January 28, 2011

Prosperity Gospel Is Gaining Ground

The longer my book "The Proper Pursuit of Prosperity" remains in production the more I see the glaring need for what I have written. There is a daily assault on the sensibilities of God's people being propped up with false hopes and erroneous expectations of our glorious God and Savior. I see its enticement spreading to where even people who otherwise seem to have their theological heads screwed on straight are seemingly being courted by the siren song of the prosperity god.

The day after Pastor Osteen was on Piers Morgan on CNN, the Tweets began cheering Joel on for his wonderful words shared during the interview.

Dave Ramsey--well known for his wise biblical counsel on how to properly use God's money in getting out of the sin of indebtedness, tweeted:

"Way to go @joelosteen on @piersmorgan CNN tonight. Proud of you my friend."

That same day, Joel Tweeted another wonderfully syrup-laden thought that has no basis in Biblical truth. Joel tweeted:

"God has all kinds of ways to bring your dreams to pass. Just because you can’t see a way, doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have a way."

What I wondered after reading Ramsey's Tweet, as well as several pretty well known Christian leaders who were even more gushy about what Joel had to say, was whether these presumably educated, knowledgeable, Christian workers were just trying to ride Osteen's very popular coattails or whether they are truly so ignorant of the Bible that they honestly believe that Osteen is presenting a biblical of view of life, of God and of "the faith once for all delivered to the saints."

My fervent hope is that it is the first suggestion but I expect that it may actually be the latter. My book is SO needed...

January 27, 2011

Joel Appears On CNN with Piers Morgan

Last night Joel Osteen and his wife Victoria were on CNN being pelted with questions by Piers Morgan. It was a lengthy interview and I admire the way Pastor Osteen is able to stay so placid. It was however nearly classic Osteenesque evasion, brown sugar and marshmallow fluff.

If he said "I don't know" once he said it ten times during the course of the interview. The tweets that followed affirmed the loving way in which he handled himself. One tweet even mentioned Joel's "I don't knows" applauding the fact that he doesn't claim to know everything.

I understand the kudos however most of the numerous questions to which Pastor Osteen responded had answers that were neither difficult nor covert in Scripture. So when one considers that he pastors the largest church in America, with 30,000 people relying on him for answers to the most important questions in life, and that his books have sold over 20 million copies, one should appropriately have a higher expectation than an endless stream of "I don't know." That quickly veers away from humility to incompetence.

The highlight of the interview showing some growth on Joel's part is when questioned about homosexuality, he actually used the "S" word! He called it sin and that the Bible was clear on that. Congratulations Joel, you just stuck your toe into the pool of pastoral honesty.

Unfortunately he didn't linger there moving quickly with Victoria's help to reassure everyone that he wasn't being judgmental--God forbid. But that is for another entry…

January 22, 2011

God doesn't want us making demands...

"Prosperity comes in letting Christ take us through the trials and becoming more like Him in the process." "Groovyoldlady" made this comment after my previous entry.

Now let me juxtapose her biblically astute sentence against Pastor Osteen's recent Tweet: Osteen writes--"Just follow God, and He will line up the favor and the blessings to help you accomplish your dreams and your destiny."

If Joel is correct then there is no rational explanation for why faithful men and women of God should ever undergo any kind of misfortune or any kind of persecution. It also yields all kinds of contradictory issues of Scripture which clearly warn of the opposite of what Pastor Osteen promises.

Osteen's statement is deeply flawed and gives a false hope to people who truly love the Lord yet don't experience His "favor" as Joel defines it.

It also sets people up to abuse God. In other words, my motive for obeying God, for serving God and following God becomes little more than a ticket to fame and fortune.

Paul writes that creation itself waits in travail for the revealing of God's own; for God's authority to be revealed. But it is clear that, that is not promised in this lifetime, but the life to come.

"Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4

God's love leads us to repentance not to demanding more and more.

January 20, 2011

Here's an example of the joyous Christian life!

Why does the "prosperity gospel" aggravate the dickens out of me? First--because it is not true, 2nd it runs contrary to life, and 3rd, it sets good people up for a devastated faith and 4th it presents a god that is foreign to the Scriptures.

Positive thinking has its place, but not when it comes at the expense of truth. I remember a disturbing Newsweek story many years ago showing a man--a devotee of a middle eastern religion--sitting on a railroad track. He was quite sane yet because of his "faith", positive vibes, and his good energy, his belief system taught him he could stop a train just by thinking he could. He was wrong, dead wrong, no pun intended.

The prosperity gospel has many of the same traits. It is full of "feel good," loaded with "happy thoughts" and sound bites of positivity. There is usually "some" truth to it but in the end it is a deception which will leave one high and dry.

The truth is, suffering and hardship is more normal for the faithful Christian than fanciful fantasies of favor, flavor and dreams come true. Below is an excerpt of an e-mail I received from a woman in our church whose life has not been a cake walk. Yet she is full of the Holy Spirit, honors the Lord and one day--DOWN THE ROAD--like in eternity, she will be blessed, completed, fulfilled and satisfied in every way. But right now, her life is like most as we live out our faith in a broken world ravaged by sin. Here is what she writes--describing her life:

"...childhood sexual abuse, death of my mother at 9 years, death of my father at 16 years, I was a wayward in my teen and early adulthood years, I had substance addictions, (now 21 years free from this), difficult relationships with step family, marital difficulties, times of marital separation, house fire, infertility, premature birth of my daughter, kidney failure, dialysis, I'm a living donor transplant, domestic violence, legal issues, financial hardship, entering college late in life, suicide of my husband, and currently, readjusting my views of mine and my daughters’ life… …there’s more, but that’s a good brief summary…"

Here is the reason for her writing: She adds--

"God’s Word sustains and is life-giving and life changing… don’t miss your opportunity for what He has for you through neglect… don’t try to seek to conform to a program, although it’s a great place to start, but seek what He has for you daily…"

It is her testimony about the value of reading through the Bible in a year--something we stress in our church; something few Christians have ever done even once. It is the major way one can grow in a complete, balanced and truthful understanding of the amazing love of God. He is not a vending machine around to grant our wishes, desires, and plans. We exist for HIM and not until we get to heaven will we experience the fullness of that love. Right now, sometimes, maybe even often times, this life sucks! And its not because you don't necessarily have enough faith, a life of excellence, or enough integrity.

