Monday, June 29, 2009

Remembering Dr. Ralph Winter, a truly great man!

I work at a mission organization, you know a job that I work at fulltime, spent nearly twenty years in higher education at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars, that I still pay on, to prepare for and I receive no salary-lol. Why would I do this?

Yes, I was the guy who started this endeavor, but it was not me who wanted too or knew how to do it. I was more of a marionette, whose strings were guided by really great men of God. Like Francis Schaeffer gave me the vision and the kick in the butt to do this, and for ten years we coasted as a part time gig. I was in school and could not afford more time. Then Schaeffer passed away in 1984, leaving an unfillable void until, I met Dr. Ralph Winter. Then, for over twenty years, my life has not been the same. I think every aspect of my life, thinking, mission and ministry has his influence and guidance infused upon me! Yes, I am a Schaeffer guy, a L’Abri brat, but last night I realized this man was more than a mentor, more than a friend, so I guess I am also a Winter guy too!

So much is going through my mind I can’t get the words down. I am so deeply moved and still further inspired by one of my mentors and innovators without we at Into Thy Word would not exist as a mission, Dr. Ralph Winter. He was named one of America's most influential evangelicals by Time magazine in 2005 was a personal dear friend of mine and mentor of our ministry. I still can’t believe that. We both served at the same church, taught in each other’s Bible studies and classes, talked on a regular basis, I even took him for granted. When we were just getting started as a mission from being just “the seminar folks,” it was, he who inspired us and helped me to get ITW formed as a mission organization. He connected me to the right people and brainstormed us into being. It was his idea to use our inductive resources to train pastors overseas. He passed away to Glory on May 20th. I miss him greatly! He will be remembered for his visionary work for missions, probably the person who has impacted the world for missions more than any other leader of his time, perhaps for all time.

Dr. Ralph Winter’s memorial service was held at my church last night, June 28, thousands of people attended, including the top key Christian leaders of our time, like Rick Warren and John Piper who each gave elegies. Just about every leading person of a seminary, mission organization or key leader in Christendom was there or sent their regards by video or letter. I felt like I was a midget amongst giants. Because, Dr. Winter has had perhaps more influence and vision on God’s people than just about any person in the 20th Century. Perhaps he and Francis Schaeffer along with C.S. Lewis, then the others are miles apart. I feel like Forest Gump, whose path was always being walked on by the great people of history. It seems my ministry life is like the same as these great men happened by upon my path and took me along for a walk and a talk. It is humbling, that these great people took the time to know and teach me, the boy whose teachers told him because he was dyslexic could never amount to anything. I guess they saw something in me that I even did not see.

Dr. Winter was a maverick, thinking way outside of the box, leading others, his students and colleague’s miles ahead of anyone else. The rest of us are just seeking to catch up. I do not think we will catch up for at least another twenty years or so. He has left so many ideas and resources for us to ponder and apply. One of which we are doing. In 1988 I was challenged to take our inductive Bible study seminar over to Russia, which I did reluctantly (it was the Iron Curtin then) then when I came back I had realized I started something amazing, a mission organization, of which I did not intend to do. Dr. Winter being a part of my church heard of my trip and challenged and mentored me to make this a permanent mission. He set me up with an office, contacts, even though many promises never came into fruition, because of funding and timing, the main promise was unfolded and continues. This was his vision to me: Teach pastors who have no formal education or way to get a seminary or Bible school training how to read the Bible. In this way they can learn how to prepare sermons and Bible studies and do discipleship with little to know resources. You must undertake this mission. Something I tried to live up too, because there were no resources then, no one was really doing this. He wanted us to the fill in the gap between his Center for World Mission and His University to go to the emerging leaders in the 10-40 window with solid biblical curriculums. He told me to pay careful attention in my studies in seminary, and take what is piratical and teach it to those who can’t get this where they are at…and got to them with it…and so it goes…

Why would I do this? Because it is God’s call, a call that I did not see until Dr. Winter showed it to me! As he said on many occasions, God deserves the praise, the glory and our obedience from all peoples.

He will be greatly missed, thank-you Ralph for your friendship, insights and even allowing me to teach your Sunday School class more times than I should have, your shoes are way too big for me… Buy the way, you still owe me lunch, since I paid last time…Now I can’t muse over anyone to fill his mentorship, I feel like an orphan!


