Regrets from my summer vacation

Ahhhh! Summer vacation. Warm sand between my toes, the hot sun driving the memory of a cold winter far, far away. Every year, I look forward to those few days we are able to get away and relax as a family.

Last summer, we had an opportunity to stay in a house near the ocean. It was a wonderful time.

But I also have a few regrets.

You see, my husband and I try to be purposefully prepared to share the gospel no matter where we go. And while we needed a break from work and the pressing matters of life, we had no desire to take a break from our role as Christ’s ambassadors.

We usually keep a well-stocked Be Ready Box in our vehicles, with a variety of gospel materials we can easily give away to those we meet. And when we know we’re going to be staying with someone or meeting new people, we usually grab a few extra books specifically geared toward them.

Our regrets began when we borrowed a larger vehicle for our trip to the coast last summer. You see, we forgot to transfer our Be Ready Box over to the borrowed van. We also forgot to pack any extra books to have on hand for hostess gifts and the like.

When we realized that the owner of the house where we stayed was a grandmother who desired to share the Lord with her children and grandchildren, our first response was to hurry to our suitcases to grab out The Lamb for her grandchildren, By This Name for her and her children, as well as a few copies of The Story that Matters. We were so disappointed that we had nothing to leave for her to find after we left…

During our week at the coast, we kept running into another family whose young girl loved to play with our children. Her parents weren’t believers, but as we conversed on a number of occasions that week, we felt we’d built up enough of a rapport that they would have accepted a copy of By This Name. Except we had none to give…

Near the end of our stay, we met a family with whom we had mutual acquaintances. As we talked, they asked questions about our work at GoodSeed. It was clear they were curious and wanted to know more. But we had nothing to give them…

And there were other, less obvious, missed opportunities. We usually leave a book behind when we stay in a hotel. Sometimes we might give one to our waitress or we might have handed one to the gentleman we chatted with during a long parade. We never know how these materials could impact a person’s life, so we try to take every opportunity we have to leave something of Christ behind. This time we were woefully unprepared.

Did we have other options for sharing the good news? Yes, for sure. Giving a book is not the only way to share the gospel, by any means, but in each of our encounters, it seemed to us that having a book on hand would have made us more effective ambassadors. It would have been so simple and natural.

Because we never actually met our hostess (our stay was arranged through a friend), we didn’t ever get to speak to her face-to-face. We were unable to get her mailing address so we could send her materials.

With the couple we met numerous times, the conversation was quickly steered away from any mention of God. While they were friendly, they obviously didn’t wish to talk about such a personal topic with casual acquaintances. A book would have been much less confrontational, easier for them to accept and they would’ve been able to read and consider the material in the quiet of their own home.

We were able to talk some about what we do with GoodSeed with the family we met near the end of our stay, but on a busy beach, with seven children between us to keep track of, it would have been much more effective to simply hand them a book for them to look at when life was a little less hectic.

So, with these regrets lingering from our last trip, I can guarantee you our family plans to pack a little more carefully for our next vacation!

Are you prepared for the individuals the Lord might bring your way this summer? Sometimes, our days away on vacation give us unique opportunities to share the good news with others. We just have to make sure we’re ready.

So, here’s to a warm summer of good memories, and no regrets!

What is Truth? Part Three

In this “What is Truth?” series, we have seen how vital it is to know sufficient information about the identity and history of Yahweh in order for a person (or ourselves!) to have a confident faith in God and his Word.

Many presentations of the gospel focus mainly on Jesus’ work on the cross. But then comes the question, “Who is Jesus?” It is not sufficient to say, “He is God,” because then you must explain what God is like. In this series, we’ve seen that it is vital to explain God’s identity and history if we are to expect people to trust him.

The same principle extends to trusting Jesus for our personal salvation. We need to know the identity and history of Jesus before we will trust him. We sort of intuitively know this but we often skip to the story of the cross without really nailing down the identity of Jesus. The identity of Jesus is that he is the Creator God. We simply cannot assume a person knows or believes that to be the case.

