Archive for the ‘Joel Osteen’ Category

I was pondering this from A Gospel Primer for Christians yesterday.

“According to Scripture, God deliberately designed the gospel in such a way as to strip me of pride and leave me without any grounds for boasting in myself whatsoever.  This is actually a wonderful mercy from God, for pride is at the root of all my sin.  … Therefore, if I am to experience deliverance from sin, I must be delivered from the pride that produces it.  Thankfully, the gospel is engineered to accomplish this deliverance.

Preaching the gospel to myself each day mounts a powerful assault against my pride and serve to establish humility in its place.  Nothing suffocates my pride more than daily reminders regarding the glory of my God, the gravity of my sins, and the crucifixion of God’s own Son in my place.  Also, the gracious love of God, lavished on me because of Christ’s death, is always humbling to remember, especially when viewed against the backdrop of the Hell I deserve.”

He points to a few important ways that the gospel undercuts my pride, which is a source of many/most of my sins.  My sin was so awful that its forgiveness required the death of God’s own Son.  Yet He loved me in my unloveable condition.  My pride & His gracious love put Jesus on the Cross.  I have nothing about which to boast- except Christ.

“Pride wilts in the atmosphere of the gospel; and the more pride is mortified within me, the less frequent are my moments of sinful contention with God and with others.  Conversely, humility grows lushly in the atmosphere of the gospel, and the more humility flourishes within me, the more I experience God’s grace along with the strengthening His grace provides.  Additionally, such humility intensifies my passion for God and causes my heart increasingly to thrill whenever He is praised.”

You can tell whether the gospel is being preached and believed or not by the level of pride and demandingness in a congregation or person’s life.  This is part of the problem with Joel Osteen (and other prosperity teachers).  They demand things from God that He has not promised.  Their doctrines promote pride and selfishness- which are diametrically opposed to the sound living produced by sound doctrine in accordance with the gospel.

It is this pride which drives the fights and battles we find in James 4.  They have made good things ultimate things (as Keller would say).  The cure is to humble yourself before God.  The gospel is God’s means to humble us (and how it plays out in providence).  As humbled people, we submit to God rather than clamor for our way.  We become gentle as we plead for others to submit to God’s way.

I suspect we could all use more gospel humility.

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On the way to the office I listened briefly to talk radio- and some people see this election as a potentially a sign of the apocolypse.  Some prominent pastors are less than interested in the election- seeing no connection between the Kingdom and our nation.

Both extremes really miss the point, and ignore some significant biblical data we need to believe so it shapes us.  I want to meditate briefly on part of Ephesians 1.

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

  • Paul gives us an insight into his prayer life- his adoration, thanksgiving and petition in connection to the Ephesian church.
  • Paul wants them to know the Father better, and asks that the Father would send the Spirit to give them wisdom and revelation.  We now have all the revelation we need in the Scriptures, but we need the Spirit to illumine them for us that we might fear God and gain true wisdom.
  • Paul wants them to behold their great hope, the glorious inheritance of the saints.  This world ain’t it, folks.  It’s good, and we can enjoy it- but we look for the City whose builder and architect is God (Heb. 11).  This life is filled with ups and downs- if we have a clear sense of the hope to which we are called, those ups and downs will not overwhelm us and lead us to either forget God or despair.
  • Christ, by the powerful working of the Spirit, has been raised, exalted and seated at the right hand of the Father.  He rules, above all powers- earthly and otherwise- as the Father’s vice-regent.
  • Jesus reigns in THIS PRESENT AGE, and in the one to come.  He’s not in the throne room biding his time.  He reigns NOW.
  • He reigns now for the good of the church.  Not necessarily our nation or any other nation.  But he does rule over the affairs of this, and every other nation, for the well-being of the church.  What happens on the political scene has ramifications for the church.  In our finitude we can’t always reckon them properly.  What is good for a nation can be bad for the church; and vice versa.
  • I don’t know how this, or any, election will pan out.  We all have hopes and fears in that regard.  But, Jesus is in control of them for the GOOD of the church.
  • The visible church in America may shrink in the years to come- particularly if our “best life now” is revealed to be a false hope (which it is).  Worldly cares may cause many to leave the visible church (Matthew 13:20-22).  But I think that actually strengthens the church, and reveals the real difference between the church and the world- enabling our mission to be that much clearer and significant.
  • So, today we are called to vote (if you haven’t already and have the legal right to vote) and each of us is called to trust Jesus to do that which is right and good.

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As I watch celebrity “Christians” I’ve noticed a few patterns that may help you if you want to have a TV ministry too.

Rabbit Trail… during my interview with the session of the church I eventually began to pastor in 1998, the interim asked me if I have any desire to be on TV.  I laughed.

