Category : Mike Schrage

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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!

 

Tools Versus Time!

“Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” — Jeremiah 23:29

fire

Think about other highly effective tools through the centuries. The Roman road was a tool. The Gutenberg press was a tool. Evangelistic crusades and tent meetings were tools. All were relevant for their time and era, and all were used by God to achieve his purposes and expand his kingdom.

I recently read this from Seth Godin: “The public square is more public than ever, but minds are rarely changed in 140 character bursts and by selfies.”

Never was there a truer statement on the challenge of making disciples in today’s world! Disciple-making is not a turn-key formula or a spiritual microwave we invite someone to enter that heats to the right spiritual temperature. It is not something we can tweet or portray.

Creating followers of Jesus is a work the Holy Spirit does through us, requiring an investment of our most precious commodity, time. Here are some time investments you have to make to allow the Holy Spirit to create a disciple through you:

  • Tools2aTime on your knees

  • Time at the coffee shop or on the phone listening

  • Time sharing your own story and struggles

  • Time showing the way through God’s Word

Time; that’s what discipleship takes. How we invest time in others is paramount. Man can create a faster means of disseminating information through communication or travel. However, no one but God can create time! He can make the sun stand still! This God, who can do miracles, can take the time we invest and multiply it, pierce a heart, bring great comfort, or reveal a truth.

At GNPI, we’re investing in tools that maximize the use of time to share the Gospel of Jesus with as many people as possible. We’re working with nationals throughout the world to teach and train others about Jesus, using great media and technology tools.

One example of this is project NOMaD (National Outreach using Media and Discipleship). NOMaD teams harness the power of media to open hearts, garner attention, illustrate key truths, and present the Gospel in a way that can be easily remembered.

More than training nationals to maximize their ministry potential through great tools though, we’re teaching them to make the most of their time! Making disciples of all nations won’t happen through a tweet or post. However, it will happen as we pray and invite the Holy Spirit to lead us to create tools that he then will use to effectively chisel people throughout the world into the perfect image of the almighty God!

Being Relevant Like Jesus

Barna Group, the premier research organization, recently stated that Millennials want to learn how to “apply their hearts and minds to today’s cultural realities…finding a way to bring their faith in Jesus to the problems they encounter in the world.” The article went on to say, “They (Millennials) don’t want their faith to be relegated to Sunday worship, and this desire for holistic faith is something the church can speak to in a meaningful way.” Bottom line, they want to learn “about how Christians can positively contribute to society.”

What the Barna Group has discovered is the precise reason GNPI works side by side with global workers to create culturally relevant media local churches can use. RelevantWe want to express and portray Jesus in a way that speaks to a world that needs to see him through his church!

Think about this:

  • Jesus spoke to a woman drawing water about how he was “Living Water”

  • He called himself “the Bread of Life” after miraculously feeding a hungry crowd

  • He claimed he was the “Light of the World” after making a blind man see

Jesus taught in a way that made “cultural sense” to the listeners of his day. He helped people see, in their mind’s eye, exactly how he could make a difference to them. He made it easy to understand why he was chosen to bring life – and to bring it more abundantly!

We want to imitate Jesus, speaking into today’s cultures around the world with life-changing truths drawn from God’s Word.

If you believe GNPI is effectively taking on this God-given purpose, would you do me a favor?
Can you go to http://greatnonprofits.org/reviews/gnpi and write a review of our work? Their deadline for reviews is October 31. If you’re able to assist in this way, it will help us as we try to engage more people, churches, and other partners in spreading our culturally relevant media throughout the globe.

Thanks for the part you play in helping spread the message that Jesus is King in culturally relevant ways, as the Barna Group suggested, and for making a difference in our society.

 

Adversity or Opportunity?

Not that it’s ever overly encouraging, but the nightly news has been extra discouraging as of late, hasn’t it? As you hear stories from the Middle East (Israel, Syria, Iraq) and see the devastation inflicted by Hamas and ISIS, it’s upsetting. However, it’s not just happening in the Middle East. Tension between Ukraine and Russia continues. It’s happening at home in Ferguson, Missouri also.