It is no coincidence that the identity of Jesus is the one area that cults and other religions most commonly assault.

It is no coincidence that the identity of Jesus is the one area that cults and other religions most commonly assault. They make Jesus out to be a lesser god, a prophet or maybe a good man, but not the Creator God of the Bible. It is also no coincidence that the Apostle John began his gospel with the clear statement that Jesus was the Creator God. He then reinforces that identity with eight miracles that confirm his deity. Only once that is nailed down can we really explain the historical reality of Christ.

The history of Jesus Christ centres around the events of the cross and tomb, but here, too, we benefit immensely from having a little historical background. Many ask, “Why did Jesus need to die on the cross? Why didn’t he just pronounce forgiveness on our sins? Did he have to die the way he did?” Those kinds of questions, gone unanswered, have been often cited as reasons why people leave the faith. They simply didn’t understand the identity and history of Christ and so begin to question their own faith. Clearly it is vital that we have a firm grip on the identity and history of Christ.

Those kinds of questions, gone unanswered, have been often cited as reasons why people have left the faith.

Dr. Andy Woods, author and teacher, says the whole reason for the necessity of the cross and tomb can be found in Genesis 3, where God gives his first promise of a Messiah to the newly fallen Adam and Eve. Dr. Woods quotes W.H. Griffith Thomas when he says, “[Genesis 3] is the pivot on which the whole Bible turns.” (1)

“[Genesis 3] is the pivot on which the whole Bible turns.”

W.H. Griffith Thomas

There in Genesis 3, we read of the sad history of mankind. We learn of the choice to trust Satan instead of God, the first human sin. We also learn about about the shared identity of all humanity – our sin nature – and the consequence of that sin – eternal death. In Genesis 3, we also learn the early history of the Promised Messiah when God says to Satan, “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring [the Messiah]. He [the Messiah] will strike your head [a fatal blow], and you will strike his heel [a temporary wound].” (2) This then becomes the first of many prophecies pointing to a coming Saviour.

“If you don’t understand what happened in Genesis 3, you have no idea what the rest of the Bible is really talking about.”

Dr. Andy Woods

Dr. Woods goes on to say, “If you don’t understand what happened in Genesis 3, you have no idea what the rest of the Bible is really talking about. You have no idea why Jesus had to come into this world to die on a cross if you don’t understand Genesis chapter 3.” (1) This is why we must investigate and understand the identity and history of mankind and of our Saviour. Unless we grasp the awful truth of the sin nature we all carry and the consequences along with it, we will miss why we so desperately need a Saviour. Unless we understand the process that God instituted in later chapters whereby we could be made right with him, we will have difficulty understanding why Christ had to die on the cross in the first place.

Let’s be sure we take sufficient time and care in our gospel presentations to ensure our listeners grasp their identity and history and that of their Saviour. Doing so can make all the difference in the faith walk of a believer.

  1. “Revelation 072-Identification Through Omission,” last modified February 23, 2020, accessed June 22, 2020, https://slbc.org/sermon/revelation-072-identification-through-absence/#transcriptlink.
  1. Genesis 3:15.

What is Truth? Part Two

Teaching

In Part One of this series, we saw that it is virtually impossible to understand the Bible if you don’t have a correct understanding of God’s nature, or his identity.

But it’s not enough to simply know the identity of a person in order to trust him. I could tell you that my friend Jason is a software programmer. You would then know the identity of Jason, but you would not know if he was a good man or a bad man. Is Jason reliable? Does he make promises and keep them? What’s his track record? You would want to know these things before you trusted Jason.

People need a little background and history to make sense of the gospel. If we tell them to trust God, but they don’t know what God is like, then they likely won’t trust him.

