The Praise of Cute Babies, Ryan Gosling’s Abs, and Holiness

There we sat in the movie theater, with about 200 other people, just in time to see the opening of Crazy Stupid Love. With this being in the genre of a romantic comedy, it is safe to say that the female gender took the majority count in the room, ha. Midway through the movie we finally approached the imminent flirtatious scene between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (my future wife). What happened next turned out to be hilarious – Ryan Gosling takes off his shirt… and on the 32-foot tall, 75-foot wide movie theater scene, 200 people received a full HD view of his 8-pack abs. I kid you not, every girl in the theater automatically gave some type of audible reaction. 70 girls gave a deep gasp, 70 other girls giggled, and 30 other girls clapped. The 30 guys in the movie theater just smacked their teeth in a jealously retorted gesture. However, the reactions from the girls were priceless. There was a warm delight that triggered in their eyes and bubbled up into a spontaneously audible reaction. An external praise.

ImageNow, let us ask ourselves a question: Why is it that there was such outward expression givien off by those girls? Why did they not just feel the delight and keep that feeling to themselves? We know that their reactions to Ryan’s abs were not forced out but, on the other hand, were naturally performed. That action is slightly weird when you think about it, is it not?

Another example – In the church that I attend we have experienced this “baby boom” over the past 10 months. Literally, there are babies everywhere. I am scared. (I have a prophetic theory that the babies are going to take over the church and turn us into their slaves… but that is neither here nor there). One established fact is that the babies are awfully adorable. I mean my goodness they are precious.  They turn heads like it’s their jobs. People are continuously complementing the babies, continuously gathering around them, and continuously telling other people about a new baby that they must see. What is it that causes us to react like this? It is not as if we haven’t seen a baby before.

The answer happens to be the exact same reason that God asks us to praise him. All throughout the Bible we see numerous instances where God says to give him joyful praises.  C.S. Lewis, who used to be a staunch atheist until his conversion, used to hate Christianity for this reason. He felt as if God was this old beggar-woman asking for praises all the time. After his conversion, he realized the truth behind why God demands that we praise him:

C.S. Lewis –

Just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’…

…“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”

What Lewis is saying is that the reason girls in a movie theater naturally give an external reaction to Ryan Gosling’s gorgeous abs is because their joy in those abs does not feel complete until they let it out. The reason we tell people about cute babies is because we have to share this news in order to complete the feeling. The initial joy is fuel that leads us into some form of obedience to achieve the full joy. We see this with Instagram and Facebook as well. We post pictures of the coffee we’re sipping or the delicious meal we’re eating because we must tell someone. Weird, huh? We do it all the time. We are by design worshipers and want people to join us in that feeling of gratification. God wired us for this. God’s demand to praise him is not meant for Himself.  God does not need our approval. He tells us to praise him because in the act of praising we walk into a fulfillment of the eternal-like joy that we were created for. If God loves you he would want what is best for you. What is best for you is Himself. In order for your joy to be naturally completed, it must be expressed. The scriptures are hinting to us, “do you want fullness of joy…do you want everlasting peace and freedom…then praise God in all things with all your heart.” Isaiah 25:1, Psalm 150:2, James 5:13, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, etc.

The Lord wants us to understand that anything we praise that does not end in praise of the triune God will be fleeting (Job 7:6-7, Psalm 144:4, James 4:14). Ryan’s abs will not last forever, babies eventually reach the terrible twos, delicious sandwiches will quickly disappear, and Tom Brady will eventually grow too old for the game. Unless our everyday pleasures end in ultimate praise in Jesus Christ then those pleasures are restricted. Everything that is seen is transient. Our hope lies in focusing more on what is unseen. Jesus takes our sins, dies on the cross in our place for our sins, then rises from death. He gives us his righteousness. He gives us his heart. The more our affections are stirred for Christ, that joy will fuel our obedience to worship, to evangelize, and to naturally give off fruits of the spirit…freely. Not as a job or obligation but because we already feel his affections for us. Continually sitting underneath this Gospel story causes us to continually remember, which in turn, naturally triggers that “joy of eternal significance”. That joy that creation yearns for.