1. Call yourself a “life coach”.  This the popular new tag used by Paula White and Joel Osteen (see his 60 Minutes interview).  This relieves you from actually talking about the gospel and focusing on how you can help people make their lives “better”.  This is not to be confused with godly.  It is about being happy and successful.  Nothing wrong with those, but God has some bigger plans for His people.

2. Lift lots of weight.  In the 60 Minutes interview I discovered Joel can bench press 300 pounds, double his weight.  Pat Robertson claims to be able to leg press 2,000 pounds.  I’ve seen Paula on TV interviewing her personal trainer while she was in tight gym garb, so she pumps some iron too.  Never hurts to have big muscles to pad your resume and impress your viewers.

3. Don’t talk about anything negative.  Who cares if the Bible consistently addresses sin issues!  Apparently we are not self-deceived like Jeremiah says, and already know where we err.  Don’t bore people with talk about repentance- remind them how good they are and how successful they can be.  This way… when people criticize the fact you don’t speak honestly about who we are, they come off as being mean people, like Michael Horton.

4. Please, don’t ever mention that we need Jesus to make us holy and righteous.  If you really have to talk about Jesus, and Joel has shown you really don’t have to if you don’t want to, focus on how he died to make you healthy and prosperous.  Remember, that’s American religion.

5. Use lots of hair spray.  You have to, those lights make you sweat and your hair has to stay in place.

6. Don’t really answer any tough questions.  Deflect and talk about how judgmental the other person is.  Or, just demonize them and wish you had Benny Hinn’s holy spirit machine gun.

7. Hire most of your family to work for you.  Blood AND money creates a tight bond.

8. You must be willing to buy a multi-million dollar home and numerous expensive cars.  If you want to really hit it big- you gotta buy a jet.  Remember, this is what Jesus would do.  He wants you to live well, off room service.

9. Don’t, repeat, don’t go to a reputable seminary.

10. Produce lots of ‘feel-good’ tapes & books about what people must do to be successful.  No traditional theological categories- we’re talking self-help.

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I think this will be my last section of Osteen’s Your Best Life Now.  I’m only half way through the book.  But I just can’t take anymore.  I don’t like how I’m reacting- becoming cynical, critical.  There is much to be critical about, and little to affirm.  It just doesn’t seem to be a good use of my time right now.  I think I pretty much have a handle on Osteen: a hybrid of Hagen and Schuller.  Sorta the worst of 2 worlds- and not quite historic Christianity.  It is a popular perversion of Christianity lacking the very thing Paul swore was the only thing he would know- Christ, and Him crucified.  It is not merely that I don’t agree with Joel, but that his whole theological mindset deviates from historic Christianity and he repeatedly takes Scripture out of context.  So… not edifying or encouraging or helping me to grow in my relationship with God through Christ.

Part 3- Discover the Power of Your Thoughts and Words

Here he sounds like The Secret.  “Almost like a magnet, we draw in what we constantly think about.”  As a result, “we must realize that to a large extent, we can control our own destinies.”  I can agree when he finally says “focus your thoughts on the One who promised… as you dwell on the promises of God’s Word, you will be filled with hope”.  This is one of the ways the Spirit fills our hearts with hope, as we trust those promises (kept in context).  But then Osteen returns to the magnet mindset.  Hebrews 11 reminds us of those who died, in faith, who did not receive what was promised (yet).  Faith is not a guarantee that God will fulfill a promise on your timetable.

You certainly get the idea, again, that the biggest goal Satan has is to keep you poor and downcast.  There is no concept of Satan’s roll as tempter and accuser.  He lies to us so we will enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  Then he will try to disable us by accusing us so we won’t turn to God in faith and repentance so we can be forgiven through Jesus’ death and resurrection.


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The second part of Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now is called Develop a Healthy Self-Image.  It is chock full of pop psychology to help you feel better about yourself, and stop comparing yourself to others.  Not a bad thing, but certainly not the same, or as great, as the gospel.

Martin Luther used a phrase to capture how we should view ourselves, because this is how the Bible views Christians: at the same time just and sinner.  In an of ourselves we are sinners.  We are made in God’s image, but sin has corrupted it.  In redemption, we are being remade in that image.  We also have a new set of identities- sons of God, kingdom of priests, a holy nation etc.  What the Bible does with our new identity is uses it to reframe our morality.  We forsake the morality and behavior patterns of our old life, and put on the new.  What Osteen does is use the biblical notion of identity (self-image) to foster earthly success instead.  This is a dramatic and dangerous shift, once again moving away from character development (becoming like Jesus) in the name of living the good life (storing up treasures on earth- hey, didn’t Jesus say not to do that?).  I guess if I just thought a bit more of myself I’d pastor a 3,000 member church.  Man, I’m holding myself back.  “God wants us to feel good about ourselves.”  Yet, Paul called himself the biggest sinner he knew (1 Timothy 1:15), a sentiment he expected all of us to have about ourselves.  God wants us to delight in and treasure Jesus our Savior, not ourselves!



