True Confessions time again.
I am someone who is very skeptical of television and radio personalities. Especially when these personalities are Christian. I have always had this problem, even before the public embarrassment of several big-named people and ministries. I don’t judge them so much anymore, in the sense of judging each one as a person. I have met Jim Bakker since his fall and rise, and he is a wonderful and humble man of God. Broken and beautiful. God showed me my fault in judging what I do not know.
It is just that I hate being taken in by charismatic personalities of people whom I do not know at all, cannot see in person, or watch their lives for the reality of their temperament, integrity, etc.
So, a year or so ago when I was up late and we still had cable TV, I watched a clip of a TV show with a pastor named Joel Osteen. He is a pastor of one of the largest churches in America, located in Houston, Tx, I believe. I did not know a thing about him, or his church. He seemed sweet, soft-spoken and positive. But that was my problem. I have met very few, if any, soft-spoken, overly sweet people who are truly gentle or kind, especially when home and with those they work and minister with. Truthfully, I couldn’t see a thing wrong with Joel and didn’t hear anything to complain about, but still I turned it off shortly.
About 6 months later, I turned on the TV and there he was again! I watched the full episode this time and thought what he said was good. I especially liked the way he opens his service with his people. They all hold up their Bibles and quote a statement of faith. Something about the word of God being what it says it is, I am who it says I am, I can do what it says I can do, etc. But, by the time the service was over, I wasn’t sure if I had heard a message so “positive-only” that nothing is allowed to be said that isn’t wonderful. You know, can we be real here? Are people allowed to cry and say they hurt? That sort of thing. I don’t mean let’s whine and be negative, but is genuine alright here?
Another so many months went by and I watched the back half of another episode, quite by accident. Again, no complaints, but then I didn’t hear an opportunity to come to Jesus, and it was just so positive I could not be sure what to think. Also, it started to seem as if each episode was so much the same.
I have to be honest. I have been so burned and disturbed by so much of the ‘faith movement’, the name it and claim it, blab it and grab it kind of thing. God wants me to have the best home, stuff, job, etc. Gag!
I am sure God loves to bless us. Please don’t misunderstand me. But my Bible talks about those who love Christ sharing in the fellowship of His suffering, and that we are to seek the kingdom of heaven first and care for each other, and the harvest of souls. Not to mention that throughout the Bible, when people were called to follow Him, they were to leave everything behind. Over and over in the Word it calls us to not be of this world or in love with the things of this world. And, of course we naturally do! That is why I try to guard myself against spirituality that is all about what I desire. It feeds my “me” too much.
I am not talking about a poverty attitude here where I must be poor to be holy. It is just that I think we get it backward. Blessing is not always about money, property or “stuff”. It is not about our personal desires or laying hold of what God did not give us or intend for us to have. It certainly does not lay hold of what has been given to others and praying curses on it until we have it. It is about releasing the Holy Spirit into a situation and place. I guess I have just seen so much that turns me off so that when I see too much “positive” thinking and speech in the body of Christ, I run the other way. It just sounds so much like the world and not too much like Christ.
So, you can see how I would feel, and what I would go through when our local ministry group announced that this month’s speaker was Craig Johnson (who?) and that he was head over some ministries at Joel Osteen’s Church. Oh, No! Truthfully, I did not want to go, and would have gotten too concerned for our ladies, but God just had me pray and ask Him to keep everyone safe from false teaching. Too funny. Then I read on the flyer that our fearless leader, Brenda used to be his babysitter and he grew up in the small town near us where she lived so many years. His dad had been her pastor and brought her to a solid foundation of getting with God every morning.
Okay then. I would have to decide if I was going. sigh!
The day for the meeting came, and I knew that I knew God wanted me to go. I had a feeling this man would be alright, so I came and worshiped with my friends and so many I didn’t know. There were many who came from surrounding areas to have a bit of reunion with Craig and hear their darling speak.
He really was very good. Sure enough, he spoke about positive thinking and speech, but not in the way I expected or have heard much of in God’s house. He shared his life with us to a degree, and mostly shared about his youngest son, who came along unexpectedly when his other two were nearly teens. Craig’s son Connor has Autism. He shared about hearing that diagnosis, and what it did to his mind, and how it changed their lives forever. He spoke to himself the truths of God and kicked off all those thoughts that were bombarding him at the moment of the news. He and his wife have set themselves to believe and speak the truth of who their son in in Christ, and God’s promises over him. Because of this little guy, an entire ministry to disabled people has been set up in their church, and it is HUGE! It is unlike anything I have ever heard of in God’s house before, which has been so lacking. When you have a ministry like this, you also give those parents relief as well as bringing life into the lives of the special needs children. It sounds phenominal, and even has my favorite Schnoozelin set-up in it. Amazing!
During his talk, he showed a video clip of his very adorable son. There was a moment when his son started talking spontaneously, without prompting which hadn’t been happening as yet. His wife called out to him and he came in to hear his son quoting the statement of faith that is spoken at the beginning of each church service. (He watches the DVD’s of the service.) They made a video of it and it is on Youtube. \The first clip: Pastor Joel Osteen speaking on breakthrough and telling Connor’s story and showing video clip of him reciting his first paragraph, this is my Bible.