Let us adore Him. Let us praise Him.


Reflections on the Psalms. C.S. Lewis. 1958.

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

Michael Jordan’s “King Solomon” Syndrome

The first time I ever watched a televised basketball game just so happens to have been during Michael Jordan’s final playoff run in 1998. They were playing the Indiana Pacers in the Conference Finals. My dad loved to watch him and every commercial idolized him. Most importantly, I knew him as the awesome guy from Space Jam (Daffy Duck’s acting in that movie was impeccable, if I may add).

This past week ESPN and the NBA paid homage to Jordan for his 50th birthday. ESPN senior writer, Wright Thompson, actually had the pleasure of spending five weeks alongside MJ for an up close and personal documentary on him. Wright spent practically every hourImage with Michael during this time with the goal of reporting just how Michael is dealing with his life today, post-basketball.

Besides the fact that Michael has:

1)   A Private jet painted to mimic a basketball sneaker,

2)   Extravagant houses in multiple cites around America,

3)   Ownership over the Charlotte Bobcats’ NBA franchise,

4)   Golfing excursions with the likes of Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton,

5)   Been idolized by every single sports superstar, from David Beckham to Cam Newton,

6)   A larger sports legacy than any other athlete to date,

7)   Wealth and prosperity,

8)   A beautiful fiancé,

9)   A continual dominant presence in the NBA without even physically playing,

10) A life and career that a majority of the people in the world would love to exchange for.

…Besides all of this, at the end of this five weeks Wright Thompson found that Michael Jordan was very unhappy and discontented with life beyond basketball.  Turns out that Jordan still desperately yearns for the opportunity to suit back up and play ball again. He has constant fears that he’ll be forgotten in the wind by the next generation. His daily routines consist of him habitually staying busy and active so that he doesn’t have long stints of silence or boredom. He is now somewhat a prisoner of his own life. Wright’s entire article has an extremely close parallel with what King Solomon experienced and wrote in his mental reflection on his life in the book of Ecclesiastes.

King Solomon did everything in life far better than any of us can imagine, let alone achieve. He went through a life-long experiment to see if he could find full satisfaction without God (Ecclesiastes 1). He ruled nations with peace and without war in both Judah and Israel. His wisdom was beyond measure. He was the wealthiest king that has ever lived. He was more handsome and prettier than us. He had self-made national forests, vineyards, mansions, and massive pools built for himself. He had slaves for his slaves. He knew about both botany and ethology. He routinely threw epic parties for thousands of people that included 40,000 horses, deer, gazelles, cattle and the finest wine. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. (1 Kings 4-6, Ecclesiastes 2-3, 2 Chronicles 9:23, Psalm 45:2).

After years of testing everything that he could, including wealth, power, friendship, work, knowledge, and pleasure……Solomon found that it was all meaningless. He ran into diminishing returns when it came to enjoyment and found that there is nothing worth its full salt without God being the main component in the picture.

The reason why Solomon’s test failed and MJ is not satisfied is that when sin entered the world, WE all exchanged our infinite creator God for his creation. When this took place we began to settle for temporary, fleeting pleasure rather than what our soul really needs for satisfaction (Genesis 3, Romans 1).  Solomon concludes that Michael is weird to think that what he needs to finally be happy is more of what he already has. I mean come on….is another championship ring and million dollars really going to satisfy him? He already has six rings and a sports legacy that no other human may ever top. Solomon’s point is that we should enjoy life and enjoy it deeply, but not to forget about God in this small window of our lives.

King Solomon’s mental outlook is a foreshadowing of what Jesus says in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4).

To paraphrase, Jesus tells her “Trust me, come to me and you will never thirst again. Trust me. Do not outlook this opportunity…I’ve got what you have been missing.”

