Posts Tagged 'Jesus'

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)


More thoughts on Power and Purpose

I’m listening to the Soma Podcasts again.  Just finished listening to The Message Part 2.  These are some thoughts from the teaching that hit me hard.   These aren’t ‘original’ thoughts on my end.  Actually I think God came up with them, but I’m just trying to rehash so I can better understand.  Any thoughts?

Conversion begins with an awareness of Who God is and Who I am.  When I see my depravity against his holiness, my inability against his total ability… then the Cross gets big to me.  But if my view of him is too low(God’s not as big or as good as he says he is), or if my view of myself is too high (I’m really not that bad of a person, I can make myself righteous) — then the cross doesn’t seem like much.

Sometimes we’re guilty of believing that the Gospel is something we believe once at the beginning and then we move on to greater things, but the truth is that we believe the Gospel so that we can live the Gospel.  Whenever we believe that we can get saved and then do whatever we want, we’re trying to say that we choose a god so that we can be god (do whatever we want to do after we come to Jesus.) This is a result of knowing the Power of the Gospel (how God saved us), but not having an awareness of the Purpose of the Gospel (the mission God calls his people to/why God saves us).  In this false Gospel, the Story becomes ABOUT us (instead of him).

The other swing of the pendulum happens when we know the mission of God, but we don’t live from a motivation of the power of God.  In other words, we see the work he wants to do in the earth (restoration), but have not fully realized that he alone has the power to complete it, although he chooses to use us.  In this case, the Story becomes DEPENDENT on us (instead of him). The resulting mindset is that we are the ones responsible changing the world, and we can gain more favor with God through our works toward that goal.

But the Gospel is that he alone is Holy and perfect.  The fall tells us that we are sinful and never capable of perfection in our own right — and that our sin separates us from God.  But the Power of the Gospel is that Jesus’ work on the cross saves us– makes us right with God in spite of our sins and his holiness.  The purpose of God is that he saved us to be a people on mission (not merely individuals who serve their own purposes).

We are saved by God’s work, for God’s work.  We are saved by his grace, to live in his grace, for his purposes.

When we begin to see Who God is and who we are, we don’t have to pretend any more.  We realize that he’s the only one who could ever be perfect, not us.  Jesus is the only one who could ever save us (not ourselves).  So now the secret is out.  We’re not perfect.  I’m not perfect.  You’re not perfect.  So lets quit expecting each other to be perfect.  The pressure is off!  Jesus is the only Jesus.  We don’t have to be our own Savior, our own Jesus.  That is the Gospel!  God knows we couldn’t, so he made a way in Christ.

So the questions comes to me:  Whose Story is it?  Is it primarily about me?  Or is it primarily about God?  It is about us both, but who is it primarily about?  When we see God, we can quit trying to be god.  When we see ourselves, we can quit trying to be God.  God is God, and he loves us, and has a purpose for us.  This is the Gospel.  Power and Purpose.  Faith and Works.  Word and Deed.

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