Thursday, May 21, 2015

Something To Smile About

Hey Friend,
When I first started receiving pictures of the children who had begun coming to Redeemer Christian School, it struck me that, in all of the pictures, none of the children smiled.  Their faces were sullen; their eyes were hollow and distant; despair seemed to literally ooze from their pores. 
Why weren't they smiling?  Living in the US, I have loads of pictures of my children laughing, smiling, giggling with delight.  I see pictures everyday of happy kids on Facebook.  We giddily all say, "Cheese" before a picture is taken.  It's easy to smile when your belly is full, you have a roof over your head, you know that you can safely walk or ride your bike down the street in your neighborhood, or you are securely tucked into bed each night by your parents.
But...what if you have no parents?  What if you are an orphan and roam the streets each day begging for food?  What if each night is spent in a different place and your hope is that the next morning you will be alive?  What if you fear walking down the street because you have seen others your age snatched and sold as sex slaves to extremist terrorists or recruited into jihad seminaries?  What if you went to God's house...the church...only to see your neighbors blown to bits by Islamic extremist suicide bombers?  What if you witnessed youths, professing to being Christians, being burned alive in broad daylight in the streets and the officials doing nothing to stop it?  What if?
Some people have asked me, "Why do you care so much about these people in Pakistan?"  I can appreciate an honest question. I openly admit that when God called me to this ministry, I said, "Who me? You want me to do what? where?"
I had all the perfect excuses...but I began to see the director, the teachers, and the children as real God's children. 
 Would I, as their parent, want to see my innocent daughters with swollen, pregnant bellies because they had been passed from fighter to fighter to gratify lustful desires?  Would I want to see my sons' minds brainwashed with glorified dreams of suicide missions?  Would I want the messengers of my Word rounded up in raids in the middle of the night and thrown in jail and the key thrown away as well?  No...I couldn't rest well knowing that this is going on.  I could not continue to turn a blind eye or keep my head buried in the sand.
In Matthew, Chapter 25, Jesus relates the story of the sheep and the goats.  In this apocalyptic text, Jesus relates:
"All the nations will be gathered before him (the King/the Son of Man), and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." (verse 32)
The people question why and how they are being divided...
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'" (verse 40)
Then, furthermore, He adds...and this is the part that makes us squirm...
"'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'  Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (verses 45-46)
The interpretations of this part of scripture about "doing for the least of these brothers of mine" go from the narrow:  what we do for our Jewish brothers and sisters - the Nation of Israel, to a broader sweep:  what we do for messengers and missionaries spreading God's word, to an even broader brush stroke:  what we do for the poor, the orphans, the destitute.
I'm not even going to pretend to know fully the mind of God and how the King will choose to interpret "the least of these".
All I do know is that I want to be counted among the sheep whose inheritance is eternal life.
Back to the childrens' faces in pictures.  The faces of those who enter the doors of Redeemer Christian School are beginning to soften into smiles.  They are being ushered into the throne of God's great grace, and love, and mercy.  When they learn that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them and a Savior, Jesus, who loves them enough that He was willing to die for them to give them eternal life in paradise...a life far removed from the destitution that they know and live each day...they have reason to smile. 
Though the world outside may be thick with evil, they begin to taste and know that He is good.
I have learned so much from the director.  As a messenger of Christ, he cannot find employment to supplement the school.  He moves from place to place and sleeps restlessly because he must be ready to flee if they come to round up Christians in the middle of the night.  He goes without meals and sells his few belongings to survive.  He knows he has a target on his back...
But, yet he smiles...
Why? Because he knows his Savior.  He knows the Truth that will ultimately set him free.  He knows the Hope that is within him is faithful, constant, and true. 
The example of his faith has stretched and challenged mine in ways I never dreamed imaginable.  He has shown me what a valuable treasure I have in having the gift of God's grace.
I merit it (grace) not, but He (God) gives it anyway.
I stop to ponder...if I had an empty belly, no roof over my head, extreme fear when I walk down the street, but I did know that I have one thing...God's grace, would I be able to smile?
Dear Lord, Thank you for lifting the veil from our eyes to truly see what is going on in this world.  We lift up the messengers of Your Word and the children to whom they teach it and ask for a hedge of protection be placed around them.  Thank you for the refuge that RCS has become for these destitute children.  Let your light and love continue to grow deep into their hearts and let the joy of the hope they now possess be reflected in their smiles.  Move us, Lord, to care for the "least of these" in the same way that You do.  Thank you for our many blessings.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
Be blessed...
If you wish to come alongside Redeemer Christian School in providing a haven from the evil that surrounds them and to let them know that God's people love and support them, would you consider making a donation to the good work of the school?
