April 21, 2010

THE Best, YOUR Best or GODs Best?

Filed under: Pressing Toward the Mark — Katryna Starks @ 11:00 am

by Katryna Starks

THE Best
If you watch television or flip through a magazine, you’ll be bombarded with advertisements that describe their product as “the best.” You will see words like “The #1 (product)”; “The Top-Selling”; “The Most Requested”, etc. All of these words describe “The Best”. They also imply that, in order for you to be the best, you have to buy the best. The only problem with that is, there can only be one “best.” And, since what’s “in” now often becomes “passe” five minutes from now, “the best” is always changing! How can you possibly keep up?

Your best is what you can do all on your own. You can go to school, try to get good grades, get a good job and join the rat race, but, as someone once said “no matter how far you get in the rat race, you’re still a rat.” You can buy the clothes and keep up with the fashions. You can cycle through cars, homes and relationships in that quest for status. But, even when you get all that you were looking for, will you be satisfied? Proverbs 27:20 says, “Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man” (emphasis mine). That means that our eyes always want to see more, and since we want what we see, we will always want more. In other words, without the intervening grace of God, we will never be satisfied with what we have — or who we are.

GOD’S Best
God is your creator. Not only did God create you, He also created everyone else — and the world that we all live in. Furthermore, because God is everywhere and knows everything, He knew when He created you: where you would live, what jobs would be available, what the politics and fashions would be, etc. He even knew what neighborhood you would live in. Not only did God KNOW these things when He created you — He PLACED you in that situation. And He did it for a REASON! The book of Jeremiah says that God “knit you together in your mother’s womb.” Later Jeremiah 29:11 says “I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” The God who created you also has a PURPOSE for you! This purpose isn’t something that’s hidden away, either. If you pray to God and ask Him what it is, He will either tell you directly or guide you along the path toward it. So, instead of trying to “buy the best” to be the best, just find out God’s purpose for you and then live it!

April 18, 2010

Encouraging Yourself

Filed under: Pressing Toward the Mark — Katryna Starks @ 10:59 am

by Cindy M. Birch

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:16-19 KJV)

One thing I’ve learned, and I think you will agree, is that as long as we keep living in this world, bad things are going to happen – even if only once in a while. Sometimes the enemy is attacking us in an effort to distract us from the prize. He knows that we are extremely close to realizing that breakthrough for which we’ve been praying and believing. Sometimes, we go through hard times as a consequence of our disobedience to God. Whatever the reason, we have all grappled with painful and difficult issues and situations. I am pretty confident in assuring you that we will again.

However, Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” I find those words to be very comforting in times of trouble. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are supposed to encourage and comfort each other, as well. In Romans 1:12, Paul writes, “I’m eager to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. In this way, each of us will be a blessing to the other.” (NLT)

However, recently, God revealed to me the importance of encouraging and comforting oneself. We cannot always count on man/woman. I’m not even speaking in the obvious sense that humans are fallible creatures and that not everyone has your best interest at heart. Even the best of best friends will sometimes just be unavailable. “For all these things I weep; tears flow down my cheeks. No one is here to comfort me; any who might encourage me are far away … ” (Lamentations 1:16 KJV)

When I was suffering a rough time a short while ago, I prayed and then reached out to some friends for comfort and solace. No one, from the East Coast to the West Coast was around. I called my Mom, my best girlfriends, my best male friend, a new friend … no one was home or had time to speak.

Then, I had the audacity to feel so alone. I soon realized, though, that God had forced me to get alone and deal with myself. He spoke to me to write a letter to myself. In order to do so, I had to be still, get quiet and listen to myself speak to myself.

It was a simple letter, but speaking and then reading those words to myself was amazing. The depression that was trying to grip me retreated. I felt so close to God because His Spirit was linked to mine, guiding me, speaking to me, comforting and loving me.

If you have never ever written a letter to yourself, I encourage you to read mine to myself and then, write one of your own. If you are like I used to be, unable to get through a crisis without the kind words and advice of good family and friends, I implore you to do this simple exercise and learn to encourage yourself under the loving care of your Heavenly Father.

Here is:

A Letter to Myself Who Is Hurting

My Dearest, Sweet Cindy,

Let me begin by saying I love you. I don’t ever remember a time when I did not love you. From time to time, I have been upset with you, though. You have not always made choices that were in your best interest. Recently, I was disappointed in you, because you were not as strong as I needed you to be. It resulted in your finding yourself in a precarious situation. However, I have now put that aside. As I have been observing you, I have realized some of your struggles of which I had before been unaware. I realize now that God is dealing with you … still molding you into His image. I know that you are currently experiencing growing pains.

