Category : Mike Schrage

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Being Found Faithful

They spoke in hushed voices in a corner. As they sipped Arabic coffee, they laughed when they felt safe. Soon, though, the conversation became serious. A little while later their eyes were closed. Some were kneeling. All were praying.

As I’ve traveled with GNPI the past few years, I’ve been privileged to experience these types of gatherings. In limited-access, dangerous countries, believers in Jesus meet to encourage one another, despite hostility toward anything Christian.

There’s a common denominator to all of these meetings – prayer.

The more persecution, the more prayer. I’m absolutely convinced it’s the fuel that’s firing growth in God’s kingdom throughout the world. We all have our strategies and cleverly designed efforts, but one thing remains more powerful than anything else: prayer.

Should I dare to say that prayer is not just the hope for growing the Church in places like the Middle East? It’s also the solution to breaking through the ambivalence we’ve seen in reaching souls for Christ in North America.

Should I go out on a limb to say that when we are faithful to practice prayer and fasting, emerging from being deeply engaged with God’s Word, we will unquestionably make disciples?

These prayers and practices tend to flourish in times of persecution. When the only thing we have is God, we tend to turn to him like never before.

What’s impressive, if not surprising, is that people in these challenging circumstances are not asking to be delivered from persecution. Instead, they ask to be found faithful in the midst of it! What if we joined them in realizing fire brings refinement, and what emerges is something very valuable.

Like we read in Scripture, our brothers and sisters building God’s Church in the midst of great tribulation knew they had found the pearl of great price. They knew it might require selling all they had.

However, they deemed the kingdom to be worth it all.

Do I?

God’s Great Transformation Story in India

unnamed-7Current research indicates that only somewhere between two and six percent of the people in India are Christian. There is a huge need for the continuing work of the Holy Spirit to transform lives from darkness to light!

Another impressive truth is that even with the small percentage of people following Christ in a populous nation like India, the aggregate number of believers makes India the eighth largest Christian population in the world! Yes, God has been working in India, even at a time when it is more and more dangerous to follow Christ!

Several years ago, a colleague in India was sharing about how the Good News was impacting the Dalits, or low caste people of India. After teaching hundreds of seekers through public teaching, then distributing recordings of the teaching through media via our GNPI regional center, several thousand Dalits made commitments to follow Jesus. A year later, several thousand more made commitments, and the stories of transformation continue!

There is still a massive need to create, share, and distribute culturally relevant, biblically based material in India. Yet, what a joy it is that we have already been involved in God’s great transformation story in the incredible country of India.

Blue Jeans and Cultural Relevance

Recently I was listening to a young preacher share about the resurrection. It was a great Message, and I’m sure it left an impression on his congregation. He also made another, literal, impression on me that I thought was meaningful. Let me explain by sharing a personal memory:

I was raised on the farm where young men wore jeans and chewed tobacco. A mark of manhood was to have the round imprint of their tobacco can on the back pocket of their jeans. I’m definitely not endorsing tobacco as a mark of manhood, but I noticed something from the young preacher that has the potential in our era to be a definite mark of godliness.

The young preacher didn’t have the imprint of a tobacco can, but instead the imprint of the iPhone he used repeatedly to reference his notes and Bible during his sermon. His phone was literally making its mark on people for the kingdom of God.

Times have changed. Identifying marks have changed. While both the tobacco and mobile phone leave an imprint, consider their differences:

One was kept in the back pocket, one in the front. This spoke metaphorically to me about how one looks to a life in the past, one is helping us press on to our future.

One represents self-pleasure; the iPhone presents great potential to serve God!

One facilitates a bad habit, addiction, and even death; the other, if used properly, can create great discipline with access to treasures of wisdom and a life of freedom!

Yes, this young preacher had a great Message that day, but his faded blue jeans taught me just as much. God’s given us tools in our digital culture that have the power to leave a lasting imprint on those we meet. It’s up to us to use those things to speak Life and Truth into those we meet. At GNPI, we’re committed to sharing the Good News of Jesus with more people everyday through tools like mobile technology. We pray you’ll join us on that journey in 2015.

The Boundless Gospel

The Good News of Jesus knows no bounds. That, in and of itself, is “good news!”

The fact that the Gospel is boundless means no heart is too hard, no nation too impenetrable, and no worldview too complex for the simple gifts of grace and forgiveness God offers freely. His love for people of all nations allows these mercies to break through any barrier!

