Thursday, October 8, 2015

Would Jesus Take A Selfie??

Hey Friend,

I recently read an article in "The Washington Street Journal" by Robert Scherrer, a college professor.  I'll explain later just what this has to do with selfies, but read this really had me laughing.

(begin quote)
College Visits:  When did looking for a college turn into a modern version of the 18th-century Grand Tour?  The first time I saw my college was when my parents dropped me off to start my freshman year.  Now a college search involves traipsing the width and breadth of the United States.  All this, when getting information is easier than ever.  My children can go online and learn the course requirements for any program at any university in a matter of minutes.  They can look up the content of every class offered, and check out which ones are scheduled late enough to let them sleep until noon.  So why the cross-country junkets?

The Answer:  the elusive idea of "fit." A prospective student is supposed to step onto the college quad, be struck on the forehead by a ray of light, feel a sense of divine inspiration, and say: "Yes I have found It.  This is the place I belong."  Do you want to know my definition of "fit"?  A good fit is a college that your parents can afford with a strong program in the field you want to study.  Plus a place to buy Cheetos at midnight.   (end quote)

Not long before I read this article, I was "blessed" enough to see a video-gone-viral of some college sorority girls at a baseball game...humor me and take a gander won't you?

I must admit, I'm not big on selfies of myself.  It's either "ooohh"... bad hair day..."uh oh"...wrinkles like the grand canyon..."oh dear"....turkey gizzard neck..."my-oh-my" nose looks huge.  The only redeeming quality is that you can't see my tummy roll in most head-shot selfies lol.

But seriously, what do the snippet from the WSJ and the video have in common?

The emphasis on "I", "Me", and "Where does the center of my universe lie?"

What can my university do for me, instead of what value can I add to this university??  Big difference.

So, do I think Jesus would take a selfie???  After all, a cool gangsta pic with the lame man, now walking, would probably get a lot of "Likes" on Facebook...

But, No, I don't think Jesus would take a selfie and here's why....

Jesus does not need to draw attention to himself or build himself up.  After all He's part of the triune Godhead of the Universe.  He doesn't need anyone's likes or dislikes.  He really doesn't NEED anyone or anything at all.  He is the Alpha and the Omega.  He is the great I am!

What Jesus is truly about is others and in particular reaching out and touching others.

I counted at least 20 miracles in the Bible where Jesus stopped, reached out and touched or was touched, and in doing so...He healed. 

Jesus literally forgot about himself and was focused on the needs of others:  a man with leprosy, blind men in Capernaum, a woman who could not stand straight,  a sick boy, the dead son of a widow, a lame man, and others with diseases too many to name.

His hand followed His heart...and His heart was truly with others. 

Even in His miracles of healing, it wasn't just about healing that one person.  Jesus' miracles were symbolic...meant to enlighten all sinners who watched and who also needed saving.  See if you can see the symbolism in the account of the blind man just out side Bethsaida:

They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.  He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.  When he had spit  on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?" 

He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around."  Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes.  Then his eyes were opened, his sight restored, and he saw everything clearly.  Jesus sent him home, saying, "Don't go into the village."  (Mark 8:22-26)

Here's Jesus opening the eyes of the blind...both literally and figuratively. 

Wouldn't this be the best moment for a selfie?  Everyone joyous, smiling, SEEING!!  But no, Jesus sends the man on his way and, furthermore, tells him not to go into the village.  In other words...don't cause a commotion or broadcast what Jesus had just done.

Jesus is, in essence, the "anti-selfie".  God, Jesus' Heavenly Father, is at the center of Jesus' universe, then comes others, then comes himself.

We are all selfish and vain creatures to a certain extent.  Left alone in a large empty room to think, we soon start thinking about our own problems and the thoughts turn inward. 

What if, for a moment, we thought about the people outside the room, on the other side of the door, on the other side of the globe? 

What if instead of focusing inward we turned our hearts outward and THEN let our hands follow in order to touch those who then we see.  Those who need us to do something?  What if?



Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for being all about, and consumed with myself.  You created me first - to love You.  Then you said - love others.  Help me to rearrange my priorities to be aligned with Your heart.  Help me not only to see, but to be brave enough to reach out and extend a helping hand.  There are people walking around blind.  Give me courage to share the Good News that would open their veiled eyes.  Where there is disease, and death, and dying, let me shine light, and love, and hope. In short, help me to be more like Jesus.  It is in His precious name that I pray, Amen.

Be blessed...

Ps. Next week I will be attending the Allume Conference for Christian writers and bloggers so I will not be posting.  I pray that I will return renewed and rekindled with ways to share His love.  I invite you, in the meantime, to peruse the Archives...

