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In which God uses the "foolish" things to confound the "wise"

There was this TV preacher that I sort of, um, hated.

Like, I would see his face on the TV or grinning from yet-another-bestseller on the rack at the Barnes and Noble and want to shriek words like “heresy!” and “false teacher!” and “step away from the teeth whitener and the self tanner, for the love of all that is holy!”

It amazed me that people like him were even on television.  I railed against his popularity, convinced that it was spelling the downfall of the western church. I judged the people in his mega church as shallow seekers of feel-good entertainment. Clearly they were not as enlightened and wise as I was (clearly). I thought he was a weak teacher at best, a heretical charlatan using the Gospel for his own personal gain (and a jet) at worst. Why settle for pablum when there is meat available?

And then one day, a friend called. This was a friend that had been on the receiving end of decades of prayer, witnessing and “reaching out” on our part. We had done everything properly with great sensitivity. All to no avail.

But he called because, guess what! Just last night, he had decided to follow Jesus!

His whole life had changed! God is real! He was completely changed, full of life! This is amazing! How did I not understand before this?

That’s wonderful, friend! But…. how did this happen?

Well, one day, he was watching TV…. and came across this TV preacher – had I ever heard of him? Because he is a man of God and suddenly it all made sense, everything.

Of course, it was that exact same TV preacher.

And I listened to my friend, full of joy, recount how he understood now what we had been trying to say but somehow this just made sense. There is happiness and peace here, look at all of these people learning, too.

Would I mind telling him the name of a book that this preacher had written? He’d like to start to read his Bible but he wants to do it with help from this wonderful man of God, the one who helped him to understand and opened his heart to Jesus.

Isn’t it just amazing that there are people like this man on television? 

I found myself wanting to buy the book – in hardcover with glossy white teeth grinning out  – for him.

And my wisdom felt like judgement ash in my own mouth.

Reposted from the archives.

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In which God uses the "foolish" things to confound the "wise"

There was this TV preacher that I sort of hated.

Like, I would see his face on the TV or grinning from yet-another-bestseller on the rack at the Barnes and Noble and want to shriek words like “heresy!” and “false teacher!” and “step away from the teeth whitener and the self tanner, for the love of all that is holy!”

It amazed me that people like him were even on television.  I railed against his popularity, convinced that it was spelling the downfall of the western church. I judged the people in his mega church as shallow seekers of feel-good entertainment. Clearly they were not as enlightened and wise as I was (clearly). I thought he was a weak teacher at best, a heretical charlatan using the Gospel for his own personal gain (and a jet) at worst. Why settle for pablum when there is meat available?

And then one day, a friend called. This was a friend that had been on the receiving end of decades of prayer, witnessing and “reaching out” on our part. We had done everything properly with great sensitivity. All to no avail.

But he called because, guess what! Just last night, he had decided to follow Jesus!

His whole life had changed! God is real! He was completely changed, full of life! This is amazing! How did I not understand before this?

That’s wonderful, friend! But…. how did this happen?

Well, one day, he was watching TV…. and came across this TV preacher – had I ever heard of him? Because he is a man of God and suddenly it all made sense, everything.

Of course, it was that exact same TV preacher.

And I listened to my friend, full of joy, recount how he understood now what we had been trying to say but somehow this just made sense. There is happiness and peace here, look at all of these people learning, too.

Would I mind telling him the name of a book that this preacher had written? He’d like to start to read his Bible but he wants to do it with help from this wonderful man of God, the one who helped him to understand and opened his heart to Jesus.

Isn’t it just amazing that there are people like this man on television? 

I found myself wanting to buy the book – in hardcover with glossy white teeth grinning out  – for him.

And my wisdom felt like judgement ash in my own mouth.

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church, faith, jesus, journey
  • Trait

    I’m guessing you’re referring to Joel Osteen. He represents pop christianity at its finest.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      No comment. :-)

    • kathy

      He seems be a nice guy. I like how he loves his family. A man loves his family can’t do any wrong in my book ;-)

  • mundanemusings

    Similar thing happened to me with the Left Behind series. I read the first book, seeing nothing but inaccuracies and “educated guesses” and couldn’t understand how people could see it as Truth. Not to mention the poor writing, bad grammar and a host of other literary issues I couldn’t see past.

