August 20, 2010

The Real “Secret”

By Katryna Starks

I recently watched a documentary called “The Secret”. It claimed that people could “harness the power of the universe” and have it deliver whatever they wanted. In one scene, a young boy supposedly wished for a bike – and got it. In another, a man used the power of The Secret to get a red sportscar, a big house, and a beautiful woman.

I was bothered by this documentary. Not because they told people that they could wish for what they wanted, but because it was so shallow. If I actually believed that I could snap my fingers and the power of the universe would be at my command, why would I wish for a car? I don’t need the power of the universe to get a car. I just need a job. Why not encourage the use of that power to end war? Simultaneous worldwide nuclear disarmament? End poverty? End sickness? Clean the ocean? Pretty much anything that serves humanity rather than . . . a car?

And herein lies the dilemma of The Secret and other Get-Rich-Quick schemes. They promote spiritual principles for shallow purposes.

The Bible says “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” (Mark 11:24) but it also says “and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.” (1 John 3:22) which means that there is an expectation that we have behaved in ways that are pleasing.

But here is where The Secret really gets it wrong. First, one needs to ask God, not “the universe”, but even so, here is what God says about what we ask for: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3). This is exactly what I’m talking about. If the people who believe the secret actually believe they have that much power, why spend it only on themselves? What a waste.

There is a story in the Bible about someone who follows God and asks him for the right things, things that will help others. His name is Solomon, and this is what he asked God for, and how God answered him: “Now, LORD God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, riches or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, riches and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.” (2 Chron: 9-12)

That is The Secret for Christians. Follow God and share His concern for His people and you won’t get left out of the blessings that follow. Matthew said it best: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33)

August 16, 2010

Reflections on Humility, Passion and Purpose

Filed under: Pressing Toward the Mark — Katryna Starks @ 6:42 am

By Katryna Starks


We are often told to be humble and to “let God do it” when it comes to our accomplishments. Often, we don’t understand what that means or how to live that out. The first step in having God’s humility is to understand our proper relationship to him. God is like the sun, and he shines. We are like the moon. We only appear to shine. The moon doesn’t have any light of its own, it only reflects the light of the sun. When the moon is not able to reflect the sun’s light, we only see a part of it. We see “half-moons” and “crescent moons”. It’s not that the moon actually diminishes or disappears, it’s that we only see the parts of it that are properly reflected. The rest of the moon is in darkness and therefore invisible.

The same is true of us and our relationship with God. Our job description, as humans, is to reflect God’s glory. That’s it. The whole thing. But we are capable of maneuvering ourselves in such a way that we are out of God’s direct light upon our lives. Like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32), we can sin or turn away or just forget who we are and who we belong to. At those times, we become like “half-souls” or “crescent people”. We don’t reflect the full glory of God because we have moved out of God’s light.


Our purpose is to reflect God’s glory and we can do this in two ways. One way is that we simply obey God’s orders in the Bible. There are several, but the Ten Commandments are the ones that sum them all up – and, Jesus said when asked, if you can’t remember ten, just remember two: Love God above all, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:36-40).

Many of us struggle to find “our specific purpose” in God and we don’t know what to do when we don’t feel like we are hearing from him. In those times, go back to Matthew 22 and just do the two things that you know. If you need more specifics, see Micah 6:8 where God enumerates his commands with three requirements: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.


The second way to live out humility and purpose is to find and live our passion. Passion is the essence of humility. You’ve probably been taught the opposite, so this can be confusing. Living MY passion is the way to live GOD’S humility and GOD’S purpose for me? Exactly.

Think about the last time you did something you were passionate about, or created something out of passion. It could be a poem or a painting or simply cleaning the carpet in your living room. When you were in the process of doing whatever that is, you probably got so absorbed in your actions that you lost track of time. When you were finished, you looked proudly at your accomplishment, but it wasn’t the type of pride that says “I’m better than others.” It was the sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from having fulfilled a part of yourself. For a moment, as you admire your handiwork or remember the process, it feels as though all is “right” with the world. And for you, for a moment, it is.

