Category : Mike Schrage

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Looking Forward

As we begin 2015, I wanted to share an insightful secular perspective on faith from Ara Norenzayan, a social psychologist from the University of British Columbia.

In a moment, everything can change: a drunk driver can kill a loved one; a tornado can destroy a town; a doctor can issue a terminal diagnosis. As climate change wreaks havoc on the world in coming years and natural resources potentially grow scarce, then suffering and hardship could fuel religiosity. “People want to escape suffering, but if they can’t get out of it, they want to find meaning,” Norenzayan says. “For some reason, religion seems to give meaning to suffering – much more so than any secular ideal or belief that we know of.”

The “for some reason” part is not a mystery to a believer in Jesus. The reality is that we each have a hole in our hearts that only finds satisfaction in acknowledging, following, and worshiping our Creator God. Suffering, perhaps more than anything else, points us toward an answer that can alleviate our troubles, filling that hole for all eternity.

I look forward to our journey together this year as we help countless (God knows the number) Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists discover the blessing of finding the One True God who sent Jesus to satisfy our deepest longings by being our advocate, friend, and the ultimate sacrifice that makes eternal life possible.

 

Seeking First the Kingdom of God

Seek first the Kingdom of God … (Matthew 6:33)

Jesus never spoke words harder to follow. As I write this, sitting in a warm office in affluent America, I’m reminded of how hard it is to seek him first. In a land with so much available — affordable health care, retirement accounts, disposable income, food stamps, and Social Security, the discipline to seek God first is often met with formidable obstacles.

Often in the morning I open my email before my Bible, missing a chance to start my day with real wisdom. I check my calendar before praying, meeting the day’s obligations with anxiety instead of peace and power. I scurry for a quick breakfast instead of feasting through meditation on the goodness and grace of God.

Please, Lord, tell me I’m not the only one who struggles with this!

Statistics might verify that I’m not alone in this constant battle. Only fifteen percent of American churches are growing, and only half helped even one person come to Christ last year. All told, about 100 million people in our nation are disconnected from God and the Christian community.

Are we seeking?

The challenge is not relegated to our shores, though. There are 6,500 unreached people groups in the world, more than half of its people. Of those, 1,500 people groups are totally unengaged. This means they do not have a viable church witness or, in some cases, even a Christian presence!

As I set out to make my personal goals for 2015, I’m convicted once again to refocus on what I’m seeking. Yes, I’m just one person, but I believe in my heart when I am consumed with seeking Christ first, I can make a difference in my life, in the lives of those around me, and throughout the world.

Winston Churchill once said, “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” I’m recommitting to making a life that’s focused on seeking first the things of God. I hope you’ll join me in that pledge.

Let’s start seeking; only God knows what we’ll find.

 

Looking Back and Moving Forward

GNPI is a ministry on the move. In this short video, Mike Schrage, our executive director, takes a look back at what God accomplished through GNPI and her partners in 2014. It’s an impressive list, and looking back gives us great expectations for what’s to come. With God as our guide and you as our partners, it is with eager anticipation we charge ahead into 2015!

Peace

Peace is a valued, yet rare, commodity in our busy lives.

Think of the times we thirst for peace. You need peace when the doctor tells you “it’s malignant.” You need peace when your son tells you he’s being deployed. If you’re a young parent, you need peace when a collicy baby cries through the night.

The list could go on and on. A loved one dies suddenly in an accident.  More than a million refugees from the Middle East search for a place to live. War leaves thousands dead in Ukraine.

Yes, life brings hard situations that cause us to search for peace.

As you enter the holiday season, I hope you remember where you can find peace. If you take the time to slow down and look carefully, it will emerge. It will emerge through God’s Word, through his Spirit, through his people.

Peace is what you help deliver to people throughout the world through culturally relevant materials produced by GNPI.  These resources connect with the heart, feed the soul, and extend a most sought-after human need — peace.

This Christmas, let’s enjoy and share the peace found in Jesus, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and Prince of Peace.

 

Tribe

Americans sometimes see the word “tribe” in a negative light. Tribe brings to mind things from the past that we don’t always like to talk about. It’s the same in Africa, where I lived for 20 years. To be called a tribalist there was like someone in our nation being called a racist!

As we enter the Christmas season this year, understand that “tribe” can also be a very good thing. In my mind, it relates well to God choosing a people – a tribe to call his own. God became Emmanuel, born into the Jewish nation.Think about these people God chose, people deemed neither important or dominant in any way.

In essence, he used a tribe that seemed weak to display his great power. He used an unknown people to bring to the world our Savior. From that collection of people, who spent much time as slaves, he made freedom from sin possible.

