Thursday, 10 November 2011

Starting Your Best Life Now

I try not to be overly critical (hehe, this is a blog what am I talking about?), but Starting Your Best Life Now is a bad book. I haven't read The Secret, but my guess is, this book is just like The Secret with some Bible verses thrown in for free.

Joel Osteen is the pastor of American's biggest church. I think they meet in a football stadium every Sunday. I was hoping that since American is such a Christian nation (who am I kidding) that their biggest church would produce some good teaching. But sadly it seems that is not the case. (I really am not that surprised, he doesn't see the differences between Mormons and Christians) I don't mind that Osteen wasn't trained at a bible college, but I do mind that uni students in my own bible study could have written a more theologically accurate book.

Osteen sees that in order for you to live your best life now is that you have to visualise your success. If you dream it, it will come. If this was a secular book I wouldn't be so hard on it but but for a Christian book it seems to be forgetting sin and heaven. Sin surly gets in the way for us to live our best life now and if we could live our best life now, where does heaven fit into his scheme of things. Rob Bell got into trouble with possibly saying hell is empty, but Osteen book doesn't even mention heaven and impels that here on earth you can live your best, possibly removing heaven itself. I think that is kinda problem.

The book kick off with Osteen using an example of a beauty queen who won a pageant and how when she walked on stage she wasn't nervous as she had visualised her win many times over, so it felt natural for her to win. That is nice for the winner, but I am sure the other contestants also planned on winning and visualised a few times what it would have been like to win. Also if God's plan for you life is to win a beauty pageant, then I think your God is too small.

Osteen uses a few proof texts to make his point, but like someone trying to force the text uses fragments of verses in different translations (including The Message and The Amplified) to make his case. One of his first verses he uses is Ephesians 2:7 quoting: "He [God] wants to pour out "His far and beyond favor" on you" skipping the start which is about how this is going to happen "in the coming ages" for those who are "in Christ Jesus". Ignore heaven and Jesus. In fact Jesus only gets a look in when he is healing someone. No where does Osteen explain how people can live in light of God's promises, how they are in God's favor or why Jesus even came to earth in the first place. Instead God seems to be constantly for us and wants the best for everyone.

In fact "when God led the Hebrew people our of slavery in Egypt, the eleven-day journey to the Promised Land took forty years. God wanted them to move forward, but they wondered in the desert, going around the same mountain, time after time. They were trapped in a poor, defeated mentality, focusing on their problems...." According to Osteen the problem with Israel wondering in the desert for 40 years was because they were "fretting about the obstacles between them and their destiny." But this is not the reason we are given in Numbers 14:20ff - it was God who cursed them to wander for 40 years in the desert. In fact once they heard their curse Israel then tried on their own accord (visualising their destiny) to enter the Promised Land by force and got beat down (Numbers 14:39ff).

Osteen's main point is that in order to be successful you are to be completely focused on your success. That's ok for a secular book, for for a Christian book, I thought Christians should be completely focused on Jesus.You know, the whole living like CHRISTians has something to do with Christ..

If you do get close to the end I actually agree with Osteen's call to help other people. So that was a positive in the book. We should help people. I do think Jesus or Paul would go further than Osteen by saying we in fact should be helping people at our own expense, without seeking a reward, considering others better than ourselves. I am not sure how submitting to other people works with constantly trying to visualise your own personal success, carer and wealth.

It seems that Osteen almost forgets that the founder of Christianity was poor and died a painful death, and eleven of his twelve buddies all were imprisoned and killed for their beliefs, whiled the last one who died of old age was exiled to a small island, possibly before he was thrown in boiling oil. I'm not sure how you would gauge their success.

The book is very easy to read with lots of small chapters. I think I read it in one or two sittings off my phone screen late at night (which may explain my against). It is very much aimed at comfortable middle class people who don't really want to change their lives, unless it is to make them even more comfortable. I have no idea how this book would go over with the people working in sweat shops in Asia, or the people suffering in the Horn of Africa, or even to the Christians who lived in the first three centuries after Jesus.


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