Donations can be sent/made out to:  Bev Rihtarchik/RCS 
                                                              103 Silver Lining Lane
                                                              Cary, NC  27513
Please, please, please pray for God's protection to surround them!
Thank you.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Got A Case Of The "What If's"?

Hey Friend,
I know I'm a day late in posting.  As a friend of mine says, "Sometimes life is just life."
I've had a case of the "What if's" lately.  One year ago, I had surgery to fix a couple of things that were wrong with my foot and causing me much pain.  Not long after recuperation, I realized that something different was wrong with my foot.  Reassured that time and some cortisone shots would do the trick, I kept on.  Many months and additional opinions later, I was told that I had a rare post-operative nerve problem.  I was given my options...selected a very painful, but potentially successful,  course of action...waited...and now the pain is worse than ever.
What if?  I ask myself, the pain never gets better?  What if this is as good as it's going to get?  What if I'm never able to walk without pain again.  What if?
Maybe you have some "what if's"?  What if my marriage can't be saved?  What if the kids don't stop bullying my child at school?  What if he/she won't stop drinking, doing drugs, (fill in the blank)?  What if my husband can't find another job?  What if?
The words, What if?, are an invitation to worry.
When I ask the question, What if?, I have initiated the worry cycle.  My humanness combined with the enemy whispering in my ear, most often takes me to the worst case scenario.  I'm not sure why, but it just happens that way.
God does not want us to live in worst case scenarios.
God doesn't...but the enemy sure does.  Why?  Because if he can get us caught up in our worrying, then we are rendered ineffective in building God's kingdom.  The enemy wants us all on the disabled list.
That is why Paul exhorts the Philippians to pray when worry and anxiety arise.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 4:6-7)
So many times I've read these verses, but yet new meaning keeps coming out of them.  I believe that anxiety and prayer are two great opposing forces in the Christian experience.  I also believe that thanksgiving is the antidote to worry.
God does not promise that, if I pray, all my problems will disappear.  What He does promise is, that if I cast my anxiety on Him, He will take my burdens and put in their place a peace and tranquility that transcends all understanding.  God always answers prayer.  It may not be with the answer that we want, but He will indeed answer. 
Often the circumstances may not change, but we will be changed in the circumstances.
I've also begun to take a new look at what it means to pray with thanksgiving.  I suppose I've generally taken the approach that I present my petitions and requests before God and then when He answers my prayer (in the way He chooses), I thank Him.
What if, instead, I thank Him in advance for the way He is going to answer my prayer.  What if the thanking comes before the outcome?  I have found that this way of praying gets me to pray with hopeful expectancy instead of simply throwing up a prayer and waiting to see what happens. 
We are invited to come boldly before the throne of God and part of that boldness is from an attitude of thanksgiving for what He is about to perform.
Hmmm....prayer accompanied with pre-emptive thanksgiving...
"Our prayer and God's mercy are like two buckets in a well; while one ascends, the other descends."  (Arthur Hopkins)
I love this visual that prayer is active.  While our prayers rise up to God, His mercy is already descending to us.  God does not sit and think upon our prayers...He's already answering before we ask.
Perhaps that's why Paul follows up his exhortation to not worry with what we are supposed to think about.
Instead of asking "What if?"  we think about "What is."
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."  (Philippians 4:8)
In other words, kick the enemy's lying, worst case scenario, "what if" answers to the curb and instead invite in any thoughts that are excellent or praiseworthy.  God's not just saying "think happy thoughts".  He will enable us, if we ask, to redirect our thoughts to what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. 
He simply says, "Ask child...and I will help you."
Sometimes the best answer to prayer is not necessarily a change in circumstances, but instead is a change in perspective. 
That brings me back to my "What if's?" about my foot.  First, I had a good cry...(just being honest). Then I decided, I am going to try presenting my request before God..."God, I would like healing from this pain."  I am going to thank Him in advance for how He is going to answer.  Even if His sovereign answer is "No" for now, the ultimate victory in the end is a "Yes" and in the meantime His grace will be sufficient for all my needs.  I will choose to dwell on what is praiseworthy - all the times that God has been faithful to see me through trials in the past, and deep trust that God is always good.
I may have to repeat this prayer exercise many times...but that's okay...God desires to continually be in relationship and dialogue with us.
