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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Seeing the Holy Spirit at Work is Extraordinary!

Have you ever prayed for months and years for the salvation of a particular person? Sometimes it’s easy to become discouraged and wonder if it’s any use.

Carole* was an older woman and an unbeliever. However, she had a sister and a daughter who had been praying faithfully for her salvation for a long time. Would the time ever come when their loved one believed the good news of the gospel?

One day Lily approached Carole, offering to do a Bible study with her. The book they would read together was called By This Name, and it would give Carole a clear understanding of the Bible’s message. Carole agreed.

The two women met once a week for 15 weeks. Lily related, “It was such an extraordinary experience to see the work of the Holy Spirit before my very eyes.”

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It has given me the ability to defend my faith

bible_college1“It helped me see all of the connections of the Bible more clearly so that I can be confident and equipped to share my faith with others.”

This was one of the comments received from students at a Bible institute in Ontario this past fall. GoodSeed staff members John Cross and Troy Johnstone were there to teach through By This Name as part of the students’ year of Bible studies. Over five days they taught a total of 24 hours, giving the young people the big-picture view of the Old and New Testaments, showing how God created templates in the Old that Jesus fulfilled in the New. We are grateful to this school for the opportunity to share with these young people who have given a year of their lives for Bible instruction.

One student, just 10 months earlier, had been begging for cash on the side of the street to support his drug habit. After checking into rehab he was given a copy of The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, which was instrumental in him coming to understand the gospel. Now he is taking this year to study God’s Word as he prepares for a totally different life!

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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 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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It all points to Jesus

image-1A chronological and systematic approach to presenting the Bible’s message is not only invaluable for leading unbelievers to understand the gospel. It is also a powerful means of establishing believers in their faith and preparing them to share the gospel with others. We recently heard of a pastor who recognizes this. As a result he has used By This Name to disciple his congregation.

Pastor Craig* started by using By This Name as the springboard for a 14-week sermon series. He wrote to us: “I had the congregation read a chapter of By this Name each week as well as scriptures related to the topic of the chapter. I preached on scriptures related to the chapters. Each home group discussed what they were learning from the book and the scriptures they were reading.”

This sermon series was an Old Testament survey—with the specific goal of revealing Jesus Christ in clarity and simplicity. Pastor Craig titled the series “It All Points to Jesus” to emphasize that the Old Testament is not just a conglomeration of random stories, but the critical basis to understanding the identity and work of Jesus.

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The best weekend of my entire life!

church-378654_1280It’s an idyllic village nestled in an out-of-the-way corner along the north Atlantic coast. On this early spring evening, a group of about 15 people, ranging from teenagers to middle-aged, have just completed a weekend retreat. They are eagerly anticipating an upcoming missions trip to Central America. The weekend has proven to be pivotal in their preparation as they have spent two and a half days together, getting to know each other and being established in the message of the gospel.

“I wanted to join the mission team to increase my faith in God. This weekend has done that for me.” This comes from Vicky, one of the teenaged participants who is typically very reticent about expressing herself in public.

Samuel, a man in his 50s, is even more enthusiastic: “This weekend was literally the best weekend of my entire life.”

What made this weekend so special? For one thing, it was a great group of people. It was also a well-planned event. But the backbone of the weekend—and the highlight for everyone—was what they studied together: the gospel itself, from creation right through to the Cross.

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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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