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...
Also, if you subscribe to my blog - that's all you will get is my weekly blog!  When you subscribe you will receive a confirmation email that you must respond "Yes" to.  This is for your protection.
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!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

When Everywhere You Turn There's Trouble

Hey Friend,

I lie in my bed and the slow whining begins.  I look at the clock and it's 4 am.  I know what's coming...the whining will continue until it crescendos into a full fledged agitated bark.  I try not to be angry or upset; after all, my senior gal Zoe just recently escaped a life threatening battle with severe pancreatitis.  She has doggie dementia and periods of agitated barking punctuate my day.  I know she can't help it.  I love her dearly, but it's hard to start each day this way.

Half asleep I get the coffee going and notice the ants are still here.  Under my breath, I curse them, "There's no crumbs here; go away!"  Four visits from the pest control company and we can't conquer these tiny giants.  I step on Topper's squeaky duck accidentally and, startled, I spill my coffee.  I wonder if he'll bring me a dead squirrel as a prize like he did the other day?

I robotically take my medicine for depression and ocd/anxiety that I have taken for many years.  Like Paul, I ask God many times to take away the thorn, but yet it remains.  Right now it (anxiety) is flaring due to exhaustion and stress. Pouring a bowl of cereal feels like climbing Mt. Everest on days like these.  I look at the long list of to do's for the day and sigh as I brush aside the dust that continues to build on my counters.

It's time to walk the dogs.  I slip one excruciating foot into my sneaker (the only shoes I can tolerate).  After months of waiting, the specialist told me I have a rare post-surgical nerve disorder that will require burning, freezing or cutting of the nerve.  None of the options sound fun.  My son texts me to tell me he's lost his temporary tooth (awaiting dental surgery).  He's at work so he asks me, please,  to make an appointment this morning to get him in at the dentist.  Of course I will have to drive him (another long story).  "Sure, I'll try," I say.

After juggling my schedule and dropping him back at work, I set in on my day's task of helping my "son-in-Christ" work on his resume.  I will make calls trying to help get him a life-saving work visa to get out of the epicenter of evil that is the Middle East.  He fears for his life because they are rounding up Christians, beating and torturing them, throwing them in jail for long sentences or killing them.  Every day he faces this evil and every day I tearfully try to turn my worry about him over to the Lord. 

Sure, I could go on...but do you ever have that feeling like everywhere you turn there's nothing easy, but only trouble?  It's the continual piling up of difficulties that leaves me feeling like I'm in quicksand and will never get out.  I'm afraid to look around the next corner for fear of what it might hold.  I feel small and helpless and afraid. 

"God calls us to hard places to prove our inadequacy."  (Shannan Martin)

I am a doer, a fixer, an initiator and God has brought my prideful self to a total place of inadequacy.

The one verse that keeps repeating in my head is 2 Corinthians 12:9:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

I know that the Lord is speaking here, but to whom is He speaking and why?  I go digging. 

Interestingly enough, in this passage, Paul is talking to the church in Corinth and he has just described asking the Lord to take away "this thorn in his flesh".  Like my ocd, Paul had something the Lord decided not to take away.  Instead the Lord says to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

If we are too self-sufficient, pride and conceit begin to build.  God is not glorified when man boasts of his own power and does things in his own strength.  No, God's power is made perfect in our weakness.

Paul goes on to say, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."

So why have I told you all my troubles?  Not for pity, but so that when God brings beauty from these ashes (and He will) that He will be glorified, not me.  Also, read the words "so that". I boast in my weakness so that Christ's power may rest on me.  My admitting my weakness, my inadequacy provides the ideal opportunity for the display of divine power.  Power comes when I admit my weakness.

When I reach the end of my self-sufficiency rope, it sends me running back into the arms of my Heavenly Father.

I come from a long line of stubbornness and I will try with all my might to do things in my power until I finally get to the end of my rope and there's nothing to grasp but thin air.  It is then, when I am weak and inadequate that I know I have no where else to go but to run into the arms of the Lord. 

It is in dependence and reliance on Him that I find strength and peace.

It is under His wings that I find my refuge...

This Easter I will find my strength and my adequacy in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ.  The power with which He overcame the grave and the power with which He defeats evil once and for all is power that is given to me by His death on the cross.  The power is mine for the asking...I need only lay down my pride.

Dear Jesus, thank you for being my very present help in times of trouble.  Thank you that in my weakness you are strong; in my inadequacy, You are sufficient.  Thank you for always being there with open arms when I get to the end of myself.  Erase my pride so that I might glorify You.  Thank you for what you did for me on the cross.  I love you Lord. To you be the power and glory forever.  Amen.