Dear Lord, When I am filled with the anxiety of the "what if's", let that be my cue to turn to you in prayer.  You know what I need even before I ask, so please help me learn to pray with expectant thanksgiving for what you are about to do.  Enable me to cast my cares upon you and instead be blanketed with your peace that passes understanding.  Remind me that all I have to do is ask and that you will respond in love...because you ARE love.  Thank you for your mercy, Lord.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
Be blessed...
ps. If you have a coin jar stash somewhere in your house...would you consider donating it to help the orphans at Redeemer Christian School?  If you are local, bring me your coins and I will gladly cash them in for you.  If you are not local, would you "cash in your stash" and send a check to:
Bev Rihtarchik/RCS
103 Silver Lining Lane
Cary, NC  27513
Thank you in advance...please, also, would you pray for a hedge of protection around the school because evil is at their doorstep?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Christ Is Enough: Back To Basics

Hey Friend,
It happens in all marriages...a disagreement starts, an argument ensues, emotions get thrown into the mix and then sometimes one, or the other, or both end up saying things they don't mean or things that they regret saying later.
My husband and I have been married for sixteen months now.  Like any couple, we've had our disagreements and have worked through them.  This is hard to share, but this week we got into a doozy of an argument.  Emotions ramped up (especially on my part), and some hurtful things were said.  Words, like toothpaste being squeezed out of the tube, you can't push them back in.  They're out there. 
I love my husband and I think he is the most wonderful man on earth, but he's human, and he said something that triggered some issues and feelings that I thought I had long since completely dealt with.  But, obviously this nerve could still be triggered. 
It became very clear to me that I still have some issues and fear (rational or irrational) about being abandoned.  My ex-husband had left me and our children not once, but twice.   The memories I have of the crushing feelings associated with betrayal, abandonment, worthlessness came flooding back like a raging storm.  I was gripped with intense anxiety and fear.  I knew I never wanted to go through that experience again or to have to feel those awful feelings another time in my life...
What I wanted right then and there was a written 100% guarantee that I would never be abandoned in my life again.
I wanted reassurance that I would never have to feel those terrible feelings again nor deal with the wounded spirit that came along with them.
One small problem...I wanted what I couldn't have.  Knowing and loving my husband as I do, I could cast my vote with probability that that would never happen, but when the enemy jumps onboard and starts whispering lies in your ear and your OCD starts spinning it over and over again in your head, it can become tortuous. The truth of the matter is that there is no 100% guarantee of anything in life. 
In times like these, I find that I need to scrap all the theological complexities and simply go back to basics.
Fortunately God drew me to a devotional that had been written that day by a very good writer friend of mine - Kelly Balarie - at
Her words spoke to my heart.  One simple line that Kelly wrote jumped out at me:
"Jesus is sufficient for all our needs."
I then claimed it for myself praying it, "Jesus is sufficient for all my needs."
Even if, worst case scenario, my husband were ever to abandon me, Jesus is sufficient for all my needs.  I thought back over my life and all the times that Jesus has seen me through things I thought I could never survive; I had a small wave of peace wash over me.  If He was faithful and sufficient then...then He will be faithful and sufficient in my future - whatever it may hold.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness."  (2 Corinthians 12:9)
The Holy Spirit pulled up this verse and brought it to mind.  A few minutes later I read it in the devotional Kelly had written.  I realized that the answer to all my worst case scenarios, to all of your worst case scenarios, is really very basic and simple...
Jesus and His grace is sufficient for me/you in all our needs.  When we are weakest, He will be our strength.
If I am left alone holding the bag in life...His grace is sufficient. Simple.  Basic.
In my distress another very basic principle in scripture came to mind:
God has said, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you."  So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid, What can man do to me?"  (Hebrews 13:5)
How many times have I read the scripture "I will never leave you, nor forsake you."?  Perhaps hundreds or more.  But right now I was clinging to these eight words.  Even if everyone in my life deserted me, God's promise still remained that He will never leave nor forsake me.  I could take that guarantee to the bank.  Combine this basic principle (I will not forsake you) with the first basic principle (My grace is sufficient for you) and a promise we can count on and live with is revealed. I was still very anxious but my footing was shifting from sinking sand to a rock that I could stand on.
We also have the power to tell the enemy - the purveyor of lies - to hit the road when he tries to undermine the truth. 
The truth is that God, my husband, and I together are a strand of three cords that is not easily broken.  How thankful I am to have God in the center of our marriage.
Then, God being God, raised up one of my favorite worship songs by Hillsong - "Christ is Enough".  Part of the song goes something like this:
Through every trial
My soul will sing
No turning back
I've been set free.
Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need.
The main line in the chorus is pretty straightforward...Christ is enough for me.
The truth came more sharply into focus.  Not only is Christ enough for me in any situation, but everything I need (maybe not everything I want) is in Him. 
