Posts Tagged 'donald miller'

Confession: I Went to a Joel Osteen Event

Well, I’ve got a lot on my mind I suppose.  Ever since I heard Joel Osteen speak the other night at the Valley View Casino Center, my mind has been a bit busy processing the whole experience.  Through some mixture of luck and providence, my friend happened to meet Osteen downtown before the event.  When Osteen heard we were planting a church in San Diego, he graciously offered free tickets to the event.  For this I am thankful, and even though I didn’t speak to Joel, I was able to meet his wife and thank them for the tickets.

There are a few reasons I never thought I’d go to a Joel Osteen event.

1.  I like having ‘Christian street-cred’ as it were.  I guess this is more of a confession than something I’m proud of.  I’m part of that generation that identifies with others through shared consumer experiences (gaming systems, ipods, clothes, books, music genres).  We tend to get along with others who’ve bought the same stuff as us.  Groups that consume certain things usually don’t like groups that consume other things.  (Metal heads think artsy folk lovers suck at life; mac users question the character of PC users; etc).

All that being said, I know that my social points in this culture tend to go up or down depending on which concerts I go to or which books I’m reading, or how many people liked my last status on facebook.  It’s ‘cool’ in young Christianity to have read every Donald Miller book, to be disillusioned with the Church, to be at odds with the Republican party, to own at least two pairs of Tom’s shoes, and most of all: to abhor T.V. Evangelists.

That being said, with the risk of losing my ‘cool’ points, why would I ever go to see the TV preacher with probably the biggest following in the world?  Well, hopefully it’s because I’m finally seeing ‘cool’ as illusory, fleeting, cheap and… well, uncool.  But it probably had something to do with free tickets.

In all honesty, I think Christians need to be able to interact with spheres within Christianity that are different than they’re own.  We may not agree with everybody, but at least we can learn from each other.  I went to hear Joel Osteen last night, knowing that I disagree with much of his ministry and knowing that I would lose ‘cool’ points, because I believe it’s important to listen to others so you know where they’re coming from… and possible even to see which areas of their heart/teaching have not yet been gripped by the Gospel.

2.  When you’re watching Osteen on T.V., you can change channels… this is not the case in person.

3.  The main reason is because the Gospel is about more than just my personal finances and dreams.  The Jesus I serve called his followers to deny themselves, take up their cross every day, and follow him.  He preached that if we spent our lives on what our foolish hearts want, we’ll lose our lives.  Conversely, if we are to spend our lives (labor, recreation, family, free time, effort, energy, treasure) on Jesus, that’s when we’ll find what it truly means to be alive.

The prosperity Gospel is so appealing because it’s laced with truths from Scripture.  The truth is, God does love us.  The truth is, God does want the best for our life.  The truth is that God does have joy for us and a special plan for our lives.  The breakdown of the prosperity doctrine is the assumption that WE know what’s best for our lives now.  It’s the idea that God’s greatest purpose and joy is to help US reach our OWN dreams and desires for our lives.  The prosperity Gospel fails because it assumes that the Gospel is ALL about ME.

I guess I just believe that the Gospel might actually be God’s story instead of our own.  His dream might be better than my own.  My money actually might be his, not my own.

The truth in Scripture is that God does bless his followers.  I think where Osteen tends to go wrong in his teaching is assuming what God’s blessing will look like : usually more money, better health, or success in your field of work.  There are many examples in Scripture of God blessing people monetarily, healthwise, and in their jobs.  Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Naaman, even some guy named Jabez.  But Scripture also teaches us that blessings come in other forms.

Actually, the new testament encourages believers to rejoice especially in their sufferings.  In the new testament, there were both people who sold everything they owned for the sake of the kingdom, and people who kept the homes and land they owned as resources for the kingdom.  Their were Christians in courtrooms and high places, and their were Christians being persecuted and martyred.  Who was God blessing then?  Who is God blessing now?

Has God blessed the Christian in the U.S. that now has enough money to pay for his mortgage and the two cars and new boat, or has he blessed the Christian in southern India who fears for his life in the next outburst of violence against the Way?  Which of these has God blessed more?  Who am I to say?  More importantly, who am I to tell God the manner in which he may bless me?  How arrogant is it for me to assume I know what I need more than God knows?

Am I preaching a Gospel of poverty?  I hope not.  I hope I am not making the point that we should seek out suffering and persecution… and that we should run off and leave all that we’ve known like that guy from Into The Wild, simply to die in the woods alone.  What I’m saying is that it is time that the church began to believe that it’s real treasure lies in Christ.  Paul says in Philippians 3 that whatever he once counted as gain, he now counts as loss.  But that’s not the end.  He’s able to count it all loss because he’s found something of greater value. “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ…”

Whether I have much or little, let me be content in the fact that I know Christ, and that he has made me thoroughly loved and acceptable to God.  Let this be the source of my utmost joy – in sickness or pain, in riches or poverty, in failure or success.  “The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

Ephesians begins with the claim that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.  Blessed: past tense.  Many times the prosperity Gospel is to preoccupied with the “next blessing” God will drop in our lives that it fails to emphasize the treasure that has already been given to us in Christ.  We’ve already been given more than this entire world could ever offer… and yet we so often overlook that in search of  “a blessing.”

