Joel Osteen is one of the most popular and impacting Christian speakers of this generation. He is known as “America’s pastor” and each week encourages millions of individuals and families around the world via his television ministry, which airs on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
Recently Pastor Joel sat down with TBN “Praise the Lord” host Phil Munsey to discuss why he does what he does, speaking a message of encouragement that has changed the lives of countless people.
“God has a destiny for every person on earth, and my calling is to encourage people to believe in God’s goodness for them and to pursue that destiny that He has for them, through all the seasons of their life,” Pastor Joel explained.
Joel recalled that he used to play pick-up basketball games at a local YMCA, where there were all kinds of guys involved, many of them with no faith in God. “It was very competitive and a lot of cursing and competitive behavior,” he recalled. “And I’m more of a quiet guy, and, of course, they knew my dad [the late John Osteen] was a pastor and I worked there at Lakewood Church. They knew that I was the guy who didn’t curse and didn’t cheat, and when there was a foul or a close call they’d come ask me because they knew I would tell the truth.
“When my dad died and all of a sudden I was put in the position of pastoring Lakewood Church, and I knew I was going to be on the television program my dad had been on, I realized that eventually these guys I played with were going to see me on television and they’re going to say, ‘That’s the guy I used to play basketball with.’ And I thought, when I speak, I want to make sure that they understand what I’m talking about. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t talking in the language that only those raised in my church would understand. So I decided that when I began to speak to people, I wanted to make sure that the guys I played basketball with, who knew nothing about God, would be able to understand the message I brought.”
Pastor Joel added that “reaching people outside of the church continues to be one of my main goals when I speak. You know, it’s a lot easier to talk to the church, because they understand the language and the message already. And don’t get me wrong, we need to speak to those in the church. But for me, I’ve always had the desire to reach out to those many people who weren’t raised like I was, who weren’t preacher’s kids and weren’t in church every time the doors were open. But they still need to know about the love of God and His desire to guide every area of their lives. Many of these people tell me, ‘Joel, I’m not a religious person,’ and I say, ‘I’m not talking about religion, I’m talking about a real relationship with a God through His Son Jesus, a God who loves you and has a destiny for you and your family.’
And I really like talking to people about how we live the Christian life. It’s great to know doctrine, that’s important, but I believe that God has given me the ability to encourage people in their everyday lives, to show them how they can overcome the difficult circumstances that we all face in life, to show them how to forgive, how to maintain a good attitude, and how to reach their dreams. These are things that apply to every person and to every walk of life.”
Pastor Joel said that “there is enough in life that is beating people down. My message is about lifting people up and giving them hope. When people come to one of our meetings at Lakewood Church, I want to lift them up. I want to tell them what they can become. I want to remind them that God has them in the palm of His hand, and that nothing they are facing is a surprise to God. Part of the gospel is about lifting the fallen and restoring those who are broken. The Bible says that it’s the goodness of God that leads people to repentance. So my goal, our goal at Lakewood, is to show people the goodness of God. So many people have been raised thinking that God is mad at them. But when I wake up in the morning I like to think that God is smiling down on me. If you don’t believe that God is for you you’ll never become what He has created you to be. So my message is simply to tell people that God is for them, and that He wants them to succeed, and that He’s the God of another chance.”
Speaking from the book of Ezekiel, TBN favorite Mr. T challenged viewers to help raise up those who are suffering and in need of God’s help.
Mr. T: Ezekiel got down with the dry bones that were in need of God’s touch. I can hear hear Ezekiel telling God how dry the bones are. Not only are they dry. They are very dry. The bones have been picked clean by the foul of the air in the summertime. The vultures have picked them clean and left them dried in the sun The marrow has dried up. The unclean scavengers have gotten down amongst the bones and ruthlessly tore them joint from joint. Nothing is linked together. A leg bone over there, and a hip bone over here. Bones everywhere. Bones piled on top of bones. Broken bones. Cracked bones. Jaw bones, rib bones, neck bones, collar bones.
