Joel Osteen, “Hypothetical” Marijuana, & My Mother’s Soul

You know those moments on TV sitcoms when the parent walks in on their teenage child to see something awkward or even something that their child should not be doing? Or maybe they find out some gut-wrenching news that their son has been selling marijuana or their daughter has went wayward. Those moments always tend to make us cringe while watching. Some of us have even lived through it. Well this weekend I got to experience this, firsthand, from the parental perspective.

It was Sunday morning in the Johnson household and we were all getting ready for church. With my pajamas still on, I walked into my parents’ room. And there I saw. There it freakin’ was. My mother… as she was getting dressed for church…. was watching a Joel Osteen sermon on the television!!! OMGGG!!! I could hear his soothing, charming voice and see his masterful charisma onstage. Time seemed to slow down as my adrenaline began rapidly pumping. Needless to say, I subtly flipped out, turned the channel, and stared at my mother in awe.

Ok, all jokes aside….I really was worried and had all these emotions boiling up inside me. My mother and I had to pause from preparing for church – and instead had a deep 20 minute conversation about Joel Osteen’s type of ministry, the destructive repercussions of it, and why all of that is so monumentally important.

Joel Osteen’s type of ministry is a purposeful combination of a prosperity, self-help, heretical, wishy-washy, and positive-thinking legalistic teaching. He has said on national television that he takes certain scriptures and morphs them for his own style of teaching. Now I would not mind my mother watching him and learning what he teaches….that is, if her eternal soul did not depend on it. His teaching, as Colossians 2:4 puts it, will dilute her faith and deceive her away from knowing the true God of the scriptures. This is why there are numerous real pastors/believers/theologians/bloggers out there that constantly publicly callout Osteen. We are called to watch out for one another. Pastors are called to shepherd the flock and protect the sheep from the wolves; Matthew 7:15; 2 Peter 2. If there was a physical wolf around your loved ones, would you not attempt do something about it?

Now the question becomes, but “why is Joel Osteen’s ministry labeled as flawed?”

That question can be answered in a plethora of ways. I am not a theologian, but I can write a 200 page book that very thoroughly dissects why this is so…but this is only a blog AND I’m in the middle of watching Season 4 of One Tree Hill and I’ve got to get back to it eventually.  For simplistic sake,

  • Joel Osteen never teaches on the Gospel.
  • He never mentions Christ dying for our sins.
  • He never even says the word sin – unlike the Apostle Paul who mentions it all the time (And the Spirit who came for that exact proclaiming purpose; John 16:8).
  • Osteen never preaches on the Cross.
  • There is never a time when the listener is confronted with reproof, correction, or conviction (2 Tim. 3:16) which leads to holiness and everlasting joy in Christ.

The church and it’s orthodox teaching has been booming for 2000 years now, but the Prosperity Gospel has just began over the past 50 years. Aren’t elderly people always saying ‘their ain’t nothin’ new under the sun, unless it’s wrong.’ I heard another quote recently that said,

“The more people read their Bibles, the more that the attendance would decrease in prosperity and lukewarm churches”.

With all this said, my main concern is for the people that listen to the messages. In that moment with my mother, I was only angry with Joel Osteen for less than 5 minutes. On the other hand, I was and have been, ceaselessly worried and fearful for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are under his influence. The Bible does not simply describe the church as singular, individual locations: 1 Corinthians 1:2 describes the church as the entire city. Acts 9:31 describes it as the entire region of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. If you read the context, Ephesians 5:25 describes the church as ALL believers, EVERYWHERE, over ALL time. Unity Unity Unity. Therefore, our calling to guard our fellow believers and churchmen spreads much further than a church building. So calling out Joel Osteen’s ministry is not anywhere off-limits, biblically. This is especially true when his messages and books are reached all over the world in overwhelming numbers.

Lastly, some people may justify his preaching by claiming that at least people are somehow hearing “about” God. God works everything, including Osteen’s ministry, for a reason. Why yes, that is true. He is sovereign. But….hmmm…I think that after 9/11 occurred, thousands of people somehow found Christ all around the world. Amongst tragedy, their eyes and hearts were opened in many different ways and circumstances to start following Jesus. There are tragedies everyday that God uses to turn people’s hearts to himself. Newtown, Columbine, deadly natural disasters, etc…. but coincidentally, no one encourages more tragedies to occur. No one is willing to just sweep them under the rug because God is working through them. In the same way that we rebuke tragedies because they are foreign to our core being, we should rebuke false teaching because it is foreign to how God designed us to live and it belittles our Father. May I never risk my mother’s eternal soul by allowing her to be encircled by wolves. One’s soul is not something to play with. I pray that someone in Osteen’s church reads this. If so, I love you so much. Please be careful how you listen. And Joel, I have much love for you too. I pray for you.