Be blessed...

ps.  Please, please continue to pray that God would place a hedge of protection around the school and its director.  Religious tensions are beyond "high" right now.  The good news is that Muslims are becoming disillusioned by their faith and are asking to get their hands on "The Book" in order to read what it has to say about "Issa" (Jesus) and His very different message about love, grace, and forgiveness.  God is good and His message of love, not violence, will triumph!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Can These Emotions Be Okay?

Hey Friend,

I must start this post by asking for your grace and mercy.  For the past week - ten days, Zoe, my senior pup, has been very ill.  I've been up with her most nights.  I've also had some health problems of my own and am quite concerned and worried about the situation in Pakistan.  My brain has been scattered and I imagine my words will be too, but if you can bear with me, maybe together we can gain some insight on this topic.

I know it was not coincidence that the night before I was to write about the topic of emotions, I had a knock-down-drag-out argument with my adult daughter.  I won't bore you with the gory details, but unfortunately I unleashed unresolved anger and resentment toward my ex-husband upon my daughter.  In her words and actions toward me, she was being (in my mind) just like him...thoughtless, disrespectful, unappreciative, callous and rude.  The venomous tongue lashing I unleashed was totally over the top and uncalled for. 

We'll talk more about this, but anger in and of itself is not "bad".  It is a valid emotion, but when left unchecked and unresolved, it can leave destruction in its path. It's what we do with the anger that matters.  I know I blew it!!

A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.  (Proverbs 29:11)

As believers we are filled with the Holy Spirit, but we are also filled, to a degree, with our own sinful spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit (Holy Spirit) is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Sadly, I was the fool who gave rise to my own sinful spirit (a fool gives rise to his spirit). I did not run my wrath through the filter of scripture and discern what is good and acceptable in God's sight.  What I let fly was foul, selfish, fool- fruit instead of the fragrant fruit of the Holy Spirit...BIG difference. I have since apologized and asked for forgiveness...

Before, however, we go condemning all emotions as bad or destructive...let's give this some thought.  I have always been an "emotional" person.  That's not to say I have more emotions than any one else, I just tend to let my emotions show more. Early on it was engrained in me to not "wear my emotions on my sleeve."  I was raised in a family of stoics.  Later on in life I was directed to books that talked about "managing" or "controlling" your emotions like they were in essence not okay, but bad. 

When God created each of us, He created us in His own image.  He breathed His very Spirit into us.

I believe that if we are made in God's image, then God must have emotions too.  One day I will know fully...

I believe that our emotions were originally intended to help us enjoy, serve, and relate to God.  They give us insights about the Nature of God.  They reveal our character and the nature of our relationship with God as we struggle to live in a broken world.  Example:  Sadness and anger are appropriate emotions to feel as we live in a world full of man's inhumanity to man.  I believe that God weeps when genocide is repeated decade after decade, generation after generation.

God created perfect man with perfect and valid's when they got mixed with sin (that man brought upon himself) that they gained the potential of turning ugly through our actions. 

Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.

Jesus - fully God and fully man - was sad and joyous and angry.   In Matthew, Jesus experienced righteous anger when He overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple.  He shared in joy at the wedding feast when, with His first miracle, He turned water into wine.  In the Garden of Gethsemane (before His arrest), Jesus didn't just shed a few tears.  No, with loud cries of prayer and supplication He shed tears of fear, sadness, and anguish at His Father's feet.  Facing an excruciating death on the cross, I can only imagine the emotions He must have been feeling??!!

Look up how many times Jesus wept...He let his feelings be known...

John 11:35:  Jesus wept.
Luke 19:41:  And when he (Jesus) drew near and saw the city, he wept over it.

Jesus claimed that if you have seen Him, then you have seen the Father.  Looking at Jesus and the depth of emotion that He poured out over the people He loved...the pious and the prostitutes, I believe we get a glimpse into the very soul of God.

Back to my anger issue...Ephesians 4:26 says, "Be angry and do not sin; don't let the sun go down on your anger.

To me, that says, go ahead and feel angry AND do not sin.  This tells me, I can be angry and still NOT sin at the same time.  Some of my anger may have been justified, but my response, my actions certainly were not.

So what's a person to do?

I like this quote by Reneau Peurifoy: "Yielding to the Holy Spirit transforms your inner being into what God intended it to be.  As this occurs, your emotions, desires and thoughts are transformed so they function more closely to what God intends."