There were shoulder bones that would not help bear the infirmity of the weak. There were arm bones that would not embrace their brothers and sisters in love. There were hand bones that were stained with innocent blood. There were hip bones that sat in the seat of the scornful. There were leg bones that walked in the counsel of the ungodly. There were knee bones that would not bow when they heard the Name of Jesus.
And God spoke out to Ezekiel: “Son of man, can these bones live? They’re dry, but can they live. They’re un-vitalized, but can they live? They are dislocated, but can they live?”
And Ezekiel answers: “God I don’t know whether these bones can live or not. But God, You know. You know everything because You told Jeremiah, ‘Before I formed you in the belly I knew you. Before you came out of the womb I sanctified you and ordained you a prophet.’ Lord God, You know.”
Brothers and my sisters, here is what I am trying to say. Dry bones denote a life that doesn’t have Christ. Just like the bones that were without life, the sinner without Christ is nothing but dry bones.
Matt Crouch: Mr. T is a preacher. Come on now. You just took us on a mini-movie. Every one of us are in that valley. All these bones and now I have the imagery that that’s why a life in Christ isn’t about going to bad to good. It’s like going from death to life.
MR. T: Matt, when I was thinking about my message, I was thinking about your father because he took TBN all around the world, to place filled with dry bones where people didn’t know God. Some places they resisted God and didn’t know about God but Paul Crouch brought TBN there anyway.
Your father went places in spite of resistance and criticism. He went against the doubters. He did it in spite of. In spite of! In spite of! I can still hear what he used to say: “Everything that has breath praise the Lord.”
Teen athlete Jake Olson hasn’t let blindness stop him from pursuing his dreams. Gregory Dickow sits down with him and co-author McKay Christensen on TBN’s “Praise the Lord,” to talk about their book “Open Your Eyes.”
Gregory Dickow: Jake, you have overcome some things a lot of people have not had to face. We applaud your faith and courage through your battle. We are honored. Tell us about your struggle and how God has brought you through.
Jake Olson: From early age I battled cancer. When I was really young I lost one eye, and through my entire life through age 12 cancer came back eight times. We would fight it with chemotherapy and radiation and laser therapy and we tried experimental treatment. Eventually the doctors said they had run out of treatments and they would have to take my remaining eye. That was tough. After fighting 12 years to try to keep my sight and be told I had to lose it was tough. It was a scary moment.
The one thing fighting cancer for 12 years did in my life was build a faith that was unshakable. So, every time cancer came back I relied on the Lord more. I was told I would have to live my life without sight and I would not see a sunset or my kids or my wife. I looked to the strength He would give me. I would not be here doing the things I’m doing right now if it was not for Him and the strength He gives me.
Gregory: Thank God, Jake. You play football and have aspirations to play professional golf, is that correct?
Jake: When I found out I would go blind I wanted to make a goal to live a normal teenage life. As I went into high school, I played football. I started on varsity. And I always loved playing golf. Everyone in the world can agree golf is not an easy thing to do, and it does not get easier when you cannot see the ball. I had to practice hard at that. I love playing golf. I play better than I did with sight. I play on my high school team and hope to play on the PGA.
Gregory: Jake never stops dreaming. The message in your book “Open Your Eyes” is one you and McKay have been sharing with audiences. McKay, tell us what brought the two of you together and how you came to be co-authors?
McKay Christensen: We were speaking together at a conference, I heard his story, part of what you just heard. I said, “Jake, you and I have to get the story out. We have to tell this story.” The more we talked, the more we had in common. The more I listened to things he learned, the more I felt that we had to share this story. That is where the book came from. The concept for “Open Your Eyes” is perfect for Jake. Here he is a young man without sight, but no one has a clearer vision where he is headed in life because of his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jake is walking every day by faith. In the Bible is a story of blind Bartimaeus who sat by the highway begging. Jesus and the disciples came, and Bartimaeus cried out, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.” He called out three times. He stands and cast aside his garment. It is believed in those days the garment had insignia, your license to beg. He cast away his garment, went to Jesus, and Jesus said, “Thy faith has made thee whole.” And he was healed. Jake refused to be labeled as anything, as blind or handicapped. He let his faith take him to the Lord. He is doing things now he would never have done with sight.