Update on Redeemer Christian School:  PRAISE!  I spent a lot of time this week working on matching 30 orphaned and destitute children at the school with their sponsors who have committed to sponsoring them for this year.  What JOY!  We still have so many needs:  tables and chairs (so the children don't have to sit on carpets on the hard ground all day), printer, projector, textbooks, 2 laptops for 30 children to share, notebooks, art supplies, etc.  ***Contributions toward the $400 filing fee for 501c3 status***

Our ultimate dream is to have our own building...we believe in miracles!

If you can help out in any gift is too small...would you visit us at the "MISSIONS" tab and consider reaching out and touching?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Why Encouragement Is Crucial

Hey Friend,

I follow through on my promise to readers... I pray every morning and every evening for those who take the time to read my blog.  I admit that when I look at the statistics of where, around the globe, readers are tuning in from, my heart leaps because I wonder if perhaps I am introducing the gospel of the Good News to someone for the first time?!  Bringing new believers into the fold is truly exciting stuff!!

This last time, when I was praying for readers, I distinctly felt God telling me that it's crucial to build up the body of believers...those who have already claimed Christ as their Savior.  Be they new believers, or people who have believed for decades, I felt God's strong urging that THESE are the ones I need to build up today. 

Why is it so important to build up believers?  I don't think God was saying not to care about unbelievers, but His emphasis, at this point in time, was definitely on those who claim Him.

Believers are doing Kingdom work.  They are about doing God's work and building His kingdom and thus have a giant target on their backs. You could say that believers are marked men and women.

In almost every sport you have your star athletes...the ones that the opposing team is doing everything within their power to disable and render ineffective.  This is what the enemy does with star believers.  He targets them.  He seeks them out and his aim is not only to isolate and disable, but to destroy. 

Rest assured...if you are doing things to advance the Kingdom, you have a target on your back.

The enemy has studied you.  He knows your Achilles heal.  He knows just what buttons to push.  He knows what words and thoughts will play into your insecurities and bring you down. 

There is a myth that Believers are immune to the attacks and schemes of the enemy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

We (believers) know that God is on our side and on the side of other believers. I believe this lulls us into thinking that somehow we are immune to the enemy's attacks.  We have God's word as our sword and a whole suit of armor to put we should be invincible...right?

Yes, we are more than conquerors, but that doesn't mean that the enemy is unable to injure or disable us in some way.  This side of Heaven it will always be a battle.

I have an anxiety disorder (ocd).  During a recent episode, you better believe that the enemy came along to kick me when I was down.  He knew exactly which buttons to push.  Even though I fought back with God's truth, His power, and His strength, I was battle weary when it was all said and done...not much use to anyone. 

What then can we do??  I believe the first thing to do is to recognize when we are under attack.  My dad used to have a saying, "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...chances are it IS a duck."

For me it has meant learning the "red flags" that the enemy is at work:

     * Does the thought bring on anxiety, fear, depression, or despair?
     * Do the thoughts that come condemn me and produce guilt?
     * Do the thoughts make me feel insecure or incapable?
     * Do they in any way make me feel like a failure?
     * Do they suck me into the comparison trap?

If I can answer "Yes" to any of these questions...I know the enemy is at work.  Recognition is the first cue that we need to run to God. 

The Lord says, " I will fight for you, you need only to be still."  (Exodus 14:14)

Also as brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to recognize the enemy at work in others...and then draw near with compassion and encouragement.  Here are some things we can do:

     * Tune in when others are talking and truly listen.  Ask probing questions.

     * Be present and intentional in your time together.  Don't assume because
        they claim Christ that they aren't struggling...we ALL struggle.

     * Ask How are you doing...REALLY?  and What can I specifically pray for you
        you? (Asking for specifics helps us get at the heart of the problem)

     * Never assume that another Christian is not under an attack and has it all
        together 24/ just ain't so!

Believers are often the last to admit they have a problem or are struggling because they feel it shows a lack of faith and trust in God. 

No one...I mean NO ONE is immune!!

I have been trying to examine my words to see if they:

Build up vs. Tear down?

Aggravate vs. Edify?

Suck the life out vs. Supply or breathe Life in?

Whether we are talking to believers or non-believers, here are some scriptural litmus tests that I use to evaluate what is about to come out of my mouth.  I hope they will help you as much as they help me...

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word aptly spoken. (Proverbs 25:11)

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  (Hebrews 10: 24-25)

**My emphasis on "not neglecting to meet together".  No believer is an island and I KNOW that I have to meet with other believers to share my joys, my struggles, and to receive encouragement.  We need to be the hands and feet of Jesus to one another!!

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

Let no unwholesome (corrupt/rotten) word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace (build up) those who hear.  (Ephesians 4:29)

Finally: "Greater is He who is in you/me than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4)  Take heart believers!!

It is absolutely crucial that we take the time to build up the Body of Believers and allow ourselves to be vulnerable so that others can build us up.  Putting on masks or facades of everything being "fine" really hurts our mission in the long run.  How can a doctor help you if you don't tell him where it hurts??

Also, non-believers will be more enticed to explore a relationship with Jesus if they see believers being authentic encouragers that take the time to build each other up. 

