Cody’s story: Jesus has changed my life

Cody grew up in a house where God didn’t really exist. He had great parents who taught him things like “don’t cheat, don’t lie, don’t steal, show respect to others, respect your elders…” However, the family never went to church. The name of God was never spoken. Though Cody endeavoured to live a respectable life, he was ignorant of the true Source of right and wrong.

Then Cody met Julia. It didn’t take long before the two were married, and shortly after, Julia started a new job. She came home the first day and talked about how great everyone was at her new workplace. One person’s name seemed to stand out in particular. Her name was Liz and, “Wow! She is so nice!” were Julia’s words.

Liz began mentoring Julia at work and, after a while, wanted to get a small group together with Cody, Julia and a few others. The purpose would be to study the Bible. Cody’s instant response was an adamant “No!”

Time went on but whenever Julia talked to her husband about the opportunity, he was still resistant to the idea. When she asked why, Cody told her, “I don’t need to go to a Bible study or growth group or attend a church to have a relationship with God.” Looking back, Cody calls that “the biggest cop-out lie” he’s ever told!

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A school assignment turns into a time of rejoicing

Peter and Louise Johnson* have lived in the same neighbourhood for almost two decades. And right next door to them has always been the same older couple, Bill and Mary Robinson. Over the years, the neighbourly relationship between the two couples has developed into a deep friendship. In many ways, they consider each other just like family.

The Johnsons knew from early on that their friends were not believers. Over time, Bill and Mary revealed that while they had grown up in ultra-religious homes, at some point they’d left church life due to “the bitter taste that had been left in their mouths.” Though this experience was now part of their history, the Robinsons maintained the “good works for Heaven” mentality that they’d been steeped in. The Johnsons longed to see these dear ones come to know the Saviour.

When Mary had a heart attack years before, the Johnsons had taken the opportunity to share the gospel. However, they quickly realized that while a seed may have been planted, nothing had changed regarding the Robinson’s views on the Bible.

What was obvious to Peter and Louise, however, was that their friends were searching. Bill was a big reader and often his books were of a religious nature relating somehow to Jesus or the Bible. Usually they were books off the New York Times Best Sellers and not necessarily biblically sound, but he seemed to have maintained an interest in spiritual things, despite his aversion to church.

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The right key

“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:9 NIV).

It was one of those days that are irrevocably engraved on his memory, and the small details remain vivid to this day. He can still remember the fresh autumn air on his face, and walking across the field with his two children. It was a warm fall day, a beautiful Sunday… until the mobile phone began to ring in his pocket.

“Tomasz*, please come home!” The voice of his wife sounded strange.

“Has something happened?”

“Just come home, please! Immediately!”

When Tomasz looked into his wife’s face a short time later, he knew something terrible had happened.

“Please call your parents in Poland. Let them tell you. It’s about your brother.”

A despair spread over Tomasz when he heard about the house fire. Then came the crushing realization that his brother had likely died in the flames.

Any remnant of hope was crushed when, a few days later, the police identified his brother as a victim of the fire. In a moment, a life had been extinguished. The life of his only brother.

Until then, Tomasz had lived a traditionally religious life. He knew that God was the supreme authority in a person’s life. Accordingly, he endeavoured to be a man of good deeds. He prayed, revered the saints and visited the church–all in an effort to please God. But the sudden death of his brother highlighted the transient nature of life. Tomasz felt a yearning to change the way he was living.

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From a muddy pond to pure, life-giving water

Many, these days, seem to borrow religious ideas from a variety of sources. Claude* was one such individual.

In his mid-fifties, Claude was very religious. While he identified himself with a traditional church, he had gleaned so much of his thinking from other religions that his views were very muddled and hardly representative of his own church’s belief system.

He had become especially interested in the Eastern practices of yoga, chakra, astral voyage and so forth, as well as in the occult. His driving desire was to find that which was true. So his search continued.

A naturally curious individual, Claude was happy to learn more about religion when given the opportunity to study the Bible. He and Henri began their sessions, reading By This Name together and progressing through the Bible’s message in a way that was organized and clear.

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Any sign of religious belief was a sign of weakness

A photo by saeed mhmdi. unsplash.com/photos/azbZUNpu1AgIf you met Adrien* today, you would never guess that just a few short years ago, he was an atheist who battled inner loneliness and emptiness. All you will see is a fulfilled father and husband, who is now a missionary along with his family. How did this transformation occur?

Adrien grew up in Quebec, going to church on Christmas and Easter but it was by more by obligation than by choice. Early in his teenage years, he totally rejected the idea of God and came to despise religion. He turned to science for an explanation of the world and for the purpose of life. “I was an atheist and I was strong about it. Religious people were fools in my eyes.”

After he finished his education, he joined the military. During his basic training, he became friends with Roy, a guy in his platoon. They ended up getting stationed on the same base. At this point in his life, Adrien had everything the world had to offer—a good job and lots of money. However, he was lonely and empty inside.

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The gospel at your workplace: believe it, apply it, live it

electrician-1080554_1280What does it look like to be an ambassador for Christ? Does it mean speaking in front of thousands of people in a crowded auditorium? Or does it mean blazing a trail through a jungle to make contact with a primitive tribe? While both of those scenarios are definitely ways in which God uses his children to reach the world with his gospel, often our calling is much more ordinary. Often it is right in our daily workplaces that we have the greatest opportunity to share the life and truth of Jesus.

Take Jack*. You might think his job inconsequential—he worked in building maintenance at an independent living facility. But somehow Jack attracted the attention of his manager. He took note he was a Christian and appreciated his consistent testimony in the workplace. As a result, he asked Jack if he would offer a Bible study to the residents who may like to attend.