If I have Christ in me, then I have everything I need to get through whatever life may bring...period.
This morning I read a devotion online that asked for prayer requests afterward.  My heart ached as I read everything from people dealing with cancer, illness, death, job loss, infertility, prodigal children, aging and ailing parents, homelessness, failing marriages, divorce, abuse (verbal, emotional, and physical), depression, anxiety, special needs children, failed family dynamics, you name it, the list went on.
Life, in this world as we know it, holds no guarantees.  In fact, just the opposite - the Bible tells us that in this world we will encounter trouble of every kind.
Christ is enough for me.  His grace is sufficient for me.  He will never leave nor forsake me.
I'm not going to tie this up with a pretty bow and say that all my fears were instantly relieved.  I still wrestle with my issues and fears, but in my fear, I can cling to some very basic yet powerful promises.  No matter what worst case scenarios come to pass in our lives we can know that:
Christ is enough and everything we need is in Him.
Lord, Thank you so much for your promises to me.  Thank you that when life and its problems swirl around me I can see myself as cradled in your strong and loving arms.  Thank you for your promise of sufficiency to me and for giving me a rock to stand on.  May I begin to grasp how wide and long and high and deep your love is for me and in that I would be able to experience love and peace that surpasses knowledge.  Enable me to claim the promise that no matter what, You are enough for me.  In Jesus' name, Amen.
Be Blessed...
Ps. Know if you are reading my blog...I am praying for you every morning and every evening.
Update on Redeemer Christian School in Pakistan:  I discovered, during an Easter fundraiser that raised funds to pay for Bibles in Urdu (which the children are LOVING), that MANY people have secret stash jars in which they toss spare change.  These jars have a way of accumulating many coins over time.  When a relatively small group of people added up our "stash" jars, we came up with $300. to buy Bibles for 30 precious children.
Challenge:  This Mother's Day weekend...would you consider going to a CoinStar or similar machine and have your "stash" converted to "cash".  Be a mother to these orphans and help us to purchase tables and chairs for them.  They currently sit on carpets for their schooling. 
Send cash or check to:  Bev Rihtarchik/RCS
                                       103 Silver Lining Lane
                                       Cary, NC  27513
***Please continue to pray for their safety!!  Thank you...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Why God Breaks Our Hearts

Hey Friend,
This post is totally not what I was intending to write on, but funny how God has a way of making His agenda known.
The most dangerous prayer I have ever prayed was Lord, break my heart with what breaks Yours.
The Lord, God answered that prayer and today I felt my heart breaking in two and I knew without a doubt that God's heart must be breaking too.  So why on earth would God want to break our hearts?  Doesn't he want us to have life and to have it abundantly?  Yes, to that too.
Ultimately, however, God cares more about our character than he does about our creature comforts. 
God ultimately wants to conform us to the image of Christ and if there was ever a man with a broken heart, it was Christ.
We may not be able to wrap our tiny minds around the concept that Jesus was fully God AND fully man.  The fully man part, we do get.  Jesus wept with those who wept.  He mourned with those who mourned. 
John 11:35 (the shortest verse in the Bible) says: Jesus wept.
It is the shortest verse, but perhaps the most telling and emotionally packed.  Jesus wept out of sympathy with those in tears all around him, as well as from a deep sense of misery that sin had brought on human nature.
So what happens when our hearts are allowed to be broken?
It gives us a glimpse into God's/Christ's compassion for us.  For perhaps the first time we see what they see and feel what they feel.
It draws us into a deep relationship/dependence/reliance on God.  Sad as it is so say, if we skipped through life with never a broken heart, we would not have a need for God.
It keeps us from being self-absorbed and self-centered.  When our heart is broken it forces us out of our self-centered universe and directs our attention onto others.
It allows Love to flow into/out from us.  When our heart is broken, we not only inhale, we feverishly gulp in God's love.  Once filled, we have reserves that are able to naturally flow out from us.
It keeps us expectantly waiting on joy - whether it's joy after a night of sorrow or the joy of eternal life.  Without the dark, we cannot truly appreciate the light.  Without pain and sorrow, we cannot truly experience joy.
I have several examples of how God has allowed my heart to break and why...
My experiences with depression and an anxiety disorder (OCD) have given me a heart for others who also suffer.  I'm afraid, that without my own experiences, I may have grown judgmental or intolerant - thinking it was a character weakness or lack of faith.
I think I have had enough injuries and ailments that have required numerous surgeries, procedures, and rehabs.  Having not been able to walk at all for a month gave me a new appreciation for the person who will never get up out of a wheelchair and walk.  I look at disabilities in a whole new light and renewed admiration for the lion hearts that lie beneath.