Sergei ShadowI don’t know about you, but I cannot recall a time in recent years that such a gruesome array of news reports have come our way through television and social media.

Yet, as Jesus encourages us from Scripture, “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world!” Amen?

I’m inspired by our friends around the world who take this to heart. Sergei Golovin is our colleague and regional director of GNPI-Ukraine. He’s currently classified as an Internally Displaced Person (IDP). He had to flee his home and ministry shortly after the Olympics and Russian takeover of Crimea. Sergei, his wife, Olga, and youngest daughter hastily moved to Kiev, Ukraine. Then, Sergei’s daughter became very ill for a season, and his wife had a major surgery.

Despite the tremendous personal trauma they’ve experienced, they have not been discouraged, nor has the team that remained behind working at the GNPI office. As they had to leave behind Sergei’s mother, and their house, they also left behind a call to GNPI staff to accept a leadership mantle for our center in Crimea.

These Job-like experiences could have stopped their ministry plans altogether, but instead, Sergei and his family have an even STRONGER resolve. Now, they see that God is preparing the way for great fruitfulness in his kingdom.

Lord, help me NOT complain! Help me seek ways I can honor you during life’s toughest times!

Sergei recently wrote me and said this:

“Troubles under the heavens make people seek the answers from above. God is already using the current situation for spiritual awakening in Ukraine. I believe, in a few years, the church of Ukraine will become a much more powerful agent for delivering God’s truth to every corner of Russia, and Crimea will be a special door for it!”

What the world sees as adversity, God often uses to create the greatest opportunities! Join us in believing that God is preparing to do some of his best work during such a time as this!

 

Strategic Praying

We often build a lot of strategy into executing plans that we’ve made. Often these strategies are well-thought-out responses to the convergence of where we want to go, and the factors all around us that influence us getting there. What if we made prayer and concern for those who are outside of Jesus, even those persecuting his people, one of the areas of our lives in which we got really strategic?

Strategic PrayingThink about these facts:

  • Jesus asks us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us as followers of his. (Matthew 5:44)

  • Jesus used an audible voice, blinding lights, and a miraculous healing to get the attention of one of the most dangerous and feared opposers of the early church – Saul of Damascus. (Acts 9:1-19)

  • Jesus said, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13)

Imagine if we prayed to Jesus for the ten Muslim leaders listed in the document linked below who, like Saul, are threatening the church. Imagine if Jesus would visit them, get their attention, and eventually their allegiance. Imagine if Jesus stepped in and caused one, five, or all of them to convert, like Saul did to Paul. Just imagine!

It may sound like it’s beyond possible, but consider this last fact:

  • Nothing is impossible with God! (Luke 18:27)

Pray that God brings a harvest among even those who are persecuting his people!

———

Please look at this intriguing document:
10 Muslim Leaders you need to know (Joshua Project:IncontextMinistries).pdf

A Glimpse into Uganda

While visiting Uganda, Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s prime minister during World War II, dubbed it the “Pearl of Africa!” There was no mistaking why. The beautiful landscape and fertile soil along the base of the mountains and along the great Nile River was inviting to many Western farmers relocating to start new coffee and tea plantations.

Uganda was thriving in many ways. In fact, at one time, the majority of African doctors practicing on the continent were educated in Uganda! After independence from Britain in 1962, decades of corrupt leadership caused Uganda to sink economically, socially, and spiritually.

Today, that tide is turning as Christianity once again gains a prominent place within the culture. In 2009, missionaries in Mbale, Uganda, invited GNPI to build a production center to aid in multiplying their church planting efforts.

The result? The number of church plants has grown from 200 to around 1000. These wise missionaries understood the truth that media can accelerate global evangelism!

Today, GNPI-Uganda in Mbale produces and distributes Christian audio and video content. It is also a training center for communications students at another bright spot in Uganda, the up-and-coming LivingStone International University.

