Archives For self righteous

No matter what your circumstances are saying to you today, our prayer is that each of you experience the presence of Jesus Christ this Christmas.

Immanuel. God with us.

The Creator who isn’t far off.  Who didn’t just record the human experience to playback later (with some eggnog and gingerbread) on some supernatural DVR.

God incarnate. Who became one of us.

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” – John 1:14 MSG

All your pain.  All your imperfection.  All your ineffective self-righteousness.  Your futile attempts to be good enough on your own.

Jesus embodied our humanity so He could become the embodiment of our redemption.  That’s why this baby named Jesus is some seriously good news.

God is truly with us.

Merry Christmas!


Erik, Mandy, Emma, Anna, & Austin

No Acting Necessary

Erik Cooper —  December 15, 2010 — 1 Comment

One of those movies where Steve Carell plays a serious character was on one of the TVs at the gym this morning. All “artists” have to do that, you know.  Branch out. Avoid type-casting. Give us material to mock later in their careers.

But even as he was channeling Charlton Heston, you could see Michael Scott in his eyes. The urge to scream “That’s what she said!” ready to explode from his lips like a two liter of Sprite and a pack of Mentos.

I think we’re all like that. Regardless of the outlet we’re given, our true essence just seems to leak through.

For 8 years I was a music pastor, my main palette of expression being a piano, songwriting, recording, and leading the creative aspects of corporate worship services at a relatively large church. Now I’m a church planter.  I speak, I write, I organize and administrate, I meet one on one with people.  The tools may have changed, but the things that are inside of me still forge their way out like a river re-routing it’s way through a canyon to the sea.

I fear it’s the same with the ugly things in us as well.

Sometimes we try to bury our sinful tendencies in new behaviors. We’ve got more reinventions than Sean Combs.  But whether it’s P. Diddy or Puff Daddy (Or Sean John? Or just Diddy?), the underlying essence is still the same. We never deal with the core.

Lust no longer manifests as a physical affair, so it emerges as an online porn addiction.

Anger stops exploding in uncontrollable rage, and re-channels into passive aggressive manipulation.

Pride steps back from self promotion, but becomes condescendingly enamored with it’s new found “humility.”

Man, we’re broken people.  And our constant attempts at self-correction just find a home in self-righteousness, and never really address the source of the problem.  We’re sinners.

So instead of remaking ourselves by recasting a new role, what if we allowed Jesus to actually make us something completely new? At the core? From the inside out?

No acting necessary.

What You Don’t See

Erik Cooper —  November 30, 2010 — 1 Comment

We just received our stunning new family pictures. Not the Olan Mills tilt your head slightly to the left arms folded on the 70’s shag carpet with a fake forest on a vinyl pull-down studio photos.

Real pictures.

From our great friend and aspiring professional photographer Lois Solet.  We were absolutely blown away by what she captured.  The essence of our family completely visible in the millisecond click of a camera shutter.

Images courtesy of Lois Solet

As I scrolled through nearly 180 edited shots, I was overwhelmed by the sense of love. The joy. The potential. The life.

But then I had a momentary reality check. Like a 30 Rock Liz Lemon flashback, I remembered the totality of that two hour photoshoot in October.  I remembered what you don’t see.

My daughters arguing like Nancy Pelosi and Sarah Palin.  Me ignoring my wife’s staging request so I could update my Twitter status.  My five year old adamantly boycotting further poses like his Derek Zoolander modeling union concessions hadn’t been met. (Notice I didn’t throw my wife under the bus. She’s perfect).

All those imperfections edited out or never even captured at all. Or were they?

They more I looked, the more I realized…

These pictures aren’t beautiful because we successfully staged out all the flaws.  They’re beautiful because we’re willing (OK, at least some of the time) to admit we are flawed. Deeply flawed.

But how often do I fight the self-righteous temptation to manufacture an image that seems better than the truth? When all along, Jesus is waiting to do for us what we can never do for ourselves: Make us truly beautiful.

“God can’t stand pious poses, but he delights in genuine prayers.
-Proverbs 15:8

God, may the image of who we appear to be always reflect the true beauty of who You are in us.

PS: Thanks for the fabulous pictures and unending editing Lois. You’re a friend like very few others.

Going Commando

Erik Cooper —  November 3, 2010 — 1 Comment

As you may know, I’m a churchie. I grew up in church.  Built my social networks around church.  Developed my gifts in church.  Now I co-pastor a church. (And for the record, I absolutely love God’s Church).

But even though I’ve heard more sermons than Peyton Manning has passing yards, there are still some things I’ve absorbed into my understanding of God that just aren’t true.

The biggest gaffe most churchies face is allowing Jesus to just become a culture (no offense to Kim Walker).  A philosophy to ascribe to.  An unwritten list of behaviors and thought processes that protect us from a sinful world. Like a supernatural Batman suit repelling evil as I, the dark knight, make my way through the sludge of this disgusting world into the glory of eternity.

Visually, it may look something like this:

But keeping up this facade is futile, frustrating, and exhausting (and not as appealing to non-churchies as the Batman analogy might make it seem).

So I see many of my churchie friends rejecting this “Jesus as just a culture” way of life.  Throwing off many of the ridiculous, behavior-based expectations they often grew up with.  Breaking free.  Going commando (be careful Googling that if you don’t know what it means).

And in so many ways, I love it. I’m right there with you.  Except for one concern.

At the center of this lie many of us grew up believing about God was…me. Cultural protection. Self protection. Self righteousness. MeAnd simply removing the outer layer still leaves the exact same person at the center.

Shedding lies without embracing the truth just leaves you naked.

The truth of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ comes to live inside of me. That me dies.  That Christ becomes the new center.  And out of His life flows my life.  True life.  True freedom.

“Christ lives in me.  The life you see me living is not “mine.” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I am not going to go back on that.” (Gal. 2:21 MSG)

So lose the lies.  Shed the baggage.  Go commando. Christ came so that you could be free.

Free to put Him at the center.

Don't Miss The Point

Erik Cooper —  September 15, 2010 — Leave a comment

Healthy human connections are a vital part of developing a relationship with God.  We need people. We need the Church. We weren’t designed to live life alone. (Acts 2:42-47)

But it’s possible to be connected. To make friends.  To build your entire social network around the life of the Church. To pursue and cultivate solid, Christian community.

And not be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Knowledge of God’s Word is imperative for living a life of worship to the Creator.  The Word is truth. It’s our lifeline.  It’s living and breathing, able to transform. (Heb. 4:12)

But it’s possible to ingest a bazillion sermons.  To devour every Christian leadership book.  To fill our minds with endless volumes of spiritual information. To memorize countless Scriptures.

And not be a follower of Jesus Christ.

God’s people are concerned for the poor. They have a heart for justice.  To take on oppression.  To make a tangible difference in their communities, their cities, and the world around them.  It’s a Scriptural mandate, and the natural outflow of a heart truly transformed by God. (Is. 58:6-9, Mat. 25:31-46).

But it’s possible to volunteer.  To serve.  To raise awareness.  To take action against injustice.

And not be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Community. Knowledge. Justice. Without Jesus, these noble goals can end up leading to a lot of self-gratification and self-righteousness.

But as the outflow of an honest pursuit of Christ, they become powerful. Meaningful. The cultivation of true relationship with God, and the fruit of an undeniable connection to the Vine. (Luke 13:6-8)

So what’s your goal? Relationships?  Knowledge?  Social activism?  Great.

Just don’t miss the point.  It’s movement towards Jesus that matters?

“Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NIV)