No one wants to join a country only to remain being an island...

How can you build up and encourage other believers?  How do you need to be built up?  Where do you run when under attack?

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you that you don't leave me alone to fight battles when I'm under attack.  Some days I don't cope too well and your tender voice tells's okay...I am here.  "I will uphold you with my righteous and faithful right hand."  Thank you Lord for your promise that if I am still, You will fight for me.  Help me to identify the attacks of the enemy in myself and in others.  Help me to take the time to encourage and edify others so that they might be lifted up along the way. Enable me to be vulnerable so that others can pray for defenses in the places where I am weak.  Your love brings life, O Lord.  Help me to breathe in that life and to speak it into others.  In the name of your precious son, Jesus, I pray.  Amen

Be blessed...

Ps. Meet Adil.  Here are pictures before and after he came to Redeemer Christian School.  For only $10/month you can enable him to stay in school where he finds, light, love, and hope.  There is no future for the orphans of the streets. Much danger awaits there.  Please bring the love of Jesus and the hope of an education to Adil and other children like him. What if your child couldn't go to school?  Wouldn't you want someone to enable him/her to go?

Please visit the "MISSIONS" tab to donate.  We can make a difference one life at a time!!  Will you prayerfully consider becoming a sponsor?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

When You're In The Eye Of The Storm

Hey Friend,

I lived in the Midwest for five years with my family...right in the heart of tornado alley.  I vividly recall the weird greenish cast the sky would take on when a storm was headed our way.  That was usually my cue to turn on the weather channel and watch for any watches or warnings we may be under. 

Sure enough the winds would start building and the clouds would take on an ominous appearance.  I've lost track of the number of times the dreaded, but necessary, tornado sirens would go off.  My daughter, now grown, is still traumatized by sirens of any sort.  Thankfully we had one of the few basements on our street so my neighbors knew that when the sirens went off, to just come over and come in, and we'd all meet in the basement. 

We'd try to talk calmly among ourselves as the kids busied themselves with toys in the basement.  It was called putting on the fa├žade that all was okay so as to avoid sheer panic and tears.  We could hear the wind whipping into a frenzy; the wind would whistle through any miniscule cracks around the windows and doors.  We'd listen to the battery operated radio as to the tracking of the storm.  There were some very tense times when tornados were, indeed, spotted and were tracking in our direction.  We'd watch the time and tick off the minutes as danger approached. 

It always happened, though, that just as quickly as the wind and noise grew to a crescendo, all of a sudden an eerie silence would settle in.  You knew the wind had stopped and all was painstakingly still.  We knew then that we were in the eye of the storm.  Kind of ironic that in the center of this massive, swirling, storming entity, was a safe and quiet place known as the eye. 

This past week, I have been in my own personal tornado.  Just a month off knee surgery, I was hit with a pretty sudden and scary setback.  I was already weary from dealing with some other personal issues and was grieving the possibility that I might have to put my beloved, senior gal, Zoe to sleep.  Her barking has grown incessant at times.

Enter my anxiety disorder and the enemy lurking to kick me when I was already down, and I was a sitting duck... a ready made disaster, waiting to happen.  To say that I came unglued was an understatement.  I was a complete and total mess!

In the middle of it all, one of my beloved blogging friends emailed me and ended her loving message with this scripture:

"Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand....

For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, who says, 'Do not fear, I will help you.'"   (Isaiah 41: 10,13)

Though I know this scripture, I wrote it down on a small piece of paper and I carried it around with me everywhere.  By the end of a few days it was creased and crumpled from being opened, read, and meditated on too many times to count.

Deep down I was having a confidence crisis...doubting myself and doubting that God is who He says He is and does what He says He will do.

OCD (anxiety disorder) is justly named "the doubter's disease".

**I am interrupted as I am writing this post to hear the shocking news that the youngest son of wonderful, loving parents in our congregation just took his life...death by his own hand. 

He had served a long tour overseas in the military and wrote, in his final message to his parents, that he could no longer live with the horrific images that filled his days and nights with atrocities (murder, killing, torture, abuse, rape) that he could no longer push away.  The victim of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), the only way he could find peace was to end the agony.**

THIS is a STORM.  What his parents are facing right now IS A STORM.  They make my recent experience look a raindrop compared to a hurricane.  No parent should ever have to bury their child...

Now, more than ever, I am brought back to Isaiah 41.  WHERE IS GOD IN LIFE'S STORMS? 

God is in the eye of the storm...He IS the eye of the storm.

In this verse, above, when God says He will strengthen you...the verb implies that God will attach you to Himself.

For the first several months of my son's life, he was very fussy.  Much to others disapproval, I strapped him onto the front of me (I attached him to myself) with a baby carrier, and there and only there, he felt safe, secure, comfortable, peaceful, and calm.  