In my own life, and perhaps you feel the same, I often feel inadequate and unequal to the task of sharing that possibility of freedom with others. Like the Jewish people before us, members in this tribe we call the Church are just as feeble and have just as many problems as the rest of the world.

Then I think about where God has placed me.  Just as Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab (weird names, but check Exodus 36) to perform very specific tasks in building a place for him to dwell, so God has summoned me for something very specific. He’s asked me to help deliver biblically-based media content to people around the world who need to hear the Gospel. Who, me? He answers with a resounding, “yes!”

During Christmas time as you think about the reasons God visited the earth, think about the reasons, too, that he visited you. What is he asking you to do for your family, for your church, for GNPI? Is it time to step up, to lead out, or to give? He’ll show you if you ask.

Whatever God’s asking you to do, know that answering the call can turn around a struggling family. It can transform a local congregation, it can propel a ministry like GNPI.

We’re thankful that you’re part of our tribe at GNPI.  Tribe is a good word, and a great idea.  God has made us part of his tribe, so we can help deliver the Message of hope into the lives of others who need him very desperately. Whether through support of our NOMaD teams, our regional centers, The Global Gospel, Solar Kits, or App development, you’re helping add to God’s tribe.

And that’s what Christmas is all about.

 

Special Memories of our International Hour of Prayer

On December 3, technology gave GNPI the wonderful opportunity to pray with colleagues in 10 different locations around the globe.

IHOP Mike1Our second annual International Hour of Prayer (IHOP) was highlighted by times of praise for the Lord’s divine intervention, requests for healing, and pleas for provision. There was imploring for protection, wisdom, guidance, and resources.

At the end of the hour, I wanted to close our time together, but my emotions unexpectedly caused a check in my spirit, a lump in my throat, and tears welled up in my eyes. In the upper right-hand corner of the television, showing our centers from around the world, was a small screenshot of Simmi Dhingra and her team in Chandigarh, India. In the background was a portrait of her deceased husband, our friend and regional director, Deepak. It was almost one year to the day of his passing on to glory.

The second screen shot in the corner of the screen showed Sergei, Olga, and Dasha Golovin. They are currently refugees from their own countrymen. Their home, teammates, and the GNPI office in Simferopol are technically in Russia now. They have moved to Kiev, Ukraine, as the fighting in that part of the world has resulted in Russia annexing their home in the Crimean Peninsula. The Golovins’ homeland is experiencing civil war, but their determination continues. As Sergei said, “We had one, three, and even 10 years of plans. Yet, God had different plans, and so we need to adjust to God’s plans!”

IHOP Mike2Yes, God’s plan for Deepak’s time to serve on this earth, where Sergei lives (for now), and how his team does ministry was different from how we thought it would go. However, both families and teams are moving forward by God’s grace. Their example and dedication can be said of each of the regional centers represented at the IHOP. Join me right now in thanking God for the beauty of his Church and the way he can bring us all together to talk with him.

In fact, if you’d like to do something special for our regional centers – I’d love it. Would you send a prayer for one of our nine regional centers and their work to gnpi@gnpi.org? That would be phenomenal, and I know it would lift their spirits.

Our IHOP gifted me with memories to thank God for and cherish. I eventually was able to close the hour of global prayer, but my heart is still talking to God about this sweet time.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

A New Friend

Her pleasant smile made her look younger than she really is. Duan is a Chinese national who works at Johnson University teaching English to Chinese-speaking students and Mandarin to English-speaking students. Her dream is to one day start a Christian school in China.

While visiting the university, I showed her a newly-completed version of The Global Gospel in Mandarin, her heart language. I asked her to review the 88 stories and provide feedback about the content. She intently listened to the first story and said, “Oh my!” When I mentioned an additional three hours of biblical content remained, she said again in her soft English, “Oh my!”

We exchanged business cards and I left for my next appointment. It so happened that an hour later I passed by her table in the cafeteria. Duan stopped me and said, “I had to stop everything and listen to five more lessons. Oh my, they are so good!”

My new friend asked me later if she could share the video stories with her friends or anyone else she thought might be interested in hearing the stories of Jesus. She had caught the exact vision we hoped she would. There are 960 million Mandarin Chinese speakers in the world.

“Yes, Duan, you can share them with anyone!”

960 million. Oh my!

 

Some Really Good News

GNPI produces media. I can remember, not long ago, when watching television, going to movies, or listening to a “televangelist” was considered taboo. Today, in a 1000-channel world, amplified by social media, that fear has dampened.

