Archives For God

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.

The Gift of Pain

Erik Cooper —  December 8, 2010 — 2 Comments

Last night my son learned a hard lesson. Pick on a kid who’s older than you and you may get a beat down.  Or as I like to think of it, act like Cortland Finnegan and someone may go all Andre Johnson on you.

Our friends and co-pastors the LaGranges were over for dinner, and my 5 year old was vying for attention the Jersey Shore way:  outrageous acts of annoyance. That is, until 9 year old Carter took matters into his own hands with a certified, WWE, off the top rope body slam that reverberated through the upstairs floor.

Boom!

(Tears).

And I, as a loving father, did what any responsible dad would do.

I laughed.

(Well OK, I made sure his neck wasn’t broken, then I laughed…hysterically).

Because my son got TKO’d?  Nope.  Because reality was teaching him a beautiful lesson. Act like a fool, and somebody may treat you like one.  Thanks Carter.

Lately, I’ve had some days when life seems to have me in a figure-four leg lock.  And while I’m getting my face smashed into the carpet, God seems to be relaxing at the dining room table sipping His coffee, maybe even getting a good chuckle at my wrestling ineptitude.

Doesn’t He care?

Sometimes God loves me best by allowing reality to do it’s work. By letting me struggle.  By not stepping in to stop the fight.  Because the transformation brought by pain can often be a gift. A cutting away of things I wouldn’t have given up on my own.

“He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:2

Because God loves me, He won’t let me stay the way I am. Even if it hurts.

I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon at the hospital, visiting a friend of a friend who is quite possibly (barring a miracle) approaching the end of his days here on earth.  Nothing makes you feel more vulnerable as a pastor. More sober. More powerless.

In these moments, I find myself wishing God was a formula. Give $30 to the charity of your choice, recite this pre-written prayer, and read Leviticus (surely if you can get through Leviticus there’s a prize), and God will heal. Every time. The formula says so.

But God’s not a formula.  His response isn’t always predictable. We don’t manipulate His sovereignty.

There’s only one thing I can attest to: whether I’m in a Honduran slum, a shelter for battered women, or a dying man’s hospital room, God’s presence is always so tangible among the brokenhearted.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalm 34:18 NLT

God never promised life would be easy. That it would make sense.  That our formulas for trying to explain Him would always reconcile.  But He did promise He would always be near. That He would never leave us. That He would be close to the brokenhearted.

Where Do My Dreams Fit?

Erik Cooper —  September 1, 2010 — 5 Comments

I jotted these sketches in my journal the other day.  What do they stir up in you?  Are they right?  Or do I just need more art classes?

Where do my dreams fit into the journey of becoming a true follower of Jesus Christ?

The way I think many see faith:

The way I think many treat the ministry:

The true calling of The Gospel:

Talk to me.  What do you think?

I Don't Know

Erik Cooper —  May 12, 2009 — 1 Comment

I don’t know.

Those are liberating words. Yeah, really. Not words a leader is naturally drawn toward, but words I’m trying to become more and more comfortable with everyday. Those words don’t make me weak. They make me honest. Fact of the matter is, sometimes you don’t know either (yeah, I know who you are).

Having it all figured out is not a pre-requesite of leadership. If it were, only good actors would lead. But just like all of you, I fight the desire to always have the perfect answer, to know the score, to have thought through every possible situation, equation, and outcome before it happens. Oh, and we also have to innately know the contingency plan, too.

As a church planter, I involuntarily desire to eloquently answer every structural, organizational, and visional question that comes at me. “Of course I know the strategic intent of our planned infrastructure’s capabilities to handle economic downturn over the next three years.” (Liar! I don’t even know what that question means).

And as a pastor, I’m required to understand all the theological minutia of God’s will, His plans, and His ways. Right? If not, why am I even here? So we make ourselves look good. We give the pat, trite, Christian answers (that really help no one). We squish the ungraspable nature of God into our little box so that people think we’re good at what we do.

Here’s the deal. Sometimes we just don’t know. All of us. And that’s OK.

I don’t want all the organizational answers. Not knowing gives me the liberty to experiment, to dream, to try new things never done by anyone before. It gives me the right to fail and get up and try again. That’s where greatness begins.

And I don’t have all the theological answers. I don’t want a God I can fully explain, that I can fit within the scope of my little world and perspective. I want a God that blows my mind with the unfathomable scope of His nature and being. Sometimes His will is simply beyond my ability to comprehend. It keeps me honest. It keeps me dependent. As Andy Stanley so eloquently says, “focus on the undeniable, not the unexplainable.

In my life, I’ve found that God often gives me just enough of the picture to keep me moving in His direction. I’m learning to live with that ambiguity, to thrive within those unknowns. It’s a beautiful thing.

So, here’s the deal. I don’t know. Yeah, I said it. I don’t know. Feels good. Maybe you should admit it, too. Wisdom begin there.