Tag Archives: Joel Osteen

Contrived Community

I’m laying on the couch watching Morgan Spurlock’s Inside Man. There was this episode about Sunday Assembly, which is essentially an atheist church. I have heard about this type of church and I find it puzzling. Not only is an atheist church an oxymoron, I find that it is not much different than some churches today.

Spurlock was in Nashville visiting churches so that he could glean some inspiration for his atheist message. For the record, I’m not particularly fond of churches using the term “message” in place of “sermon.” It sounds so sanitized and secularized. Nonetheless, I was interested to see that real worship services were used as inspiration for this brave new church.

As I watched Spurlock’s reaction to hearing a  sermon regarding marriage and homosexuality, I could see him mentally disengaging. I know that this topic made the cut to reinforce the notion that Christians are judgmental and intolerant. Not only that, the mere mention of God garners a subtle response that believers are bonkers. I can live with that but I still find it peculiar for someone to look to the church to model an atheist church.

Many churches today perform contemporary Christo-pop songs quite badly and on this episode of Inside Man the secret of Sunday Assembly is revealed–badly played Bon Jovi and 80’s hair music and ego puffery. If you look at Joel Osteen, you get an unbiblical feel good message sanitized of the real Christ. Atheist church has its own brand of positive sentimentalism. It is actually alarming to see that many churches today are virtually indistinguishable from this new godless church movement.

I don’t see the point. To meet simply for community seems ridiculous to me. I know different people have different motivations for attending church. As for me, I’m going to worship Jesus. Everything else pales in comparison. I have numerous friends at church, but I don’t get up Sunday mornings to hang out with my buddies. I go to worship Jesus.

Maybe I’m just antisocial. Growing up I often found myself often excluded on the playground. Today I carry my phone everywhere and I get irritated if it rings. I sometimes get put out if I get a text. It keeps interrupting my candy crushing efforts.

What I’m trying to say is that meeting up with a bunch of people I may or may not know doesn’t feel much like community to me. I’d rather pile into the van with family and friends to feed the homeless instead of having some life coach facilitator telling me and the rest of the strangers that I can feel loved and included. It’s vacuous and empty without Christ. It is an exercise in self-importance.

I don’t have a problem with atheists meeting up for their godless church therapy sessions. I just find it pointless. If we really are just living to die, why waste it on some contrived sense of community? Are we really this disjointed as a society that we have to create a cheering section for our egos? If there is nothing after I die, my time is best spent as an epicurean. If this is it, why waste time when I can fulfill my desires and numb my senses?

Then again, how much different are some of today’s churches from Sunday Assembly? Not much.

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Focusing On What’s Important

It’s the day before Christmas (I think calling it Christmas Eve-Day is awkward) and I see an article from CNN regarding the new generation of megachurches.  These are absolute monstrosities, and at the very least, are examples of bad stewardship of resources.  I’m not writing to bash megachurches (though I could go on about Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, or social justice adherents or seeker-sensitive preachers), but I was reading the comments in response to the article where I saw the usual atheist propaganda.

I get frustrated when unbelievers twist scripture saying that Christians aren’t supposed to judge, and Christians should be poor, and Christians are hypocrites because they presume we are not living a godly life.  I’m not a rube, I know that there are many who just pay lip service to Christ while living their little hedonistic lives.  The accusation is that we are charged to feed the hungry and clothe the poor.  They are right as Matthew 25:35-40 is very clear that whatever we do to the least among us we are doing to Christ.  We, as Christians, know (or at least should know) what we are supposed to do, and as I read the comments denouncing Christians, it appears that the belief of our responsibilities releases the unbeliever from any responsibility.  Matthew 7:5 is clearly written for the Christian, but it would do unbelievers well to take the plank out of their own eye before they start pointing fingers.

Jesus says the poor will always be with us, but that does not release us of our responsibility.  I say “our” loosely, because it should include Christians and non-Christians alike.  I’m not saying that unbelievers do not care about their fellow man, it’s just the loudest ones appear to call foul on the Christian while doing nothing themselves.  Further, social justice should not be the ultimate goal for the Christian.  What is the point in feeding and clothing someone if you don’t share the Gospel?  People die everyday with full bellies and without repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, that full belly was useless.

Let the unbeliever worry about social justice and saving the northern hairy-nosed wombat.  Let us feed body and soul.  Let us be a light in the darkness.  Let us bless our enemies while they curse us and our King (Matthew 5:44).  Let us be slaves to Christ and remember Mark 10:45–“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

CC image courtesy of Stephan Rebernik on Flickr.

Did Jesus Come to Bring Peace?

Some people say that Jesus was a great teacher. Others say that he came to demonstrate love. These are true, but what did Jesus say? He stated, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34 ESV) Isn’t this contradictory? What does this mean?

This certainly doesn’t sound like Joel Osteen’s namby pamby Jesus. The kind of sniveling god that wants our attention so badly, he grants us our best life now to buy our affection. I don’t know about you, but I have numerous difficulties in my life. I deal with chronic pain and will likely never see a pain-free day the remainder of my life. I’m not whining. I’m just stating a fact.

Everyday, people deal with suffering and loss. What about their best life? Is the six year old girl with leukemia living her best life now? I digress, but Osteen is selling people a false Jesus. Jesus is less concerned with your material wealth or physical health or comfort than he is with your soul. Jesus did not come to bring peace, but division. (Luke 12:51)

What is the cause of this division, anyway? Jesus once said, “Whoever hates me hates my Father as well.” (John 15:23 NIV) He said that after he told the disciples that the world will hate them. That really is the crux of the matter. Either you love Jesus and are in opposition to the world, or you belong to the world and hate Jesus.

