Archives For desire

The Beauty of Letting Go

Erik Cooper —  November 11, 2010 — Leave a comment

My 11 year old daughter flew out early this morning with her grandmother as a business trip tag-along. Helping man the Mission of Mercy booth at a women’s conference in southern Massachusetts earned her a plane ticket and a few days hookie from school.

She just called me from their layover in the DC airport. “Dad, we saw the Capitol Building!  And the White House! And the Washington monument off in the distance! Even took some pictures!”

She sounded so grown up. So confident. So sure of herself. Off living an adventure without mom and dad for the first time in her life.

That’s the beauty of letting go (even though a trip with Grandma is hardly much of a risk).  The older she gets, the less she will need me to guide and direct the steps of her everyday life.  The more she’ll be able to stand on her own, make some decisions, do the right things, and write her own story.

I’m beginning to morph from a voice barking orders and dictating her schedule (although I must confess, I do occasionally bark).  Hopefully, a piece of me now actually lives inside of her, and her choices are becoming guided from the inside out. Not just from my pre-scripted playbook.

That’s what God promises us, too. He’s not just a set of rules for us to live by.  He longs to send the Spirit of His Son, Jesus Christ, to live inside of us. To re-shape our desires.  To guide our choices.  To shape our adventure into everything He created it to be. From the inside-out.

“You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, ‘Papa! Father!'” (Gal. 4:6 MSG)

I don’t think I was the only Christian to bristle at conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s strong statements this past week against churches that support, or even use the term, social justice.

“I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words [for Communism and Nazism]. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”
Glenn Beck

I’m a white, middle-class, suburban-raised, Evangelical christian, so you can quickly deduce toward which side of the political aisle I naturally lean.  And while I do understand what’s at the core of Mr. Beck’s concerns, I think he’s wrong.  Or at best misinformed. Although I’m sure I could never out-argue a pundit of his wit and verbal capacity, I at least want to share my own personal awakening as it pertains to the issue of social justice.

People are broken.  And spiritual leaders, unfortunately far too often, fall victim to using their influence to manipulate God-fearing people towards their own human, political perspectives. There’s no doubt that some pastors push social justice, and the ultimate “God-said” trump card, to promote liberal personal agendas.

But so do conservatives pastors.

And rather than digging for God’s truth, we use Him as as circumstantial support for our selfish motivations.  We form sides aimed at protecting our way of life, rather than submitting to The Way that is greater.

Here’s the (probably) overly-simplified way I see it:  Conservatives desire to preserve personal freedom.  Liberals wants to mandate universal fairness. And depending on which side of the equation benefits us most, we go to battle.  But what if there’s another way? A third option?

The Bible unfolds God’s perspective, His ideals, His Kingdom. The way I read it, God is all about freedom and all about fairness. The catch?  What happens when free people willfully choose to use their freedom to serve one another?

“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?” (Gal. 5:13-15 MSG)

Mandated justice never works. It spirals towards corruption. Even God Himself doesn’t mandate we follow Him (without choice there is no love).  That’s why I love America, because this freedom gives us unbridled opportunity to live out God’s Kingdom calling.  But only if we choose it.  When we willfully submit to serve, we truly become free. We willfully begin to make right the injustices that permeate the world.

Let’s be clear, the Kingdom of God is certainly not only about social justice (if it were, every secular Hollywood mogul and rock star would have achieved sainthood).  But to ignore the justice thread and call to serve the poor woven throughout Scripture is plain ignorance. Dangerous.  Incomplete.  A puzzle with missing pieces.  A stool with missing legs.

So here’s the ultimate question:  Are we building God’s Kingdom or just fighting to preserve a way of life? What are you willfully submitting to?

I don’t always like answering that one either, but it’s worth asking.

Buddhist Christianity

Erik Cooper —  March 10, 2010 — 3 Comments

Like most of humanity, I watched the globally anticipated Tiger Woods apology press conference a few short weeks ago.  Never in history had a sports icon demanded such non-athletic attention (Wall Street trading actually slowed notably during his 14-minute statement!).  Unbelievable.

Many of you may have been surprised to hear Tiger’s Buddhist profession and his admission that he’d lost his way as it pertained to his faith.  But through a little research and a few conversations with people much smarter than me (those aren’t usually too hard to find), I’ve uncovered something:

I am a Christian that sometimes lives like a Buddhist.

Yep.  You can unsubscribe now, or you can hang with me (I’m hoping to eradicate some potential heresy, not promote it).  You just may find some of yourself in this, too.