This is the pride of accomplishment that God had in Genesis when he created the heavens, earth, animals and humans and stood back and said “it is good.” It is fulfilling and not haughty. When you live in this sense of passion, its impossible to not be humble. While God fully owned his creation, we know when we live in those passionate moments that our accomplishments are not our own. We know that we have been helped. Even famous non-religious musicians will speak of divine intervention when they wrote certain songs. In the past, some have called it “genius” and some have called it “a muse”, but there is a definite sense in which we know that the result of our passionate works is not ours alone to claim – and therefore we are humble. If we become successful and we try to create those same works without the same motivation (i.e. writing songs for money and not for passion), we may meet the same material success, but we won’t retain our humility.

Humility is not a real sense that we are not worthy; nor a false distancing of ourselves from our works. It’s living fully in the light that we are given without fooling ourselves into believing that we are it’s source.


Footnote: A good summation of this is a famous quote by Marianne Richardson. She is a new age teacher and not a Christian one, but I believe that God speaks to his entire creation and sometimes people who don’t believe in him still hear him (it’s not that what they hear is untrue, it’s that they don’t know/acknowledge where it comes from.)

In this famous passage, Williams says, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

She is almost right. It isn’t “our light” that shines. It’s God’s light and we are reflecting it.

Will you?

August 4, 2010

. . . But We Get Up

Filed under: Pressing Toward the Mark — Katryna Starks @ 7:52 pm

By Katryna Starks

“A saint is just a sinner who fell down …
… and got up”
— Donnie McClurkin

In the companion piece to this one, “We Fall Down . . .”, we took a good, long look at our mistakes and we found out the lessons that we could learn from them. Now, we move from learning to healing as we take a good, long look at forgiveness.

By God

It’s almost too easy. 1 John 1:19 says, “if we confess our sins, then He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That’s it. No walking through fire or waging war. No tests of endurance or obstacle courses of faith. Just confession and acknowledgement that we have sinned and a desire to restore the relationship with the one we sinned against.

It’s amazing how we tell our children to apologize when they’ve hurt someone, and that their apology makes it all better. The kids usually respond with smiles – eager to continue playing with the one they hurt just a few moments ago. And, also amazing, the other always plays back. But when we hurt God, we slink away from Him, afraid to say “I’m sorry.” Afraid that it won’t be enough.

God says ” I am the one who will blot out your transgressions and remember your sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12) And the price – a deep, sincere and life-changing apology, to which He responds “a contrite heart I will in no way cast out.” (Psalms 51:17)

Do you need to be forgiven by God? Ask, and you shall receive.

Of Others

Jesus told us to pray that our sins would be forgiven – but He also had a request. His word to us was to ask God to forgive us as we forgave others. He even went so far as to say that if we didn’t forgive others, then God would not forgive us. (Matthew 6:15) To Jesus, our forgiveness of others was so important that He even put it above sacrifice, implying that even our sacrifices to God are tainted because of our unforgiveness toward each other.

Is God playing a tit-for-tat game with grace? Of course not. But for us to accept forgiveness and then deny it to others is evil. In our human nature, we would probably want to hurt or wrong others as we have been hurt or wronged. In the same way, we should eagerly forgive others as we have been forgiven.

Of Ourselves

There is someone in your life whom God has forgiven – but you have not.
God doesn’t remember their sins anymore – but you won’t let them forget.
God says they aren’t condemned – but you constantly make them feel guilty.
God says “my grace is sufficient” (2 Cor 12:9) – but you can’t make them pay enough.

Who is the person you’re doing this to?
Take a good look in the mirror – it’s you.

Like the wayward minister in The Scarlet Letter who beats himself with a whip, we berate ourselves with our thoughts and punish ourselves with self-sabotage. We think that it’s a sign of humility to consider ourselves so low, but it’s actually a symbol of pride. “Now, wait just a minute,” you say, “pride is thinking of yourself too highly.” Well, what would you call it when you choose your own condemnation over God’s grace?

If you have asked, then you have been forgiven. God’s word is that “there is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) and that “he whom the Son sets free, is free indeed.” (John 8:36)

Believe it.
Walk it.
Live it.
It’s done.

Read the companion piece to this article, We Fall Down . . ..