Friday, October 30, 2015

Have You Ever Been Persecuted For Your Faith?

Hey Friend,

It troubles me, in this world, how much we persecute each other for differences.  It is pure cowardice that says I can harass you or harm you because you are of a different race, ethnicity, political mindset, religious belief, or just plain different from me. 

Being able to hide behind social media devices contributes to this.  What begins as somewhat innocent name calling, morphs into bullying, and in it's grossest form can be what starts wars.  We don't seem to have learned much from history either.  Unfortunately what we don't remember, we are doomed to repeat. 

I have never been persecuted for my faith.  The worst I received was jeeringly being called "the littlest angel" by mean girls on the cheerleading squad because I hurried off after practice to get to my church youth group meetings.  Lately, however, being categorized as a "Christian" has taken on a somewhat derogatory meaning.  It means I am close-minded, not enlightened, and puritanical. 

Still, I don't fear going to church on Sunday.  I can carry around my Bible in public and no one really cares.  I can wear a cross around my neck or sing off-key to Christian praise music with my car windows down and basically nothing happens.  It's a non-event. I am guilty of taking my religious freedom for granted.

Not so in other parts of the world.  I can't speak for all countries in the Middle East, but I do know of some particular events in Pakistan.  Most of the atrocities are carried out by extremists...but many turn a blind eye.  Christians make up less than 1.5% of the population in this country.  I admit I do not know what it feels like to be such a radical minority.

If you carry around a Bible in public, you can be accused of violating the "blasphemy laws" and be locked in jail and the key thrown away.  You fear going to church or any type of Christian gathering because suicide bombers have showed up and have detonated lethal amounts of explosives on themselves killing and maiming hundreds and thousands. 

A beautiful young Christian couple who refused to denounce Christ as their Savior was forced into a kiln and slowly incinerated inside.  A youth who was asked if he was a Christian, dared to say, "Yes".  He was then doused with petroleum and set ablaze in broad daylight in the city streets.  The authorities did nothing.

"For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it."  (Matthew 16:25)

 Christians are employed, generally, in the lowest and most menial positions if at all.  Their children work as slaves for other wealthy families because their parents, though they try, can't support them. 

If you are a Christian you live with a target on your back...

Not unlike when the Nazis painted the Star of David symbol on the houses of Jews during WWII, Islamic extremists paint the Arabic symbol for "N" or Nazarene on the fronts of houses where Christians live.

Can you imagine the fear of returning to your home to see this symbol in blood red paint on the front of your home?  I can only imagine that it must be terrifying. I ask myself...would I be willing to die for my beliefs???

Sunday, November 1st, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

I invite you to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who are persecuted and tortured because they know what it truly means to pick up their cross and follow Jesus. Will you pray with me for them?  Will you pray for an end to the persecution, the hatred, the war that has broken out because the world has failed to follow the Lord's greatest commandment of Love Others As You Love Yourself.

On Sunday, I will be wearing this traditional Pakistani dress, or kameez, with its beautiful embroidery as a symbol of standing in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world and in Pakistan in particular.

 So what can you do on this day in addition to praying?  You can let a small group of orphaned and destitute children who are growing in their relationship with Jesus and claim Him as their Savior know that Jesus, and others, have not forgotten them.  You can be a messenger of love, and light, and hope that their faith is not in vain...that God does, indeed, care.

I invite you to my "Missions" tab to see how $25 can bring Christmas to these precious and innocent believers in a world where all they see is persecution.  Because of their poverty, this will most likely be the only gift the children of Redeemer Christian School receive this Christmas.  Will you join me in letting them know that Jesus sees them and loves them? (Please send contributions by Nov. 10th).

Dear Heavenly Father, Forgive me Lord for the times that I do not love others as much as I love myself.  Be with our world that is filled with prejudice and persecution.  Where there is hate, let me be an instrument of your love.  Be with my brothers and sisters in Christ who are tortured because of their devotion to You.  Heal our hearts and heal our world.  Let me share love with the "least of these" so that they know that they are not forgotten.  Thank you, Lord, for your love and the hope that can only be found in You.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Be blessed...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Song Of Praise To The Rock Of My Salvation

Hey Friend,

This week I am trying something a little different.  I am no poet, or lyricist, or songwriter.  All I know is that sometimes when our heart is hurting it is good to dig deep and offer up a song or psalm of praise to Jesus, the rock or our salvation.  I ask you to kindly overlook poor grammar, lousy syntax, and punctuation errors as I attempt to just see where my heart and my hands will take me as I meditate on Jesus....the Rock. 

Let me first start with my "life verse" (a psalm by David):

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and be in awe and put their trust in the Lord.  (Psalm 40: 1-3)

O Lord, how many times have you lifted me out of the shifting and sinking sands known as anxiety, depression, and despair?  Since my youth, you have faithfully stretched out your righteous right hand...grabbed hold of mine and pulled me out.  When the only words I could cry out were, "Help me Jesus" You listened. 

