Warning: I am going to rant. I am going to rant and rave and basically have a fit. If you want something more fun and entertaining, I suggest you check out these amusing Nancy and Sluggo covers. Otherwise, proceed at your own risk.
Passion for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me (Psalm 69:9 NLT).
I am, on the whole, a fairly easy person to get along with. I don’t get too worked up about things–or, at least, I try not to. But this week I’ve had it. I have had it with stuff I have been hearing and reading, and I just don’t care to be nice about it any more. This site has called people out since almost day one, and we have no intent on changing that. Michael Spencer wrote about Joel Osteen’s “gospel” in this manner:
As much as I would like to join those who say that Osteen is a simpleton who doesnâ€™t know what heâ€™s doing, a close examination will show that at every point where there is a choice between being part of the church or departing into heresy, Osteen sticks with the church where there is money to be had and departs from the church where there is a faith to be confessed. He could be called a heretic by some, even if he is a believer, and he communicates a purposefully false trivialization of the person and work of Jesus Christ in favor of a man-centered motivational message of self-improvement.
Again, as Iâ€™ve said before,Â every evangelical leader needs to personally and by name repudiate and separate from Osteen, and call upon him and his followers to come back into the faith that is articulated in the Apostleâ€™s Creed.
Michael continued in a different post about Osteen,
Make no mistake about this: Osteen isnâ€™t confused about Jesus like many of the prosperity preachers you hear on TBN. Osteen is intentionally avoiding irrtiating language about sin because he wants to keep it positive every week. He is not just avoiding mentioning Jesus, the cross and the Gospel just because he is seeker sensitive. Joel Osteen is preaching the no-Gospel, no-Jesus messageÂ because itâ€™s filling the church with thousands of people who want to hear it.Â Osteen will ignore his critics because the common people are voting every week—in book sales, ratings numbers and attendance- for his message.
So it is the foundation of this site to not only lift up Jesus, but to call out those who relegate Jesus to a logo for their products. Chaplain Mike did so a few weeks ago when he called Ken Hamm’s plans to build a creationist theme park the “Disney–ization of our faith.” We will continue to do so as the occasions present themselves.
Well, they have presented themselves in spades to me these past few days.
First of all, I love those in my life group. I have been a part of a specific life group—or small group—through my church for at least five years now. I have walked through a lot of messy stuff with these good people. I love them as my brothers and sisters. So when I say I don’t know how I will be able to attend for the next dozen weeks, I say it with intense sadness. But they decided we would start the year by going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. I “attended” this “university” six or seven years ago, and came away saying I disagreed with 85% of what he teaches. After lesson one last night, I think I am up to disagreeing with 98% of what he teaches. And not only what he teaches, but where it is taught.
I tried to listen last night. Admittedly, I went in with guns loaded and cocked, and I was not disappointed. Ramsey, in case you don’t know, teaches his “students” how to get out of debt, cut up their credit cards, store up money for emergencies, and build wealth. There is not a thing wrong with any of this on the surface. But—BUT—should it be taught in church? Do we gather together as a family of faith—whether in a large church setting or a small group setting—in order to learn techniques for getting out of debt? As I listened to Ramsey last night, two things struck me. First, any so-called credit counselor could teach what he teaches (and I am not ready to concede what he teaches is sound fiscal planning; but that is another discussion), be they Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Druid or atheist. Which brings up the second thing: Jesus was mentioned twice by Ramsey, a self-confessed Christian, both times as part of his brand of humor. Yet this is being presented in our churches. And that should tell you a lot.
I read where Rick Warren of The Purpose-Driven Life fame wants to lose weight. Bully for him. So do I. Once you get north of 50, you can just think about a slice of cake and gain a pound. But here is how Warren plans to lose his goal of 90 pounds: He will do it as part of a year-long health-and-fitness program at the church he pastors, Saddleback Church, in Southern California. It’s a plan developed by Dr. Mehmet Oz, author of You: The Owner’s Manual. Warren and others in the church will participate in the Daniel Plan, so named for the prophet Daniel. Oh, didn’t you know that Daniel came up with a diet plan? You didn’t? Neither did I. And neither did Daniel.
(And yes, there is a difference between a weight-loss program promoted through your church and what Damaris called for last week—the preaching of gluttony as a sin. The Daniel Plan is not going to call anyone a sinner for eating an entire crock-pot of barbecue weenies now, is it?)
