Archives For journey

2011: Start Here

Erik Cooper —  January 3, 2011 — 1 Comment

The only present my daughter wanted for Christmas was cash.  Nothing like an eleven year old dealing in greenbacks like she’s a pre-teen Warren Buffet.  But my in-laws obliged.

Creatively.

Underneath festive paper and bows, the stoic face of Ulysses S. Grant was encased in this:

The Money Maze.

Successfully route the metal marble through the plastic pathway and the box magically opens, releasing your cash.  The only problem?  This was no easy puzzle to solve.

You could masterfully work the marble through multiple sides of the cube, only to find out you started down the wrong passage.  Dead end. Begin again.  The proper destination could only be achieved with the proper start (or with a hammer, but that’s another analogy for another day).

A New Year isn’t all that dissimilar.

Eat healthier.

Read more.

Exercise.

Improve relationships.

Launch a business.

All these “resolutions” are paths we choose.  “Puzzles” we try to solve.  Most will meet an early demise (nearly half by the end of January, and 92% by year end according to statistics).  Is it simply because we choose the wrong starting point?

Check out these words from one of one of history’s wisest men:

“Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God…”
-Proverbs 1:7 MSG

Where did your 2011 journey start? It’s only January 3. Not too late to make sure the path you’ve chosen is heading towards something other than another dead end.

My Early Christmas Gift To You

Erik Cooper —  December 16, 2010 — 1 Comment

Christmas is a time for unbridled merriment and irrational joy, so today I thought I’d throw a little dose of sober in your eggnog.  Perhaps this post will earn me a visit from three spirits? We’ll see.

What does it really mean to be a follower of Jesus?

As a lifelong “churchie,” that’s a question I’ve really wrestled with.  Is Christ truly leading my life, or am I just trying to get him to come along on my journey? (After all, He is a great travel partner. I hear He has status in all the airline lounges). If you’ve followed my blog even sporadically for any length of time, this is a question you know I’m not afraid to pose.

To follow simply means to go after. To willfully submit.  To listen and respond.  Which led me to write the following question in my journal this morning:

“Is there anything God has already said to me that I’m not listening to, obeying, or that I’m rationalizing away?”

I’m spending the day with this one.  Maybe you want to join me?  It’s my early Christmas gift to you.

(If you behave, I may even let you have another lump of coal for the fire, too).

Lay the First Brick

Erik Cooper —  December 3, 2010 — Leave a comment

Yesterday I spent the morning across a coffee table from a heart wrenching story. A young man who’s past is marked with substance abuse, felony charges, and broken relationships.  A lost decade.  And the reality of beginning a journey he should already be well into is simply too much for him to carry.

Alone.

Scared.

Paralyzed.

The distance between where he currently is and where he knows he should be is so great, he’s completely unable to see the other side of the chasm.  No vision means no hope means no ambition means no action.

Means despair.

Grace is free.  God makes beauty from ashes. But there is no “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” waiting to magically re-build your life in seven short days (barring inclement weather) while you vacation in Disney World.

It’s a process. One you can’t do alone.  One you don’t have to do alone.

It’s time to lay the first brick.

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’ve been a Christian all my life. I grew up in church, and I’ve invited Jesus Christ “into my heart” more times than I can count.  Church services.  Youth group.  Summer camp.  The location rotated, but those famous words passed my lips with fearful regularity.  You know what I’m talking about:  The Magic Prayer.

Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner and I ask you to come into my heart and be my Savior. Amen.”

Or some variation on that theme.

Some preachers led it with more flare.  Stretched it out.  Added extra inflection and accents on strange syllables.  Adopted that strange “preacher-accent” to make it sound more official.  But you get the gist.  It was the doorway to salvation. The ultimate moment.

And it’s a good prayer.

A good decision.

A monumental occasion.

This was the event that was celebrated, built towards, tabulated. The experience that was supposed to change everything.

Until it didn’t.

Because for many, when that episode was over, so was the change (well, OK…if you were lucky the goose bumps may have lasted a few days).  It was just a moment.  It never translated into momentum.

That’s because I don’t think we truly understand repentance. Yep.  Something so fundamental to faith, to a genuine relationship with the Creator of the Universe, and I think it may have been hijacked by our own desire to celebrate an occasion, to point to a tangible.

Repentance is not a one-time event.  It’s a violent, daily confrontation with my brokenness and the ongoing application of the only remedy that really works: submission to Jesus Christ.

Yet we see all kinds of believers (even pastors and spiritual leaders) that may learn to conform to Christian cultural expectations, but under the surface continue living in the cesspool of their own un-faced lies and personal demons. Their focus is on a past event that put them in “the club,”  that was supposed to fix everything, rather than active motion towards new life in Christ.

“Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance [let your lives prove your change of heart]”
(Matthew 3:8 AMP)

“Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.'” (Luke 9:23 NLT)

Repentance is an active daily posture, an ongoing change of heart, not a magical grouping of words we repeated. The good news?  It’s not about more effort (you can’t fix yourself), it’s about more submission.  It’s about having the guts to face your brokenness, to admit your sinfulness, and surrender your selfishness.

Today.

Everyday.

Whether you’ve been a believer for 30 minutes or 30 years.

Are you still struggling to conquer the demons that “good Christians” aren’t supposed to be facing?  Embrace repentance as a way of life.

Salvation isn’t just a past event, it’s a ongoing journey.  It may have started in a very special moment, but has that moment become an active, daily posture of repentance?