Monday, June 22, 2009

How does a Christian deal with Discrimination and Prejudice?

Read John 4: 27-45

While Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman, the Disciples came back from their errands and they were shocked, but did not say a word. Jesus interacted with a race extremely hated and rejected by the Jews. This should cause us to think about our own cultural ideas and bigoted reactions, those we do either unconsciously or deliberately. This passage continues to tell of the social contempt that the Jews and Samaritans held for one another. Jesus exhibits the importance of acceptance and calls us to remove the prejudice and narrow-mindedness and intolerance we have, just as the Jews and Samaritans held for each other. And, in application, to remove all social dislike, scorn, and prejudices we harbor. Jesus looked at the barriers some had to growth and He confronted them so the person could move forward into spiritual maturity with faith and relationship development.

The point, to be a true follower of Christ, one must also be a disciple, a learner who can look at what hinders us, reach out to Christ, and grow beyond the barriers that block our spiritual formation and intimacy with Christ.

We have to understand Him and His teachings, be deeply convicted, and be willing to grow through our trust and obedient actions. If not, we will stagnate into apathy, disillusionment, depression, dysfunction, or some other kind of abuse to one’s self or others. We have to be convicted; Jesus shows us how by these examples, and He makes the Way for it!

The Disciple’s surprise continued, because single men in these Semitic cultures would court the women at the wells, so why was Jesus here and talking with her? Meaning an attitude of being astonished. How could Jesus do that? This can lead to an attitude of either contempt or respect. As the previous passage disclosed, Jews do not associate with Samaritans. Even though the Samaritans were still Jews and practicing their faith, they differed because they accepted only the five books of Moses, and they stirred and mingled in some idolatrous practices. The Jews had laws forbidding the association with Samaritans, including it was against the law to eat with them, and the Samaritans shunned the Jews. This animosity directed toward one another was centuries old, and they hated one another even more than they hated the Gentiles. This is why the Samaritan woman was so surprised when Jesus talked to her and was willing to take a drink from her too.

The well was as much a place for social gatherings as it was for gathering water for the village and families. In other words, it was also a date spot—and Jesus is there! The Disciples were perplexed; why would Jesus go to the hot dating spot of the time and associate with a woman known for a very bad reputation and the fact she was a Samaritan? It would be like a pastor today talking to a prostitute in public, with no ill intention other than to share the Lord, or a conservative Christian moving into a bad area to be a witness, or befriending a gay person or a white man joining a black church or visa versa; these are our Christian social ills today. We think only in our socioeconomic demographic area and befriend only whom we like; we then shun others who are not like us. Rather, we should hang with who Christ wants us to be with. Also, men did not talk to women unless it was one’s wife or mother, and even so never in public. A teacher would consider it a waste of time to talk to a woman. This was to avoid temptation and/or the attitude of male chauvinism. The Disciples had a lot to learn about racial and social barriers that Christ wanted them to overcome just as we need to do today (Gen. 1 Sam.

Jesus defied His cultural rules of segregation and related to those who were considered unworthy. This would have put Jesus at further odds with the establishment and would have angered the religious leaders. Like a white civil rights worker living in the US black south in the 1950’s and 60’s, or an Indian high cast person to choose to work with or for those of a lower caste, most church folks would not let such a person back in their church; how sad we do not learn.

1. What are some religious or racial or social issues with which you have had issues? What about now?

2. How does our intimacy with Christ gives us the confidence and completeness to know and do God’s Will, His purpose?

3. How ridiculous is prejudice ? How does it block the Gospel? How has God demonstrated His ultimate Love to you? How can you show this to others more?

Real spiritual sustenance, our real nourishment must come from above and from God’s call of faith and our obedience, not from our perceived needs, desires, or fears. However, this did not mean Jesus did not need to eat or perform essential human functions, since He was also fully human (Deut. 8:3; Jer. 15:16; Ezek. 2:1-3; Matt. 4:4; 6:25; John 6:32-40; 14:12; Eph. 5:17).

It is interesting that many opponents to the Scriptures, or a conservative view of the Bible, claim that the Bible is anti-Semitic (a view that the teachings of the Bible are hostile toward Jews and/or the Jewish faith) and racial. In fact, the Bible is clearly on the side of anti-discrimination and advocates the abolishment of prejudice in all of its forms. God sees no race; He only wants us to run the race of faith (2 Tim. 4:7).