The Daniel Plan: God’s Prescription For Your Health. That is what they are calling it. God’s prescription for your health. Holy freaking cow. I … I … allow me one more, ok?
My daughters and their husbands both attend the largest church in Tulsa, a 15,000 (give or take a thousand) member megachurch with flashing lights, smoke machines, and “ushers” who stand guard at the doors to keep parents from taking any children under the age of two into the auditorium. (I refuse to call it a sanctuary.) My oldest called me today—I had suggested she and I go to Dallas on Saturday. I have been missing her and just wanted to spend some time with her, and she likes to shop down there. She couldn’t this weekend, partly because of the new series they are starting at her church: “I Want A New Marriage.” No doubt accompanied by Huey Lewis and the News singing a remake of “I Want A New Drug.” (And I’m not kidding. At their annual Christmas spectacular this last year they worked in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” complete with zombies. You read that right. How God is holding back his wrath over our whole city on that one is beyond me.)
So, just what is wrong with getting out of debt, losing some pounds, and improving your marriage? Well, nothing. And yet, everything. It is the no-Gospel, no-Jesus message Michael Spencer saw Osteen preaching. It is effective. It will fill a church building with people with money to spend on books and CDs and DVDs all day long. But it has nothing to do with the Gospel. Nothing.
Not long ago I was reading an ad for a new church that was opening in Tulsa. (They pop up around here like loan sharks on payday.) “Are you stuck in a dead-end career? Do you need help parenting your children? Is your marriage in need of a recharge?”
“What kind of crap is this?” I asked. Someone asked me, “Don’t you think Jesus wants us to have better marriages?” I thought for a minute and then said, “No. No, I don’t think he really cares one way or another whether we have better marriages or not. I don’t think he is concerned about us being better parents or getting promoted at work. No, I definitely think these are things that matter not in the least to him.”
You can probably understand why I’m not exactly at the top of the list for guest preachers any longer.
Let me just say this straight out. If all you are interested in is becoming is a better person, then Jesus is not your best avenue to get there. You can find lots of self-help books—and in Christian bookstores without embarrassing references to Jesus to worry about—that deal with marriage, health, finances and life-issues you find yourself dealing with. They are piled high on tables leading into the temple. As a matter of fact, you can buy them in many temples every Sunday, credit cards accepted.
Jesus is not a self-help guru. He is not interested in you becoming a better person. He could not care less with you improving in any area of your life. Because in the end that is your life. Yours. And he demands you give it to him. All of it. An unconditional surrender. He did not come to improve you, or encourage you, or spur you on to bigger and better things. He came to raise the dead. And if you insist on living, then you’re on your own. Good luck. Sign up for all the seminars, workshops and marriage improvement weekends that you can, because you’re going to need them.
The Gospel is this: We are dead in our sins. Jesus, too, is dead in our sins. But because he is very God of very God, death could not hold him. He conquered sin and death and rose again. And the only life we are now offered is the life he lives in us. Period. He wants us dead. He’ll do the rest.
How many churches are preaching that these days? How many signs do you see in front of churches inviting you to “Come and die with us”? Joel Osteen didn’t need to buy an NBA arena because he is encouraging his followers to die daily now, did he?
Here is a challenge for you. Go into your local Christian bookstore and ask for the book Chaplain Mike has been highlighting this week, Why Jesus by William Willimon. I’ll bet there are fewer than twenty religious stores that stock that book on their shelves. Or Robert Capon. Ask them for anything Capon has written and watch them scratch their heads. But Osteen? Ramsey? Rick Warren? Stacked deep to sell cheap.
Jesus did not attract a huge following, simply because he refused to play the religious games of his day. As a matter of fact, he went out of his way to make the religious professionals hacked at him. And he also turned on those who followed him simply for what they could get. “You want to follow me? Hate your spouse, your kids, your extended family. Hate them.” “Oh, you like the food I provided for you? Want some more? Eat my flesh and drink my blood.” Not exactly the kind of thing to say in order to build your ministry now, is it? No wonder Dave Ramsey doesn’t quote Jesus.
So, if you want to know how to budget your money and get out of debt, find a church presenting Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. If you need a new marriage, there is a church in Tulsa that will show you how to get it starting this weekend. Need to lose some of that weight you added over the holidays? Follow the Daniel Plan. I suggest you avoid churches like The Oaks in Middletown, Ohio. All they do is sing and preach and eat Jesus. All they do is show you the way to die daily.
And who wants to do that?