Gregory Dickow: You said something very powerful about Jake. Jake refused to be labeled. Boy, so many people need to hear this. People who have 20/20 vision need to hear this. So many of us are limited by the labels of our past, the labels of our mistakes, and the labels other people have given us. Jake, what a powerful example you are of someone who has thrown off his label and will not be limited. The book is “Open Your Eyes: Ten Uncommon Lessons to Have a Happier Life.” Jake, what can you tell us about your life and the keys to living a happier life?
Jake: My favorite lesson is a setup and setback. My setback was going blind, something I thought was not possible. The setup came with that. I would not be here right now if I did not go blind. I would not have written a book or set up a foundation that helps others.
I’m doing stuff that with sight I might not have ever done. Because of my setback it inspires others. That is the cool thing about it. In every setback, everyone will face adversity. Everyone has setbacks, but you have to see the setup. God is on His own time. If we had our own time, trust me, we would not need God. God is on His own time. We have to keep trusting Him throughout our life. And when I was going blind, I would never have thought four years later I would do the thing I am doing today. God knows what He is doing and has a plan for all our lives that is greater than ours and gives us hope for the future.
TBN Vice President Matthew Crouch sat down with popular Los Angeles pastor Erwin McManus.
Matthew Crouch: Erwin McManus is with us today and his new book is “The Artisan Soul.” And in this book, Erwin, you write about taking our gifts and talents, whatever they may be, and using them to communicate the message of the gospel in unique ways. And I just want to say that is the saints who have gone ahead can look over heaven’s balcony, then my father, Paul Crouch, is looking down and is super happy because the network he founded, TBN, continues to lift up Jesus all over the world. That was his talent, pulling together all the elements and people to get this network on the air and to expand it across America and the world. Forty years ago my dad was living out Jesus’ Word, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.” Paul Crouch was all about lifting Jesus up. My mom Kan Crouch, who co-founded this great TBN network was all about lifting Jesus higher.
And it is our responsibility tonight to lift up Jesus. Pastor, set the stage for us, and tell us how God made each of us so uniquely different for a reason. When God squeezes somebody what comes out of them will be unique and different. Just set the stage for what we’re trying to accomplish on TBN’s “Praise the Lord” program tonight.
Erwin McManus: Before we go on, Matt, I want to wrap you up in a moment of love. I can’t imagine what you are going through in terms of the loss of your dad, after walking together, sharing light together the way many fathers and sons don’t have the opportunity to do. It is powerful for you in so many ways.
Now, I recently got a question from an atheist asking me how the existence of God can be proven. First, let’s talk about proving that someone Who is transcendent is bigger than we are, bigger than time, and larger than space and the material world. And let me answer that one of the times when I see proof of someone bigger than we are is when someone dies and I go to the funeral. Grief itself is proof love is more powerful than death. If you think about it, if nothing exists out of what we experience or know; the moment someone dies we should stop loving them, right? After all, the object of our love is gone. If there isn’t something beyond us, bigger than we are, the moment a loved one dies all the emotions you felt for that person should have ended. But, Matt, think about your dad. He may be gone, but, in fact, you will love your father all your life. If anything, you feel the nature more profoundly than before he passed away.
I would say to you, Matt and Laurie, that your grief is proof that love is more powerful than death. Even though there is a different experience right now, your dad Paul Crouch is not here with us, but he is not lost. And there is a greater distance between time and eternity, but love travels that distance. What you feel in your grief is not loss and absence of your dad. It is a new distance that love has to travel for you to connect with him.
If love is more powerful than death, then it is also more powerful than time. Your dad’s love is traveling the universe to you as well. I just love the fact that nothing can overcome the power of love. That is what Scriptures tell us.
Matthew Crouch: God is love.
Erwin McManus: When you go through those moments of pain or loss or grief, it is a powerful reminder to us that we are more than just dust, more than dirt. We are not trapped inside time and space because love travels further than we can imagine.