I know your heart and its desire to be a godly woman, a godly wife and a godly mother. In his effort to thwart your plans, I have witnessed the enemy utilizing the same tactics and issues against you, again and again. However, you keep moving on. You keep striving. You keep forgiving and trusting. You keep learning and growing and caring … and loving. Please recognize that that fact alone makes you a success, already. Moreover, whenever I contemplate all that you have been through, I am actually amazed by that fact. I am amazed by you. What a testimony to God’s work and love in your life!

Please know that as long as you keep living, the enemy will continue to throw you curves and put up obstacles in order to keep you from realizing your potential until he can destroy you. Promise me you will never give up. I know you have been close a time or two, but even in your darkest hours, trapped in the depths of despair and spiritual fatigue, you kept living. You held on through the night to be greeted and embraced by joy in the morning. Don’t give up your joy. Hold on … hold on to your joy.

You are loved … totally, completely, unconditionally. Trust that. Take moments to be still and allow yourself to feel that every day, as often as you can throughout each day. I promise you it will be enough. It will be more than enough.

Hold no grudges against others who do not love you, who do not reciprocate your love, who are incapable of loving you when you need to be loved. Just as God is still working on you, He is also working on those others. You have your strengths and weaknesses, just like anyone else. Know that another’s inability to love you most likely has nothing to do with who you are. Do not accept the feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness that may arise. Again, I repeat, you are loved totally, completely, and unconditionally by your Creator and Heavenly Father. It is more than enough. Trust it. Feel it. Revel in it.

Love always,


April 16, 2010

The God of LOST

Filed under: Pressing Toward the Mark — Katryna Starks @ 11:15 am

This article contains details about the Dr. Linus episode of LOST. If you haven’t seen the episode and do not wish to be spoiled, please stop reading now.

In the Dr. Linus episode of the television show “LOST” there is wonderful parallel to forgiveness and redemption in Christ. In the show, there is a mysterious, God-like character named Jacob. Jacob appears to several characters in the show, and literally touches them. That touch changes their lives in profound ways. The most dramatic way is that they are drawn to a mysterious island and convinced to do Jacob’s will above all else, making many sacrifices in the process.

Ben Linus makes one such sacrifice, but it proves too much to bear. He unwittingly sacrifices his daughter in order to protect Jacob’s island. Later, when given the chance to kill Jacob – even being told to by Jacob’s enemy – he does the unthinkable. He kills his God. Jacob dies.

But Jacob also has a daughter, Ilana. She is alive and well, and currenlty protecting Jacob’s island as well as all of the people he has touched. Jacob’s daughter finds out that Ben killed Jacob, so she prepares to kill him. To maximize her revenge, she makes him dig his own grave first. While he is digging, he gets a visitor. It’s Jacob’s enemy – the man in black – the one who told Ben to kill Jacob. Jacob’s enemy frees Ben from the shackle that Ilana used to imprison him while he dug. Then, he asks Ben to join him. He walks away – fully expecting Ben to follow. But Jacob’s daughter has noticed that her prey has been loosed and she goes after it. Ben stops her from shootiong him by offering to explain why he killed Jacob. He tells her that he had a daughter and he wathed her die because he chose the island. Jacob’s island. Jacob’s mission. Jacob’swill. He felt that he had lost almost everything. The only thing he had left was his power – and he used it to kill the one who caused him to lose everything else. He regrets this deeply and asks Ilana to let him live.

Ilana, moved, decides not to shoot. Instead, she asks him where he’ll go. He replies that he will join Jacob’s enemy. She asks why. His reply, “Because he’s the only one who’ll have me.” She pauses briefly and then replies: “I’ll have you.” He follows her back into the camp and takes his place as a member.

In our lives, we are also lost, and God provides an answer by telling us to follow him. Follow his lead. Follow his voice. Follow his will. Sacrifice ourselves to his purpose. Hold to nothing. Sacrifice everything. Like Ben, we often experience a crisis of faith. We cry, “We’ve sacrificed, God, but for what?”

In the interim between what we have sacrificed and the “big reveal” that will make it all make sense – that will make our sacrifices and the pain that goes with them, make sense – we doubt. We lose faith. We lose hope. We want to give up and go our own way. To be free. To kill God. Sometimes we do. Sometimes we throw off God’s purpose. We leave the path. We turn. We sin.

But, like Jacob, God has a child, a son, who exists to protect his purpose. God’s son will come to us and confront us with our sin. He reminds that our sin has dug our grave and that we are chanied and deserving death. And when we repent, when we are contrite, when we cry out to be spared and then offer to slink away from the light and join the camp of the enemy because that is where we deserve to be – the one who will have us – we get a similar reaction. The son of God, Jesus, puts away anger. He experiences death for our sake. And, after dying on our behalf, the son of God says to us: “I’ll have you.”