Archives For change

My calendar wasn’t lying. The appointment was there. Mocking me. The standard ding of my iPhone alarm became an ominous melody of doom (or was that just Black Eyed Peas halftime highlights?).

It was time to visit the dentist.

Twice a year, every year, for the past three-plus decades, I’ve been the recipient of the same dental speech. The proper mixture of conjured sweetness and implied judgment must be a pre-requisite for every graduating hygienist. It’s not a long oration. Less words than a Bill Belichick press conference, but equally as intimidating.


Come on lady! What kind of super hero do you think I am?

But every six months I make another empty promise that lasts for exactly 9 days. And then the night before my next dental shakedown, I find myself frantically rifling through the cosmetic cabinets looking for a strand of that dreaded nylon string. I’m not really a flosser, but give me 10 minutes and a bottle of mouthwash and I’ll convince those professionals I’ve been rehabilitated. Surely they’ll never notice my swollen, bleeding gums.

Don’t you think we can do the same thing to God?

Fake it.

Put on the show.

Cram in some frenetic religious-type activity that makes us feel spiritual again, even if it’s making no long-term difference.

But Jesus longs to be so much more than something we go digging through a cabinet for the night before we need it. His words more than just screen savers, Twitter posts, or something we hear the pastor quote every once in awhile on Sunday morning. Here’s one of the things He had to say:

“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.
Mathew 7:24-27 MSG

While I’m at it, maybe I’ll go ahead and start flossing, too (OK, let’s not get carried away).

Why Resolutions Fail

Erik Cooper —  January 12, 2011 — 1 Comment

Let’s face it, most of our New Year’s resolutions have the staying power of a Pauly Shore movie.  Some of us have already quit. The rest of us are seriously thinking about it. Stats say only 8% will survive.

The noble promises of painting something new and beautiful on the blank canvas of a New Year make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but they’re rarely matched by a true inward transformation. So they shrivel and die on the guilt-ridden pile of unsustainability (usually around January 30).  Maybe next year.

If we made socially honest New Year’s resolutions, the list would probably look something like this:

In 2011 I resolve to…

  1. Buy Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace book and put it on my coffee table
  2. Attach the LA Fitness membership card to my keychain (and show it for free chick-fil-a sandwiches on Wednesdays!)
  3. Fan more socially conscious Facebook pages (social networking has made it so easy to seem like I care)
  4. Retweet more spiritually sounding Twitter follows (Rick Warren is a solid retweet. So is Mark Batterson.)
  5. Write “stop drinking so much” on the pages of my personal journal
  6. Fill out all the columns on my online budget form (and maybe next year I’ll even find the resolve to implement it)
  7. Write more endearing, vulnerable blog posts about helping my wife more with the laundry

Let’s face it, we love the outward overture. The declaration. The noble desire. The appearance of change.

Rarely are we willing to pay the cost that leads to true transformation.

In Matthew 3, John the Baptist had a few strong words for some people who thought noble overtures trumped transformational reality:

“Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to make any difference? It’s your life that must change, not your skin!” -Mat. 3:7-8 MSG

It’s your life that must change, not your skin.

Yet we continue to sprinkle little droplets of resolutions on the surface, expecting them to clean up messes that are hidden deep down inside. It just doesn’t work.

Beyond simple behavior change resolutions, what needs to be transformed at the core of your life in 2011?  That’s the only kind of change that has any kind of staying power.  And here’s the bonus: If you’re willing, Jesus is just waiting to do the work in you.

“[Jesus] will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.” – Matthew 3:11 MSG

And that’s a change that will last past next Tuesday.

Peacefully Destabilizing

Erik Cooper —  December 2, 2009 — 2 Comments

“Jesus told them, ‘you’re all going to feel that your world is falling apart and that it’s my fault.'” (Mark 14:27 MSG)

Ever feel that way?  Like the closer you get to God, the more chaos it brings? Not exactly a great church-marketing strategy.  But the reality is our western, capitalistic church mindset wrongly equates God’s peace with ease, and His blessing with comfort, wealth, and the fulfillment of our personal, self-promoting dreams and desires.

The closer Jesus got to fulfilling his ultimate purpose, the less circumstances made sense to those around Him. And we see this reality unfold with uncomfortable clarity through Jesus’ disciples.

