Archives For Radical

Hard Truth

Erik Cooper —  February 24, 2010 — 1 Comment

My friend Geoff Wybrow hit me with a challenging statement yesterday:

“Offend people with the truth, not your character flaws.”

Some days we offend people with our brokenness, our insecurities, our selfish motivations, with the baseball bat of our own pain that we willingly or unwillingly take to the heads of others like an angry mafia boss (sorry for that visual, I’m a big fan of the movie Goodfellas).

But at times the truth really does hurt.  At times it should hurt.

Most prophets in the Bible weren’t real good at making friends.  Their words were too piercing, their obedience too radical, the Spirit of God too active in their declarations.  Isaiah walked around naked for three years, Hosea married a prostitute, and the prophet Nathan (no relation to my buddy LaGrange) called King David a liar and a murderer.

Bad social skills or insider’s information on some hard truth?

This past Sunday at City Community Church, we were confronted with some hard truth.  Not condemnation – that outward-in, man-made, guilt-ridden obligation that leads to resentment, not long-term transformation (Jesus never worked that way).  But conviction – an inside-out revelation from the Holy Spirit that shows us our brokenness and calls us to repentance. I want to share some of it with you.

Here is the video created by Rachel Richard that interrupted (yes, literally interrupted) the music towards the opening of the service (don’t adjust your volume, there intentionally isn’t any):

YouTube Preview Image

And click the link below to hear the powerful spoken word piece (this is a must listen) from our friend Mike Perez that brought the day to a close:

Just Worship: Mike Perez

And if you’ve got more time, linked here is the complete message from my friend and co-pastor Nathan LaGrange:

[blank]: Dismantled: Nathan LaGrange

Love to hear your thoughts.  Have you ever been offended by some hard truth?

Comment at http://www.beyondtherisk.com

I’m a practical idealist.  A pragmatic dreamer.  It’s a blessing and a plague.  I’m full of passionate dreams, world-changing imagination, big vision – all combined with a sobering (and sometimes paralyzing) inoculation of reality.  Some days it feels like schizophrenia.

I remember the moment like it was yesterday.  I was a 2nd year music major at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, laying in the upper bunk of my dorm room in Herron Hall, staring at the textured ceiling early one morning.  I was chasing my dream, to be in the Nashville music scene, and had the educational trajectory to prove it.  Only problem: my realism gene was kicking in.

So many of my older friends were graduating (with $50k+ in debt mind you) from this prestigious school that had successfully populated so much of the Nashville music industry.  And their highly respected diplomas were leading them to wait tables at the local Chili’sBig dreams (and big debt) wrapped in a soaking wet blanket of real life.

Heck, I didn’t need to spend $50k to wait tables.  I could do that for free.  So I left Nashville and my dreams of music biz stardom and got a degree in the absolutely most practical thing I could think of: accounting (yeah…I know).  Reality swallowed and digested my ambition.

So what’s the right answer?  Live as a pragmatic realist, squashing every dose of passion with the hammer of responsibility? My grandfather did that.  Forty years in a Chicago steel mill, consistent schedule, regular paycheck, good pension.  Hard work, but safe.  Consistent.  Responsible.  I often wonder what untapped vision he surrendered to the compelling call of responsible realism. What dreams were buried with him?

What I see in my generation is quite the opposite, but maybe even more disturbing.  Lots of dreams.  Lots of visions (usually of grandeur).  Lots of imagination.  Countless choices.  Zero realism.  And so influence goes unused and imagination stays stored in a little locked cupboard full of immobilized idealism.

The expressions of these two generational perspectives may look completely different, but the symptom is the same: control.

Pragmatists choose predictability over possibility.  Idealists choose imagination over action.  Practicality eliminates the possibility of failure.  But so does just dreaming.  In both cases, we keep control of our lives, our efforts, our destinies. We call the shots.  We make the rules.  We eliminate the risk.

We write our story.

And while we continue to furiously scribble with our ink-less pen, the Creator of the Universe patiently waits for us to simply surrender ourselves to His beautiful, dream-filled, action-packed narrative.

Risky.  Unpredictable.  Costly.  But very real.

Rewards

Erik Cooper —  October 29, 2009 — 2 Comments

“Do good and you’ll be rewarded for it.”
Proverbs 28:10 (MSG)

I love verses like this. I could camp-out here (if I didn’t hate camping).  Stay for awhile.  Maybe put down some roots.  That’s good stuff.  I like rewards.  Rewards are good.  Right?

There I go assuming again…

As I pondered this verse over the past few days, a sobering question arose.  Rewards are good for me, but who says that rewards always feel good? Am I making some bad assumptions:

Reward = comfort
Reward = notoriety
Reward = riches
Reward = happiness
Reward = my desired outcome

Woohoo!  Bring it on God!  I’m ready for my reward!

But what if God’s greatest reward is my crushing? What if it’s the systematic disassembling of everything I ever thought I wanted?  The loss of my dream so that His dreams can come alive in me?  What if that reward is a closeness to God that can only be obtained by the complete dismantling of everything I am?  What if that reward is the putting to death of all my self-driven motivation? What if it comes full of pain, questions, uncertainty, and gut-wrenching, sleepless nights?

Well, uh…you can keep that reward God.  Not interested.  I’m happy to leave that one on the table.  Save that one for someone else.  Yeah, in fact I know exactly who you can give that one to.  Want a name?  I’ve got it right here in my iPhone...gimme just a second…

God’s greatest reward is His presence, His love, His deep and ever-pursuing passion to make right everything in me that I can’t make right on my own.  And all it takes to obtain that reward is…

…all of me.

My reward is His life, but the pathway to get there costs me everything.  Some reward?

Yeah, it is.

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.

Cliff Diving

Erik Cooper —  March 20, 2009 — Leave a comment

I’m afraid of heights.  I get dizzy.  The world starts spinning.  Even hanging Christmas lights on a six foot house ladder makes me woozy.  Yeah…I definitely hate heights.

Unfortunately, following Jesus is more like cliff-diving than smooth-sailing.  We’re naturally wired to find balance…to find stability…to find calm (at least most of us…some of you are weirdos), but I have news for you if you’re a Christ-follower:  get ready to jump.  And once you’ve found the courage to jump once, get ready to jump again.

You see, God’s calling is to radical discipleship, not a safe, country-club, Christianity-as-a-subset-of-the-American-dream kind of discipleship.  We’re called to see life through His lens, and I’m learning that God’s perspective usually requires reckless abandon.  Sorry.  I don’t naturally like it either.

So if you want to follow Christ…I mean really follow Christ, get ready to risk.  And once you’ve found the courage to do it once, get ready to do it again.  If you’re searching for flat and easy terrain, this might not be for you.  But if you want to find life…real life…life at its fullest, swallow hard, fight the butterflies, nudge your toes right up to the edge, and embrace the free-fall.

Oh yeah, and when you’ve finally found the courage to leap, don’t get too proud of yourself. Suit up and get ready to do it again.  God is forever calling us further and further into Himself, and each part of the journey requires risking more and more of what we know.  It’s a wild ride, but this self-prescribed seeker of safety is finding there’s absolutely no greater way to live.