I was weeping through his entire talk. I have worked with Developmentally Disabled adults for 22 years, and was laid off (reduction in work force). My last work day was June 19 this year. Two months ago tomorrow and I have not, until now been able to write about it. I realized as I was hearing their story, and seeing their beautiful child that I have a hole in me I cannot fill. Only God can deal with it. I miss everyone. Terribly. It is hard enough to lose one to death, but to just have to walk away while you still are so near…unbearable!
Anyway, after service he was mobbed by his fan club…his old teacher, music teacher, babysitters, friends, neighbors, etc. It was precious. In the midst of this, our fearless leader, Brenda came to me and wanted me to tell him what I had said about what an extra-ordinary miracle this moment with his son was, and my experience of how many years it takes to get even a piece of a moment like this with an autistic person.
I waited until he was freed up from the crowd of his friends and she introduced me as her “little friend”. I just get such a kick out of her. She told him about my work and I told him what I had told her. It was no small miracle…if there even is such a thing. I also shared how I had finally wept for the loss and said I had been laid off after all these years. And how I liked the way he shared about positive response to hard things that come in life, rather than denying that things can be hard. After a total of 5 minutes of chat time my friend, Brenda invited me to join them for breakfast at IHOP in the morning. I said, that would be nice, my honey loves pancakes. And we made a date. Later, as I was visiting some friends of his from his youth (some of my favorite people), he tapped me on the back and said, “see you in the morning, Shelley”. I was confused for a moment, but remembered breakfast and hoped my honey would want to come. Love Feast at IHOP (My honey is in green tank top, Craig in brown embroidered shirt.)
The next morning, Friday, Gene and I met up with him as he crossed the street from his hotel to IHOP. The group of us met in a back room where there were tables long enough to seat the lot of us, and we began to chat while we waited for Brenda’s husband and anyone else who was coming.
Craig was relaxed and enjoyed talking with us about his life in ministry there. A great moment happened at that table. He mentioned Joel and how genuine he is. The person you see on TV, the soft voice, the expression, the message…this is all “genuine Joel”. He is this way in person every day, believes deeply in what he says and he lives it. He also said that Joel believes the best in every person he meets, believes in what God has put in them to be and do in their lives and speaks that into them. I was relieved to hear it. He also shared that he and this church believe your first “ministry” is at home. It is family. That is exactly how I feel. AND, there were at least 100,000 and upwards of 200,000 salvations this past year!
He and the ministers in this church credit the people of the church for this, and for the large numbers that attend regularly. Rather than attributing it to his charismatic leader, he shared how the people come to Christ, and share with the people in their lives who come and visit and accept Christ. It is the people’s response to God that is so awesome! Makes me cry, as my own personal mission statement is: To Build, Keep and Impart God’s Love In Myself and Others. I now want to actually visit this mega church!
I was enjoying watching Craig visit with the people from his life, Brenda and Rob, Janet and the rest of us. He knew Janet and her daughters when he was a boy. His pastor-father would go to their home in another town and be with Janet and her husband. Her husband was dying. He was there through that time, and Craig was there with her daughters, whom he affectionately calls the Tipp girls. This family is one of my very favorite of all time, and I can’t even say who I favor amoung them! They are so lovely and genuine and it is a pleasure to be with them.
This man, Craig is genuine, gentle, and kind, and so is his pastor.
What an amazing thing to see in men who are ministers in a huge church and who are in what are considered to be power positions.
No arrogance, no disrespect, no greed…nothing like that. Instead, Craig heads up ministries, and is one who is busy happily spearheading new ministries, writing programs and finding tools to meet the needs to the people God loves, bringing God into their lives in a real and powerful way. (Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness).
Because of his son Connor, there is being built an entire building to minister to other special needs people and their families. Because he didn’t take the negative view, but knew God was up to something good and trusted Him for what is best, so many will be blessed. This is true blessing in the most wonderful way. And, in the midst of this, he wears great clothes from his favorite clothing company, carries an IPhone and is blessed in these ways, too. (And all these things will be added unto you.) One of the Tipp sisters came in at the end of the meal with her beautiful daughters and Craig enjoyed watching the young one play with his phone. Janet with Craig.
God is so good, and it seems to me that his ministry team at Joel Osteen’s church is keeping it upright and with integrity to the Word of God and to the heart of God. Such a breath of fresh air!
At the end of the breakfast, Craig picked up the tab for Gene and I. I was then told that he had wanted to bless us all along, and I remembered how he had told me he would see me in the morning. A man I’d known all of 5 minutes. God is so good with surprises and blessings. We don’t have to focus on what we want. God has better ideas in mind for us. Thank you Craig!
By the way, I am laughing that yet one more wonderful memory in my life includes IHOP! (See post on Traditions and Transitions.)
Be looking for Craig’s book coming out soon, “Vertical Leadership”, which is about going vertical with God and knowing Him, getting His vision and instruction, His heart, etc and ministering out of that. Not letting the negative opinions, reactions of others, or circumstances block you up from what God can do through you. I am looking forward to reading it! I hope you check it out. And, if you have the channel it is carried on, check out Joel Osteen’s service on TV.
Time to get unblocked!