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I’m a bit behind on my magazines, so I read CT’s review of The Secret today.  I hadn’t heard of this book, and haven’t read this book.  But the description was shockingly similar to Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now.  I suspect they just completely removed anything having to do with God, or at least the Christian God since one of the contributors is “a non-aligned, trans-religious progressive.”  Here is what the review says is the secret purported by the book and promoted by Oprah:

“The secret is simply the ‘law of attraction.’  Think about wealth, and you will become wealthy.  Think about that new car, and it will come.  Think about getting a good parking spot, and one will open up.  Think about your ideal weight (really, dwell on that number, write it on your scale), and you will attract that reality.”

How does this work (where they differ from Joel Osteen)?  “Thoughts are magnetic, and thoughts have a frequency.  As you think, those thoughts are sent out into the universe and they magnetically attract all like things that are on the same frequency.  Everything sent out returns to the source.  And that source is you.”

Therefore, we bring our bad circumstances on us.  I should have meditated on my congregation growing to 500, 500, 500…….. and it would have happened.  Who needs to worry about evangelism, discipleship programming, planning good worship services.  Just think it into being!  Yeah, that is essentially what Joel Osteen is saying, but throws in “the favor of God.”

Since they are “trans-religious”, they use the Bible, but the book often misquotes or misinterprets it (hmmm, sound familiar?).  Like Osteen, this is a book that attracts people obsessed with themselves (according to the Bible this is pretty much all of us, but it is considered sin not virtue).  Such a view, self-obsession, is the polar opposite of the “righteous man” we find in Scripture.  There we see a person who sacrifices greatly on the behalf of those in need.  But, “What (the popularity of) The Secret reveals is that many people are desperately unhappy.”  Sadly, they are not finding their joy and delight in the glory of God in the face of Jesus.  Instead, they are seeking it in earthly treasures that rot, decay and dwindle in value.  We are a people going far astray, falling for the Big Lie.

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This post takes us through chapter 6, which ends Part 1 of Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now.

Osteen wants us to believe that we can increase God’s favor by being favor-minded, or expecting to receive it.  Grace is unmerited favor.  Grace comes to us thru faith in Christ.  But Osteen isn’t exactly talking about grace.  The idea he’s selling is that God is more or less-favorably disposed toward us based on our expectations.    God is only favorably disposed to us in Christ- and there is no increase or decrease of His favor.  His ideas seem to ignore the truths of justification.

There also seems to be no place for submitting yourself to God (James 4 and 1 Peter 5).  Instead, he promotes an expectation of “special treatment”, not only from God but from everyone.  Part of what this means is that character developing hardship is viewed as something wrong- not evidence of God’s love for His children adopted in Christ.  Joel brings up some biblical examples to prove his point- David, Noah, Ruth, Joseph.  But none of these people is described in Scripture of having this favor-minded attitude.  If this was so important, wouldn’t the Bible- sufficient to prepare us to live righteous lives (2 Timothy 3:16)- instruct us even if by their example.  Rather, we see God granting grace to Joseph, Noah, and Ruth though they didn’t expect it.  They were not “declaring God’s favor” in the midst of those trials.

Another curious thing is that Joel will say, “the Bible says”, but never gives a reference.  Most of those “quotations” are unfamiliar to me.  Perhaps due to using a different translation, but he does not give you a reference to make sure he’s accurately conveying the meaning of the passage.



 Joel’s (Ab)use

Psalm 8:5 Applied in Hebrews 2 to Jesus, the son of man. Osteen applies this to people indiscriminately with the idea that “God wants to make your life easier.”
Romans 8:28 The good that God works all things toward is making us like Jesus (verse 29). The good refers to our circumstances, not character.

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This review only covers the first 4 chapters.  I’ll interact with additional chapters in the days to come.  But it isn’t looking pretty.

Obviously millions of people have read Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen.  It enjoys recommendations from people who should know better, but apparently don’t.  I am reading it, and will go through my problems with this fictional theology.  I use that term because what I found was something other than biblical notions of faith and grace. 

I found Mr. Osteen repeatedly ignoring the context and original meaning of Scriptural texts to support his beliefs (see the chart below).  I did not hear the voice of God, but rather the voice of the Whore of Babylon.  That sounds extreme, I know.  But I did not hear the call to “pick up your cross, deny yourself daily, and follow Jesus.”  I heard the voice of the seductress saying “all this could be yours.” 

This book is many things, but one of them would be a rejection of the instruction we find in Hebrews 11-12.  Joel teaches an over-realized eschatology- heaven now, if you just believe.  Therefore, miracles are normalized, expected to happen to you all the time.  But there does not seem to be any biblical notion of salvation.



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