Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: "It's Your Time" by Joel Osteen, 2009

If you’ve been in a bookstore sometime in the last 5 years or so, you’ve most likely seen this man’s face staring back at you from a book cover. Or more accurately, you’ve seen his face smiling back at you. This is the main reason why I had poked fun at Joel Osteen for years. I mean, he’s always smiling! There’s just gotta be something weird about that. Also, I tend to be suspicious of anyone whose book subtitles suggest “5 Ways To A Better You,” or something of that nature.

However, as the years have passed, my curiosity trumped my suspicions, and I had the feeling that I just might agree with some of the things Osteen was saying. After all, I tend to read mostly inspirational, self-help books. My last few reads have included “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale, “Life Is For Living” by Eric Butterworth, and “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. So why not give Joel a try, even though I was a little hesitant since he’s still within the realm of Christendom and I haven’t exactly aligned myself with Christianity for several years.

One thing that I liked about Joel Osteen going into this book is that so many evangelical Christians can’t stand him; many find his brand of positive-thinking, prosperity Christianity “watered-down.” But I had a feeling I just might like it.

And let me tell you…I did.

First a little bit about Joel Osteen. Along with his wife Victoria he is the pastor of the largest church in America, Lakewood Church which meets in an old basketball stadium in Houston, Texas. He took over as pastor about 10 years ago after his father John passed away, and the church has grown tremendously in recent years. He is the author of 3 books: “ Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential (2004),” “Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day” (2007), & this book “It’s Your Time: Activate Your Faith, Achieve Your Dreams, and Increase In God’s Favor” (2009) as well as numerous supplemental books.

So let us begin with “It’s Your Time.” I will quote directly from the book as I go along.

Part One of the book is entitled “It’s Time To Believe,” and the reader is met immediately by positive messages.

“A global recession has forced many to postpone their dreams and cancel their plans. You may have lost your job. You may have lost your savings, maybe even your home. It could be that you have health concerns or relationship problems. Maybe you are frustrated because it’s taking so long to get where you want to be in your life. Yet now is not the time to talk yourself out of your goals and dreams. Now is not the time to get discouraged. You may think that you’re not even halfway there. You may feel you have so far to go. But the truth is, you don’t know. Your dream may just be up around the corner. You may think it will be another two years. But if you stay in faith, who knows? It may just be two more months. You are closer than you think. I believe it’s your time.”

Osteen talks a lot about being transformed by the renewing of our minds, and that we must walk by faith and not by sight. “That means we don’t have to see it to believe it. It’s just the opposite. If we believe it, then we see it.”

“When negative thoughts come and the burden seems so heavy you feel discouraged, just keep telling yourself: ‘I’m closer than I think. Right now the Creator of the universe is lining up things in my favor: the right people, the right breaks, the right opportunities.”

He also believes that the desires we hold in our hearts are there for a reason and that God will bring them to fruition: “Every dream that’s in your heart, every promise that has taken root, God not only put there but has every intention of bringing to pass. I want you to have this attitude: My time is coming. I’ve been giving and giving. I haven’t seen a lot of results, but that’s okay. I know my time is coming.”

There are times in the book where Osteen seems to veer close to what The Secret preaches, that is that if we believe that what we want to see is going to happen, it will happen: “Draw the line in the sand and say, “That’s it. I’m done being complacent. I’m done settling for mediocrity. I believe every dream, every promise, even the secret petitions of my heart will come to fulfillment.” When you have that kind of attitude, all the forces of darkness cannot stop God from bringing your dreams to pass.”

Osteen also recommends the use of positive affirmations, which meshes well with what I have learned from my experience with the Unity movement: “No matter how long it’s been, no matter how tempted you are to get discouraged, get up every morning and just declare it by faith: “My time is coming. The promise is in me, and I will not die until I see it come to pass.”

Osteen opens his third chapter “Seizing Your God-Given Opportunities” by saying “God created every one of us to be successful. Before the foundation of the world, He laid out an exact plan for our lives. And in this plan He has moments of favor that will come across our path. These moments are not ordinary. They are destiny-altering moments.” This may seem like the prosperity gospel to some, but personally I have no problem with it. Soon after he writes: “God has already prearranged times of increase, times of blessing. You will have opportunities to meet the right people, opportunities to advance in your career, opportunities to fulfill your dreams.”

Osteen also says more than once in the book that adversities in our lives are only present in order for us to overcome them and that blessing awaits us on the other side: “Every setback is simply a setup for a comeback. God not only wants to bring you out, He also wants to bring you out better off than you were before.”

He also promotes “speaking blessings” into our lives: “Words have creative power. You may not feel well, but it’s good to announce, ‘Health is coming my way. I will live and not die.” I very much agree with this approach. I think we all know people who talk about how sick they are all the time or complain about how their life looks. I think this only leads to more sickness and more unhappiness.