One of our pastors asked after a meeting how far we were going to go, and I answered that we will go as far as love takes us. That to me is the message of Jesus. How far should God go to get our attention? How far should God travel to win our love? How far should God extend Himself to embrace humanity that so often has no interest in Him? That explains why Jesus has come. That explains the story of the Son of God. It is because the driving message of Scripture, the driving message of Jesus coming to the world, is that God went as far as He could go so that we could travel closely to Him.
If the driving principle of the universe is that everything God does is formed with love, then sacrifice is the epic moment of the story. The ultimate act of love is when you sacrifice yourself for the person who does not love you in return. That is the power and beauty of Jesus. That’s why I’m here. That is why the cross for me never gets old.
Matthew Crouch: This is your first book in six years. Tell us a little of why you wrote “The Artisan Soul.”
Erwin McManus: After I started a church called Mosaic in Los Angeles I kept meeting people who felt emptiness in their life even though they believed in God and had given their lives to Jesus. They went to church, did all the right stuff, but they felt like much of their life was simply going through the motions.
This is a book for artists who have struggled with believing that they have something legitimate to say through their creativity. Many artists have been convinced that they aren’t really creative. Someone somewhere denigrated their creativity. It is time someone speaks into the lives of those individuals and re-enforce what they know deep down is a gift from God. When I look at the human being — who we are was created by the Creator. We were imagined in the imagination of God. When He rested, He rested in the work of creating.
In the arena of discipleship, too often it is modeled on the industrial revolution, where people are put on an assembly line and treated like a cog in a machine. But human beings are not part of a machine; we are works of art and we are artists at work. God has created us to create a world that is beautiful, good, and true. For me, this book is a manifesto of creativity. It is time for us to take the Bible back from everyone who treats it like a document for conformity, and reclaim it as a manifesto for creativity.
Matthew Crouch: Wow! Yes! That’s great!
Erwin McManus: Can you imagine how unattractive we have made Jesus when we make the church seem like a prison with wardens and guards? The church should be a place where we create and imagine and dream and invent, where Jesus is the Master Artist teaching us all to paint through our God-created gifts and talents and dreams and passions. That is what “The Artisan Soul” is about.
Autumn and Brad Hearon, who each survived horrific burn accidents, share their testimony of God’s grace and mercy on TBN’s Praise the Lord.
Dwight Thompson: Autumn, talk to me about what God did in your life through this experience of being burned in your high school chemistry class.
Autumn Hearon: So much good has come out of my accident. Before my accident, I was 17 years old, trying to find out who I was. My identity was so wrapped up in trying to have the perfect body, perfect friends, perfect everything. I thought that would make me happy, but it didn’t. I was constantly insecure, always worrying what people thought of me, would they accept me? When my accident happened, everything I thought was my identity was gone. Through my burns and struggle I realized no longer did I want my identity to be of this world. I wanted it to be in Christ and what He says about me.
I believe in my heart that beauty is skin deep. If there is any girl out there struggling with her identity, I want to encourage you to look within look at what God says about you. Don;t listen to what the world says.
Dwight: That is a good word right there. I want to ask you this, Brad: How many kids are doing the same thing that you were doing before your accident, seeking pleasure and meaning through drugs, getting high? I want you to minister to young people tonight, whatever is on your heart, about taking the wrong path.
Brad Hearon: Brother Dwight, when I was growing up I tried to rationalize and justify the choices I was making in my life. The choices I was making in the formidable years of my life I did not realize how they would affect me. I’m the son of a third generation farmer, and I grew up in southwest Kansas. My dad was called into the ministry at 25 years old. We moved to Houston, Texas. I went from living on a farm to moving to the third largest city in United States, Houston, Texas. Not only that, but we moved to the NASA community where the Johnson Space Center is, a highly intellectual area. I was into john Deere tractors and combines, while they were into Lexus and Mercedes.