P.S.: I attempted to research what the atheist community’s thoughts are on Joel Osteen, but I yielded nothing. Seems like they do not even have time to mock him, since he’s no threat to them. However, I did find an atheist Facebook group that thought he was awesome. It is a sad oddity when atheists do not even take their time out to hate on your ministry.

Is it right to call people or pastors out for falsity?? Yes, the Bible commands of it. Also, the Apostle Paul did it numerous times. These two reasons are both found in:

Acts 20:26-30; Colossians 2:8; 1 Timothy 1:19,20; 1 Timothy 4:6-16; 1 John 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:2; 2 Timothy 4:14; Titus 2:15; Proverbs 27:5; 3 John 1:9; Matthew 23: 27,28,33

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“This is Water Video” through a Gospel Lens

See video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmpYnxlEh0c

We always seem to grab hold of a new awe-inspiring Youtube video at least every other day. One that genuinely warms our hearts and causes us to “share” with our online social media. In 2005, late author David Foster Wallace gave a very well-received commencement speech at Kenyon College. It can be compared to the likes of Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford speech. This 1-week-old video was made using much of the audio from the original speech and has now gone viral. However, there is something seriously lacking in his speech. That is…..he lacked an answer for us. A sufficient and attainable answer.

It should first be said that Wallace’s speech was indeed exceptionally insightful. He makes several valid points and does not shy away from some difficult parts of life. His full speech is actually even deeper and may be worth listening to. The core message of his life-advising speech is the importance of combining awareness, effort, and education– in giving ourselves a choice to better our lives and the lives around us. One thing that he gets exactly correct is at the 4:38 mark….because ever since Genesis chapter 3, all individuals do in fact believe that they are the center of the universe. The core issue with sin is that we subconsciously believe that we are God (Romans 1:21). Even secular psychologists confirm this in their research, naming it “The Truman Show Effect”. Where Wallace begins to swerve his speech into the wrong direction is when he uses quotes such as ‘..you get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t, that is real freedom’ and ‘The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, every day.’

So, his solution to our selfishness, our inadequacy, our impatience, our lack of awareness…..is to somehow continually teach ourselves to be more conscious of the personal experiences of others around us. While also forcing ourselves to become more aware of the realities that we usually are too busy to relax and see. From this, we get truth and real freedom. Phew….well, that sounds easy as apple pie now doesn’t it?

What Wallace is suggesting for us to do is extremely exhausting. It is pretty much a second full-time 24/7 job, without a 401K. On the other hand, ironically, this freedom of truth is something that we all inherently desire within the depths of our souls. We want to care. We want to soak in everything/everyone around us for the fullness that they really are. The problem is that we cannot do this on our own will. The joy that comes from the perfection of this is always lacking outside of a relationship with Christ. There is a difference in willing yourself to achieve something and resting in that which has already been achieved. As we rest in the Gospel, there is an outflow from us (true believers) that automatically achieves what Wallace is stressing.

One thing that Oprah, Aristotle, Christopher Hitchens, and Kim Jong-un would definitely agree on is this– that the world is broken. Oprah comes out with a new silly self-help article everyday. Historically there is always someone new trying to find ways to fix the brokenness. Even the ancient Greeks would depict this in many of their mythical stories. God designed us to live and function a certain way that leads to joy, but when sin entered the world, the cosmos fractured in a way that now all that we do and think of fall short of His glory. Sin is now in our DNA from birth (Psalm 19-1-4, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12-13). With sin being in our DNA, it is a cancer that does not necessarily work as an external action but as an internal idolatry. The only time on earth when things we “right” was during the first two chapters of Genesis. Using conjecture: God would give Adam and Eve new iPhone’s and juicy steaks in the garden. In return, their mind, actions, and affections would not collapse on the iPhone itself, but created even more worship and understanding toward God. They were not tainted with sin yet. This allowed them to enjoy the fullness of the iPhone & steak how they were meant to be enjoyed. Win-win.

In order to get back to the state of awareness and fullness of life, we need restoration. Lucky for us, Jesus came to restore our ability to live life in the manner that God first created us (Romans 6:4, Eph. 2:21). How lucky are we. When this happened, for those that come and believe, our behavior begins to transform. Now….God does not simply want to transform our behavior; he wants to transform the heart so that our behavior comes out of a new heart. We have to catch that major difference there. It’s big. It helps us not walk with an arrogant swagger because we realize that we all fell short of the Lord. But Jesus picked us up and gave us his Spirit so that we can walk as he walked. We have a Maker that is so focused on His own glory that calls us into a holy joy that we can have, no matter how good or bad the circumstance. This is true Freedom. This is capital T-Truth. We need an ability that is spiritual. An intellectual method only allows you to know what to do, but does not allow you to achieve it. Without the Gospel lens, David Wallace just missed this. He died of suicide in 2008. I pray that he believed before it was too late. God’s ways are far wiser and complicated than we can possibly imagine.

[Other verses: John 1:13, Philippians 2:12-13, Proverbs 14:12, Jeremiah 17:9, John 8:34, John 3:19]