His fifth chapter is entitled “You Are Your Father’s Child.” Osteen writes: “God never created us to be average. We’re not supposed to drag around, barely making it, defeated and depressed. God created us to be the head and never the tail, to be happy, healthy and whole.” I agree with this line of thinking. I think that too often we settle into a life of disappointment, mediocrity, and we can live almost lulled to sleep. Osteen says that all of us have gifts, or spiritual DNA just waiting to be activated. “Before you even showed up on planet Earth, before you ever made it into your mother’s womb, God programmed into your DNA blessing, favor, strength, ability. He’s already equipped and empowered you.” And a little later: “You come from a bloodline of champions. You are not average. You are not mediocre. You have the blood of a winner - the DNA of Almighty God - and He has equipped you with everything that you need.”

Part Two of the book is entitled “It’s Time For Favor.” The sixth chapter is called “Praying Bold Prayers.” “God wants to bless you. He wants to enlarge your territory. Will you be bold enough to ask Him each day for more influence? Ask God to help you be a bigger blessing. That’s not a selfish request. The Scripture says: “You have not because you ask not.”
He also cites the Scripture that says, “According to your faith it will be done to you.” He writes that we should pray boldly and expectantly, something that gels with me.

The seventh chapter is “Thriving, Not Just Surviving.” Osteen writes that “God is limited only by our thinking. That is why it is so important that we don’t fall into survival mode and start thinking “My business can’t expand. The economy is too slow. I’ll never sell my house because no others are selling. I’ll never get a promotion when the business is coming back.” Furthermore, he writes “If you believe to barely get by, you will barely get by. If you believe that you will have a tough year, your faith will draw that in. So I encourage you to believe that you are blessed - not that you will be blessed - but that you are already blessed.” To me this all has to do with being transformed by the renewing of our minds, something I have been learning through Unity for some time now. We create our future by what we are entertaining in our minds. Also, if we ask God to give us good gifts and have even the faith of a mustard seed, and expect that we are receiving them, we will have them.

In the next chapter, “Choosing Faith Over Fear,” he writes “Every day, all through the day, you have choices. You can believe that God is in control, believe that He’s taking care of you and believe that good things are in store. Or you can go around worries, expecting the worst, wondering if you will make it.”

The ninth chapter, “Favor Has Been Released In Your Future,” suggests that God has already preordained blessings to come into our lives: “When God laid out the plan for your life, He lined up the right people, the right circumstances, and the right breaks. In your future, He’s already released favor, supernatural opportunities, divine connections. The breaks you need have already been preordained to come across your path.”

In chapter ten, “Speaking Faith-Filled Words,” he writes that “Your words prophesy what you become. Be bold. Dare to say, “I look great today. I’m made in the image of Almighty God. I am strong and talented. I’m blessed. I am creative. I will have a productive day.” Our words truly do have creative power. If you want to know what you will be like five years from now, just listen to what you say today.” And later on: “We all get tired and feel run-down sometimes. Still, the more we talk about being tired, the more tired we become. The more we talk about being depressed, the more depressed we’ll be. The more you talk about being overweight, the more out of shape you will become. Switch over to the language of victory.” Some people may call this nonsensical positive-thinking wish-wash. I disagree, but heck, even if it is, what is the harm in what he is saying? What is the harm of thinking and speaking positively?

Part Three of the book is titled, “It’s Time For Restoration,” and the eleventh chapter that starts out this section is “God Can Turn Back Time.” “God controls time. For every opportunity you’ve missed, every chance you’ve blown, God can turn back the clock and bring bigger and better things across your path.”

The twelfth chapter, “You Have Comeback Power” is about overcoming adversity in your life. Osteen says the darker the night, the brighter the day is to come. “God will not allow a trial to come into your life unless He has a purpose. He doesn’t send the storms, but He uses them. When you’re in difficult times, know that this challenge was not sent to destroy you. It was sent to promote you, to increase you, to strengthen you. You may not see how it will do that, at first, but God has a way. He sends adversity to bring out potential we didn’t even know we had.”

The thirteenth chapter is “Be A Bounce-Back Person.” “Bounce-back people have the seed of Almighty God. The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives inside of you. Not challenge is too difficult for you. No obstacle is too high to overcome. No sickness, no disappointment, no person, no hurricane, no dive in the stock market can keep you from your God-given destiny.”

Chapter fourteen is “Living A Resurrected Life.” “One of the best things I’ve learned is that nothing happens to me, it happens for me. God would not have allowed me to go through difficult times if he didn’t have a purpose for them…So shake off self-pity. Shake off bitterness. Shake off hurt. You may have seen one of your dreams die. Maybe you lost a job, your savings, or a loved one. But failures and losses are part of life, not the end of it. Jesus died, was buried, and then rose again. That is how God works. You’ve been through death. You’ve been through the burial. Now it is the third day. It is time of your resurrection…Know that God would not have allowed a challenge to happen if He did not plan for something good to come from it.”