See, only a true believer in Christ can understand the joyful realization of the provision that God has over our lives. With the Gospel in view, we begin to see life just how God intended for it to be seen…without discontentment or regrets of redoing the past.


What if the Roles of Overseas Missions were Reversed…

Suppose that the roles of Christian missions were switched. Suppose that instead of American-Christians going over to countries (i.e. Uganda, Kenya, India, Nicaragua and China) to spread the Gospel…that the native believers from those countries came here to America to spread the Gospel.

What would that look like? That’s a very weird concept to grasp, right?

Well this thought has been on my mind lately.  Honestly, it would be a CRAZY sight to see people from 3rd-world countries proselytizing to our nonbelievers and mentoring our believers.  However, when I think about this, it makes perfect sense. Quite frankly, they live out the Gospel much more biblically and with much more boldness than we do here in America. They have a zeal for the Lord that phenomenal, in comparison. The passion that King David exhibits throughout the Psalms….it resonates with them much more closely. Here is quite the opposite at times. Over here, we must watch The Bachelor and the NFL Playoffs first. Consequently, any holy zeal for God will just have to sit on the back burner for now. We’ll get to it later. [For an example of zeal, watch 1:47-3:15

Here are 15 possibilities of what it may look like if international missions were brought here onto our soil for a week:

(1) On the day the Kenyans arrive at our airports, they will immediately start asking random people “Do you have Jesus in your heart?”. With boldness they will do this to everyone there, regardless of age or status.  It is inbred in their culture of faith in Kenya to do so.

(2) The Ugandans would get into deep conversations with people and make sure that they have a personal relationship with Jesus and explain the true beauty of what that looks like.

(3) The Christians from India would remind us of just how real spiritual/demonic warfare is. They’ll tell us numerous stories of demon possession occurring in their homeland. (Sadly, we’d think they were lying.  We tend not to believe in the unseen, divine nature of this world. Even though it’s talked about everywhere in the Bible, it very very rarely gets preached on at all. At all)

(4) The Nicaraguans will plead with us not to focus so much on our IPhones. They’ll try to tell us that it is meaningless, in the end.  They will remind us that all of our material possessions will eventually end up in a junkyard somewhere.

(5) The Chinese missionaries will tell us about how they suffer to just to be able to go to church. They’ll explain how their church services consist of them sneaking into caves to worship and pray for 10 hours straight. Being in a highly communistic state, getting caught by their government can result in being killed.

(6) They will begin to mourn as they see just how narcissistic, self-exalting, and greedy our society is.

(7) WE will see notice and feel their deep-seated joy in Christ. And it will indeedly sweep us off our feet.

(8) They’ll whip our tails in soccer, haha.

(9) They would tell us stories of how they had to escape from being persecuted or even killed by their home tribes when they converted to Christianity.

(10) Some will explain of how their family members have outright disowned them….but how they still do not regret being made new in Christ Jesus.

(11) They will tell us story after story of their exciting lives as they live out the Gospel. We would sit and listen like little children, in awe, and ask them to tell us more.

(12) They will laugh hysterically at the Prosperity Gospel teaching. They know firsthand more than anyone of just how seriously false and silly that teaching is. They’d think that so-called “pastors” like Joel Osteen were just joking.

(13) They would visit some of our churches wonder how so many of our churches have strayed away from what the Bible actually teaches. And even more so, how we do not seem to be bothered by it. They will weep and beg us to repent. They will lovingly look us in the eyes and plead with us to go back to what the Bible teaches.

(14) They’ll eventually head back to their home countries because, well, that’s where home is. But before they leave, they’ll tell us one last time to ‘be watchful of our sin, to trust in the Lord, and to rely wholeheartedly on Him as if our eternity depends on it’.

(15) For the next year, they would pray endlessly for us Americans…yearning for the opportunity to come back to America, in God’s name.