At GNPI this year, we’re celebrating the boundless energy and reach of the Good News of Jesus. We want to share stories throughout the year of the unshakeable commitment, unwavering faith, unquenchable thirst, and unending joy we’re finding in people throughout the globe being touched by his wonderful power.

Highlighting this theme of “Boundless” for 2015, we’re bringing a special guest for our annual Vision Night events in March (register at www.gnpi.org/visionnight). Sergei Golovin, our regional director of GNPI-Ukraine, will be with us to share how God is using apparent adversity to multiply the impact of our ministry in that part of the world.

Sergei is a prime example of an unshakeable commitment. He’s an internally displaced person, or IDP – a name given to those who’ve had to flee from their homeland because of fighting or conflict. Skirmishes in Crimea, where our center is located, has caused him to seek refuge out of Simperofol, now annexed by Russia.

Despite Sergei’s physical presence in the office in Simpferopol, the staff in Crimea is still producing culturally relevant media. Sergei is now expanding his work in a different location that will continue to reach the people in Ukraine. He’s always seen media as a way to reach people beyond his borders, knowing that with technology God’s Word is boundless!

Recently Sergei shared an email to illustrate this point:
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Dear Mike, I long to share an attached picture with you. Most probably it is done with a simple cell phone. It may not look fancy, has a low resolution, and you will not see anybody’s face on it. Yet, it brings a great joy to my heart. I received it from our coordinator at Central Asia. The picture is taken in a restricted country where one can be arrested and fined for having Christian literature, or one can be sentenced to ten years imprisonment just for having a second copy of the Bible at home (that would be considered as storing and distributing). However, media resources we provide online allow us to avoid all the restrictions. All these people are taking courses of the Apologetics School due to the opportunities media provides. What a joy to be a part of that great ministry!

You see, it doesn’t matter much to Sergei where he’s located. To him, the Good News is boundless. Because of that, he – like so many others in our network – will continue to share the Gospel, regardless of the restrictions and challenges.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Prayer

“Lord, help me to accept my tools,” he (MLK) told them to pray. “However dull they are, help me to accept them. And then, Lord, after I have accepted my tools, then help me to set out and do what I can do with my tools.”

mlk photo

This quote is from the late Martin Luther King, Jr. Many have honored his memory this month by trying to serve their communities. We can also appreciate his example of prayer. I think this is an appropriate prayer for all of us at GNPI. We are in the business of making tools. Specifically, we create culturally relevant media that connects people to the heart of their Creator. We are constantly working to stay current in technology and relevant in Message content. This is an expensive and challenging goal, but we strive to do our best because eternity weighs in the balance!

Please help us, Lord, to do all we can with the tools you’ve given us. We want to honor you and work at discipling the nations. Thank you for those who work with us.

Imagine!

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:14-16

 

Imagine the impact lost from opportunities we don’t make the most of.

My 87-year-old father recently shared that he wished he would have purchased a neighboring farm for $350 an acre back in 1970. Now that farmland is selling for $7,000 an acre! Talk about a missed opportunity!

Now think of ISIS and Islam. The Bible was not translated into the Arabic language until 100 years after Muhammad died. A Bible developed specifically for Arabic speakers was published 900 years after that. What if Muhammad had read the Bible during his lifetime? How different would today’s world be if an Arabic Bible had been available through the last millennium?

It really doesn’t do us much good to think long about past opportunities. Yet, acknowledging them in order to forge ahead with new resolve is what reflection on the past should be all about.  I’m personally committing to keeping my eyes wide open in 2015 to see what God’s directing me to do.

In fact, at GNPI we’re asking God to help us be so in step with his Spirit, so enamored with his love, so sure of our calling, that there’s no way we can miss the opportunities he’s setting before us this very day.

Will you join us in that prayer? Will you ask God to clearly reveal what he wants for your life right now?  Will you pray that for us as a ministry? There may be no greater opportunity.

We know he’ll give you – and us – the answers we need as we make the most of every moment in 2015. As a result of our collective prayers, God will help us complete The Global Gospel in 25 languages by the end of the year. He’ll add to our ten current NOMaD production teams and the five being trained. He’ll use the 100 Solar Kits you helped sponsor last year (for the third year running) to share the message of Jesus all over the earth. He’ll add to our worldwide staff of 103 GNPI workers, and countless volunteers, as more and more in our network seek to redeem the time.

Imagine!

 

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.

 

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