Moving along, the fifteenth chapter is “Your Sunday Is Coming.” “One principle the resurrection teaches us is that God will always finish what he started. No matter how dark it looks, no matter how long it’s been, no matter how many people are trying to push us down, if we stay in faith, God will take us from Friday to Sunday. He will complete what He started….I love the fact that God does not give up on our dreams.”

Part Four of “It’s Your Time” is called “It’s Time To Trust,” and the sixteenth chapter is entitled “All Things Work Together For Our God,” which is referencing a Bible verse that I really find a lot of hope in. “You may have had some disappointments. Life may not have treated you fairly. But you would not be alive if God was not planning another victory in your future. That setback was not the end. That breakup you went through years ago may not have made sense, but there is another ingredient coming. God will pull it all together.” And a bit later, “You may not understand everything you went through. But if you’ll just keep pressing forward, not letting the bitterness take root, you will come to a chapter in your future that will pull it all together, a chapter that will make sense of it all.”

Chapter seventeen is “God Remembers You.” Osteen points out that the phrase “God remembered…” is found over 70 times in the Bible. “God remembered means more than God has not forgotten you. It’s more significant than that. When we’re told God remembers you, it means He will overwhelm us with His favor. He will surprise us with His goodness….Maybe you’ve given up on a dream…but understand, just because you write off your dreams doesn’t mean God writes them off. God remembers you and He remembers the dream He put within you.”

Chapter 18 is “Gaining Strength Through Adversity.” “The fact is that any time God is about to take you to a new level, you will face opposition. There will be new battles to fight, new obstacles to overcome, maybe people who doubt you, or speak poorly of you….Deep down, know that you will come through challenging times promoted, increased, better off than you were before.” Also, “God would not have planted your dreams in your heart if He had not already given you the talent, the creativity, the determination to see them come to pass.”

Chapter nineteen is “The Anointing of Ease.” “Maybe you have struggled in some aspect of your life. Let me assure you that if you stay in faith, you will come into your own anointing of ease. God has promised He will go before you and smooth your path. He will make your life easier….You don’t have to beg God to be good to you. You don’t have to beg God to help you. God wants to help you.”

Part 5 of the book is called “It’s Time To Stretch,” and the twentieth chapter is “Stepping Into Your Divine Destiny.” “Every one of us has secret dreams and desires along with seeds of greatness implanted within us. You too have gifts to share with this world. There is buried treasure within you, waiting to be discovered. Your full potential has not been released, yet. Your God-given divine destiny awaits you.” And, “Before you were born, God knew you. He has planned out all your days for good. Don’t let your potential lie dormant. Tap into that buried treasure. Share your gift with the world.”

Chapter twenty-one is “Stay Open For Something New.” “In the coming days don’t be surprised if God brings new opportunities across your path. You may be offered a position that you feel is over your head. You may have an opportunity to change careers or go into a different field.” And, “You would not be alive if God didn’t have something great in your future.”

Moving right along, the next chapter is “Finding Your Place of Blessing.” “God has a particular place for each one of us, a place where each of us will find our highest purpose, where we will thrive and reflect God’s greatness. He has a specific job for you, in a specific community, where you are surrounded by specific people positioned to help you find fulfillment.” “When you follow your instincts and pursue the life that fulfills you, you will never go wrong.”

The final chapter is called, “Believe For A Supernatural Year.” “So often we limit our thinking. We think we’ll never overcome our challenges or we’ll never accomplish our dreams. We don’t have the connections, the talent, or the funds. But the problem is that we tend to look for answers only in the natural world. We have a limited perspective. We forget that God is a supernatural God. And just because we don’t see a way doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have a way…You’ve got to get in agreement with God. God has supernatural favor in store for you.” And, “My friend, God is in control of the universe. He is directing your steps, causing you to be in the right place at the right time. He knows what you need and He knows how to get it to you.”

In concluding the book, Osteen writes, “Remember, you have the DNA of Almighty God. He has equipped you with everything you need to fulfill your destiny. You are full of wisdom, strength, talent, and creativity. In your future are favor, good breaks, the right connections, the right opportunities. You may not have seen those blessings in the past, but this is a new day.”

Following the conclusion there is a page titled `We Care About You,`where Osteen says ``there is a void in every person that only a relationship with God can fill. I`m not talking about finding religion or joining a particular church. I`m talking about developing a relationship with your Heavenly Father through his son, Jesus Christ. I believe that knowing Him is the source of true peace and fulfillment in life. Osteen then encourages the reader to pray a prayer accepting Jesus.

To conclude this review/sharing of excerpts from It’s Your Time, I would just say that I highly enjoyed this book and will probably go back and read his other books as well. Osteen provides a hope-filled, positive message of faith that is a refreshing, welcome change from what you get on the evening news or in the morning paper. You can tell when reading the book that these are not just platitudes that Osteen is presenting; he deeply believes what he is saying. And most of it gels quite nicely with what I believe about life and God. It gives me hope that the best is yet to come, and that there is a power at work in the Universe that wants to bless me.

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