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The Power of I am, Two Words That Will Change Your Life Today. By Joel Osteen. Faith Words, October 2015.

I am. “What follows those two simple words will determine what kind of life you live.” (pg 1)

Osteen says that the words that follow I am should be nothing but positive affirmations about our self. For example, I am: blessed, successful, talented, wise, wonderful, healthy, victorious, qualified, prosperous, valuable…you get the idea. After 3 introductory chapters, each of the remaining 16 chapters focus on an I am statement. For example, chapter 4 is entitled, “I am blessed, A magnet for blessings” or chapter 7 entitled, “I am a masterpiece, See yourself as a masterpiece.” The book is somewhat repetitive, each chapter presenting similar ideas from a different angle.

Osteen says that we must dwell on these I am statements about our self, and he provides a list of I am affirmations. We should speak them, read them, meditate on them, and “get them down in our spirit.” (pg 13)

Do I even need to make the observation that there is something narcissistic and profoundly self-centered about all this? It is an ego trip. I wrote a chapter in my own book (Positively Powerless) on the dangers of pride. I hardly think that Philippians 4:8’s encouragement to think about things that are lovely and excellent is inferring that we should be thinking of ourselves as lovely and excellent. Colossians 3:1-2 says to fix our hearts and minds on Jesus. But I digress.

Oh wait, Osteen assures us this is not pride, but a quiet confidence (pg 5). Phew.

However – I’d suggest that instead of this being about yourself, imagine it about another person. Imagine a close friend or co-worker who continually says wonderful things about his or her self. I’m quite certain you’ll find them intolerable to be around! They will be viewed as self-important egomaniacs. Or perhaps just viewed in a sad way, as deeply insecure individuals.

But wait, that’s not what this book is all about. This book is about the power of words. The reason we must speak these affirming words about our self is that when we “continue to speak them, they will become a reality.” (pg 13)

According to Osteen, words have creative power. They are like electricity. “You have to send your words out in the direction you want your life to go.” (pg 42)  You must “invite” good things into your life through the power of your words. Positive words about yourself will bring health, strength, and abundance your way. Negative words invite struggle and lack. “Nothing happens until you speak.” (pg 35)

Whoa, my friends. Whoa. Joel Osteen is a Christian who pastors a Christian church. The book frequently references characters from the Bible, and random Bible verses are referenced to provide support. Analysis of that will follow in part 2. But for now…

Words have creative power and we “send them out” to bring good into our life? As I read Osteen, his words were eerily familiar to me. Why? I recently wrote a book where I researched the history of the positive thinking movement. The philosophy Osteen is promoting about the power of our thoughts/words comes from the “New Thought” mind-power movement of the late 19th century.

Far from Christian, this movement was birthed in occultic and mystical subcultures, with influences from eastern religion as well. The “god” of this movement was viewed as an impersonal force, and not as a personal being. Thoughts were perceived as “things” with a mystical type of causative power to influence reality and “attract” events to your life.  Perhaps you have heard the phrase “law of attraction” which has been re-popularized in our day through author Rhonda Byrne and her book The Secret. The seeds of the modern New Age movement are from the late 19th century New Thought movement as well.

Maybe you think I am going off the deep end here. Am I accusing Osteen of being into the occult or New Age? No!

But having recently read original source material from both historical and modern New Thought/Law of Attraction movements, Osteen’s teachings clearly echo it.

Ralph Waldo Trine was a prolific New Thought writer of 100 years ago. Listen to Trine’s words: “Send out your thought–thought is a force, and it has occult power of unknown proportions when rightly used and wisely directed–send out your thought that the right situation or the right work will come to you at the right time, in the right way…”

That. is. Joel. Osteen.

As said, I am truly not saying Osteen is into that stuff. Rather he has been influenced by it, whether he realizes it or not. We have all been influenced by it. The New Thought movement eventually became the positive thinking movement of the mid-twentieth century and transformed American culture.

I think Osteen is a naturally optimistic type of guy, and it was easy for him to inadvertently (?) blend “thought power” with Christianity.

However, that does not work.

When you blend two things whose core teachings contradict each other, this creates a myriad of problems. You end up with a weakened Christianity, whose tenets are undermined, and with distortions of Christian belief.

Putting the non-Christian roots to the side, I appeal to common sense.

Do you really think it is possible for mere words that come out of your mouth to: emanate power in the universe, create, attract events…and ultimately alter reality??

If so, you are indeed a very powerful person.

I must emphasize that this is NOT about having a good or bad attitude in life. If you are grouchy and angry all the time, this will not likely lead to a promotion at work. This is NOT what Osteen is talking about at all. 

In part 2, I will provide analysis of Osteen’s interactions with the Bible. Please know that I am not attacking Osteen as a person. He sure has a winsome smile, and I think he means well. Years ago he took the mantle from his father, feeling unequipped to do so, and I think Osteen never imagined where the ministry would go. Yet here he finds himself years later.

See you on Monday.

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