Had I not experienced the rejection and betrayal that infidelity and divorce bring with it, I would not understand the strength needed to be a single parent and deal with loneliness and isolation.
If I had never wept over a wayward child I couldn't begin to understand how God sees us when we choose our own destructive path over choosing his life-giving way.
If God hadn't allowed my heart to break over the injustice of the director of a Christian school in Pakistan and the children who walk down the street with targets on their backs because they follow Christ, I would not have the passion I have to fight evil wherever it exists. 
I no longer take walking safely down my street for granted, and I shake my head over those who continue to live with their head stuck in the sand.
Because, that's not how Christ lived...He allowed His heart to break for those who were/are hurting.
True that sometimes, oftentimes hurts is not for the faint of heart.
Ultimately though, when my heart has been broken it allows me to have love and compassion for others whose hearts have been broken too.  Together we can weep, but more importantly, then it gives me the opportunity to share the Joy and Hope that is in me.  What a glorious invitation that is to share that my one, true, Joy and Hope, lies in Christ and Christ alone.
This is the awesome story of Grace and that with broken hearts we can share with others whose hearts have been broken.
Jesus broke the bread saying, "This is my body, which is [broken] for you; do this in remembrance of me."  (1 Corinthians 11:24)
Lord, thank you for breaking my heart with the things that break your heart.  Thank you for allowing me to begin to see others from Your vantage point.  Help me to have a heart and a listening ear for those who are hurting.  Let the love that you have poured out on me, pour out onto them.  When invited, enable me to share, with joy, the hope that is in me.  Thank you for Jesus' body and blood that were broken and shed for me.  Give me a heart of gratitude.  In Jesus' name, Amen.
Be blessed...
ps. A little orphan girl named Noor recently came in through the doors of Redeemer Christian School.  Up until then she was a childhood slave forced to sweep and clean and do chores (a modern day Cinderella - only hers is no fairytale and there's no ball or Prince Charming).  But, she is being introduced to the Prince of Peace through the scriptures and is being given a chance at an education. Will you help keep the doors of the school open for her?
Send contributions to:  Bev Rihtarchik/RCS
                                       103 Silver Lining Lane
                                       Cary, NC  27513
Thank you...please, please pray for the safety of the director, teachers, and children!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What Is True Success?

Hey Friend,
Tonight, I am supposed to go with my husband to a fundraiser for the international organization "Dress For Success".  They are a wonderful organization doing good things.  Their mission statement is: "We promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to help them thrive in work and life."
One small problem...what if I, me, this woman who pecks away at her laptop wearing yoga pants and an old top with stains on it, doesn't feel like a success herself?  What if I look in my closet and because of the weight I have gained, I don't have anything to wear that I feel like I look successful in?  What if, instead of writing a donation, I feel like I should be the "poster girl" for the organization and maybe they could do a makeover on me tonight as proof that they can transform the untransformable?
Ok, maybe I'm a little melodramatic, but today I am feeling far from being a success.  What does it mean to be a success anyway?  For the vast majority of my life I have been a stay-at-home-mom.  When I accepted this blessing and the reality that this would be the hardest job I would ever undertake, I also accepted the fact that I would not be getting stellar job reviews with bonuses or pay increases for my hard work.  I would not be getting paid in cash for my tireless work hours.  There would be no "Number #1 Mommy of the Year" award plaques.  I was paid in much different dividends.
Still, I remember saying to others, "If my children grow up to have a close and intimate relationship and walk with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then I will consider myself a success."  Sounds like a great way to define success...right?  No, it wasn't cash in the bank, but it would be proof that I had done something right.  In seeking after that goal, I raised my children in the church.  I taught them scripture and tried to instill good values in them.  Jokingly, they used to call me "Bible Lady" because I had a scripture to go with just about any situation.
But here I am 28 years later and one of my children loves and walks with the Lord...the other does not. They are both children raised in an age of entitlement.  Am I not a success because I missed the mark that I shot for? 
Before I had children, I had a high paying, high profile job.  I wore business suits and pumps and even carried a briefcase.  One might say I was successful.  When my children were older I taught in a private Christian school and then in a Christian preschool.  I was helping to teach and raise up the next generation with a love of the Lord.  I thought I was successful.  Now, several surgeries later, I am an unemployed teacher/writer who owns multiple pairs of yoga pants.
My dreams of being a successful wife came crashing down around me when my first husband left.  My spirit was crushed and I felt like a miserable failure.  Definitely not success.  After a period in the desert, God blessed me with a wonderful husband and I have tried to return the blessing with a servant's heart.  This morning we had an argument that dragged up some of the baggage I still carry.  Maybe as a wife, I am still not a success??