In the same way, we also need to know some of God’s history before we trust him. People need a little background and history to make sense of the gospel. If we tell them to trust God, but they don’t know what God is like, then they likely won’t trust him.

Building a case for the reliability and trustworthiness of God is critical if people are going to take the monumental step of staking their eternity on him. We must take the time to build their confidence in both God’s identity and his history.

This the Bible does throughout the pages of Scripture, putting God’s reliability to the test again and again through the giving of hundreds of prophecies. Is God reliable? Can I depend upon him making good on his promise of what will happen in the future?

In fact, we see a pattern emerge throughout Scripture. God often gave multiple promises to people at once, some of which would be fulfilled quickly, others at a later date. As the individual witnessed the short-term promises being fulfilled one after another, he or she could be increasingly confident that the promises made regarding a later future event would also come to pass at the right time.

As the individual witnessed the short-term promises being fulfilled one after another, he or she could be increasingly confident that the promises made regarding a later future event would also come to pass at the right time.

We find examples of this in the lives of Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, on through the prophets and into the New Testament with Mary, Joseph, Zechariah and the disciples.

When Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was told that he would have a child who would be the forerunner of the Messiah, he asked, “How can I be sure of this?” God gave him four specific short-term promises. (1. His barren wife would have a child; 2. The child would be a boy; 3. Zechariah would be struck mute; 4. Zechariah would be able to speak again once his child was born.) If these came true, Zechariah could be sure that the prophecies regarding his son’s future job description and the soon arrival of the Messiah would also be true. (1)

God took thousands of years to reveal his identity and history to mankind. Not only do we need the history of God to establish his trustworthiness, but we need that history to lay the foundations for the gospel, to make sense of his death and resurrection. (We’ll take a deeper look at that in a future article.) Let’s be sure we take sufficient time and care in our gospel presentations to ensure our listeners also grasp enough of God’s character and trustworthy nature to be confident in Whom they are placing their faith.

  1. Luke 1:13-20.

What is Truth? Part One

A surprising answer to an ancient question

(Part One of Two)

Never in history has there been a greater flow of information and never before have so many questioned what is actually the “truth.” We find ourselves swamped with experts, many of whom contradict each other. As debates rage over the pros and cons of various approaches in this pandemic, many more wonder which “expert” is actually telling us “the truth.” I mean, after all, who really knows? People are left mired in doubt and justifiably full of suspicion to any truth claims.

Then the Bible believer shows up claiming to have The Truth. In its defence, we often start with the absolute reliability of the Bible. This can be very appropriate, as any truth claim is only as good as its source. In fact, it is very good to know how to defend the uniqueness of the Bible. We even wrote a booklet about that subject!

In communicating our beliefs to others, especially the skeptical, it seems reasonable to look to Scripture and see how it approaches evangelism.

“…it seems reasonable to look to Scripture and see how it approaches evangelism.”

Looking at the Bible evangelistically, Scripture does not begin with arguments addressing the reliability of Scripture. You don’t find passages on archaeology or manuscript evidence. No time is dedicated to the intricate detail and carefulness with which scribes copied and recopied the autographs. Much could have been written on these topics, but nothing is said.

The Apostle Paul, when dealing with the scholars in Athens, did not start his evangelistic message with a defence of Scripture. Nor did the Apostle John begin his evangelistic gospel with an argument for the reliability of God’s Word. And the book of Genesis simply starts with, “In the beginning God”–the ultimate Source of truth. (1) Over and over again we find that Scripture takes us directly to two spheres of information necessary to trust God: his Identity and his History. In this first of a two-part article, we will look at that first sphere of information, the issue of identity.

“Knowing the basics of God’s identity is key to grasping the Gospel.”

The issue of identity looks at who God is and what he is like. Knowing the basics of God’s identity is key to grasping the Gospel.

