Archives For Bible

This year I’m ignoring the doctor.

My friend Dr. Mike Elmore despises “read through the Bible in a year” plans. He feels they cheapen the experience of connecting with God. Turn His Word into a task to complete in a specific timeframe. A list to check off.

He’s a proponent of meditating deeply on smaller passages of Scripture, sometimes for weeks at a time. Sucking the marrow out of every nook and cranny. Forcing the Word into the context of His everyday world until He can’t help but hear the voice of the Creator speaking softly. Specifically. Clearly. To him.

I can’t argue. It’s transformational.

Few have inspired me as much as Dr. Elmore. But this year I’m blowing him off (after all, he’s a gastroenterologist and this has nothing to do with butts or guts).

Every few years I love to do a complete read through of Scripture. I need the full context. The history. The law. The poetry. The prophets. The gospels. The epistles. To breathe in how the Great Composer orchestrated the totality of His masterpiece.

So I picked up the must have YouVersion app for my iPhone (the online version is great, too), chose a plan, and got to reading.

It’s a great process. A worthwhile discipline. And the YouVersion app (and accompanying community and study notes are outstanding). But I have noticed something. Something I don’t want to admit.

The doctor isn’t an idiot (that’s why he has an M.D. after his name).

You see those check boxes to the left of those Scripture references? If I’m not careful, they can quickly become my enemy. A saboteur. An inoculation against what I’m really after: a genuine connection with my heavenly Father.

It is so easy to make a God task-list and completely miss Him in the process. To make “get through it” the goal, rather than letting it get through me.

So be intentional. Be disciplined. Be purposeful.

But always be cognizant of your tendency to drift from living relationship to little square check boxes.

My Baby Girl Is Twelve

Erik Cooper —  February 9, 2011 — 4 Comments

Today my baby girl turns 12. Twelve.

Donuts come in dozens. So do roses. And now I guess years are packaging that way, too. Who knew?

To top it off, Mandy and I have officially become those parents. You know, the ones who spout annoying, clichéd sayings like “when did she ever get that old?” and “how did the years pass so quickly?” and “it seems like just yesterday we were bringing her home from the hospital.”

Don’t you hate those people?

(I’m sorry. It just happens like unwanted belly fat and male pattern baldness. Involuntary.)

Yet there she is, in all her emerging womanhood. Emma now shares shoes with her mom. She reads books with no pictures. She (occasionally) even talks to her dad about issues bigger than Justin Beiber and iCarly. She’s like a caterpillar in the early stages of pushing through its cocoon.

It’s beautifully scary.

So this year we’re launching an experiment. A year long intentional effort (that I honestly hope mom and dad have the courage to complete).

The entire year between Emma’s 12th and 13th birthdays is our gift (along with a few tangibles for dinner tonight, don’t worry we’re not crazy). Twelve months of exposure to new thoughts. Specific time set aside to write and dialog about those ideas with Mandy, me, and mentors we trust. A year of brand new experiences. A open window into the world. God’s world.

  • Relationships (and yes, the dreaded sex word).
  • Injustice and global responsibility.
  • Money and how we should think about it.
  • Scripture and what it means to work it into our lives.
  • A trip to an impoverished country.
  • Maybe even a physical challenge (a 5K or a biking event if dad can get motivated).

I’ll keep you posted here on our progress (the successes and challenges).

Our job as parents is to build our kids’ muscles. To help them see the world as God sees it. To get them leaning into their heavenly Father fully despite our own tendency to be such broken examples of who He really is (and trust me, even carrying the “pastor” label, we’re as flawed as they come).

So that when their cocoons fully open, they can fly.

Happy birthday baby girl! Here’s to a great year. To flying. Faster. Higher. Straighter. Closer to the Father.

With His heart in you.

All my love…daddy.

Beautifully Disturbing

Erik Cooper —  January 13, 2011 — 1 Comment

Sometimes beautiful and encouraging morphs into scary and disturbing. These two opposing forces strangely emanating from a single source.  Surprising. Confusing. Even disgusting.