    Until the day my 67 year old grandfather – the man we had prayed for all our lives, the man who used to go to the corner bar on Sundays and call it “church” while my grandmother loaded up the rest of the grandkids and took them to the big brick building across the street – called to tell me about this wonderful book he’d read and “Have you read it? Because I couldn’t believe all that could be in the Bible.” And it led to him pulling out my grandmothers Bible, which led to him reading the notes at the bottom, which led him to the Gospels, which led him straight to Jesus.

    And suddenly, the book that I loathed became one of my favorites.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      E-zactly!

  • http://www.adventuresinbabywearing.com/ Stephanie Precourt

    Um, yeah. Oh boy. I know just what you mean. :)

    Steph

  • http://rachelheldevans.com Rachel Held Evans

    Beautiful post, Sarah.

    Tony Campolo, referring so such TV preachers once said, “God continues to use people I don’t approve of.”

    Indeed!

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Drat it all, eh? (And there are many others – not quite as “easy of a target” – that I could substitute in here….)

    • kathy

      God can use anybody for his good purposes :-)

  • http://sacredeveryday.ca/ Jenn

    I needed to hear this today! What a great reminded to bring it back to God…all that is good is from him. None of us are good in and of ourselves…we merely bring his good here to earth….

  • Melissa Brotherton

    haha! I love {hate} it when that happens. Humph…makes me second guess my ideas that I have it all figured out. :)

  • Heather

    Ugh. My thoughts were your thoughts and now I am tasting a little of that ash myself. I have the added benefit of having once worked on staff for a pastor who is following in the footsteps of above mentioned TV minister so my issues with this type of ministry are very personal and caused a lot of bitterness for me. I literally yell at the TV when these people come on. Your words drive me once again to the alter to ask forgiveness for my judgment and grace to cover my sin. Thank you.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Nothing quite like “going behind the curtain” to open one’s eyes, eh? I experienced similar things and now I consider myself gratefully disillusioned. It’s a better place to live without anyone on a pedestal. So glad someone else can relate, Heather!

  • http://www.elizabethbirak.com Elizabeth Birak

    I know exactly what you mean. The day my 70 year old grandma (who was THAT person for me that everyone has in their life that is the last person they ever think would get saved) called to say she decided to follow Jesus when attending a Lakewood church service I felt the same way.

  • http://sortacrunchy.typepad.com SortaCrunchy

    I love you. You know I do. But I have to say that I do *not* appreciate being called on the carpet on this.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go brush my teeth. I have serious ash breath.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      You make me laugh. :-)

  • http://mosaicsynapse.blogspot.com/ Pam Elmore

    Oh Sarah, your timing is awesome as usual.

    I’ve been following with increasing frustration the Rob Bell thing (including your wonderful posts, for which I thank you very much). My frustration is about the “I’m-right-you’re-wrong” attitude of those who dismiss him as a person and call it “correction of false teaching.”

    So now, I’m reading and reviewing a book denouncing the prosperity gospel. Among the contingent preaching this doctrine is the toothy-and-tanned one of whom I suspect you are speaking. And in the introduction, along comes this quote of theologian Millard Erickson: “Theology is important, because correct doctrinal beliefs are essential to the relationship between the believer and God.” And I found myself thinking of the certainty of those who have denounced Rob Bell (and others), and I thought how arrogant such a statement sounds. Yet, I’m willing to apply it to a set of theological beliefs with which I definitely disagree.

    Perhaps I should go remove this plank from my eye…

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      You, too? Me, too.

  • http://ministrytomotherhood.wordpress.com Becky

    This happens to me more often than I’d like to admit….