Needless to say, I am under attack by the enemy today.  I've allowed him to get a foothold and he is scaling my fortress.  He knows the very buttons to push and the rhetoric to whisper into my head that will leave me feeling defeated and paralyzed - right where he wants me. 
These are my red flags that I need to not just walk, but run unto the Lord.  
What does His Word say?
King David, who was about to die, says to his son Solomon, "Do what the Lord your God commands and follow his teachings.  Obey everything written in the Law of Moses.  Then you will be a success, no matter what you do or where you go."  (1 Kings 2:3)
That was the definition of "success" in the Old Testament...still good principles to live by, but we are now under the New Covenant. 
In the New Testament Jesus declared the greatest commandment:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  There is no commandment greater than these."  (Mark 12:30-31)
Might this be the Biblical definition of "success"???
I let the words wash over me...nowhere does it say that my children have to walk with the Lord in order for me to be successful.  That was my self-imposed measureable goal.
Nowhere does it say I have to be the perfect wife, mother, daughter, friend.
Nowhere does it say I have to write a best selling book.
We set such high and complicated expectations of ourselves in order to feel successful, when really what God asks is rather simple...
Love God...
Love others as you love yourself...
And, the best part is that He doesn't expect us to do this perfectly.  In fact He knows we can't.  He's given us the key that starts the whole progression.
Receive the gift of salvation----->Transformation begins----->It's a process perfected by the work of the Holy Spirit----->We focus on and love the Giver of the gifts and pass those gifts on to others----->Success.
Though I am somewhat skeptical of online answers to Biblical questions...I liked what "Got Questions Ministries" had to say on the topic of "Success":
"Picture two hands.  In the right hand there are the offer of true contentment, the ability to handle life's problems without being overcome by them, amazing peace that sees us through all circumstances, wisdom to know what to do, knowledge and constant direction for life, love for others, acceptance of ourselves, joy no matter what, and at the end of life, an eternity with the God who freely gives all these gifts.  The other hand holds all the money and power and success the world has to offer, without any of what the right hand holds.  Which would you choose?  The Bible says, 'Where your treasure is, there also is your heart' (Matthew 6:21).  That which is in the right hand is the biblical definition of success."
Dear Lord, thank you for your promise that if I am in You, I am a new creation.  Help me not to define my success by the world's definition of success or even by my own definition.  Enable me to recognize the enemy's schemes and, in your power, bid him to get away from me.  Lord, I love you!  You are the giver of all good gifts.  Let me pass your love on to others and let that be my definition of success.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
Be blessed...
ps. Update on Redeemer Christian School:  Funds are still desperately needed to keep the doors of the school open.  The government and the few Christian schools that there are all charge tuition.  We offer a free education, sound Biblical teaching, and most of all HOPE to the poorest of the poor, the orphans and destitute children right smack dab in the epicenter of evil.  Please consider sending a contribution today that tells these children that they matter...
Send to:  Bev Rihtarchik/RCS
                103 Silver Lining Lane
                Cary, NC  27513

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Chance At Winning

Hey Friend,
I stood in line at the Customer Service desk at the grocery store.  I studied the man in front of me.  He looked rather disheveled.  His sneakers were old and tired; there were rips in his jeans.  He had a scruffy beard and a tattered shirt.  I could tell by his friendly banter with the customer service gal that he came here often.  Calmly, he laid down twenty five dollars in cash for lottery tickets.  I know the odds of winning the lottery are a zillion to one, but yet he regularly played.
When I was a teen, without me knowing it, my aunt somehow entered me in a beauty pageant.  I don't even recall which pageant it was - I just thankfully remember there was no swimsuit contest.  I do remember having this "push me, pull you" reaction to being entered.  I had always poked fun at these silly contests, but now that I was in one, I secretly hoped to win.  Isn't that crazy?  I appreciate my aunt's confidence in me, but once I got to the actual pageant, I realized that there were seasoned veterans of pageants there.  These girls were competitors and they were in it to win it. 
I had the wholesome looks of the "girl next door", but I was no rare beauty. I was Miss Congeniality material.  Total aside here, but I love it when Gracie Lou gives her answer in the namesake movie.  When asked why New Jersey is known as the "Garden State" she sarcastically replies, "Because the oil and petro-chemical refinery state wouldn't fit on the license plate."  Love that line! Much to the disdain of some of the seasoned girls I finished in the top ten finalists.  I have a dust covered trophy, buried somewhere in the attic, to prove it lol.