These men invested three years following this fascinating, controversial figure.  He added purpose to their normal, everyday lives, set them up with a new life trajectory, with meaning.  And then just as it seemed all their visions and desires were about to be fulfilled, He’s arrested, tried, and crucified. He died.

Chaos. And it almost seemed as if that’s what He wanted, like He willfully allowed it to happen (um, because He did).

Jesus rocks our worldview. He shakes our assumptions and perspectives to the core.  We like power, control, comfort, predictability. Yet we find following Jesus (really following Him, not just making Him part of your culture or weekly schedule or to-do list check-off) requires us to give all that away.  He replaces it with indescribable peace, joy, and purpose, but the cost is everything.  Everything.

And most days I’m just not willing to pay it. Just being honest.

Have I just brought Jesus into the dialog to make my love of self more palatable, justifiable, culturally acceptable, easier to swallow? Or am I really willing to give up control, power, perspectives, my way of seeing the world?

Following Jesus is the most peacefully destabilizing decision you will ever make. He will undoubtedly make you feel like your world is falling apart, and that it’s all His fault.  And although something in you is begging to run away, to keep control, to stay in power, there’s another part of you that longs for the adventure, that wants desperately to surrender to His game plan, that knows stepping into the uncontrollable chaos is actually the way to real life.

I like my house, not gonna lie.  Nearly nine years ago, my wife and I (less two of our three little rug rats) moved into the home we were going to spend the rest of our lives in.  Suburbs, picket fence, 3 kids and a dog.  You know, what everyone wants.  What everyone dreams of.  Until you get a glimpse of God’s dream.

When we decided last fall to begin the process of planting City Community Church in downtown Indianapolis, we had absolutely no desire to leave our home.  After all, we can be in the heart of downtown Indy in minutes.  Why move?  It wasn’t necessary.  We know the west side.  We grew up here.  Our families are here.  Everything that makes life “normal” and “predictable” is in our back pocket,  and we sure had plenty of of other things destabilizing our quaint, little reality.  We didn’t need to move, too.  The LaGranges are crazy enough (love you guys), let them do it.  We’ll hold the fort down from out here.

linusThat’s usually when God starts to mess with you.  Not because He doesn’t want you to be happy, but He definitely knows control is not something you’re qualified to possess.  He’s not satisfied with one act of radical obedience, He wants a lifetime commitment to it.  We love control, and even though we never really have it, we desperately hang onto the appearance of it.  It’s like a security blanket that provides us nothing of real value, but for some reason makes us feel better.

So my wife and I slowly and subtly realized that even though we professed “God, we’ll follow you anywhere,” we had set our feet in concrete and chained ourselves to our current reality like some crazy, Oregonian anti-logging fanatics (if you’re from Oregon my apologies, but you get the picture right?).  We said all the right things, but in our minds there were just too many hurdles to jump to actually make something happen.

So we’re changing that.  We’re letting go.  We’re positioning ourselves to lose control.  Honestly, I have no idea what God is going to ask of us.  Maybe he’ll let us stay right here (honestly, that’s probably the answer we’re hoping for).  All I know is that we have to remove all the barriers that keep Him from owning the decision.  We have to stop treating God as if we control Him (an admission we would never openly make but far too often live out).  We’re untying the knots, releasing the locks, chiseling our feet from the concrete.  And then we’ll just see what happens.

What a way to live.

The Pro is Calling

Erik Cooper —  February 3, 2009 — 3 Comments

One of the great things about planting a new church is all the new people I get to meet.  A few weeks ago I got the chance to sit down with Geoff Wybrow and Jim Falk of LAM Ministries in Broad Ripple.  Geoff threw out a challenging analogy as we launch into these new church building waters:

God is calling you straight from “high school basketball” to the pros.  When you were in high school, you could get away with some handicaps…not dribbling well to your left, poor mechanics in your jump shot, being a little slow on defense.  But in the pros, those things will kill you.  You’ve got to fix them, spend some time on them, or you’ll never make it at this new level.

Same for all of us.  As God calls us higher, those little things we could easily compensate for as an “ameteur” become magnified issues we must confront and deal with.  Little insecurities, unbridled frustrations, masked selfishness, unchecked temptations.  No more letting those things go.  Time to cut them out.  Learn to play like a pro.

God’s call for all of us is radical discipleship.  That requires change…growth.  So what handicap have you been making excuses for?  Time to sharpen up.  The Pro is calling.