In my book--The Proper Pursuit of Prosperity, this is all clearly explained and illustrated with real life stories!

January 14, 2011

There's Nothing Generous About Forced Benevolence

From the Amy Writer's Syndicate:
By William Cripe

When is enough, enough? Senator Bernie Sanders posed the question in reference to keeping the "Bush tax cuts" in place, wondering for how long, to what extent and for whom. Sanders' followed up his question stating, "The billionaires of America are on the warpath; they want more and more." The Vermont Senator's rhetoric is a familiar rant of those who want to satisfy their desire for charity through the legislated benevolence of everyone but themselves.

Wall Street Journal "Main Street" columnist, William McGurn notes that Sander's comments raise another question; "How come Republicans have such a hard time speaking…about the moral underpinnings of their side of this argument?" Good question--I fronted the same query to my wife the day before the article came out while watching the news about the pending tax-cut extension.

Since I have never heard a politician make a reasoned argument for the immorality of coerced benevolence--called excessive taxation of the rich--I will.

While taxes can certainly be used for immoral purposes, and can be imposed in an immoral manner, taxation is not inherently immoral. When Jesus was asked if it was lawful to pay tribute to Caesar He wisely took a coin with Caesar's bust on it and somewhat sarcastically said, "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's…" The question was disingenuous but Jesus, never-the-less, endorsed some notion of citizens helping fund the benefits they receive.

But when an individual or institution assumes the authority to dictate when one's level of income is "too much," then seeks to extract a portion of that income through a system of imbalanced taxation, an immoral act has just taken place. It is this simple: When person "A" chooses to divest themselves of a portion of their money giving it to whatever cause, person "A" has exhibited a charitable act. But when person "A" extracts person "B's" money and uses it for a charitable cause, person "A" is not being charitable; he is being immoral.

Charity, by definition, must issue forth from an act of free will, not legal mandate. Even the Bible is clear on this point. Concerning giving to charitable causes, the Bible instructs, "Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7)

What is especially poignant is the grandstanding politician decrying the "greed" of the "wealthy," railing against those who have "too much," and want to keep it to themselves. What is typical in my experience is that in every situation, the one excoriating the "wealthy" are themselves wealthy AND notoriously stingy!

In 1998 as one presidential candidate was railing against the other candidate for his opposition to endless entitlements to the "poor," it was revealed that the grandstanding--multi-millionaire--candidate had given a paltry $353 to charity that year. The candidate he was berating for his "lack of generosity," gave away a generous 10% of his income. So who was behaving immorally?
I don't know about any billionaires "being on the warpath" but I know plenty of cheapskate politicians always on a crusade to satisfy their spirit of generosity vicariously.

It is every person's responsibility to disburse their own money--if they like--to whatever causes they choose. At the end of the road we will all give account to the One who judges accurately for what we have done with every aspect of our lives.

In a free society it is not the role of politicians--especially hypocritical politicians--to determine what level of income is "too much." Every attempt to do so is inherently immoral.

January 11, 2011

Promises of Blessings AND Curses...

The Prosperity Preacher's post on this day of 1-11-11 is as follows:
"God's heart is for you to receive all of His blessings (see Deuteronomy 28:1-2). Receive that promise today!"

Here is just another example of what I spend some time on in my upcoming book--the "Proper Pursuit Of Prosperity;" Namely--partial truths at the expense of the complete truth. At least a scriptural reference was made.

Now if you go to that reference it is right smack dab in the middle of an historical context. God is trying to establish His people--as "His" people. A long list of blessings is listed (13 verses worth)BUT, and it is a big BUT--they are contingent on numerous "IF's." If you will diligently obey; if you will listen; if you will walk in His ways...But even at this, you cannot ignore the historical setting and the fact that God was establishing a covenant with His unique people over whom He was their KING.

This is vastly different than making this a one sided promise to anyone who drops the coin in the slot of the vending machine god of the prosperity preachers. It is instructive that just before these 13 verses of wonderful promises of God's blessing are 52 verses of curses if they don't obey. The whole truth--Please!

January 07, 2011

Is Life a Bowl of Cherries?

The prosperity preachers are stuck on one theme--life is a bowl of cherries, now start eating them. I follow Joel Osteen on Twitter just to stay in touch with the premier of prosperity. Today Pastor Osteen Tweets--"Get an expectation in your heart, an anticipation, that God is going to do something great in your life today."

Let's come back to biblical reality; God did something GREAT in every believer's life when He sent His Son--our "Savior" to come and live and die and rise in our stead. He suffered for my sins on that cross; He took the wrath of God the Father that I deserved, on Himself. There is NOTHING GREATER that God can do for us.

Now--God "may" do something "great" in our individual lives today (read that--expecting, demanding, anticipating) but there's no guarantee of that and in fact even anticipating that He will is wrong headed. If we understand that we exist for HIM, and not the other way around as the prosperity gospel contends, then we can face each day with the anticipation that WE are going to do something GREAT for HIM. And the great thing He WILL do, is that He will empower us for His purposes and His glory.

"For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body."
1 Corinthians 6:20