Well meaning people warned he would never learn to sleep in his own bed.  I'm pleased to report that my son, now 22, could sleep hanging upside down by his toes in a closet.

When attached to God...we can feel calm in the midst of the storm.

I pray those grieving parents will allow God to attach them to Himself...

God speaks with such tenderness in this verse.  When God says, "Do not be dismayed," that is derived from the Hebrew meaning "to see, or to look at".  In other words, He is saying, "Don't look about as one does in a state of alarm or danger."

"I will uphold you..."  I will enable you to bear ALL your trials. How?

"...with my righteous right hand."  This was a Hebrew mode of expression that meant that God's hand was faithful - His hand could be relied upon and counted upon. His hand had been faithful for generations.

"I am your God" = Covenant or Promise
     *You can depend on My love
     *You can be sure of My power
     *You will be comforted and supported by Me

God means so much what He says that He repeats it twice for emphasis...again he repeats His promise in verse 13. 

"Don't panic. I'm with you.  There's no need to fear for I am your God.  I'll give you strength.  I'll help you.  I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you." (The Message)

I think of baby lion cubs.  When they are heading for danger or trouble and can't hold on to their momma.  The mother lioness gently grabs them, with her mouth, by the scruff of the neck and removes them from the danger or trouble and places them gently beside her. 

I many times have I not been able to hang onto God, but in His unfathomable grace and mercy, He holds me by the scruff of my neck and pulls me toward Himself and into the eye of the storm where all is safe and calm.

Though the winds may storm and swirl about me, God says, "I have a firm grip on you and I'm never letting go."

God avenges, protects, and provides a way when no way seems walkable.

Are you in a storm right now?  Are the winds swirling around you and you've lost your grip on God?  If not, are you prepared for when the next storm will hit?  Where will you find calm?

Will you pray with me?

Lord, I lift up those parents who are groaning with grief.  Hold them with your hand and attach them to yourself.  I thank you that you promise and covenant with me that I can depend on your righteous right hand...that I can be sure of your power...that You will comfort, support, and hold me and never let me go.  I thank you that your grasp is firm.  Help me not to look about me at the storm, but instead to keep my eyes focused on you.  You promise you will fight for me if I only remain still in You.  I place my confidence and trust in You Lord...the One who never leaves nor forsakes.  Be with all those who desperately need You, Your hand, right now.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed...

Ps.  A TRUE STORY:  A little girl, about the age of 10, tends to a crying baby in a restaurant as the family she serves casually eats their meal.  She is their slave.  Her dress is ragged and her hair unkempt. Her eyes look sad and wistful.  She wears a tiny cross around her neck.  If she's lucky she will be allowed to eat from scraps on their plates when the meal is finished.  Even though she is a slave...she trusts Jesus.  Her dream is to go to school, but her mother (a widow) cannot afford the price for school.  Still she dreams of making something of her life.  I wonder if she questions where Jesus is as she looks at the atrocities happening to believers in her country?


We are two sponsors away from having full sponsorship for our current students who all have similar stories. (RCS shares the love of Christ with believers and non-believers alike). THEN...we can begin adding more students to our roster if people, like you, will let these children know that Jesus does INDEED care.

God calls us in Psalm 68:5 to be a father to the fatherless, a defender of help those who are oppressed, and do not have the power to help themselves...

$10/month will sponsor one child for one year.  If you want to give a desperate and destitute child hope...

Send contributions to:  Bev Rihtarchik (put RCS in the memo line)
                                   103 Silver Lining Lane
                                   Cary, NC  27513

Also a special fund is being set up to pay for 501c3 filing fees (we're working on it!!) Note if you want to earmark $$ for this fund.

Thank you...
 Meet Nisha.  She cried when she was sponsored and knew she could attend RCS.  This is a dream come true for a little orphaned girl who was cleaning houses to survive.  She is 10. She loves reading her new Bible in Urdu.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

When You Don't Feel Eloquent Enough

Hey Friend,

I was talking candidly with a friend of mine who is not a believer.  We had been discussing a lot of topics and then in a winding road sort of way we wound up on the topic of God.  I could sense it...I knew where this conversation was the dreaded "all roads/religions can lead to God". I felt my heart quicken because I knew I would need to say something.  But what if the something that came spilling out of my mouth wasn't eloquent enough?  In mere seconds I could become a star witness for Christ or I could be a dismal failure. 

My gut instinct was to immediately start talking.  After all, I am passionate about Christ, but this time I did something different.  I silently prayed, "Lord, give me the right words."  Then, I paused and took a deep breath, and thought for a second, and then slowly I began to speak.  I honestly can't remember exactly what I said, but I felt the power of the Holy Spirit bring to mind specific scriptures and very basic Biblical truth.

Luke 10:27 sprang to mind: 

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself."

We talked about how these were good principles to live by.  We talked about how killing in God's name does not follow these principles.  She agreed that whoever said this would be a good person to emulate.