By it’s own admission, Buddhism seeks to eradicate want, to achieve nirvana through freedom from all appetites. According to Buddhism, the only way to live well is to kill desire (and Tiger Woods has some misguided impulses he undoubtedly would like to bury).

As a Believer in Christ, I completely understand that perspective.  At my core, I’m broken and sinful. My motivations are self-oriented, and my life prone to inexplicable evil (I hope I never lose sight of that reality). But Jesus didn’t come just to kill my sin, He came to resurrect in me a new life.

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” -Galatians 2:20 NLT

Some Christians are half-dead. Like Buddhists, they become focused solely on the eradication of their desires, and they never truly embrace the gift of resurrected life that Christ offers.  Efforts center on control and quickly spiral into a cesspool of religious death.  These people become like walking zombies, spiritual corpses with only a grotesque illusion of life.

Jesus didn’t come to suppress your desires, He came to redeem them. Yes, He calls us to die (“My old self has been crucified with Christ”).  But through that death He offers us life (“It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”).

Real life.  His life.

Does your life reflect a focus on death or life?  Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb. I don’t want to live there either.

Disturbing

Erik Cooper —  January 13, 2010 — 1 Comment

Some days the Bible is like a warm blanket by a fire, wrapping me in its promise and assurance, comforting me in times of pain and confusion, pointing the way in the tension and unknown of everyday life.

And some days it’s just flat disturbing.

Hey, just keeping it real.  Try this one on for size:

“If you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it goodbye, you can’t be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)

I’d like to tell you that “in the original Greek,” or “according to historical context,” that what you read here isn’t really what Jesus meant.  But I can’t.  So I won’t.  It’s there.  It’s disturbing.

Even after all these years of serving God, pursuing His ways, leading His church, I have to confess something:  I still fall victim to thinking this is all about me. Admit it.  You do, too.  We “love me some me.” (thank you Terrell Owens for that amazing addition to the American pop-culture lexicon).

We long for a God who will strain out the ugly realities of our broken world and leave only the ease, comfort and pleasure we desire to consume.  We want a God committed to elevate the good and eliminate the bad in our little self-oriented kingdoms.

But God isn’t seeking to edit your story.  He wants to give you a whole new script.

Some days I can’t wait to embrace that reality.  And some days it’s just flat disturbing.

Compelled

Erik Cooper —  January 6, 2010 — Leave a comment

Responding to my desires is easy. What’s inside of me just naturally comes out.  It doesn’t take much thought, energy, or discipline to do what I want to do.  My essence just responds. It’s natural.  My desires are formed by my DNA, my culture, my socio-economic upbringing, my life experiences.  Lots of things.  Unfortunately, those “lots of things” also includes my fallen, broken, sinful nature.  In that way, living from what I want is incredibly dangerous.

I have other options, too.  I can live under the weight of obligation. Completely opposite of my desires, living by someone else’s expectations is outside-in, guilt-driven behavior modification. You know what I mean.  Maybe you’re 28 years old with 2 kids of your own, but you still hear the voice of your un-approving mother in the back of your head (or maybe in your actual ears).  Your actions still reflect your desire to please her, and you live under the intense scrutiny of her obligation on your life.

(Incidentally, that’s what religion does, too. It obligates.  Sets up impossible outward-focused expectations while simultaneously offering no hope for actually attaining them.  And I know there are lots of you out there that live under those very real and very guilt-filled religious chains. Some are just afraid to admit it because you’re heritage and your understanding of God are all wrapped up in the lie. It’s OK, you can be honest here.)

What if there’s a third option? A door number 3?

Mark 1:12 says “The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness…” (NLT)

At first glance, the word compel says force (in fact that’s in the actual definition).  But if you look closer, there is an element of compulsion that gives a different vibe.  To compel actually means to exert an “irresistible force.” Almost as if it causes me to drop my defenses and willfully subvert or push beyond what’s naturally in my DNA.

Being compelled is completely different than guilt-ridden obligation.  It’s also very different than surrendering to my natural, in-born desires.  It’s responding willfully, not from desire or obligation, but because I love, and trust, and believe in the One Who is compelling me. He’s an irresistible force.

I may not always want what He wants, but I do want Him.

Do you think Jesus desired to journey into the desert for 40 days with no food?  Doubtful.  But I don’t think He felt obligated either.  He was willfully responding to the irresistible force of the Father’s love. He was compelled.

How do you live? By what just feels natural?  From your in-born desires?  Out of obligation?  Guilty “hoop-jumping” to keep others happy with you (including God)?

What about door #3?