Friday, February 4, 2011

Your Best Life

Some of my all-time favorite books have been recommended to me by friends whose opinions I respect. In them I usually find value, enjoyment, and personal enrichment. Thus I looked forward to reading the book Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen. My anticipation was elevated because of the impassioned recommendation of my friend, but I did have some significant levels of pessimism and reluctance based on what I know of Mr. Osteen. Mr. Osteen is a televangelist (a term with a strong negative connotation for me) and I have watched his program a few times. I have found that his sermons are all essentially the same message with the same feel. I would describe Mr. Osteen as slick, a sort of made for T.V. personality. He is always smiling and talking about claiming our victory in God. His message is consistently "feel good" and "rah-rah" motivating. On the other hand, Mr. Osteen is the lead pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston, which boasts the largest congregation in the country. So, certainly Mr. Osteen is selling something that the public buying.

As I expected, his book Your Best Life Now is peppy and motivating. This man is so upbeat and joyful as to be almost saccharine, yet I get a sense that Mr. Osteen genuinely lives this type of life. His approach to leading our best lives on earth include:
  • Enlarge your vision
  • Develop a healthy self-image
  • Discover the power of your thoughts and words
  • Let go of the past
  • Stand strong against opposition and adversity
  • Live to give
  • Choose to be happy
As I have found with his sermons, each chapter in this book is essentially a restatement of the previous chapter. There is a lot of repetition, but his simple bottom-line message is "Think positively so that your actions will move you toward success and away from defeat." Now, I will not deny that his approach at a high level is reasonable and his style has a somewhat infectious appeal to it. But ...

You know when someone says something positive about you but follows it with a "but", it means that there is more to the story. In nearly every chapter of this book, my "spider senses" were tingling as I read, telling me that the theology I was reading was not right. I was troubled that his teaching was not based on the Bible that I know. His focus in every chapter is centered on me; what do I have to do to get the stuff of my dreams. A bigger house, a better job, a good parking spot at the mall. Even his section on giving is couched in terms of give today and you can expect material goods tomorrow. This book is about a formula for getting what we want in this life. More stuff, better stuff, bigger stuff. Well, I for one will raise the danger flag high. Something is quite amiss here and it overshadows whatever good advice he has to share.