting stories are coming to light during our evangelistic meetings in Melbourne, Australia. John Bradshaw, speaker/director, and Eric Flickinger, associate speaker, are holding four evangelistic meetings simultaneously in this city at the southern tip of Australia. As the Word is preached, lives are being changed.

A man attending John’s meetings had been deaf in his left ear for 30 years. When he and his family members attended the meeting a couple of nights ago, he remarked to his family that the message seemed really loud to him. His family replied that it seemed to be normal volume to them. It was then that he realized his hearing had miraculously returned after being gone for 30 years.

In Eric’s meetings, a man named Mark attended the first night of the messages and loved it. He returned the following night with 12 members of the small group that he leads in his own church. They loved the messages as well. Each night, Mark takes copious amounts of notes during the message and then goes back to his small group of 40+ people and teaches them what he has been learning in the meetings.

Teuila has been known to some of the church members here for 10 years, and during that time they have invited her to many events, dropped off literature at her home, and tried to encourage her to join them in studying the Bible. For 10 years, she said she was not interested. About a month before the evangelistic meetings began, she responded to an It Is Written Bible school mailing and requested Bible studies. A local Bible worker followed up the request and began studying with her. Now she is attending the meetings and is thoroughly enjoying what she is learning.

The stories that are coming to light are numerous, and God is currently orchestrating even more. There is no doubt that God’s purposes know no haste and no delay. He is doing great things here in Melbourne, and we appreciate your prayers for the people who are coming out to hear them night by night.

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/

Escrito Está Speaker/Director Meets Guatemalan President, Prays with Him

On Wednesday, March 13, 2019, Pastor Robert Costa, speaker/director of It Is Written’s Spanish-speaking ministry Escrito Está, visited the president of Guatemala, Mr. Jimmy Morales, to express Escrito Está’s commitment to sharing Jesus and to pray for him in his role as the country’s leader. Pastor Costa gave the president a brief report of what Escrito Está and local churches have been doing in the areas of education, health, spirituality, communications, and social work to relieve the needs of Guatemala’s citizens. Pastor Costa was warmly received by the president and gifted him and other members of the government a favorite book about the life of Jesus, The Desire of Ages, another devotional book, and an Ambassador of Peace medal. Toward the end of the meeting, Pastor Costa prayed for God to lead and bless President Jimmy Morales and his country.

The meeting was made possible thanks to the president’s butler, who is familiar with Escrito Está and connected to local churches in the area. It is the second time Pastor Costa has met with local government officials in Guatemala, as the local church seeks to reach people in all levels of society with a message of hope in the second coming of Jesus. Pastor Costa was in the country to celebrate Escrito Está’s 25th Anniversary and held a series of meetings entitled, Un Futuro con Esperanza (A Future with Hope). The meetings concluded with 210 baptisms.

butler, Guatemalan president, Robert Costa

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, center, poses for a photo with Pastor Robert Costa, right, and his butler, left. During his March 13 visit, Pastor Costa gave President Morales an Ambassador of Peace medal.

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.

Twenty-One

His smile showed he had something special to tell me.

“Pastor,” he began, “I have been in the church since 2013. In that time, the Lord has allowed me to bring 21 souls to Christ! Twenty-one people have been baptized, pastor! I praise the Lord.”

And then he added, “Twelve people in the last year alone.”

I asked him what he did to reach people with the gospel.

“I feed them physically and spiritually,” he said. “I help them, I am a friend to them, and then I introduce them to Jesus.”

Twenty-one souls in five years! There are many churches who haven’t won that many people to Christ in that period of time. And here is one faithful church member who is bringing people to faith in Christ.

I wonder what the church and the world would be like if more people had that kind of dedication to Christ. If Jesus really exists, and if He’s really coming back to this earth soon, then sharing Him with others has to be absolutely the most important thing that we could do.

I expect that if my new friend has brought 21 people into the church—to faith in Jesus—then there are many others he has reached out to but who haven’t made decisions for Jesus yet, who said no. Clearly his focus is not on what he has not been able to do, but on what he has been able to do. And he is encouraged to continue on.

I heard a powerful sermon recently, preached by Jeff Blumenberg, our Associate Director of Planned Giving and Trust Services at It
Is Written. In the message, Jeff shared 10 simple ways that any person can share Jesus with others. I think the sermon could revolutionize the church, and I’m certain it will be a blessing to you. Click the play button below to hear a sermon that could change your life.

Jesus is coming back soon. It’s our privilege to share that good news with others.


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.