The doorway was opened for me to share that this is what Jesus said to his disciples when they asked what one must do in order to inherit eternal life.  We both could agree that Jesus was a pretty smart man. 

I resisted the urge to launch into a theological debate about how Christianity is the only "grace" based religion.  That in every other religion you have to earn or work toward your have to be good enough.

Instead, I simply shared that I believe what's written in the Bible to be true.  And, in the Bible, Jesus says:

"I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."  (John 14:6)

After I shared that scripture, I did something really profound...I stopped talking.  I just let it rest.  I let Jesus have the last word.

The Holy Spirit had also reminded me of the importance to not just read, but to KNOW scripture.  I'm a work in progress.

As a writer and blogger, so many times I compare my words and how I say things to how others write and express truth.  I know some writers whose words, frankly, leave me breathless.  I read what they say and can only say, "Wow!"  It's easy for me to get down on myself because I don't write about God's Word and the power of Jesus as eloquently or as profoundly as they do, so why even bother? 

God, being the awesome God that He is gave me another nugget of wisdom after He showed me how powerful HIS WORD can be if I pause and pray before I speak.  This next nugget of wisdom came as I have been reading Paul's letters to the different churches.

I started with Romans, and part way into 1 Corinthians 1, I read in Chapter 2 these enlightening words from Paul (The guy who not that long before, was killing Christians for sport and is now writing letters that would shape the world's faith for centuries to come).

Paul to the church in Corinth:

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.


Paul's point is that unless the Holy Spirit works in a listener's heart, the wisdom and eloquence of a preacher (or writer) are ineffective. It was humbling to read that Paul, the author of much of the inspired Word, experienced weakness, fear, and trembling when it came to proclaiming the Good News.  Paul turns the whole idea of "our" eloquence on its fact...

If we resolve to make Christ, His life, and His teaching the sole subject of our words...then...the Holy Spirit can work in the hearts of our listeners. The Holy Spirit, not our words, does the convincing. Then, God is glorified...not us.

I don't know about you, but to me, that was a huge relief to know that someone else's coming to faith or growing in faith is not dependent upon my intellectual or oratorical ability.  It doesn't depend on how beautifully my words flow onto the paper.  It is really about sharing Christ (THE Word) and His words and then let the result be marked by the convincing demonstration of power by the Holy Spirit.

Yes, God can even use me!

I am truly learning that often, the less said the better.  I'm choosing more carefully the words I speak.  I am learning to pause and pray before opening my mouth or unleashing my fingers on the laptop keyboard.

I have also learned that people can argue theology until the cows come home, but they can't argue with my personal testimony of my personal relationship with Jesus and the hope I have within me, because of Him.

Basic, Simple, Truth, was good enough for Paul.  Certainly, it's good enough for me.

Be blessed...

Dear Heavenly Father,  I praise you because I am "fearfully and wonderfully made".  Your Word tells me that.  Help me to know that my words, whether spoken or written, do not have to be perfect or eloquent in order for the Holy Spirit to use them to work in someone else's life.  Help me to speak/write, just as I am, and trust the convincing work to you.  Let my focus be less on my words and thoughts and more on Jesus' life and teaching.  Help me to remember that there truly is power in your Word and it doesn't return void.  Encourage me to speak naturally of the joy that is within me because of the wonderful things you have done for me.  In Jesus' loving name I pray, Amen.

ps.  Just a reminder that I pray for all who read this blog in the morning and in the evening.  If there is something I can pray more specifically for you, don't hesitate to contact me...

Please check out "Missions" for updates on how we're doing getting sponsors for our precious children at Redeemer Christian School.  God is good...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Key To Living Life to The Full

Hey Friend,

Do you know that I still get a brochure, right around springtime, from a camp I attended and then worked at as a youth?  Not surprisingly, succeeding generations of campers return there each summer for two of the best weeks of their lives.  No surprise, then, that the camp is called "Summer's Best Two Weeks".  It is a Christian camp nestled among the rolling and lush hills of western Pennsylvania and it surrounds a beautiful lake. 

The whole camp is divided up into two teams, The Romans and The Galatians.  Campers are taught how to win...and yes, lose graciously and no matter what, give the glory to God.  They get to try their hand at things they might not otherwise get a chance to, like: archery, kayaking, water skiing, zip lining, white water rafting, etc. 

This is where I learned the acronym JOY:

in that order...

In all the things that we did or tried we were encouraged to keep in mind this motto:
"I am third."

"I am third", was a way for us to keep our priorities in place.  We are to love Jesus first, Others second, and You (meaning ourselves) last.

At the end of the two weeks when parents attended and awards and team ribbons were passed out, the last award given was the "I am third" award.  It was given to a male and female camper on the Romans' team and the same on the Galatians' team. 

I was not an athletic standout for other awards and ribbons, but my heart did indeed feel full, and yes I cried, when my name was called for the team Romans' female "I am third" award. 