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” The answer to that question is the ultimate statement on truth. One might respond, “Jesus is God,” and think that communicates sufficiently. But think again. Who or what is God? If a person’s idea of God is something like, “Let the force be with you,” or is mingled with other gods including oneself, then it becomes very important to take a few steps back and allow the Bible to fill in one’s understanding. But is that how evangelism is commonly done? Not usually. 

Most of our gospel presentations are based on 40-year old methods. Back then, assumptions were safely made that people knew who the God of the Bible was. We could say, “God loves you,” and people immediately thought of the God of the Bible. They clearly understood the basics of his identity. But that is not the case today. Today we still say “God loves you,” and we still assume people know what God is like, but more often than not, they don’t. I need not quote statistics to show what we all know from our own experience: that people today have a very garbled perspective of God’s identity. It is a problem in every aspect of our culture and society. 

In such situations we need to imitate what Scripture itself does: take the time to build a picture in people’s minds regarding the identity of God. We must recognize that a big chunk of Scripture is dedicated to defining the character of God. And how does it do that? Not with a dry list of attributes, but through stories that reveal God’s nature. 

“…we need to imitate what Scripture itself does: take the time to build a picture in people’s minds regarding the identity of God.”

That is where the Bible starts, declaring the power and knowledge of God through creation. That is where the Apostle John begins his book, declaring the God who is the creator. It is where Paul began with his esteemed crowd in Athens. As ambassadors of the gospel, we need to make sure people know a little bit about the identity of the God of the Bible before we leap to the events of the cross and tomb. Otherwise we may find that our “convert” is not trusting the biblical God, but rather an impersonal force or a very corrupt concept of Jesus. (2)

“What I believe in my heart must make sense in my mind.”

Ravi Zacharias

Sharing the gospel in the context of the biblical story line, from creation to the cross, declares a personal, supernatural God at work in history. It clearly defines who God is and what he is like—his identity. More often than not, in today’s world, that is where we must start.
With the passing of our brother in the Lord, Ravi Zacharias, we are reminded of the importance of knowing not only what we believe, but why we believe it. Ravi spoke again and again to the importance of bringing reason to what we believe: “What I believe in my heart must make sense in my mind.” (3)

It is only when we have the nature of the biblical God clear in our minds that we can make sense of the world around us and understand what Scripture has to say to mankind. We will look at that in our next post.

(1) In the Bible, the truth of what is written is assumed and taught as such. Only prophecy seems to be used as an apology for the reliability of Scripture (Isaiah 42:8-9).

(2) For example, Islam, Hinduism and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormonism) all speak of Jesus, but the Jesus they present is not the Jesus of the Bible.

(3)”Bridging the Heart and Mind”. Interview with Danielle DuRant, rzim.org. July 28, 2011

Salvation comes to a woman in China

Another story of a life transformed through the power of the gospel!  

Evelyn*, a missionary in China writes: 

“Would you tell me some Bible stories?” Lin* asked.  

While going to school in the States, she had been exposed to some Christianity, and she was interested in learning more. I suggested that we go through the book, The Lamb, as a way to reach this searching heart. After going through the book together with me in three separate sessions, she received Christ as her personal Savior!  

One question that she asked, when she heard that God promised to someday send a Savior was, “Why doesn’t He do it Himself?”  

It was so exciting to take her through and show her from Scripture that He DID do it Himself!  

We now use this book very effectively to introduce the promised Savior to those who show interest in this very needy country.”

Praise God! When newcomers to the Bible, like Lin*, encounter God by journeying through the storyline of Scripture, the Holy Spirit reveals truths about God’s holiness, our sinfulness, Jesus’ provision, and that there is salvation for everyone who believes.  

Would you be prepared and available to share Christ with someone who asked you to tell them some Bible stories? Be ready! http://www.goodseed.com/beready/ 

 

(*Names changed as per GoodSeed policy.)

Video: Babel and religion

Babel. When we hear the word, most of us think of a tall tower or confusion of languages. But just what was going on at Babel? Was it just a large-scale building project? As this clip from By This Name reveals, it was actually an example of man’s religious efforts to please God.