  • http://masonslater.com Mason Slater

    Oh yeah, I’ve been there. Just a few weeks ago actually. I was getting a haircut and the stylist asked if I’d heard of that same smiling preacher. I said yes in a way which attempted to avoid letting on to my distaste f0r him and all he represents, and then she started to go on and on about how much his book helped her and how much more at peace she was.
    Suddenly, even though I still felt the same towards the preacher, I didn’t have any will in me to tell her that or warn her off. Yes I hope she moves on to someone else, but running down her peace because I don’t appreciate where it comes from isn’t something I can bear to do anymore.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      “I can’t bear to do it anymore.” That. Exactly.

  • http://www.withallherheart.blogspot.com Katherine A Michael

    i was just reading though 1 Corinthians yesterday and the first 2 chapters Paul repeats the whole foolish things of the world message over and over and over. I get it already! I really do want to be spirit taught and foolish to the world.

  • Stephanie

    I’ve had quite a few humbling moments exactly like that.

    P.S. Our family went to his church when we passed through that city. Just to see. We’d like to write a post about it, but these are such difficult topics to write about properly, aren’t they?

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      very, very, very difficult. Especially when one is trying to stop being so soap-boxy and yelling (as I am trying!).

  • Pat68

    I feel you on this. I had a woman who has been walking with the Lord for years ask me if I’d ever heard one of our local t.v. preachers. I hadn’t (except for excerpts) but I’m familiar with his ministry. The woman went on to tell me how he teaches in such a way as to make her think.

    On this topic, I’ve learned to entrust all things to God. He can and will use anyone and if we trust Him, if there is a veneer to be seen through, in time your friend will see it. If not, again, God can use anyone and He can bless the faith of those that we think is shallow. Remember, He gives to each a “measure” of faith. Some will be the faith of shiny, slick televangelists and some the faith of deeper, reflective people. But it is a fine line to walk particularly when you’ve been called to the study and exposition of God’s Word.

  • http://simply-rea.blogspot.com Rea

    Oh, ouch. I know the preacher, I know the feelings. And here I thought God liked it in MY box.

    I’ll just line up with the rest of you at the sink of humility to brush that ash taste out.

    • http://sacredeveryday.ca/ Jenn

      I thought God really liked my box too….It’s awesome (but also a little scary) realizing how wrong I am!

  • Chuck

    Thank you for this great reminder that God is the one who will accomplish His plan and purposes, with or without us. I love how God allows Himself to be referred to in the OT as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; three flawed men with quite dysfunctional families become the identifying mark of the infinitely holy God of the Universe. He does that still today.

    But even as we are reminded that God can use anyone to lead people to the truth (he even used Balaam’s ass) we must also continue to hold fast to sound doctrine. A prosperity gospel may lead a few people to Christ, but it leads thousands of others into idolatry.

  • http://www.lifeeveryday.net Megankoch

    Man, this is exactly the thing I tell myself over and over when confronted with teachers like this- God can use them, God DOES use them, even if I, myself, can’t imagine how, and I remind myself we’re all in different places, all evolving, I can’t fully reject their position, etc, etc…

    I’ve never actually, in real life, had a story like this to tell, but this post confirms that I should keep repeating these things, because it’s true.

  • http://www.wendyhagen.net/ TDM Wendy

    Oh dear. So funny how can use anyone. Even you and me and . . .

  • Diana Trautwein

    Followed your link over to this one  – sorry I missed it when it first appeared. Been there, sweetie. Done that. Many, many years ago I joined my parents in disparaging a famous television preacher (who now has a university named after him). We were smug in our judgment, feeling ever so faintly superior to this ‘charlatan.’ Then my mother’s father, who had never darkened a church door, was a binge alcoholic and scared his grandkids to death whenever he took out his false teeth and held them in his hand, flapping them maniacally in our direction as he chased us around the yard – that crotchety, sick old man said ‘yes’ to Jesus at the age of 80 while watching that very same TV preacher we could not abide. Ahem. The age of miracles is not past! I’ve been asked how I can STAND being called a Christian because of so-and-so or such-and-such ministries. I just say – hey, do you judge your family by crazy Uncle Charlie? No,  you don’t. He’s your family, like it or not. So you put up and you shut up. 