I once belonged to the world. I was a pseudo-Christian, where I outwardly professed my faith (rather meekly in mixed company), but I lived as an atheist. Jesus had no impact on my life. As a matter of fact, I ridiculed real believers and denigrated God if it meant ratings. (I was a disc jockey at a rock station.) I clearly remember what I was like. I thought I could just wear the moniker and continue business as usual.

John 9:39 resonates with me. “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.'” I now realize that I was blind most of my life. I can also see many that profess their sight, when, in reality, they cannot. I’m reminded of the episode of House M.D. where Foreman contracts some crazy disease where he goes blind but his brain thinks he can see. Many think that they can see, but all they see is a poor facsimile of Jesus. Most notably, it’s Prosperity Jesus.

The whole idea of the cross seems ridiculous to unbelievers. 1 Corinthians 1:18 states, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” This is something I can’t explain. I remember I mentally “accepted” Jesus, but my heart was dead. Only after I was broken both physically and spiritually could I understand what it meant to be saved. It is transformative. Jesus came not to bring peace, but to give life.

Another Perspective on Sin

It’s interesting how we view and rationalize sin.  Sometimes we tell ourselves that God wants us to be happy.  To maintain that position we must completely throw out 1 Thessalonians 4:7.  Why should we try to be holy, anyway?  Joel Osteen sure makes Christianity sound easy with a limp wristed god that will give us a fancy car just so that we will bless him with our presence.  How can anyone even want to submit to an impotent god that will shower us with gifts so that we will spend time with him?  Oh wait.  We don’t.  Even people that subscribe to Osteen’s brand of Christianity probably are more concerned with what God will do for them than what God has done for them.

We can fall into another pit when we believe that God made us this way (whatever this way happens to be), so God must be pleased with our current fallen condition.  As a matter of fact, since He made us this way, wouldn’t our present condition be more desirable than holiness?  I have heard the argument, “I was born gay, therefore God made me this way.”  I can just as easily say, “I was was born with a predilection to alcohol, so if I choose to be a drunk it is because God made me this way.”  The rapist can cay that they were born with these tendencies, so ultimately, God created the rapist.

If this argument was valid, Paul would have not addressed the Church in Corinth with, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV)  So was Paul mistaken when labeling certain people as deviants?  Who is right?  Are Paul’s words divinely inspired, or should I lean upon my own understanding? (Proverbs 3:5)

I’m also intrigued when someone resorts to pragmatism as a defense to homosexuality.  Usually, the argument is meant to divert the attention from homosexuality to adultery.  I agree that adultery is sinful and should be addressed, and at least in the case of my church, these matters are dealt with in a biblical manner.  Notice that there is no argument that adultery is sinful.  When someone who supports homosexuality by equating it with the normalization of adultery, he just admitted that homosexuality is a sin.  Otherwise, he would have defended adultery as natural, or preferable, but would not assent to the fact that it is sinful.  What was 1 Thessalonians again?  The ESV states, “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”  That sounds nothing like “adultery isn’t that bad or God reveres homosexual practices.”

From our perspective, we may try to minimize our guilt.  Is lying really all that bad?  If lying is okay in certain circumstances, then maybe adultery is acceptable.  Afterall, illicit sex isn’t really immoral (as long as no one gets hurt and both parties want to engage in sexual deviancy).  From there, it’s not a stretch to say that homosexuality is natural, and maybe even more than just an alternative lifestyle.  But is this our view of sin or is it God’s view?

The only thing that matters is God’s perspective regarding sin.  If sin wasn’t so deadly, we would not have continuous warnings.  Paul states, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions,divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV)  The issue at hand is not merely homosexuality.  The problem is with all sin.  We are called to be holy and we will be judged accordingly.  All sin is unnatural.  They are abominations, yet we try to normalize them because we believe that our feelings are more important than our God.

CC image courtesy of Bront Nolson.

The Marriage to Balaam

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CC image courtesy of Dauster on Wikimedia Commons.

If one looked at churches today, he might conclude that many have succumbed to the Doctrine of Balaam. Essentially, marriage to the world can be intoxicating, and for churches caught up in the seeker sensitive movement, it can prove disastrous.

Balaam taught the Moabites how to defeat the Israelites by intermarriage. The object was to ensnare Israelite men with the lusts of the world where they would forgo the Living God for counterfeit gods that ultimately led to their destruction.

Today, one can get his “Best Life Now.” He is taught that God is a cosmic butler whose sole purpose is to grant wishes and to shower him with gifts. This prosperity gospel is the opposite of what it preaches. It teaches greed where one trades eternal riches for temporal ones now.

One may be reminded of Abraham’s statement to the rich man. Abraham said, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” (Luke 16:25 ESV) The rich man had his best life while he was living. Many will be in the same position as the rich man and the false teachers that tempt with material gain are leading the masses into hell.

Not that there is anything wrong with material wealth, but it is the attitude with which it is regarded. Material wealth is an idol for many. They may profess their belief in Christ, but their works show otherwise. We view silver and gold as an imperishable commodity. It is tangible and finite, but we assume it will always be available. 1 Peter 1:18 says otherwise. Even heaven and earth will pass away as it is written in Matthew 24:35, but Christ’s words will never pass away.

False teachers abound, and many of these wolves exploit people’s greed by luring them away from Christ with the empty promises of prosperity. Balaam is alive and well in the dark recesses of the heart, and one must always be on guard.

Purpose is NOT the Gospel.

Jesus is not a product.  Many try to sell Christianity as something to make you feel better, or give you peace, or in the case of Joel Osteen (or anyone else who touts the prosperity gospel), to make you rich.  Don’t come to Jesus for stuff.  Come to Jesus for Jesus.

Wretched with Todd Friel

Episode 1356

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