“The issue at stake wasn’t about following a religion. Rather, it was about trusting a person–the LORD himself. It was not how hard one worked to win God’s favour, but whether someone trusted the LORD as one would trust a friend. It wasn’t about manipulating God to get your way, but having a personal friendship with the Creator of the universe. Trust was the issue.”

By This Name, Page 113

By This Name has a video component consisting of 66 clips in which author John R. Cross teaches key concepts during the chronological journey through the Bible. These short video clips include visual aids (like the Tabernacle, Passover, altar, etc.) to help bring clarity to the story. They also take the viewers to key sites in Israel, Egypt and Jordan to provide historical and geographical context. We present a selection of these video clips. All of them are included with By This Name, either on DVD or accessible online.

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!

Continue reading “Cody’s story: Jesus has changed my life”

Video: The offering

After the flood, Noah offered sacrifices of animals on an altar to God. Just what was the significance of this offering? Why did Noah do it? As this clip from By This Name reveals, Noah was demonstrating a key truth when it comes to salvation.

“The word atonement summarizes the whole means whereby a holy God provides sinful man with ‘right clothes’ for the heart–a covering of righteousness equal to his righteousness.”

By This Name, Page 108

By This Name has a video component consisting of 66 clips in which author John R. Cross teaches key concepts during the chronological journey through the Bible. These short video clips include visual aids (like the Tabernacle, Passover, altar, etc.) to help bring clarity to the story. They also take the viewers to key sites in Israel, Egypt and Jordan to provide historical and geographical context. We present a selection of these video clips. All of them are included with By This Name, either on DVD or accessible online.

20th Anniversary of The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus

It’s amazing the sort of impact one book can have. 20 years ago, in 1997, the book The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus was published. At the time, author John R. Cross and the men working with him had no idea that it would be the catalyst for a global ministry and how many people would come to faith in Christ through it. It was just one book with a simple message: a straightforward, systematic presentation of the gospel from creation to the cross.

The writing of The Stranger was drawn from decades of missionary experience of those working among tribal people in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere. These tribes, previously unevangelised and ignorant of the Bible’s message, responded well to a chronological presentation of the gospel. So well, in fact, that whole villages were putting their faith in Christ, without the age-old problems of syncretism and “rice Christians.” When the Bible was presented from creation to Christ, it made profound sense. The people would understand and believe. Lives were transformed.

But was it only tribal groups who responded so well to the creation-to-Christ method? What about the Western world? As John and his colleagues interacted with people back home in North America and around the world, they realized that some of these people were just as ignorant of the Bible as the tribal people. They knew nothing about God. They didn’t understand who Jesus was and why he came. We live, for the most part, in a post-Christian culture.

The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus was, in a sense, an experiment. It was a book that used the same method that had proven so effective with tribal groups—a chronological approach to explaining the gospel—except this time for the Western world. It was designed so that it could be given away or used to guide people to a clear understanding of the Bible. But would it be relevant and effective?

Continue reading “20th Anniversary of The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus”

Video: Built to preserve life

Just how big was Noah’s ark? Was it actually seaworthy and large enough to hold all the animals listed in Genesis? As this clip from By This Name reveals, the ark was extremely sturdy and specially designed to preserve life. God’s means of salvation is always sufficient and perfect.

“God was going to judge sin. But whenever YAHWEH brings judgment, he also provides a way to escape.”

By This Name, Page 103

By This Name has a video component consisting of 66 clips in which author John R. Cross teaches key concepts during the chronological journey through the Bible. These short video clips include visual aids (like the Tabernacle, Passover, altar, etc.) to help bring clarity to the story. They also take the viewers to key sites in Israel, Egypt and Jordan to provide historical and geographical context. We present a selection of these video clips. All of them are included with By This Name, either on DVD or accessible online.