 You heard my cry. As hot tears burned my cheeks and my face hid in a pillow you lifted me. Gently you turned my face toward yours. Out of the mud and mire you drew me unto yourself.  You washed me clean and put my feet, not on slippery sand, but on a solid and secure rock.  You gave me strength when I was faint.  You gently held me like a helpless lamb in your strong arms until, once again, I was able to stand.

More than I could ever dream or imagine you restored joy to my soul.  From the grave of weeping you pulled me out and restored hope to my dying soul.  I never thought that joy could spring forth again...but You, O Lord are able to do the impossible.  You are faithful to your promise that though weeping endures for the JOY comes in the morning. 

For I proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! "The Rock!  His work is perfect, for all his ways are just; a God of faithfulness without injustice, righteous and upright is he."  (Deuteronomy 32: 3-4)

On my own I am struggling, straining, striving, sinking, sorrowing.  But You, Lord...You are my rock...the Rock of my Salvation.  You save me, you shelter me, you sustain me, you shield me, you give me safety, you give me strength.  You are my Savior. 

Jesus, just like God lifted Joseph from the pit, He lifted you from the pit of Hell and fixed you firmly and eternally.  Together with you I stand on the same elevated, sure, and everlasting rock of divine favor and faithfulness.  Praise to God that He has lifted us all.  In His divine mercy he doesn't leave us in our resurrects us to new life in you. 

Though the enemy prowls about looking to destroy me...You, Jesus are my Rock.  You are my fortress, my deliverer, my refuge, my redeemer, my restorer, my stronghold, my shield.  I claim you as the horn of my salvation. 

"The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Savior, you save me from violence."  (2 Samuel 22:2-3)

O Lord, when your children Israel came out of Egypt and were parched in the desert, you burst forth living water from a rock to quench their thirst.  So many times I have been in the desert.  A desert of sorrow, or fear, or confusion, or doubt, but yet O faithful one you bring forth water from the rock to satisfy my needs. 

 You don't just sprinkle me in your love and living you pour down on me like a thunderous waterfall.  You drench me in your love and in your vast pool of mercy I am soaked...soaked by the blood of the lamb who died for me...soaked in the endless stream of love and mercy and grace.  Your grace falls on me fresh and cold and life giving. Thank you Lord for the water you generously give me from the rock that saved Israel.

When the enemy pursues me with his ominous shadow of guilt and shame.  You hide me Lord, in the cleft of your rock.  There and only there I am safe.  I am hidden from the evil one and you will not let him touch me.  No, in you I am safe and secure.  You will never forsake me nor let me go.  I praise you that your promises are true and trustworthy. You will not let shame claim me.

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.  (Isaiah 26:4)

When I am weary and worn, you my Lord and my rock, hide me in the refuge of your wings.  I rest my tired head upon your rock and you cover me ever so gently with your feathers.  You wrap me in love, and security blankets me as I fall ever so securely asleep in you presence. You are warm and gentle. Your presence gives me peace. 

You are my rock and my fortress in all life's storms.  No matter how high the waters rise...your rock that I stand upon stands even higher.  So true you are to the promise that you will never let the waters sweep over me.  The storms and waves may swirl about me...but my feet stand firm and secure upon you O Lord.

You are not only the are the cornerstone, Jesus, of my faith.  You are the foundation and you are the capstone.  You are the Alpha and the Omega.  When the world wants to crush my faith...they can't because you are strong and keep my faith standing firm. You, O my rock, crush the shackles that bind me and I am set free to dance in your delight. 

You give me purpose, passion, pleasure, peace and you and you alone make me perfect. 

Behold, a King will reign righteously and princes will rule justly.  Each will be like a refuge from the wind and a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry country, like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land.  (Isaiah 32: 1-2)

You, O Lord, bore the storm so that by me it would pass and I would be spared.  How ever do I thank you?  How often can I praise your name that would be worthy of the love you have lavished upon me.  O for a thousand tongues to sing your praises Lord. 

 O that I could build altars for every time you have rescued me, saved me and brought me THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death.  You never left me you bring me through.  You lead me beside the still waters and you make me lie down in your green pastures.  Thank you Lord, my rock, for restoring my soul over and over again.  

I can never ever thank you enough for what you have done for me.  Even if you never do another single thing for will be enough that you set me free from sin.  You paid the price.  You and you alone.  It is finished. 

I am yours...O Lord, my rock...the rock of my salvation...

Be blessed...

An invitation to spread Christmas Joy...
Will you join with me in bringing Christmas Joy to Redeemer Christian School in Lahore, Pakistan?  What we provide will, most likely, be the only gift that these children will receive this Christmas.  $25 will provide one child with a warm article of clothing, a small toy/gift, and a warm and hearty Christmas meal.  **$$ needed by November 15, to bring Christmas Joy**

Here are some of the faces of the students (orphans and impoverished children) who will have joyous smiles due to your generosity this Christmas season...if you decide to give.

We also have children on a waiting list hoping for sponsors...$10/Month will take one child off the streets and bring them into the safety of the classroom. Would you consider sponsoring one child for one year? 

$25 for Christmas or $10/month for sponsorship:

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

Visit the "Missions" tab on this blog for more information on RCS.

**In process of filing for 501c3 registration**

Thank you...may God richly bless you...

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?