Monday, June 15, 2009

Do you “Came to Draw Water?”

Read John 4:1-26

What does this passage tell us about worship?

Our worship of God is predicated on our view and concept of God. This all rests on who Jesus is and has done for us. In this mindset, we can trust Him for He does exist and is involved. This also means we are not to look to anything but Christ for Who and What God is (Ex. 20:4; John 1:1-18; 8:58; 10:30-33; Rom. 1:20; 9:5; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 1:19-23;Phil. 2:6; 6:16; Col. 1:15; Titus 2:13; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; Heb. 1:3, 8; 11:27).

This passage calls us to extol Christ, to worship in spirit and in truth.

This is a worship of Jesus Who is Truth, of Christ as LORD. He is the only Way to God that we are to recognize with our spirit and soul. This is not based on location or liturgy or externals and formalities; rather, it is recognizing Christ our Savior and Lord with proper attitudes and motives. This also means a sacrifice of our hearts over animals and an offering of praise over burnt offerings. This is not about the Holy Spirit here; rather, Jesus is emphasizing a manner of heart and obedience from our gratitude over and above ceremonial requirements and orders.

This is also a transformational call to true worship, as the Church transitions from the provisional Law of ceremony to honor God’s holiness to honoring God with our grateful hearts for giving us unearned and unmerited salvation and by placing the Living Holy Spirit in us. This impact from the Spirit nourishes, invigorates, and empowers us to deal with life here and now. His qualities and character become real in us and are modeled as real to others around us.

This empowerment gives us salvation and builds our maturity so we can have joy and contentment, purpose and meaning. It allows us to know we are deeply loved and makes us able to replicate that love to others. In that way, we can worship Him in power and adoration, to a deeper level than we could do without that growth (1 Sam. 10:5; 1 Chron. 25:1-6; John 3:3:21; 14:6; Acts 4:12; Rom. 1:25; 9:4-5; Phil. 3:1-14).

In so doing, real Christians give real, effectual, true worship from a heart that truly loves God, are grateful for His work, and are dedicated to true Truth—not to schemes, trends, or feelings. This is also in contrast to the worship services that are merely rhetoric and by obligation, meaningless ritual and liturgy that just spins one’s pride and/or hides one’s heart (John 1:18; ; 3:3; 14:16-18; Acts 2:33).

Questions and thoughts to ponder:

1. What does it mean to you that only God satisfies us, not the pursuance of pleasures, fulfillment of desires, or even sin?

2. How can this help you form a deeper trust and relationship with Christ?

3. What will it take for you to make a further commitment to pursue your faith and spiritual growth in a richer and deeper way?

4. How can that help fuel you to further persevere in your spiritual gifts, relationships, opportunities, and purpose or call?

5. How can you have more focused worshipful experiences with our Lord? What do you need to do to make this happen?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Does Jesus effects your contentment?

Read John 3:22-36

As our happiness is not because of a focus of a ministry or an opportunity; rather that God is using us and because Christ is with us! The context is that a wedding is a celebration of friendship and commitment that produces joy. This is not passive on our part; we are active "in with" faith that gives us the joy now when we follow Him (Rom. 2:5-16; 3:22; 5:10; 9:30).

This also helps us with the authority of the mission, because we can realize this all comes from the One who sent us to do it. God is the Author of life, salvation, and our Christian service. This also measures the mission parameters: what are we doing and why? Is it for Him or for us? Christ sends us, and our real authority and purpose is that we have to do what comes from God. When we lose sight of Him, we lose sight of our mission and become problems and not partakers of His Kingdom. Real ministry can never come from a person’s will, his/her seeking of power and control, or to make a name for him or herself. Real ministry only comes from our Lord and always gives Him the glory. If we are a leader, we must not just keep Christ in the loop—He is the loop. We must adhere to Him in all that we are and do (John 6:65; 19:11; 1 Cor. 4:7)!