A loving embrace from your favorite Aunt Sue: Beautiful
Aunt Sue’s jalapeno and cigarette breath:

Ben Affleck’s performance in Good Will Hunting: Beautiful
Ben Affleck in Gigli:

An aging Brett Favre playing football like a 16 year old boy: Beautiful
An aging Brett Favre text messaging like a 16 year old boy:

Get the picture? There’s a strange tension that emerges when two seemingly opposing expressions spring up from the same root. And in risk of sounding disrespectful, Jesus was no different. Thankfully, His take on disturbing was a substantial departure from the examples I listed above. But the Son of God definitely knew how to throw down some “did He really just say that?” moments.  For instance…

One minute He would say beautiful and encouraging things like this:

“The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live.” John 11:25-26

“You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.” Luke 12:31-32

“I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:30

Warm. Delightful. Like a warm blanket next to the fire on a cold, snowy day.

Then a few paragraphs later He seems to shift directions like Sarah Palin voting democrat:

“Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor.  You will have riches in heaven.  Then come follow me.” Luke 18:22

[In response to a man who’s father just died] “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:22

“If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me.” Matthew 10:37

Disturbing. Scary. Our fancy 21st century discussions and Bible study commentaries have become great at explaining these things away, but Jesus never did.  He just laid them out there. Left them for us to wrestle. Here you go. Chew on this.

Because He loves us.

Yep.  Because He loves us. Real love exists in the tension between unconditional encouragement and unyielding challenge. He takes us as we are, but He doesn’t leave us there.  His aim is our ultimate good.  And Jesus knows full well that journey has to be beautifully disturbing.  That’s real love.

What passages of Scripture do you find the most encouraging? The most disturbing?

How do you wrestle with them?

As a parent, I long for my children to embrace Biblical values.  My values.  I even pray they’ll become inseparably grafted into their DNA.  Good things. God-things.

That they’ll be drawn to the right kind of friends.

That they’ll do well in school.

That they’ll have wisdom to make good decisions.

That they’ll connect to the local church.

That they’ll be smart with their money.

That they’ll discover their God-given gifts and an expression for them.

That they’ll find a God-fearing spouse.

That they’ll save sex for marriage.

That they’ll stay away from drugs and never abuse alcohol.

That they’ll learn to talk to God and gain regular insight from the Bible.

That they’ll love Jesus.

As strange as this may sound, I think it’s possible to become everything on the list above and completely miss becoming true followers of Jesus Christ. Yep.  Really.

I even believe it’s possible to “love Jesus” without truly following Him. We see it throughout Scripture.  Crowds surrounding Him.  Pressing in on all sides in ways that would make the Jonas Brothers jealous.

For inspiration.  For healing.  For food.  With needs (and some very legitimate).  With hopes that Jesus would come alongside the picture they had painted for their lives and give it a boost, fill in the gaps, create some magic.  They loved Him (at least in their understanding of what it meant to love).

But few followed.  Really followed.  It just cost too much.

So if I really want what’s best for my kids, I think I it might be time to change my prayers to different things. More difficult things.

That God would crush them.

That pain would refine them.

That they would dream God’s dreams and not just an American one.

That they would be willing to give up everything to follow Jesus.

That they would completely die to themselves in order to find true life in Christ.

That they will be alive and not just “good.”

Scary stuff.  Radical.  Dangerous.  A loss of control.  Counter-culture, even within the church (maybe especially within the church).

But longings I need to pursue, and not just for my children, but for myself as well.  Maybe you do, too?

Because it’s all too possible to embrace Biblical values from the outside-in, without ever truly becoming a follower of Jesus Christ from the inside-out. To embody, or retrain behavior, without ever truly submitting the will. To be “good,” without ever truly being alive.

For the record, I still long for that first list.  I just want it to grow through the soil of the second. Never at the expense of it.

So what do you think?  Is it possible to embrace the values of the Bible and completely miss Jesus in the process?