I chose to go and start to surround myself with friends that did not have the same foundation I had in my life. I’m a pastor’s son. I knew right from wrong at a young age. I knew what I was supposed to be about in my life. I was called into ministry when I was in 7th grade.
I heard the Lord speak audibly to me: “Brad Hearon, I created you to see people’s lives changed by the truth of your testimony, to see people to run to the altar of salvation by words I speak through you.”
That is what I was told in 7th grade. I ran from the call God had for me in my life. I went back to the same friends. I never thought I would end up in the place I ended up in, Brother Dwight. I never thought it would get to that point. I’m just smoking a little weed, I’m just drinking a little alcohol, and these things will not affect me when I get older. I told myself the same thing kids tell themselves, I’m just a kid. I will change when I’m older. I’m having fun now.
I rationalized and justified choices I was making even though I knew the truth. I wanted to be popular. I wanted to be a cool kid. I was a people-pleaser when I was young. Here I was thinking choices I’m doing, it will not affect me when I get older, but they did.
We ended up moving from Houston when I was in ninth grade to the panhandle of Texas, Booker Texas. You don’t accidentally go to Booker, Texas, population 1,500. We moved up there, and as soon as we got there my dad said, “You are starting with a clean slate here, as a freshman in high school. A clean slate. Why don’t you go and be about God’s business?”
But I thought, “I want to make these farm kids feel inferior like I felt. I portrayed myself as a hood from Texas. Nothing hood about me. I’m a hood on a john Deere tractor. Here I was in a small town. I was not smart either. I would tell people all the things I did in Houston, trying to make them believe I was a thug.
In Houston I could lie and tell people that my dad was an astronaut, and nobody would find out. But it’s different in a small town. You tell people things and your parents find out. My dad came to me and asked: “Are you telling people these things? Son, what is going on?”
I started to become a compulsive and habitual liar. I lied about everything. It was a struggle going on inside me, Brother Dwight. There was a fight inside me I wanted to do well and help my friends out. I had a good heart in a lot of ways but there was also a part of me the devil was trying to rob. He knew what God had spoken into my life, and he wanted to destroy it before it happened.
I went with the wrong crowd in Booker, becoming friends with them. I had a cousin who had a meth lab in southwest Kansas, and he got out of prison at that time. I learned how to manufacture meth at 17, and went from a young man who cared about his family and friends to a man who did not care about anything but himself.
The choices I made in 6th and 7th grade were the choices that led me to that point. And I want to say tonight, if you are a young person out there now, I want to speak to you. Maybe you accidentally tuned in to TBN tonight. Maybe you saw my face and wondered what happened to me. God wants you to know tonight that the choices you make right now in your life will affect you as you get older. It starts off as a small sin, then it gets bigger and bigger as times goes by. I heard a guy say, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, and make you stay longer than you want to stay.”
My wife was injured in a totally different way, but God has brought us together to help heal people and bring them to Christ.
My accident happened at nineteen, when a container of ether blew up while I was making meth in my pickup truck. I was entombed in fire with the doors locked shut. As I lay there dying I reminded God of His promise that millions of people would come to Him through my testimony, and suddenly the doors opened up, and I rolled out of my truck onto the ground.
After being in a hospital for four and one-half months in a drug-induced coma, with a very slim chance of survival, as God did miracle after miracle in my body, I knew that He had not abandoned the word He had spoken into my life.
Autumn: We came to do what we are doing now through our dear friend Dave Roever. He saw something in us that we didn’t see and he encouraged us. He believed that we had a call from God and could help other people. And that is why we’re here tonight.
Dwight: I want to speak to our TBN audience tonight, and there are people watching who are in the same place Brad was, going his own direction. You don’t have to go that far. God is right now calling to you to turn to him. When the Bible talk about repent, that means to turn around, and that is what God is calling you to do right now.
I want to pray with you right now. If you want to know Christ as your Savior, and get off that road going the wrong way, I want you to pray after me: Jesus, I ask You to come into my heart. Wash all my sins away. I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God. I believe that you died for my sins. Come in Lord Jesus, save me, and become my Lord. Amen.