Any sign of religious belief was a sign of weakness

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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

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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

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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

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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 have relationships with churches, not God

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2015_04_Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-church-sky-sun-light-leeroyRose* looked up as the weekly ladies’ Bible study leader approached her. “Something’s come up. Can you fill in for me?” Rose agreed and took the opportunity to share the gospel briefly as part of her talk. Afterwards, Amy, a native lady, approached her.

“Every church I’ve been to has talked about having a relationship with God. But it’s not a relationship with God I’ve had; it has been a relationship with a church.” Amy went on to express her realization that she didn’t understand the gospel, although she’d attended numerous churches for years and had been baptized in most of them. It wasn’t until she heard Rose’s simple explanation of the gospel that it hit her—what she’d been searching for in all those churches could only be found in the Lord. She’d had it all backwards.

Shortly after, Amy moved in with Marcia who was a friend of Rose. Amy was tireless in her search for truth. She asked so many questions that Marcia became quite exhausted. Finally, the woman offered Amy a copy of The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, hoping it’d address her curiosity. Amy lost no time in reading the book. “Now I’m beginning to understand,” she told Marcia. But Amy’s questions didn’t abate. She still needed answers to some nagging questions she had.

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I’d probably held a Bible in my hands, but never read it

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group_studyEver wondered how other churches bring in non-believers to study the Bible? Here’s what a church in Derby, England has done for many years. The church hosts “Just Looking” groups for those who are open to learning more about the Bible. In 2012, our first blog post was a story about these groups. The church had been running them for a number of years and it continues to do so.

The participants of the “Just Looking” groups gather in a non-threatening location (i.e., not a church), for a relaxing and informal time of learning. The leaders have been using The Stranger for several years to guide the course. Those who attend come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but all have one thing in common: they do not possess a clear understanding of the Bible’s message.

Laura* shared that, before she had been invited to the group, “I hadn’t had any thoughts about the Bible. I’d heard of the Bible. I’d probably held one in my hands, but never read it. I didn’t know what it was. Didn’t really have any thoughts at all about the Bible.“

Amir was a young Muslim who attended the group: “I thought [Christianity] was a religion similar to Islam. I thought they all led to God.”

William wasn’t even interested in attending. Now an elderly man, he’d lived his whole life apart from God’s Word. It was his wife who nagged him to come till he finally conceded. “I told her, ‘I’ll go along, see what it’s like. If I don’t like it, I’ll leave.’”

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That’s my favourite book!

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waitingSometimes it’s in the midst of the mundane that the Lord brings about opportunities and encouragement. Here’s one such story that we recently received.

James* is a missionary in West Africa. He has been using L’Homme sur le chemin d’Emmaüs, the French edition of The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, in his ministry with those he disciples.

When the date arrived for his annual vehicle inspection, James did what every other vehicle owner in the African nation does: prepare for a long, hot wait in line for bureaucracy to do its thing. Knowing he’d likely be waiting for more than a few hours, James brought along his copy of L’Homme sur le chemin d’Emmaüs to study and prepare for a coming lesson.

He got his vehicle into the queue and went to the waiting area. James pulled out his book and began to review it, but before long, a stranger walked up to him. “That’s my favourite book!” he exclaimed. James was startled. He wasn’t aware that the book was available in West Africa. The man hurriedly explained, “My colleague and I are going through that book together at work. He told me a young American gave him the book and has been going through it with him.”

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I’m going to have to buy a flock of sheep so I can get right with God!

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flock_of_sheepAs Roger* and Lorraine testify of God’s ongoing work in the lives of people in their church and community, they can only say, “We give the Lord all the glory and praise for what he’s doing in our incredible weakness.”

Jed is one example of what God is doing through their ministry. He is an Australian aboriginal, active in his community despite extremely poor health. About five years ago, he started attending evangelistic meetings. Each month he would show up and sit through the gospel messages. He liked what he heard about Jesus and finally, after four years, was ready for some more in-depth study of the Bible.

For Roger, this was an exciting opportunity. Ever since he and Lorraine had attended a TERM Seminar presented by Paul Humphreys in Australia, they had both used GoodSeed’s materials extensively to teach others the message of the Bible.

When Roger started going through The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus with Jed, he discovered that Jed’s knowledge of the Bible was basically at zero. For starters, he didn’t know who Cain and Abel were and, as time went on, it became apparent that the Bible’s story was completely new to Jed. Despite the fact that Jed had heard many fantastic gospel messages over the last few years, in reality they had meant nothing to him. He had no understanding of who God was. Neither did he understand what sin is and how it impacts our relationship with God.

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We rearranged our lives to make sharing the gospel possible

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organizerGoodSeed staff Jeremy* hung up the phone and stared at the hastily scribbled notes in his small notebook. Joy gripped his heart as he considered all that the Lord had been doing through the faithful witness of one couple, Ron and Laura. Jeremy had conducted a training session some years ago that the two of them had attended. It had made such an impact that they went home and began rearranging their lives so they could be more active in sharing the gospel.

Laura had told Jeremy over the phone, “Ron used to work construction on job sites long distances from home, which made it difficult for him to be involved in these studies. But God has helped us rearrange our lives so that he now has a job only two minutes away.”

Was this drastic change worth it? Laura said, “This is the easiest thing we have done with our lives… but not the quickest.” Sharing a clear gospel with others takes time, but the results are worth it. Both Ron and Laura felt that the tools provided by GoodSeed gave their outreach a greater impact.

Laura said, “When you learn to share the gospel this way [with these tools] it simplifies your life… you know what to do!”

Jeremy marvelled at what the couple had done. He smiled as he reviewed the stories they had shared with him.

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Can there be hope for such a man?

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Storm and glassSometimes we are tempted to view certain individuals around us as “lost causes,” too far gone or too hardened to ever be reached by the gospel. Charlie* was such a man. Hearing how his life has played out, one would be tempted to think that there was no hope for him. He was a drunk and suffered from depression. Occasionally, he would explode into a fit of angry violence. And he was serving a long, long sentence in a maximum security prison for a double murder. Can there be hope for such a man?

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