But, is there a contest that we not only have a shot at winning, we can actually be assured that we will win the prize if only we persevere?
"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 3: 13-14)
I am a studier of words.  In the Greek, the words "press on" are translated as "dioko" which means to pursue, or strive, or chase.  Dioko can also be translated as "to persecute"...hmmm...interesting.  Might it mean that we pursue the prize though persecuted along the way?  I wonder?  And what is this prize?  In those days it was laurel wreath crown...a prize for winning a footrace.   
Many times in scripture, our journey of faith is compared to a footrace. 
As Paul is waiting to die, he writes to the young Timothy: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith."  (2 Timothy 4:7)  and what does Paul tell Timothy that awaits him for his fight - his finishing the course? "The crown of righteousness". 
My daughter has been training to enter and run her first half-marathon race.  When I asked her what her goal was, she said she was not in it to win it, but wanted to finish the race in a respectable time and also to be able to  say that she completed it.  (I can see the 13.1 sticker on her car now).  My husband, a cross country competitor in high school and college, in the hills of Western Pennsylvania, will tell you that those races took dedication and perseverance.
But, what if the prize has already been guaranteed?  What if we knew for sure, that if we persevered, we would surely win the prize?  Is there a chance at winning this race?
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."  (John 3:16)
What if the "prize" is actually a gift that we just need to receive?  What if the ultimate race has already been won by Christ on the cross, and we need only to believe and we will receive the crown of eternal life?
What if our job is to simply finish the race?
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who Love Him.  (James 1:12)
Jesus stands at the door of our heart and knocks.  He does not force His way in.  We must be the one who opens it.
We may not like the rules
We may not want to relinquish control
We may think we are doing just fine on our own
But, what if we just believe Him and love Him?  What do the scriptures promise?
Not only a chance of winning, but the guarantee of the prize.
Now there's a race I want to run.  Not only is there a sure chance at winning.  Not only is there eternal life guaranteed, there is grace, peace, mercy, forgiveness, joy, and all the fruits of the Spirit.  To me this is a no-brainer!
What kind of love says, "Here, the ultimate sacrifice has been made.  It is finished!  The race has been won.  Just finish the race and love Me and the prize is yours for the asking?" 
The answer is...God's kind of love...
Lord, I am overcome with gratitude for your radical kind of love.  Thank you for the sacrifice you made, so that if I believe, persevere, and finish this race of life and faith, the prize is mine.  Though I may lose battles along the way, the ultimate victory is mine because of what you did for me.  Thank you for loving me enough to die for me.  Let me graciously accept the gift of eternal life, the crown of righteousness that you freely offer to me.  Blessed be Your name.  In Jesus' name I pray.  Amen.
Be blessed...
ps.  Update on Redeemer Christian School:  Please pray for the safety of the director, the teachers, and the children.  Just recently a young boy lost his battle for life after he was burned alive in the streets of Lahore, Pakistan because he confessed to being a Christian.  Now, more than ever funds are needed to help this small, but mighty school win out with its message of love in the epicenter of evil. 
Send contributions to:  Bev Rihtarchik/RCS
                                       103 Silver Lining Lane
                                       Cary, NC  27513
Thank you...
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If you have something on your heart that you would like me to specifically pray for, please feel free to contact me...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Journey From Head to Heart Knowledge

Hey Friend,
Sometimes I am disappointed that my "testimony" is...well...boring.  I have no dramatic stories of hitting rock bottom on drugs or alcohol.  I wasn't a runaway teen who got pregnant.  I have no story of God scraping me off the bottom of the barrel and suddenly seeing the light.  Though I celebrate these miraculous isn't my story.
I grew up in the church.  For as long as I can remember, we went to church every Sunday unless we were deathly ill.  I'd be sitting in the car, in the driveway, with my dad, with the engine running.  Impatiently he would ask, "What on earth is your mother doing?"  This was the Sunday morning routine.  In Sunday school I learned all the famous Bible stories.  As I grew older I was involved with youth group and choir and confirmation class.  Church is where I went every Sunday and Wednesday. I was the "good girl"...or a goody two shoes as we were known as back then.
I knew that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in a manger, that he grew up in the church, that he taught and performed many miraculous signs, and he ultimately died on the cross for my sins.  The only problem was, it was all "head" knowledge.  I knew the truth, but it didn't set me free.  I still tried as hard as I could to be good enough in God's eyes in my own strength. 
Someone said to me that it is more difficult to be saved from a place of pride than from a place of desperation with nowhere to turn.