God, let us once again find joy in YOU, not just in the gifts you give us.

God does love you, want to bless you, and lead you in his plan for your life.  But take Jesus at his word:

“…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6 in the sermon on the mount).

I’m ending this because it’s turning into more of a rant than a blog.  I hope one day that it can be said of me : “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (phil 4)


We are all theologians

I was listening to a podcast the other day when the person speaking said, “We are all theologians.”

Often we think theology is something for those who have studied in seminary, for clergy, or people with church positions.  But every one has a theology.  Everyone has beliefs about God.  And the neat thing is that our beliefs show up.  You can tell what a person really believes by looking what they do.  You can know someone’s theology when you look at their life.

Yes, there is a division between what we know and what we believe.  I’m not just talking about doctrines that we know, but I’m talking about the things we believe about God.  You can make a mental acknowledegement of something as being true without deeply believing it.  We can ‘know’ God loves us, but until we ‘believe’ God loves us, our lives will be built on a false foundation.  We’ll be trying to gain the approval of others with everything we do.  Instead of being motivated by God’s love for us, we can find ourselves motivated by a lack of love.  The difference is astounding.  It can show up many ways…

I guess all I’m saying is that our lives tell others what we believe to be true about God and life.  This is why we never see faith separated from works in the bible.  It’s true, our works don’t save us.  But it’s also true that if there are no works, then we don’t really have faith.

Maybe this is what James meant when he says, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” (James 2:17-18 NIV)

Like Donald Miller says, “What I believe is not what I say I believe.  What I believe is what I do.”

What am I saying?  I’m saying that I’m looking at my life and asking myself, “What do I believe?”  I know what I think.  But if you really believe something, it can’t help but show up in your life.  If I find in my life that I believe some good things, then awesome!  If I find that I’m believing things other than what God says, then I’ll repent, turn that over to him, and ask for faith.


some quotes

“The very fact that we debate over the existence of absolutes shows we believe in them.  For everyone believes their point of view to be absolutely correct, or at least correct enough to argue about.”- me

“We are wired so that others help create us, help make us who we are, and when we are fed deception, we make bad decisions.” -Donald Miller

“I’m afraid we live in a world where it’s constantly nighttime somewhere, and it makes you feel dark inside sometimes.  But we also live in the world where it’s constantly daytime somewhere.  And it’s constantly the best day of someone’s life: all the time.”  -Benjamin del Sheve

“Romeo, Romeo, I gotta let you know.  Juliet’s the death of you, but what a way to go.  . .
Better thus: with a kiss to die; than thus: with no kiss to say that you had ever lived.” – BDS

quotable quotes

A jumble of quotes that aptly represents the often random nature of my reading material:

“Reality is like a fine wine, it won’t be appealing to children.” – Donald Miller, Searching for God Knows What

“Only he who believes can obey, and only he who obeys can believe” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  Jesus, Luke 9:23

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony”- Ghandi

“As I have said of our own denomination, should the 1950s return we will be ready.” – Ed Stetzer

“From the top of the first page to the end of the last day, from the start in your own way; you just want somebody listening to what you say, it doesn’t matter who you are.”  Coldplay, Square One



the era of the Cubuddy

Today was the beginning of a new era, an era that I hope is short-lived. A co-worker of mine started today, and since we are a company that is trying to keep up with it’s own growth, we are out of cubicles. So I’ve had to make room for her in my cubicle. Thus, I have a cubicle buddy- or cubuddy if you want to make it one word, which I do.

It’s interesting situation for me, since I rarely have anything to do with my time at work. I have been so bored at work in the last few weeks that I’ve taken up writing, blogging, chatting for hours with co-workers via the in-house instant messaging system, at times I’ve even started reading entire books, thanks to the wonderful technology of GoogleBooks.

There have been days of cube rage, cube fever, and cube depression. I’ve made artwork with a Styrofoam coffee cup and 32 multi-colored pushpins. I’ve started trying new things with the beverage station, like coffee with splenda and 3 creamers instead of coffee with sugar and 2 creamers (I know, I am a daredevil.) I’ve even blended the mint tea with the green tea to get a starbucks zen-like aroma that freshens my closed eyes with my face one inch from the top of the cup. I’ve done online banking, figuring up 200 ways to make my budget each month. One afternoon I solved the global financial crisis and world hunger all at once, but Microsoft word malfunctioned before I could save it, so all was lost. All is lost.

Anyway, I guess now that I’m in this new Cubuddy Era, I will have to choose my blogging time wisely – because even though I may not have much to do, I can’t have everybody knowing about that! If you’re interested, below is something I wrote at work a few weeks ago. Your feedback is welcome….



I guess I’ll write, I told myself. But write about what? What kind of grand ideas do you write about when you’re bored at work, and isn’t the phrase ‘bored at work’ an oxymoron anyways? Should anyone ever be allowed to be bored at work? Doesn’t work cease to be work at the exact moment that you are allowed enough time to be bored with it, and I don’t mean bored with it in the sense that the work itself is boring. Many lines of employment are boring, days filled with mind-numbing repetitive tasks. Even men who make large amounts of money can have jobs that would make a turtle race seem fast paced.