I can honestly say that no first place award, trophy, or ribbon garnered either before or after that day, has meant as much to me as that award. It was humbling and rewarding to know that others saw me as someone who had Jesus as the Lord of her life and wasn't out to gain recognition for herself at all costs.

Is that to say that I never coveted the spotlight?  I would be a liar if "Me" first didn't pop out its ugly little head.  I'm human...we're all human!  I have chased applause, accolades, and awards, but you know, in the end they really left me feeling hollow and empty.

Long after I left camp, I have held onto the foundation in the scriptures from which the acronym "JOY" comes. 

Luke 10:27:  (Jesus speaking to the disciples) "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself."....

"Do this and you will live," (Jesus ends the greatest command with this).

Wouldn't our world be a much better place if we put all the squabbling over insignificant details aside and went back to these basics?  We would not murder, or steal, or cheat, or lie if we were loving the Lord first and loving others as we love ourselves. 

What if, after lifting the name of our Lord Jesus on high, our next priority would be to build up, encourage, and edify others?  What if our priority was not on promoting ourselves, but was, instead, on cheering others on from the sidelines?

Some martyrs out there are good at the "Jesus" and "Others" part, but they would only have "JO" if they stopped there.  God does not want us to ignore and not love ourselves.  Far from it...we are the crown jewel of His creation...created in His very image...given a mind that can relate and be in relationship with Him.  Oh how he wants us to take time to love ourselves and enjoy all of Creation that He has so lovingly given us.  Add in that "Y"!!

He wants us to crawl up onto His knee and let Him love on us.  That, my friends brings God joy.

Getting life in order: Jesus, Others, You...JOY!!  That not only brings us joy, but, I have found, it is the key to living life to the full...

Be Blessed...

Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you for who you are and for all you have done for me.  I am so humbled, God, that you put me before yourself and gave your only son to be a sacrifice offering for my sins so that I could live with you forever.  Help me to imitate your sacrificial giving by putting Jesus first, others second, and then let me be third.  Let me learn to live life to the full by lifting Jesus and Others up.  Let me find the joy that comes from putting others before myself.  Let me be the one to wash another's feet.  Humble me Lord I pray.  In Jesus name, Amen

ps. Update on REDEEMER CHRISTIAN SCHOOL: I am thrilled to report that 24 of our 30 current students have been sponsored for the upcoming school year.  That leaves 6 students that still need someone to lovingly sponsor them. 

For only $10/month you can take an orphaned or destitute child out of harm's way; give them the hope of an education, and the beautiful love of Jesus.  You can pay in installments.

If we sponsor all 30...we have room for more children and many are coming to our doors but are having to be turned away.  With more sponsors we can add children to the school and literally save their lives. 

Will you save the life of one of these precious ones?

Donations can be sent to:  Bev Rihtarchik (write RCS in memo line)

                                           103 Silver Lining Lane
                                            Cary, NC  27513

*We are working on being registered as a 501c3 non-profit organization. 

thank you...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Struggle With Pride? Who Me?

Hey Friend,

I remember in my teens, twenties, and even into my early thirties, when the minister would begin to preach a sermon on "Pride", I took that as my cue and my invitation to tune out.  After all, I didn't think I had a problem with pride.  I tended not to boast.  In general, I wasn't rude, haughty, or obnoxious. If anything I was insecure, but not prideful.  I was the "poster child" for being a people pleaser.  I really didn't think that I had a problem with pride. 

Funny thing with pride - when you think that you don't have a problem with it, that's usually when you do.  Pride is sneaky.  The enemy uses it in his arsenal to isolate and separate us from God.  I would like to be open and honest and share with you some of the areas of my life in which I have wrestled with pride.  Perhaps one or more will resonate with you, and if I can spare you the time and expense of recreating the wheel, then my efforts will not have been in vain.

Pride ironically sounds a lot like the word "pry".  I have seen that God has had to "pry" my clenched fists off something or someone I was holding onto much too tightly. 

Pride does takes hold and it doesn't let go.

From early on, I lived in performance mode.  My life was about achievement, accomplishment, earning, and striving.  I wasn't just in organizations, no, I had to be chairman, captain, vice-president, leader.  Much like when my kids were toddlers, I wanted to be able to point to something...some achievement...and say, "MINE!!" 

One might ask where my "life arrow" pointed?  It certainly wasn't pointed toward God.  It was pointed right back at me...pride.  To this day, for example, I will look at the stats for my blog.  I see a wide global readership and there's still a part of me that wants to grab it in my fist, hold it up and say, "Look what I did!"  I am getting better at giving credit where credit is due and you know what?  There is a peace in unclenching my fist and being able to say...

"It's not about what I've done, but about what God is doing through me."

When God gets the glory...I get joy!

Pride gets caught up in the "doing", whereas humility is found in the "being".

For example...I am learning that, to be loved, I don't have to be anything other than God's daughter. 