Lord, thank you for creating me in Your image.  Enable me to let go of my sinful spirit and yield to Your Holy Spirit so that my emotions, desires, and thoughts are transformed by Your love to be what you intended. Help me to accept my God-given emotions AND to not sin at the same time.  Thank you for your grace and forgiveness when I slip up.  In Jesus' name.  Amen 

Be blessed...

ps. Update on Redeemer Christian School:  Reports out of Pakistan say that after the two tandem suicide bombing attacks on churches by Taliban forces, an angry mob of hostile Christians attacked and killed two supposed accomplices to the bombers.  (This is what happens when sin is attached to emotion).  Now Christians (many of whom were not affiliated with the attack in any way) are being rounded up, arrested and sentenced to long jail terms or worse.  Tensions are VERY high right now.  Please pray: for the safety of RCS staff and their families as well as the children.  May God provide a hedge of protection around them and protect the innocent!!  Now, more than ever, we could use your prayers and financial support.  Thank you.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

In The Face Of Evil

Hey Friend,

Ever since Sunday, when I received news of the two tandem suicide bombing attacks upon two churches 650 yards apart in Lahore, Pakistan, I could feel my heart in my stomach.  For several days I was rocked with feelings and emotions I didn't know I could have. 

Why?  Many in the world read the news with disdain or perhaps casual indifference.  It was another attack by the Taliban or ISIS in a part of the world that was halfway around the globe.  It wasn't on US soil or worse yet, in our neighborhood.  No, we were safe and busy filling in our brackets for March Madness.

So why did I find myself sobbing?  Incapacitated even?  Because I know people that lived in the neighborhood within a five minute walk to both of those churches.  I know names and faces and smiles and wide-eyed wonder that inhabits bodies that walk those streets.  I even know someone that was in one of the churches when the bomb detonated and blew body parts into the air.  I saw pictures of the aftermath.  To me, this was real...these were real people...God's children.

I challenge you...if I asked you to point to Pakistan or (most recently) Tunisia on the map, could you?

If not...why not?

In the Bible, Matthew 28:16-20 is called "The Great Commission".  In it Jesus is talking to his disciples -his closest friends and followers- and tells them in verse 19:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..."

What exactly is a disciple?  Easton's Bible Dictionary says:

A disciple of Christ is one who believes his (Jesus') doctrine, rests on his sacrifice, imbibes his spirit, and imitates his example.

If we call ourselves believers, then we should be disciples...

So how can we make disciples of all nations if we don't know where, and more importantly who, they are?  As a writer and blogger, I have certainly been convicted of my lack of knowledge on several occasions.  My blog statistics are able to tell me where - what part of the globe - my readers are tuning in from.  Thanks to internet and mass media, I have readers all across the globe (this I am continually amazed by).  I admit I have Countries and Republics show up under "Audience" that I could not tell you exactly where they are on a map.  Shame on me!!  Incentive to learn accomplished.

The good news of this is that The Good News is reaching Nations around the globe and reaching them with amazing speed.

I am but one tiny blogger in a sea of thousands of bloggers reaching out to the world through cyberspace. What I would like to tell the world is that we care...that we really do care. 

It's almost Easter, so crosses will be appearing everywhere.  Stand and gaze at one.  Follow the northern most point of the cross, which if followed, would extend to Heaven.  Follow the eastern and western points and imagine them extending out to others (like outstretched arms) around the globe...encircling people of all colors and nationalities with their love.  Finally, follow the southern most point that descends down to earth and even further to the depths of hell, where ultimately Christ will be victorious over sin, and evil, and death. 

What amazing news...that Jesus will triumph over sin and death.  He will fly in the very face of evil and defeat it...forever!

Isn't this news worth sharing?

If you think that the Good News of the Bible is worth sharing, would you join me in doing so?  Together, let's not let these horrific tragedies go un-met.  Let's not turn an indifferent eye to these atrocities. 

In honor and memory of those who have died around the globe, let's fly in the face of evil and tell the Nations of the Good News of the Bible.

How?:  Let's place Bibles in the hands of the innocent children who live and learn in the epicenter of evil.  Darkness may be at their doorstep, but we can put light into their hands.

This Easter season of Hope, will you join me at my "Missions" tab and donate enough to put a Bible or several Bibles in the hands of children who are hungry for words of hope??  I pray that you will...

Lord, help us to be ambassadors of hope to Nations around the globe.  Help me to not turn a blind eye toward those who need to read and hear your word.  Enable me to take my role as a disciple seriously so that all the world might know.  Be with those who, in the aftermath of attacks, need your presence, your healing, and your love.
In Jesus' name,  Amen.

