December 28, 2010

Why don't the prosperity preachers tell the whole truth?

Joel Osteen's Twitter post from 12-27 reads: "God does not have disaster and failure in your future. He is for you, and you are His treasured child. He wants to bless you."

Has Pastor Osteen said anything technically wrong? At first blush perhaps not depending on your theological persuasion. It even "sounds" like something Jeremiah might have said. "'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." Jer. 29:11

So on the surface, Osteen is right; God IS a good God yet the Psalmist in Psalm 73 writes complaint after complaint about how the "good guy" is always getting the shaft while the evil doer is the one who succeeds.

So being a faithful person does not guarantee success, fairness, or justice--in THIS life. Which is why Asaph in Psalm 73 has his eureka moment writing, "When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end." Psalm 73:16-17

So how come Joel rarely if ever seems to give the whole story? Failing to do so sews discouragement to thousands of people whose lives aren't always rosy no matter how faithful they have been. The conclusion they walk away with is that their faith is faulty in some way. That they just don't measure up to the standard of faith that ensures the blessing of God which always seems to mean blessings of money and materials.

The TRUTH is, bad things happen to good people no matter how much positive talk you give yourself, or the strength of your positive thinking.

In "The Proper Pursuit of Prosperity" which goes into production in January, I explain the PROPER pursuit of prosperity which is a biblically balanced and biblically complete handling of the subject of success and affluence in this life.

I'll keep you posted on its progress!

December 16, 2010

Bill's Wide Receiver Bobbles More Than a Pass"

In an age when broadband means instantaneous, finger-tip communication with the world, what might have been a locker room rant before a handful of peers, became a tantrum gone global. Instead of a few buds in the locker room rolling their eyes and forgetting about it in a matter of minutes, careless words were intercepted by the mass media lingering for weeks or months.

Such has been the fate of Steve Johnson, wide receiver for the NFL's Buffalo Bills. With the game on the line, Johnson--who has been one of the few bright spots on the Bill's roster this year--bobbled and then dropped what would have been the "miracle" winning catch. The QB made a good throw; Johnson didn't hang onto the ball. It was just a tough break and that should have been the end of it, but when you're on Twitter, you have 140 characters (including spaces) in which to transport your communiqué into cyberspace at the speed of light.

The distraught wide receiver tweeted the following: "I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO...,"

I'm sure he's not the first athlete to lay the responsibility for a botched play at the feet of the Almighty. But he may be the first professional athlete to be flagged, so to speak, for bobbling what has become a very popular theology. It strikes me as very odd though that a football player is railed for revealing his naïve understanding of God while pastors, who actually know better do the same, and are lauded. They propagate disillusionment with impunity through their candy coated messages about a fanciful God whose reason for being is to make us happy.

Well, sometimes truth comes from the most unlikely places. Peter Gilmore commenting on Johnson's "Tweet" noted, "Johnson is consistent with his thinking if he believes there is a God who regularly intervenes in his life. With that logic, Johnson is right to blame him for falling down on the job and letting him miss that pass…”

It is profound, even if unintentional, that such insight comes from the High Priest of the Church of Satan. Gilmore is not only right, but unwittingly indicts some of today's most popular preachers. Leaders of some of the wealthiest ministries in the world have built personal empires by peddling the kind of vending-machine-god about whom Steve Johnson tweeted his dismay. Such a god doesn't exist, but that has little bearing on those enamored with such a sugary deity.

The wild success of books like, "Your Best Life Now," are predicated on what is called the "prosperity gospel." This "new" gospel teaches that God is basically your personal, cosmic genie who wants to "bless you" with your every dream. So when the "faithful" fails to get the dream-home loan, the job promotion or the winning catch in a big game, calling God to account is merely the natural outworking of a self-absorbed view of the Almighty. But Jesus said, "…[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:45) In other words, bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.

When Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything else shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33) it wasn't a formula for manipulating God for personal pleasure. Taken in context it is a sobering statement of the propriety of living for God--for His purposes--as the highest priority in one's life.

Bottom line--the heart that has been captured by God's love is pleased to ask, "What can I do for YOU today God, not as the prosperity peddlers are teaching, "What can you do for ME?"