Isn’t that encouraging? GNPI-Uganda is strategically located in a city with a growing Christian university in a country that is being revived!

Pray for continued revival in Uganda!

 

A Glimpse into Thailand

Good things come to those who wait, right? Do you remember the advertising campaign for Heinz Ketchup in the late 1980s? Apparently this particular condiment was so good, you’d be willing to tip the bottle and wait a few hours to add it to your burger as it finally came out of the bottle.

Well, if good things come to those who wait, better things come to those who faithfully plan, execute, make necessary adjustments, and then expectantly watch as growth and change occur.

I’m deeply convinced of this as I watch our friends at GNPI-Thailand. Thailand has always been a strategic point for missionaries reaching tribal people groups, like the Lisu and Lahu, as well as the main Buddhist populations of Thailand. Just as important, Thailand also serves as a gateway to more difficult-to-reach places, like Myanmar and even China.

GNPI-Thailand is a collaborative approach to using media and technology to accelerate evangelism, including a long-time partnership with missionary Tom Silkwood and Freedom Films. Tom’s faithful work in Chiang Mai has been building steadily over many years and is now bearing great fruit.

Exciting opportunities continue to emerge as Tom and his team produce videos in the national Thai language and leadership training materials like the Biblical Extension Courses (BEC) in other local vernaculars.

Yes, good things come to those who wait. Yet, reaching Buddhists for Christ takes decades. Better things are coming for the people of Thailand because of the patient presence and media productions of Tom Silkwood and GNPI-Thailand.

A Glimpse into Mexico

Picture, if you can, a shrine on the side of a dusty, Mexican road with a statue of Mary, flowers, a picture of a skull, and money offerings – modern day indulgences to gain supernatural favor.

The payee is none other than the leader of the cult Santa Muerte (Holy Death) – also a drug lord. He has hired people as priests to intercede for the group so their cartel would be more prosperous and dominate other gangs.

Drugs and deity may seem strange bedfellows, but that is the culture in Mexico today.

Bob Gurwell and Gustavo Velazquez, working for our regional center in Piedras Negras, Mexico, have written, directed, and produced Criba (The Sifting). In this real-life drama, a young man is drawn into the downward spiral of darkness, danger, and fear.

Thousands have watched with nodding heads, saying they can identify with such occurrences. The GNPI regional center in Piedras Negras is making a difference in addressing difficult issues in light of the truth of God’s Word.

You can watch Criba too (it’s in Spanish). Simply navigate your browser to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfTOqH66sQE and see how God is using GNPI-Mexico to create culturally relevant, media content addressing today’s issues.

A Glimpse into SE Asia

In the days of Christ, the Pharisees were the religious elite. The way they dressed, spoke, and acted revealed their status. They were seen as having an inside track to a relationship with God. For much of his public ministry, Jesus challenged the Pharisees because they knew all the right things to do, but their hearts were in the wrong place.

This teaching angered some, but it was inviting to others. We see glimpses in Scripture of Pharisees who were touched and changed by one whose heart was always exactly where it needed to be.

Buddhist monks are the religious elite in SE Asia. Like the Pharisees of old, they are easy to identify; their orange cloaks stand out as if to shout, “Here rests religious insight.”  Their elaborate monasteries are well-populated and centers of highly prized knowledge.

Interestingly, though, in SE Asia, Buddhist monks have been found playing Christian worship music over their loudspeakers. To the objective observer this would seem odd. Why would songs espousing and illuminating tenants that are not from Buddha fill the air next to a temple filled with Buddha’s likeness?

The answer? GNPI works hard to share the Gospel through mediums that people can understand, in a way that is culturally relevant. Set new teachings to inviting native music and you have a powerful recipe for reaching people.

Music has such power to move us. It would be hard to find a medium that sparks greater emotion. Add the teachings of Jesus, and God will use music to do incredible things.

In SE Asia, it’s working to melt the heart of the religious elite as they hear and consider the challenges of a man who changed the world with the truest heart we’ve ever known.

 

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