I grew up in Sunday School learning about how Jesus died for my sins.  I knew, in my head, that it was His doing, not mine. 

Working out our salvation does NOT mean having to earn our salvation.

When Jesus died on the cross, it was finished.  The price had been paid.  Somehow though, I kept on striving to earn God's good pleasure.  By serving in multiple ways in the church and striving to be good, and righteous, and perfect, I was in essence saying that what Jesus did on my behalf wasn't enough.  I still needed to add to what He had done.  That notion is only one thing...pride. 

Once again, God was prying my fist off my "earned" salvation and humbling my prideful heart.

This same notion that I gotta do it myself worked its way over to guilt as well.  Again, I knew that Jesus died for my sins, but I found that I was beating myself over the head with my own guilt stick.  I would replay conversations in my mind that I knew were wrong and I would chastise myself.  In some kind of warped act of atonement I would continue to beat myself up for things I had done wrong.  In a weird way I thought this honored God that I took his commands so seriously. 

In actuality it was the same villain - pride again.  By doing this I was, in effect saying that what Christ did was not enough, that I...the great "I" had yet to do something more. I was missing the point that Christ came, not to condemn, but to set us free.

When the emphasis is on me...that's pride.  When the emphasis is on Jesus...that's humility.

Finger by finger, God was prying my clenched fist open.

Lately, I've been praying and researching how to make Redeemer Christian School a registered 501c3 non-profit without costing a boatload of money which we don't have.  I know it would certainly help with fundraising efforts.

Recently a friend from college, who actively supports RCS, said that perhaps she could help me in this area since she had the experience of starting her own non-profit organization.  I was elated to hear this news and my heart was light that day with a glimmer of hope, but then this nagging frustrated feeling slowly crept in.  I wondered what on earth was my problem?  Hadn't I just been praying about this?

There it was again...pride.  The pride of self-sufficiency or the idea that I can do this all on my own runs deep in me.  I was kind of upset with myself that I hadn't been able to figure this out on my own and I was going to have to rely and depend on someone else. 

If the words "rely" and "depend" take on a negative connotation to you...chances are good that pride has snuck in.

To be so totally self-sufficient that we don't allow ourselves to rely or depend upon others - to rob them of contributing their God-given gifts - is not only silly, it also reeks got it...pride.

I have grown, by God's grace, from a very "self-sufficient" relationship apart from God to one where I so rely and depend on Him that I know I can't do life without Him.  In peeling away these layers of pride, God has given me a peace, a security, and a freedom that I could never have imagined. 

The "letting go" is not just about projects and achievements.  It has also been about letting go of people; people that I had the prideful notion that I could fix or save.  Truth is, I can do neither. God may choose to use me in the process, but I am no one's savior. 

In fact, when I get my prideful self out of the way, then God really has room to work.
In short, I have learned that the "I" part of the equation just has to go.

Pride says: More of me and less of God...

Humility says: Less of me and more of God!!

I'd like to leave you with some scriptures that have helped me in this
journey...may they help and bless you as much as they have helped and blessed me:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast... (Ephesians 2: 8-9)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  (Philippians 2:3-4)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  (Romans 3:23-24)

"He must increase, but I must decrease."  (John 3:30)

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.  (Isaiah 64:6)

Be blessed...and know that God loves you, as He loves me - beyond measure.  Thanks to what Christ did, there is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus.  My sin of pride is forgiven and so is yours.  His love forgives and remembers no more.  As far as the east is from the west...that is how far your sins have been removed from you.  If you find yourself wrestling with pride like I have, confess it and then live in the light of His love and forgiveness.  I have and trust's a wonderful place to be.

Why you may want to sponsor a child:

Meet Adil, Anum, Mariam and Musa: Adil and Anum (brother and sister) are children of the streets.  Their parents are living but are too poor to support them.  They have never been to school.  They both feel so blessed to have a safe haven like Redeemer Christian School to come to where they feel safe and loved.

Mariam and Musa (sister and brother) do not have a mother - she passed away.  Their father is poor and can barely feed them.  There is no money with which to send them to school.  He says that he owes "a debt of his life" to the good people who are making RCS possible.  He is so thankful that by receiving the love like Jesus at school, his children are receiving love "like that of their mother."
If you would like to sponsor one of these children and continue to give them the hope of an education it only takes $10/month!!