Some Really Good NewsMedia is just like anything else – it can be used for good or bad. Unfortunately, today it seems like the bad aspects of media are overwhelming us. Yet, I am part of a team that believes God can redeem media (in all its forms) to use it for his purposes.

What Seth Godin recently wrote about media interests me. He wrote,

“I’m fascinated by this paradox. By connecting us, by integrating cultures, and by focusing attention on injustice, the media has dramatically improved the quality of life for everyone on the planet. At the same time, by amplifying the perception of danger and disaster, the media has persuaded us that things are actually getting worse. It creates a reason for optimism and then makes a profit by selling pessimism.”

Seth is right. Media has power to lead. Just as it highlights injustices, it helps start events like the Arab Spring.

In which direction will we help point the people of the world? Media has the potential, when biblically sound and culturally relevant, to be sacred rather than scary. Media can be a tool instead of a trap.

That is some really good news.

Pray for ISIS

There is no question that ISIS is evil. Yet, despite the temptation to dwell solely on this undeniable fact, we must remember two important points: ISIS army members were created in the image of the Triune God, and Christ suffered and spilled his blood so they could have the chance to truly know him.

What is happening today in the Middle East is not much different from what happened there in Jesus’ day. John was beheaded. “Crucifixion-style” executions had been perfected by the Romans and occurred often. Various insurrections bookended the one for which the Romans blamed Christ.

In reality, the Church Jesus began was birthed in a context of evil that emerged in all shapes and forms. The crucible of evil refines the Church and creates a strong, bright ray of light extending farther than before. It’s ironic but true. Knowing this, we need to boldly and earnestly pray for believers suffering at the hands of ISIS. As we read the Sermon on the Mount, we see the faithful members of God’s Church are blessed in the midst of persecution for the name of Christ.

As a staff, we are praying the Lord would draw to himself some of the most influential Muslim leaders and create a modern-day Saul-to-Paul transformation. Wouldn’t that be incredible?

Saul, who sought to destroy what Jesus built, later found himself willing to “be accursed for the sake of his wayward countrymen” who needed Christ’s saving power. The ability of the God we serve to change hearts is boundless!

We’re all grieved about the devastation caused by ISIS. However, our prayer is that out of these trying days in the Middle East, the Gospel will burst forth and brightly show the way by which many will be saved through the Good News of Jesus.

Please see: 10 Muslim Leaders you need to know (Joshua Project:IncontextMinistries)

https://drive.google.com/a/gnpi.org/file/d/0B8DdIFwW7ADFcGpCVGt1bzRrSmc/view?usp=sharing.

 

Is History Repeating Itself?

It’s been said that those who fail to read history are doomed to repeat it.

I received word this week from a colleague in Ukraine about a wonderful opportunity to share God’s Word in public schools there. Yes, you read correctly – in the public schools of atheistic, post-communist, eastern Europe! Here is some of what this colleague shared:

“…the most exciting opportunity of the trip was an invitation by the city education department to address public (state) school humanities teachers on ‘a common foundation for public ethics.’ This opened a door to speak openly about God’s nature and his plan as the only reliable foundation for any ethical system, about Scripture as his revelation for us, and about creation and our role and purpose in it. Only one lady out of the entire audience was unhappy about us ‘presenting only one view and only one religion instead of all of them.’ (Please pray for her – something in her heart is resistant to admit the truth.) History RepeatingHowever, other teachers were very open for the Message. Times of trouble make people search for the truth and hope desperately, and we have an exciting opportunity to share it. Please pray for the seeds planted among school teachers – people who will have the greatest impact on the next generation!”

Only a small percentage of American schools would welcome a strong presentation of God and his Scriptures as the plumb line for human ethics! Yet, only one teacher, in what we see as an environment highly resistant to God’s Word, had any objection. Yes, the tide is turning and some are asking, “Is history repeating itself?”

In the many US churches I visit, I often share about opportunities our centers throughout the world have to replicate what you’ve read above. In Ukrainian public schools, at Kenyan political rallies, on South African public television stations – God is opening doors for the spread of his Gospel.

People in the congregations hosting me often say, “Hey, we need to see productions like this in our schools – we need our politicians and television networks showing them!” Isn’t it ironic that 90 percent of GNPI’s financial and prayer support comes from the United States, yet we’re seeing the most impact through open doors in other nations – even atheistic, post communist Ukraine?

I’m so proud of each of you who support our global evangelism efforts!  You’re taking the blessings God is giving us here, in this nation, and using them to plant seeds in other parts of the world. Those seeds are growing into a bountiful harvest!

 

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