Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Thoughts on Joel Osteen

Some people in church are listening to Joel Osteen, the latest, "Name it and claim it" preacher. I worry about this. Perhaps it is best to understand this as serving milk to infant Christians. He promises God will give you what you pray for. The problem; God isn't some cosmic vending machine that always gives you what you want. It sounds wonderful, and in some part is true. God does say. "Trust Me. I will provide." Except that is just the start

The problem is best expressed by a song sung at our last Presbytery meeting, "Shelter Us Under Your Wings". We want to be safe and comfortable, have God shelter us. We are like the disciples in the boat, who woke Jesus to do something about the storm. We want to take our troubles to Jesus, and let him take are of them. This is true, but it's only the start. The disciples woke Jesus to take care of their problem. They were terrified when He asked why they hadn't done anything about it, as if He expected they could calm this raging storm. At the transfiguration, Peter wants to pitch a tent, and stay in this wonderful place. Jesus sends them down into the valley, where the disciples Jesus has left alone to be responsible can't heal, and Jesus calmly explains. "This one requires prayer and fasting. " As though they should have known it, and why did they not understand. He was equipping them to deal with it, but at the time it had to be terribly uncomfortable. God delights in giving us pop quizzes to show us what we don't know, so we can learn.

We tend to go to church for what it can give us, and leave if we aren't being fed. Instead, we should ask God where He would have us go, so we can serve Him. When you read the gospels, you see the 12 are being equipped to be of service, not just to be fed (that lesson of the loaves and fishes). Jesus heals Peter's Mother In Law, and immediately she gets up to serve. So much of our discipling comes from hard lessons. Painful lessons. Perhaps the only ones we remember are the painful ones. Crisis either drives us away from God, or closer to Him.

As we can see from the disciples, who Jesus sent, or left alone. Jesus sends us to uncomfortable places, places we never would have gone on our own.
To a smoke shop in a small town in Iowa to speak to those abandoned by the church.
To minister to a nurse, as you lie helpless in a bed bleeding internally.
To sacrifice your life for a son.
To be willing to strive with your last ounce of courage to speak the truth in love, and bite your tongue when tempted to speak the wrong words.
To Presbytery, knowing the fix is in, and it is all badly done farce.
To Africa, when you told God that was the one place you never wanted to go.

This ministry of poetry comes from pain, not from a life of ease. The first poem I wrote was at the death of Alice, when pain produced a poem:
It taught: If you love, you will be hurt. If you truly love, you must let them go so they can come to you. As you do this, there is danger in freedom, that cannot be removed any more than you can get rid of one side of a coin.

Here is a short poem that sums it up:
Go Through the Pain

You ask to escape from pain.
Pray for protection
from life’s storms.
Shelter from suffering.
Escape from wilderness.
My answer is hard.

I send you
into suffering.
I send you
into wilderness.
I sent My disciples alone
into that dark Galilee storm.

Trust Me.
I send you alone
to uncomfortable
impossible places.
Step out into your storm
Come.(to Me)
(Matthew 14:22-31, Peter walking on water)
© Presbypoet, September 15, 2002

How many come to church to serve, not be served? (we also need to learn when to say no to the church, and not serve out of guilt. Too many elders burn out serving on session)


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