Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Difference Between Osteen & Biblical Rewards

Much digital ink has been spilled about the recent Osteen video (this being my favorite). In case you are unaware, in said video Victoria Osteen encourages their congregation to do good for themselves.

It's quite shocking to hear someone called a pastor (her and Joel are co-pastors) exhort their "Christian Church" in such a way. While they have rightfully received a good amount of criticism from the conservative evangelical movement in recent years, this video so clearly and succinctly displays the fundamental problem with their so-called theology - Man and his earthly pleasure are central, while God and His eternal glory are absent.

However, I'd like to ask one simple question about this issue: is it wrong in every sense to pursue God and practice your faith with a view towards a reward? In other words, is there a sense in which it is right to be motivated by rewards "for yourself"? According to Scripture, rewards for oneself are a biblical motivation:

"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." - Hebrews 11:6

"And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." - Matthew 6:4, 6:6, 6:18

We see that Hebrews clearly tells us that as we seek God, we must believe that he rewards us for doing so. Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount repeats three times that the Father will reward us for righteous acts, and that his reward is greater than man's praise. So it is biblically appropriate to be motivated by rewards for oneself.

What then, is the difference between these Scriptures and the Osteens' message? The difference is that with the Osteens, God is merely a means to a temporal end. In the above video clip, she does not merely say that rewards are biblical; she actually says rewards are ultimate, going so far as to state repeatedly "you’re not doing it for God." Moreover, the Osteens typically define these rewards as temporal, earthly, emotional, financial - in the video, she says it's to make us "happy" - as opposed to the heavenly, eternal, spiritual rewards that Scripture speaks of. So the Osteens teach that our own temporal satisfaction is ultimate.

Whereas Christians in former times wrote "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever" (including both the supremacy of God and the reward of man), the Osteens now seemingly flip the script and proclaim "The chief end of God is to glorify man and enjoy him forever."

So, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The problem with the video clip is not the presence of reward for man, but the nature of man's reward as earthly and the position of man's reward as ultimate.

Friday, May 23, 2014


Hey "all"...

I haven't posted here in awhile, so here's my explanation as to why. In the past year, I was appointed as an elder at my church; consequently, I've been responsible for running the website there, which includes a blog. Since I'm not a Piper who can pump out amazingly insightful blog posts every other exhale, my writing efforts and spiritual "insights" (if that's what you want to call them) have been focused on the content of the church blog. Primarily, I've written follow up thoughts on our sermon series, with additional items sprinkled in.

So, whoever you are, you can read along at our Revive Church blog, where the bulk of my writing is on the "Deeper" blog series.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Looking for a Home

My wife and I had been house-hunting for over a year, a search that mercifully and successfully ended this last month. It was a stressful and joyful learning process with twists and turns that one couldn't expect. After renting 2 small places for a total of 5 years, the house-hunt was completely different in focus.

We don't consider ourselves to be very particular or prissy types. Yet as we walked through dozens of homes, we were very critical, asking every question under the sun. Will we like having an east-facing door? Is the small property size a deal breaker? Can we fit enough people in this room? Will we have the additional resources to fix this place up? How important is a big kitchen? Is this bedroom too big? Too small? Are these windows/appliances too old? What is really important?!

The main difference in shopping for a house is the perception (often a reality) that this is a long-term situation. While renting, we were far less critical or "picky", if you will. Old kitchen? Who cares, it's a rental! Nasty carpet? No big deal, we'll move someday! Needs repairs? Call the landlord! The perception of a long-term, expensive residence makes one ask more questions, give more time, and think more deeply.

During this process, I was drawn to thinking about the reality that earth is not my home. Throughout the New Testament, I am told that as a believer in Christ, that my home is elsewhere. Philippians 3:20 says, "But our citizenship is in heaven..." Hebrews 13:14 likewise tells us, "For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come."

When searching for a semi-permanent residence here on earth, I gave the process more time, more energy, more thought, because it was more valuable. And through that process, God painted the picture that my effort and thought process should be even more intense for my heavenly, eternal home! If something is eternal, it is weighty, and it must be given appropriate attention and care.

My earthly tent of my body is my short term home. It is important, but my priorities and questions and efforts and resources should focus on the heavenly home where I will reside for eternity (mortgage-free).