We must realize the sacredness of our Lord and Savior; we must acknowledge His Holiness so He touches us ever so deeply and consistently in every aspect of our lives. His life and work must overshadow ours, so He is more and we are less. In order to reach Christian maturity, we have to allow His Presence to enter us. He does so at our conversion, but we usually only allow Him into the entryway of our lives, not into the deep recess of our heart’s home. He must have access to every bit and part, every nook and cranny; every corner must be filled with Christ so that He is more and we are less. We have to see our lives compared to a hamster on a spinning wheel, going nowhere in the cage of the world. Let Jesus take you outside of yourself and will so you are not imprisoned by your fears and felt desires and needs. What we have is ever so limited and imperfect; what He has for us is limitless and impacting. Be transformed and renewed; be His and His alone so your life shines His Way; allow His uniqueness and impact to take you beyond your own set limits and your doubts into the far reaches and depths of your spiritual formation so you are more faithful, assured, and fruitful, because your life belongs to Christ. He is your LORD, so be and do and act in accordance with who He is and what He has done for you!

Questions to ponder

1. How would you describe your personal identification and relationship to our Lord and Savior?

2. How has the Gospel Message impacted you? What do you need to do so that Christ, His Will, and His work become greater in you than your will and the occupations of your life? What do you need to do to make this happen? When will you do it?

3. What work do you think you still need to do for God? What do you need? How will you do it? When will you do it?

© 2009, Rev. Richard Krejcir

What does it take to become a growing and mature Christian?

First of all, the Gospel Message must impact us, and that Christ, His Will and His work, become greater than our will and the occupations of our lives. His work enables us for our task in the church—to proclaim Christ as Lord, His character, righteousness, peace, and joy, all by the Holy Spirit.

John 3:30 tells us an often overlooked statement that is the embodiment of maturity and growth, He must become greater; I must become less. Meaning our intimacy with Christ gives us the confidence and completeness to know and do His purpose. This is the hallmark of Christian maturity. John the Baptist's sole mission was to testify about Jesus so people might believe in Him (Isa. 43:10; 44:8; John 3:27-30; 10:41; 20:21). For us, this means we can have the “fullness” to live out our new lives by being loyal and faithful to our living Lord. If we are truly devoted to Christ, we will be devoted to the things of Christ—His interests, principles, and plan. The key is to realize Christ is our Lord—not our own ideas, situations, fears or experiences or what others have to say. We can have the fullness and abundance of life with Christ, to live and perform from what we think and trust.

The key is to keep our minds and hearts in Christ. This attitude is what spurs on our commitment and our service to Him. Without persevering with Christ, we cannot keep trying to persuade others well, or even at all. Our relationship in Christ will reflect His work in us and be the beacon of hope to others. This is how we are to live out our lives and be examples of hope for others to follow. In so doing this helps us to showcase the Kingdom and that stage God's redemptive plan is working in us and can come to them, that: CHRIST is Real. That our personal identification and relationship to our Lord and Savior is authentic and efficient! We need to bow to His Lordship for this to work our betterment and growth (Isa. 7:9; Matt. 28:18; John 5:22; Acts 1:14; 2:42; 6:4; Rom. 12:12; 1 Cor. 11:1; Eph. 6:18; Col. 1:3-12; 3:2)!

Christ is must be set above from all others idea and influences. He is superior and LORD. Jesus Christ has the highest standing as Creator, Sustainer, and Head in the universe and in our daily lives too. He reconciles us, gives us our hope, and is the source of all we are and have; in addition, He is our wisdom, our redemption, our empowerment, and our life. His glory radiates throughout the universe and must also radiate in and through us, both personally and collectively as a Church, all pointing to Him. This refers to Divine Wisdom that can only come from God in heaven; it can’t come from our own being. (Acts 13:33-34; Rom. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:47; Eph. 1:20-23; Phil. 2:1-11; Col. 1:18; Heb. 1:4-5)!

Questions to ponder

1. What will it take for you to become a growing and mature Christian?

2. How do you know that what you are doing and why you are doing it are what you are supposed to be doing? Is it for Christ or for yourself?

3. Do you know that how we live out our lives is the example of hope for others to follow? What happens when we rather rely on our ideas, situation, fears, experiences or what others have to say?

© 2009, Rev. Richard Krejcir

Monday, June 01, 2009

For God so Loved the World!

Read John 3:16-21

God’s Love for you!