    Good words, Sarah. Good words.

  • mkrabill

    amazing. honest. God uses all to pursue. today I heard the song, make you feel my love.

    When the rain

    Is blowing in your face

    And the whole world

    Is on your case

    I could offer you

    A warm embrace

    To make you feel my love

    When the evening shadows

    And the stars appear

    And there is no – one there

    To dry your tears

    I could hold you

    For a million years

    To make you feel my love

    I know you

    Haven’t made

    Your mind up yet

    But I would never

    Do you wrong

    I’ve known it

    From the moment

    That we met

    No doubt in my mind

    Where you belong

    I’d go hungry

    I’d go black and blue

    I’d go crawling

    Down the avenue

    Know there’s nothing

    That I wouldn’t do

    To make you feel my love

    The storms are raging

    On the rolling sea

    And on the highway of regret

    The winds of change

    Are blowing wild and free

    You ain’t seen nothing

    Like me yet

    I could make you happy

    Make your dreams come true

    Nothing that I wouldn’t do

    Go to the ends

    Of the Earth for you

    To make you feel my love, To make you feel my love

    this is how he loves us. he will do what it takes. he loves us through each other.

  • http://sarahaskins.com Sarah Askins

    Amen, our judgments do nothing good for us. When I hear stories like this one, I’m convinced God has such a remarkable sense of humor.

  • http://melissafeddersen.com/ melissa

    OH I have been on such a similar journey! Sitting in a coffee shop in Kenya with a preacher of 42 years….AT ONE CHURCH. He looked at us strait in the eye and said, “So you think you got it all perfect do you? You think your ministry style is going to reach EVERYONE?”. He went onto to talk about -perhaps the very same white toothed preacher-that he once judged harshly until he met him. It is hard to judge a heart through a television …he said…so maybe we shouldn’t.
    Uhhh. Oh yah.

  • Claris Regis

    Just what I needed to hear.God just spoke to me through you.God is at present using some people and it has confused me. “Clearly they were not as enlightened as wise as I was.” God is showing me that I need to understand His grace and at the same time see how judgemental, how self righteous i am and repent. thank you.

  • gromet

    wow, so you’re perfect?

  • Courtney Stovall

    When i get that feeling, i try to remember/do the following:
    – Gods ways/thoughts are not like ours therefore, HE CAN DO WHAT HE WANTS. He chooses whom he uses.
    – God put coins in the fishes mouth. Weird, yeah, but HE CAN DO WHAT HE WANTS.
    – God used a prostitute to save his people. HE CAN DO WHAT HE WANTS
    soooo…
    When it seems crazy to me I MUST follow his word &
    Seek wisdom & discernment, cast my.cares on him & in ALL thy (my) getting, get.understanding.

    Amen

  • Courtney Stovall

    Ummm… “grommet”, surely that is not what you got out of my post. if it is I can only assume something is bothering you right now, so your response is negative no matter what it’s nothing personal. otherwise it & gives me the idea to pray for you because right now you’re not in the mode of that third step.
    would a perfect person have to count backwards from 10 if they were angry? Having to go to the steps is the equivalent. would a perfect person feel this way in the first place? the Bible instructs us to edify each other and help each other. that is the intent of the post my love. when you feel upset about something, or when something seems odd to you, yet God is still.working, these steps are helpful. we have to do well to work hard to do the things we need to do to keep from falling. I’m not perfect at all but I understand this: we will all make mistakes because the Bible says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. but godly people occasionally get out of line however they do not live out of line. ungodly people live out of line and every now and then get in line. let’s live godly. have a blessed day amen

  • kathy

    So God can use foolish things to convince unbelievers there is a God. Blood sacrificing to cover our sins is one way. We would never think about killing a dove to hide our sins. The Preacher don’t need to kill a sheep for the his congregation sins. Jesus sacrife really made so much easier for us. .

  • kathy

    The cross is foolishness to some, and God’s power to others. God used Paul how he is too. God rather use weak man than prideful man too.