Jack was more than happy to do so and began offering studies. At first there were only a few attendees, but that changed after Jack invited a local pastor to start teaching a chronological Bible study based on The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus. The room quickly filled up with attendees eager to learn the main theme of the Bible.

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The Murphys: Journeying towards the truth together

couple-1363959_1280Kent’s story: I now know there’s significantly more to life

Kent was raised in a small town in the heartland of the United States. Growing up, he went to church most weeks, attended the local Vacation Bible School each summer and was generally a good church boy.

As a teenager, he got a part-time job which often required him to work on the weekends. His church attendance fell off till he only darkened the doors for an occasional Easter or Christmas service.

For the next 15 years or so, Kent found himself chasing the next promotion, the next pay raise, the next pursuit, too busy to spend much time thinking about spiritual matters.

But then something happened that became a turning point in Kent’s life. A question was raised by his grandfather in the midst of a seemingly mundane conversation. Kent’s grandmother had passed away not long before, so Kent was checking in with his grandpa, chatting about the usual things: hunting, fishing, gardening, cars. But then Kent’s grandpa got real quiet and turned to him, “Do you think I’ll go to Heaven when I die?”

Just picturing the scene still brings a rush of emotion for Kent. At the time, the question completely stunned him, as he had never discussed religious matters with his grandpa before. “I wasn’t really sure how to answer the question,” he shares, “but it is a conversation I’ve thought about literally every day since then.”

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We need to convey more of the gospel story

man_with_bibleDerek* was just a young associate pastor starting his first job at a church when he crossed paths with Nick. Derek’s zeal for sharing the gospel had led him to hand out numerous tracts and speak to many people about God’s love in sending Jesus to earth to die for them. His presentation of the gospel generally started with the cross. But with Nick, Derek suddenly found himself needing to shift gears in his approach. Here was a guy who literally knew nothing about the Bible. Nick didn’t even know the difference between Jesus and Moses!

It was at this point that Derek realised that he would be unable to simply tell Nick about the cross and expect Nick to understand the gospel sufficiently to put his faith in Christ. So, as the two young men began meeting together for lunches at a restaurant, Derek began telling Nick the story of the Bible, starting in Genesis. As they progressed, Derek used napkins to draw illustrations of key concepts and events of the Old Testament.

“After several weeks we finally arrived at Jesus,” Derek later wrote. “The Sunday following our final meeting, Nick came to my office after church because he was ready to trust Christ. I’ll never forget seeing him drop to his knees, confess his sin, and claim Christ as his sufficient substitute. When he stood up he looked me in the eyes and said, ‘The robes of Jesus righteousness have just been placed around my shoulders.’

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I don’t want to be a Christian

group-gardeningThe voice on the phone had a note of concern. “Mom, before you come, I want to let you know that Mei Ling* is coming over shortly. She’s really hurting and she wants to talk.”

After her daughter hung up, Haley paused for a moment. She had been about to leave for Stephanie’s home to see her new grandson for the first time when the call had come. Mei Ling was Stephanie’s neighbour and Haley had met her almost three years earlier. They had become well acquainted with each other as they both shared a passion for gardening. Mei Ling had shared a little about herself over the course of their friendship. Her parents were believers but Mei Ling had never shown any interest in her parents’ faith. Though her parents had tried to take her and her siblings to church, Mei Ling had turned down their offers. Since she had been a child, she was more interested in herself. Now Haley wondered what was causing Mei Ling so much grief. All of a sudden, she felt the very strong urge to take along a copy of By This Name.

Haley arrived at Stephanie’s home which was some distance away. It wasn’t long before Mei Ling knocked on the door. Over coffee, Mei Ling poured her heart out to Haley and Stephanie. Her life was full of trouble.

As Haley listened, she knew she didn’t want to give her friend words of empty comfort. She knew that trite cliches had no value. “I wanted to offer her real hope.” Haley wanted to share with Mei Ling the true hope found in the God of the Bible.

She decided to lay it on the line. She said to Mei Ling, “This world is full of trouble and we don’t have a lot of hope in this world.”

Mei Ling’s eyes flickered. She piped up, “That’s me. I have no hope! You are so lucky, you have hope. You have your God, you got your religion.”

Haley gave a measured response. “We’re not lucky… It’s just that we’ve chosen to put our hope in the living God.”

Mei Ling shook her head as if to preempt Haley’s invitation. “I don’t want to be a Christian. But,” she added with an edge to her voice, “I’ve got some big questions for your God.”

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Skyping the gospel

skype_study_2“Is there life on other planets? Are there other universes?”

“How do you hear from God? Does he have a voice I can hear?”

“What can I do to be safe from the devil?”

The questions came thick and fast. The Chinese man sitting on the couch across from Jon* and his wife Denise was sincere—and confused. He so wanted to know everything there was to know about God. But Jon and Denise knew that before they could delve into the answers to his questions, they would need to bring him back to the basics. He needed a foundation in who God was and what Jesus had accomplished on the cross.

They had first met Mingfang at a Bible study and were struck not only with his earnest desire to know God but also with his complete biblical illiteracy. The group was just wrapping up a study on the book of Job. Within minutes, it became obvious that the young Chinese man was floundering in his attempt to follow the discussion.

Jon and Denise approached Mingfang and asked if he would be interested in going through a study that would give him the whole story of the Bible and increase his understanding of God. Mingfang was beyond excited at the idea. So Jon and Denise began going to his apartment on a weekly basis to go through the Worldview Rethink curriculum with him and his wife.

Mingfang considered himself a Christian. That’s why he had come to church and then to the small group Bible study in the first place. But his “Christianity” was a blend of Eastern thought and his own efforts to be good enough for God. He was constantly asking what he had to do. His desire in life was to be a good person.

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