No, I don’t mean that type of boredom. I mean the point when you’ve exhausted all the notions of activity to fill your time with. The point where you’ve filled out every purchase order, reviewed every TPS report, created the files, filed the files, flipped through the files, and then burned a few files just so you could re-make the files; when you’ve checked your messages twice, texted ten friends who actually have jobs that keep them busy, and called your parents just to say hi; that part of the day when you finally subside to listening to your beard grow and watching your fingernails extend — that’s where I find myself right now.

I recently finished Donald Miller’s freshman book, Through Painted Deserts. It’s a story of a road trip, of making a new friend, of searching for truth, of a pilgrimage from Texas to Oregon. There was so much good in the words. I like Miller’s meandering style and honest tone. He uses simple language and run-on sentences to paint some exquisite word pictures.

Don left Houston when he was 21. Breaking up with his girlfriend right before the journey, he hit the road with near-stranger/new friend Paul. They have no goals really, besides visiting the Grand Canyon and driving until they run out of money. Paul seems like the kind of friend I sometimes wish I had. Maybe not as my best friend, but just someone I wish I could be around more. He’s about as close to a hippie as you can get and still be cool in my book, not that hippies aren’t cool or anything, just not too cool in my book. If you want to know that bad I’ll probably write my book one day and you can see whether or not you’re cool.

The pair spends only $5/day combined, plus gas money, and Don entertains us with their witty conversations and near breakdown experiences. Every time the van gives them trouble, God uses the occasion to bring someone special into their lives, or even work small miracles, in the case of, “God we need a mechanic.”

Donald Miller has a great way of juxtaposing comedy and every day conversation against the struggle with life’s deepest mysteries. He describes life’s biggest questions as the why questions and says he admires those that only ask the how questions. How do I get a better job, how do I buy a bigger house, how do I get people to like me. I completely understand what Miller is saying here, but in my case, instead of admiring, I’ve often been jealous of those that seem to ask only the how questions. It’s something I don’t think I’ve ever been able to do. Or maybe on some level I used to only ask how, but ever since I let myself ask why I’ve been wrecked for the ordinary. All the same, I don’t regret asking why. Why do people want bigger houses, why would I want more money, why do I long for acceptance, why am I alive, why is there pain in the world, why?

Honestly, I don’t think anyone gets to the bottom of those age-old questions. I don’t think anyone ever makes sense of it all on this side of the Styx. I know people who tried for a while, then ended their search with bitterness, chalking it all up to meaninglessness. One abrasive existence it must be to believe that one is utterly and completely an accident, a chance happening, of no moral importance or eternal significance. One abrasive existence it must be to deny all faith, and by this very action place their faith in the idea of no faith. After all, as John Mayer sings it, “everyone believes.”

I still think that searching is important. Sometimes it feels like you search all that you know until you come to the end, and the end seems like a ledge you don’t want to look over because if you ever really saw the depths you don’t know what you would do to yourself. Sometimes I’ve thought if I looked over that ledge, I would piss my pants, or that my heart would immediately jump out of my chest and beat itself to death, no pun intended. I think we sometimes search, knowing that we can’t handle the answers-even if they’re good answers. It’s like we operate on this how level that doesn’t need to know why anything exists, or why the world works like it does. We want the radio without considering the radio waves. We want the cell phone without thinking about how amazing it is that we can speak with someone 3000 miles away in real time with no cords. We want the internet without having the slightest idea of how to speak binary. We want the car without understanding combustion engines. We are odd.

The remnant that can’t live with without pursuing why questions reminds me of the anomaly that rejects the counterfeit reality of the Matrix. They find themselves in less than pleasant circumstances compared to the Matrix realm, but relish in the fact that they are truly alive. Yes, their food, their homes, their beds, their sense of security – all of these may have been better in the Matrix; but none of it was real. It was all make believe, all a dream world, where they had themselves chasing cheese that kept moving. And when they finally broke free of the Matrix, their joy was in experiencing reality.

I suppose this has something to do with the pilgrimage Don found himself on, but I know it has everything to do with my own pilgrimage. Sometimes I wish there were certain facades that I could be OK with. What is it about my search that keeps leading me to lose faith in traditions that have in the past helped to identify me? I often find myself on a road that feels quite isolated until I remember that everyone that has ever lived wonders the same things. . . some just take the road further before turning on one of the million side roads jutting out. Some go to Portland like Don, some go across the world with the Peace corps, some travel their road by staying home like Mother Teresa. Some travel with others in mind, some travel their path as though no other road exists. Some simply follow the same trail they’ve always seen trodden. Some wander, but all walk, and all wonder.

We all experience the why of life, but it seems some are better at forgetting the experience than others. Maybe the best solution is balance, walking in the how as much as required, but living with a solemn awareness of the unanswered qualms, the inexplicable occurrences, the difficult conundrums of why: all the while remembering that there is more to existence than the here and now; if you will: more than the how.