Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Your Best Life Now"..."Oh Really?"

There is a very popular book that has been out since 2004 entitled, "Your Best Life Now". It was written by a very successful author and pastor of probably the nation's largest church in Houston, Texas. His name is Joel Osteen. I have seen his book on bookshelf displays and heard people talk of him, but I was never interested in reading his material. The title itself was a big deterrent for me.
Being the inquisitive person that I am, however, I decided to read excerpts from this book to see where this man was coming from. Perhaps, I wasn't being fair in my assumption that this was just another feel good, self-help book that used worldly wisdom packaged in American Christian fluff. So, with an open mind and an open Bible, and not wanting to buy the book, I read portions of it on the Internet. I only found the first four chapters with some pages missing. They do this because of copyright, obviously, but from what I did read, I didn't care if I ever finished the book.
I read some very convincing messages about obtaining the best life now. There is some truth mixed in with the secular words, but the further I read, the more I realized that this book was just what I thought it was. This was of the "name it, claim it" mentality. "You can have it all now". All throughout, I heard messages of how we should not settle for middle-class. We should be happy and successful and should be enjoying life.
The book includes seven easy steps for obtaining, "Your Best Life Now". Some of these steps include, "Enlarge Your Vision", "Develop a Healthy Self-Image", "Find Strength through Adversity" and "Choose to Be Happy". Sounds very practical, doesn't it? But, where is God in all of this? Osteen does include God, (isn't that nice of him?) and peppers his chapters with some Scripture taken out of context. He says things like:

"Your own wrong thinking can keep you from God's best. Are you expecting to experience the goodness of God? You must look through your "eyes of faith" and start seeing yourself as happy, healthy, and whole. If you have a vision of victory for your life, you can rise to a new level. God wants to do more than you can even ask or think, but remember, it's according to the power that works in you. Stir yourself up; step out of complacency".
To all of this I have to ask, "So what is exactly God's best for us? Isn't God good all of the time? Just what level are we trying to rise to? Where do you get these "eyes of faith?" And, excuse me, Mr. Osteen, what power is working in us and for what purpose? Is it our power so we can obtain things or is it the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, so that we become more like Christ?"
After reading through these chapters, I discovered that others have written reviews about this book and have talked about him. One book is "Your Best Lie Now: The Gospel according to Joel Osteen" A while back, Osteen was interviewed on Larry King Live and although I should not have been shocked, my jaw dropped when I read the transcript. He does not like to talk about sin or hell. He waffled on what the gospel really is. I never heard that the only way to God was through the blood of Jesus. In the interview and in the book, all I heard was how we are to strive for wealth, health, success, and happiness. His "church" claims to have 30,000 members, not including all who have been duped into watching his show, buying his books and sending him more money. My first feeling I had after spending some time on this was anger, but it quickly turned to grief. How many of his "followers" are going to hell? How many people are being deceived by this worldly, materialistic "gospel". Paul called the early Galatians on this: "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel"(Gal.1:6). This is a different gospel. It is the gospel according to Joel Osteen and in essence is the gospel of Satan.
Alistair Begg, the Scottish preacher, talked of "Your Best Life Now" in one of his latest sermons. He was speaking on what Jesus really meant by following Him and asked if we would tell someone that was suffering that they could have their "Best Life Now". As I contemplated on these thoughts, I began to imagine going back to the early Church and finding the apostle Paul who was whipped, stoned, shipwrecked, and finally martryed and saying to him, "You can have your best life now!" Or, "Hey, Mr.Polycarp, I know you are eighty six years old and you have just been sentenced to be burnt at the stake, but you can have your best life now!" How about the thousands of Christians all over the world today that are being killed for their faith in Jesus? "You can have your best life now!" What about the man who has just lost his entire farm because of the economy? "You can have your best life now!" The mom who just lost her son after fighting brain tumors for sixteen years sure needs this. "You can have your best life now!" God help us. If seeking riches or almost perfect health is our goal; if obtaining the best life now is where it's at, then, why would we even look forward to heaven? Why did our Savior say, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal."(Matt.6:20) Why was it necessary for the apostle Paul to say, "for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."(Phil. 4:11-12) Jesus also said that, "In this world you will have trouble."(John 16:33) James says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."(James 1:2-4) Paul also says, "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ."(Phil 3:20)
God desires that we focus on Him and on obtaining "the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Yes, He wants us to have joy and peace now. He provides for our needs. He promises to never leave us or forsake us, but God is not calling us to rise above mediocrity in the area of finances, status, or whatever else this culture tries to feed us. He is not calling us to happiness or to a comfortable lifestyle. He is calling us to holiness, faithfulness, and a heart that is set on things above.
So, whatever our situation, wherever we're at, God wants us to seek Him. Are you worn out as a home school mom? Do you feel like you just can't keep up with all of the demands of teaching, caring for children, your husband, or your house? Are you looking at that house down the street that just seems perfect for your growing family? Are you wishing you just had a little more? Are you suffering from an illness or have you just lost someone very close to you? God wants to lift you up. He wants you to lean on Him. He longs to have an even closer relationship with you. Remember He is your hope, your strength, and your peace. And, let's remember His words through Paul, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."(Col.3:1-4) That will indeed be our best life to come!

1 comment:

Christie P said...

Watch this - a VERY different perspective on what is actually occuring...