This is the passage that everyone seems to know, one that he or she will either love or hate, triumph or loathe, be convicted by or despise, adore or disgust. Just as it is with Christ—we either love Him or hate Him! But, whether we love or hate Him, serve Him or work against Him, Jesus did, in fact, come into this world to save us. God sent Him to us because of love—His love for us all. In so doing, this love cost the biggest payment ever conceivable, the death of His Son given for us. God did this so that we may not perish in our sins, rather be able by His Holy Spirit to receive Christ and experience His sacrifice that will pay for our salvation and eternity. All we have to do is believe, have faith, and trust Him. He did all the work; we just reach out and take hold of His miraculous grace, His wondrous work all for us! In fact, the main point and purpose of Jesus Christ's Person and work is not to condemn, but rather to save; not to punish but to inspire.

This is a about the declaration of God's great and intense love and His motivation to be involved for humanity and give us unmerited salvation. This is counter cultural to Jews, both then and now, who believe they are the chosen ones and the Gentile world is outside of God's will and plan. God chose the Israelites to be His beacons and examples of faith to the world. The remedy for the main problem of humanity, which is our sinful nature, God solved through His Son's work of atonement (Gen. 12:1-3; 22:2, 16; Ex. 34. 6-7; Deut. 7:7-8; Judges 10:16; Psalm 136:1; Isa. 9:6; 16:11; 63:9; Jer. 48:36; Hos. 11:1-11; Matt. 5:44-45; John 1:14, 18; 6:32; 12:47; 2 Cor. 6:18; Rom. 8:32; 1 John 4:9-10; 5:20).

This is the quintessential Bible passage and summary of the Gospel Message

This is the verse that just about everyone knows and what people assume tells us what it means to be a Christian. This is all about who God is, One of Love, and what He does: He loves. This is His indispensable and primary attribute, but that is not just what God is about. Rather, it is a summary of all of His character, not just His one attribute. Love is one of His many characteristics and qualities. This is how His character and Person comes to us, how He loves by not waiting for us to come to Him, because we can't; rather, He comes to us. God demonstrated His ultimate Love by sending His Son as a sacrifice. His sacrifice included becoming a man, a suffering and dead man, for our benefit. Jesus came into a world that had already condemned itself and rejected God. We all are condemned for judgment because of sin and the refusal to accept God's way; we rejected Him, His self realization and law. Yet, Christ came to us who are undeserving, offering us His free grace if only we believe and trust in Him.

When we realize this, we can trust Him, we can be saved, and He will not allow us to be condemned. Those whose faith is in Christ do not have to fear judgment or punishment because God's Light has conquered the darkness of our sins; Christ came into this world as the Light. But, beware; those who refuse Him, who love darkness and sin, and who fight against God and His people will be doomed and will have the full magnitude of fear and condemnation. So, see His love, receive His grace, throw off hate and worry, and put on His love, allowing His saving work to envelop and intervene deeply in you so you are truly and completely saved! By doing what He asks and loving it, you will have a better life—a marvelous life here and a wondrous eternity beyond measure or description!

The precepts in this passage are pure and simple.

We have a God who goes out of His way to intercede in our wayward life to save us. The center of the Gospel is that Jesus beckons us, calls us, allures us, and seeks to persuade us to Him when we are unworthy of His attention, let alone His salvation. All because His prime directive is love and that means to love the unlovable—and the unlovable means you and me. The sad fact is that we are predetermined by our will, pride, and sometimes experiences and beliefs to reject His love. Yet, His love is offered. We seek to live our lives our way and not His Way, yet His love is there for us to grab hold of. He does not want us to perish or die or suffer; He wants us to have a good, joyful, and triumphant life! Jesus Christ came to save and to love, so why do so many of us spend all of our energy fighting Him? Why would we rather die in our vomit of unbelief and the darkness of our pride when we can have His Light for eternity?

Why would we want to choose what is self-destructive and meaningless and toss out what is good for us and meaningful?

Why do we want a bad life when we can have a good life?

The love we have to work with is conditional and provisional, but God's love has no limits or conditions—only that we receive it. Like any gift to be brought to a person, he/she has to reach out, open it, and use it to make it work. So it is with God's grace. Therefore, we are the ones who put conditions upon His most marvelous gift of love and grace!

Remember: God's love is not the love of our feeble standards. His is real and effectual!