Be blessed...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

You Can Never Run Out Of Grace

Hey Friend,
So..."Grace" is my watchword for 2015.  This post is obviously about grace.  But, how do you write about grace when you are, to put it bluntly, really ticked off?
I had waited months to get in with a specialist regarding perpetual nerve pain in my foot.  I was ready to head out the door to the appointment when the pest control company called back about scheduling a follow up visit in my ongoing war with the ants in my kitchen.  While on that call, the doctor's office called to cancel the appointment that I was heading out the door to go to.
What?  They were cancelling right now?  Apparently the doctor had a "family emergency".  I'm embarrassed  to admit it, but any trace of grace for him and his situation immediately blew right out the window.  All I could think about was me and my pain at the moment.  After multiple calls back and forth with his office, then waiting on hold listening to how great their practice was for eighteen minutes on speakerphone, I finally got a live person who told me two weeks out was the best they could do.  Click.
To say that I was not a happy camper would be an understatement.  My uber-conscience urged me to utter a half-hearted prayer for his family emergency.  Determined not to let this ruin my day, I opted for plan B.  I would work on this blog post.  With steam still coming out my ears, I prayed.  I tried to humble my agitated heart before God.  I typed the title and I sat staring at my laptop....
Nothing...I would have had a better chance of turning water into wine than I was going to have writing this post.  Just then my phone pinged.  It was my good friend and neighbor asking me if I could spare some time to help her assemble and stuff wedding invitations for her daughter who was already distraught that they were going out so late.  "Sure", I texted back, "be right over."
How ironic, that in the middle of my ugliness, God was calling on me to measure out - or to give grace.
God can be uncanny with His timing.  He knew that I couldn't write about grace until I had been called to freely give it. 
And, we can't give grace unless we have truly and fully received grace.
By fully I mean...fill 'er up!  You wouldn't walk into a restaurant, pay for a full glass of soda, and then tell the waitress to only fill it half full because that's all you deserved.  Nor, would you expect the waitress to grudgingly fill your glass to the top.  No, you would drink that full glass and joyfully wait on free refills. 
If this analogy was truly reflective of God's grace, we would not be the ones paying for the glass of soda...Jesus would have already paid the price for that full glass of soda (grace).
Somehow we get the mistaken idea that if we keep messing up we will, at some point, run out of, or use up our allotment of grace.
The exact opposite is true.  If you are a believer you can NEVER run out of God's grace.
You can't exhaust Him.
You can't disappoint Him.
You can't try His patience to a breaking point.
You just can't.  That is what is so truly amazing about God's grace.
Word analysis time (bear with me, I was an English major).
Grace = generous act of God- making us acceptable in His sight through Christ's death.
Grace or (charis) in the Greek form means different things in different contexts.  Grace can mean:  favor, goodwill, blessings freely given (not by any claim or merit), rejoicing, gratitude, thankfulness, kindness, mercy, acceptance, power.
Grace is a divine blessing given to us by the in-working of the Holy Spirit.
Grace is a blessing freely given. It is NOT based on works or earning it.
In fact Christianity is the only religion based on grace.  All other religions are based on works. 
Renee Swope, author of "A Confident Heart" said in her book that she surveyed over 1,000 women and discovered that our past failures and fear of failing in the future are the two most common causes of insecurity and self doubt. 
What a relief, then, to know that no matter what I do or how badly I mess up, God's grace extends further.  I can't do it on my own, but in His power I can pick myself up and begin again.  What freedom!!
My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in weakness.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)
"We do what we can and then we rest in grace."  (Holley Gerth)

"If grace is an ocean, we're all sinking."  (worship song by J. McMillan)

Obviously we don't go on purposefully sinning so that our grace may increase. 

But, we go on living freely knowing that God's grace has set us free.

Lord, help me to know that because of Your grace, my guilt is forgiven - washed clean.  Strengthen my heart to know that no matter what, I can never run out of Your grace.  When I want to give You my "works" enable me to give You my thanks instead.  Let me feel Your waterfall of never ending grace fall down on me and give me peace.  In Jesus' precious name, Amen.

ps. Please leave a comment below or contact me to let me know how I can pray for you...

Please pray for Redeemer Christian School in Pakistan.  The Director, Anosh, has not been well and needs prayer for healing...especially since Easter is approaching.  For Easter we are trying to raise funds so that every child at the school can have his/her own Bible in their language.  To do so, donations in the next couple weeks are critical.  If you would like to place a Bible in a child's hands, please go to my "Missions" tab and donate. Thank you! 

**This post dedicated to my friends who have lavished much grace upon me in my times of weakness.