But, wait, I wasn't prideful.  I wasn't haughty or arrogant or rude.  No, but I didn't have a full grasp of my need for a Savior.  I didn't commit heinous crimes; I did good deeds. Even in college I never "colored too far outside the lines".  What I didn't realize was that perfectionism, striving, trying to be good enough, trying to be perfect, are all rooted in the same thing - pride.  I somehow thought I had to earn my salvation or add to what Jesus had already done for me.  It wasn't about Him, it was about me.
When we fail to realize that, through Christ, not through ourselves, that it is "finished", we only have head knowledge. 
Even my view of God was askew.  I could relate to Jesus smiling in my Sunday school books, beckoning the little children to come to him.  But, God...I transferred my human understanding of a father onto him.  My dad, though a wonderful provider, was a disciplinarian.  He was a no-nonsense kind of guy who could often be critical.  There weren't a whole lot of warm fuzzies so I had trouble grasping that God delighted in me.  I had a healthy sense of fear of my dad and I transferred that onto God.
Jesus, however, I was smitten with.  When I was 13 years old in summer camp, I wandered away from the campfire.  Lying on my back and gazing at a sky filled with thousands of stars, I knew I needed His love, Jesus' love, in my life.  His was the love that I had so longed for. I invited Him into my heart.
That night head knowledge began its journey toward my heart.
Fast forward to the birth of my first child.  I was so looking forward to the birth of this baby.  We had waited four years after being married and were ready to welcome this miracle into our family.  What I didn't count on was that I would be slammed with a terrible case of post-partum depression.  It was also then that my OCD anxiety rocketed off the charts.  Depressed, anxious, not sleeping, not eating, in pure desperation I cried out to the Jesus of my Sunday school books. 
It was at this point, I recall crying into my pillow, "Jesus, help me!"  I knew I needed saving...I knew I needed a Savior.
I call this chapter in my faith, the chapter where the "rubber meets the road".  That day my faith took a big step closer to my heart.
Jesus answered in a big way.  I also started to believe Jesus' claim - that if you have seen me (Jesus) then you have seen my Father. God's essence is lovingkindness!
I could write a novel of the trials I've been through...further bouts with OCD/depression, secondary infertility, divorce, cancer scare, multiple surgeries...
Each time I called out to Jesus and once I knew I had God's love through the sacrificial offering of His son, I began to realize that I didn't have to keep earning God's love.  Each time, my faith took steps away from my head and toward my heart.
I have come to truly appreciate the verse Hebrews 12:2:
"fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith."
My faith didn't even begin with was a gift from Jesus.  In Hebrew, the translation for "perfecter" means "completer" or "finisher".  Jesus, as God, is the one who creates and sustains and finishes my faith.
When I depend on Jesus, He continues to guide my head knowledge to my heart.
"He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."  (Philippians 1:6)
I take heart that the journey to heart knowledge is a process and in the process lies the promise of completion by our Savior.  My salvation was secured on the cross when Christ said, "It is finished."  And my faith, which Christ began, will be finished on the day when He returns.
Like Jesus had no way of detouring around the cross (He had to go through it), we have fears to face and trials to go through.  We can't detour around them; we have to go through them.  The miracle is, that as we go through them our faith will take one step away from our head, and one step closer toward our heart.
Lord, I thank you so much for the gift of faith that you began in me and for your promise that you will be faithful to complete it.  Help me to set aside my striving and my trying to be good enough in your eyes and to realize that God sees me as perfect through your blood that was shed on the cross.  Truly it is finished.  In the process of my faith being perfected, let me come to depend more and more on you.  You, and you alone are my Savior.  In Jesus' name I pray.  Amen
be blessed...

ps.  Update on Redeemer Christian School:  For safety reasons I am hesitant to put too much information out on social media.  Let me just say that we are in desperate need of financial support.  Out of fear for their lives, many Christians have had to abandon their jobs.  Our school's director who depended on his income and savings (along with our support) from another job to support the school, now has no financial means to support himself or the school. For now, it is up to us.  We need financial help to enable him to secure a foreign work visa as well as funds to see to the ongoing expenses of the school.  The children are safe, but if you would PLEASE pray for the safety of our director and the school and for a way to be made for him to secure an income, I would be so grateful. If you are able...and time is of the essence...please send a donation to keep the school afloat. I know our God is able to bring beauty from these ashes of evil, violence, and terror.
Send check or money to:  Bev Rihtarchik/RCS
                                           103 Silver Lining Lane
                                           Cary, NC  27513
This is something tangible we CAN do to combat the evil that is rampant in our world.  The orphaned and impoverished children at RCS need our help...thanks!