Send donations to:  Bev Rihtarchik (put RCS in the memo line)
                                 103 Silver Lining Lane
                                 Cary, NC  27513

Thursday, August 27, 2015

You Are Where I Belong

Hey Friend,
I have been reading so many blogs, articles, and books that talk about how to get off the hustle-bustle, hectic rat-race treadmill we call life and find time for God.  Writers talk about gaining freedom from the hustled and hurried heart, and finding spiritual whitespace, and giving our soul room to breathe. This is all true.
I love what good friend and writer, Kelly Balarie said in one of her recent posts, "A busy heart doesn't sit down well with a still God."
Yet we strive on, doing and performing, and offering up the work of our hands in a glory-offering to God and we talk about needing to make time for God in our busy lives.
What if we took this whole notion and flipped it on it's head??
What if we viewed coming into God's presence as a privilege instead of an obligation item on our daily checklist?
Every time I go through one of my surgeries and recuperation periods, God brings some new revelation to me.  Why? because the stillness and inability to get around and out-run God, forces me to come into His holy presence and spend time there.  You want to know what I discovered this time?
My heart has a built in longing for God's glory that only time with Him can fulfill
It's been a long, long time since I have been truly overcome by God's presence
In days of old it was an honor and privilege (that few received) to get an audience with the King.  To be able to bend the King's ear with your ideas, grievances, hopes, and fears or concerns was...well...practically unheard of.  Few if any got to take their thoughts directly to the King. 
In the days of Israel, before Jesus' death, the temple was at the center of town.  The Temple court had three distinct parts.  There was the outer court where all were permitted.  Then there was The Holy Place into which only the ministering priest could enter, and last of all was the Holy of Holies.  This was the innermost sanctuary of the temple into which only the high priest was permitted to go once a year on the Day of Atonement.  A heavy veil hung down to separate the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple.  It was death to any man (even the high priest) if he dared to enter the Holy of Holies on one of the other 364 days of the year. 

To say there was a reverence for God was clearly an understatement.  People longed to draw close to God, but because of our sinfulness and His pure holiness, we could not look upon His glorious face. 

God, in His quest to restore relationship with His people, did the unspeakable.  The almighty creator of the universe who spoke the world and the stars into place, who wove us each uniquely together in our mothers' wombs, the Father who sent His one and only precious son to die a horrendous death so that we would be able to approach His throne, made the ultimate sacrifice one can make so that we, mankind, would have free access to God our Heavenly Father.

Listen to what happened the moment Jesus died and yielded up His spirit on the cross:
And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks split. (Matthew 27:51)

The veil that had separated God from man was forever split.  Thanks to Jesus Christ, we could now have access to God whenever we wanted to. Jesus' blood spilled so I could step into God's very presence and I find myself hard pressed to fit in time for Him some days???

Don't get me wrong though, God is not about guilt trips!!!  He is ALL about relationships.  No, this is not a guilt trip...just the opposite... it's an invitation to be lifted up, breathed into, and transported from the ordinary into the extraordinary.

In my quiet time, I have realized that too often I have been satisfied with a tootsie roll when God wanted me to have a Godiva bar.

I seek the autographs of mere men, yet I don't have adequate time for the God who writes my name on the palm of His hand.

God is right there, waiting, every moment of every day, at every breath we take...waiting to be invited in.  What King waits to be invited in?  Should we not be running to sit at His holy feet?

Behold, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:4)

What King do you know that keeps his drive through window open 24/7?  Yet we fail to come.

When was the last time you were truly overcome by God's presence that it took you to your knees?

When was the last time you danced because you stood whisper distance away from God's heart for you?

When was the last time you felt like you were where you truly His lovely dwelling place for you?

God is where I belong and my soul is not satisfied with anything less.

How lovely is your dwelling place, O, Lord.  (Psalm 84:1)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his holy name.  (Psalm 100:4)

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.  (Psalm 84:10)

Reverence, Humility, Thankfulness, Gratitude, Privilege, Honor, Worship

I have realized that these have all been missing from my life.  God continually invites me into His Gloriousness and I have, for too long, been too busy.  With conviction not condemnation I am being reawakened to the fact that in God's presence is where I belong.  O how He lifts my head when I call His name. What joy fills my heart in His presence.  What a privilege it is to bring my prayers, pleas, and worship before Him.  In God, my soul is transported.  No other "high" can touch this! 

Something I once tried to fit in...I now realize I can't live without!

Dear Lord,  I praise you that you lovingly usher me into your presence.  Let me never take it for granted again.  Thank you for reminding me that it is in your presence that I belong and what a privilege and a sacrifice it was to make that happen.  Humble my heart Lord and let the fire in my heart that burns for you never be snuffed out by the busyness of this world.  Thank you that no matter the time of day nor how far I roam, you are always a whisper away from being with me.  Let me enter you courts with praise and not miss the loveliness of your presence.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Be in His almighty presence today... 

ps.  Just a reminder that I pray for everyone who reads my blog in the morning and in the evening.  I am honored and humbled to bring the hope that is within me before you.  If I can pray for you more specifically, don't hesitate to email me.
"Missions Tab"
Please check out the children waiting to be sponsored for the upcoming school year at RCS in Pakistan. Just $10/month will see them through the upcoming year.

  With the evil that prowls around waiting to devour, we do not ever want to have to turn any child away.  Please join me on my "Missions" page for children waiting to be sponsored.  Will you prayerfully consider giving them the joy of Jesus and the hope that an education provides??