Archives For self

Last night our furnace went out. Yep.

As Icemageddon, Snoprah, or whatever term of endearment you gave this September baby boom to be, bore down angrily on seemingly every poor soul in this great nation, my 11 year old furnace decided to be a quitter. To take its warm air and go home. Stupid baby.

And my testosterone levels began dropping with every degree of the thermostat.

You see, I likely know more about the governmental policies of Albania than I know about fixing a furnace. In fact, I don’t know much of anything about fixing anything in our house (except a pot of coffee). And my wife’s concern combined with my kids cold noses quickly began mixing into a toxic soup of self-doubt.

Why haven’t you learned how to do these things?

Your family can’t count on you.

Their impending frost bite is your fault.

Why don’t you ever remember to replace the filter?

And instead of wrestling with the real issue at hand, I quickly engaged in battle with my own insecurities. The focus shifted from helping my family to swimming around (or more like ice fishing I guess) in worthless self-indulgence. I was in danger of quitting just like my furnace.

I think this happens with God, too. I wrote about it in a little different way last week, and even talked about it at City Community Church this past Sunday.

I think one of the enemy’s greatest tactics is to get us engaged in the wrong battle.

Jesus came to mess with our normal. To disrupt. His words are often disturbing. Challenging. Meant to leave us questioning our self-driven motivations. Jesus stands in the road with His hand out as if to say, “You don’t want to go that way. Trust me. You want to follow me. There is more to this life than the pursuit of yourself.”

These are realities worth wrestling with.

But many of us choose instead to clash with insecurity. With shame. With comparison. With condemnation. Why am I not more like that guy? Why don’t I have those talents? When am I going to be that way?

And we become easily distracted from true Kingdom conflict. The kind of conflict that really matters. That can change us and the world around us.

Self pity wasn’t going to fix my furnace last night. A few phone calls, a creative wife, a vacuum cleaner, a courageous trip to Menard’s for a new filter, (an angry, ignorant smack on the side of the unit here and there), and a desperate prayer for supernatural intervention, however? That did it. That was the battle worth engaging.

Are you engaging the right battle? The one that really matters? Are you wrestling with Jesus words in your life or just your own insecurities?

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.

The Prison of Approval

Erik Cooper —  October 27, 2010 — 3 Comments

Millions of Christians are imprisoned all over the globe today. And I’m not talking about China or Iran.

These Christians live in our communities.  They attend churches.  Some of them attend my church. They even inhabit my home (and some days even my own skin).

How does Christianity, this bastion of eternal hope and freedom over enduring generations, become a subtly enclosing detention center for so many?

Performance is our prison. We innately know every choreographed step in the dance of acceptance (my fundamentalist friends will be happy to know that this kind of dancing really is a sin).  It’s wired into our DNA, our lives feverishly focused on earning the approval of everyone around us.

And of God.

Even those who cognitively understand the beauty of the Cross can easily revert.  Because somewhere we still believe Jesus  sacrifice was all about making us behave. Fit a mold.  Look at certain way.  Play a part.  And our obsession remains squarely on self.  To impress.  To bring applause (or avoid shame) from others.  To bring God to us.

And it’s flat out exhausting.

Because it can’t be done.  It can’t be earned.  Yet so many of us still inhabit a prison of self disguised in a costume of Christianity. And it was never intended to be that way.  Check this out:

“My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. 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. 2:20 MSG)

“My ego is no longer central…”

Ego wants to be liked

Ego wants to be popular

Ego wants to be respected

Ego wants a good reputation

Ego wants to be in control

Ego wants to earn

Ego filters every conversation, comment, opportunity, and interaction through how it affects…me. And that is the worst prison.  Ironically, a prison so many who claim freedom in Jesus choose to enclose themselves in every day.

Not me.  Not anymore.  My ego is no longer central. Christ lives in me, and the beauty that emerges from my life is simply because I’m responding to Him.

Is the center of your “Christianity” still…you?

How do you judge the quality of your day?

Light traffic on the drive into work?

A fresh pot of Verona when you hit the Starbucks drive through?

All you can eat shrimp at the Old Country Buffet?

Sipping iced tea on the Mediterranean? (Yep, that’s the Mediterranean. And those are my ridiculously white feet).

Multiple re-tweets of that pithy little quote you threw out on the social networks?

Avoidance of conflict?

A sweet Magnum P.I. marathon on Spike TV? (Man, that dude had a killer ‘stache)

Confession. I usually judge the “stellar-ness quotient” of my day by the quality of what I receive.  What I get to experience.  Collect.  Ingest.  And none of that’s difficult to understand.  What can I say, I’m human (and that means “I love me some me” thank you, Terrell Owens, for giving voice to our condition).

But what if I messed with the formula?

What if I judged the goodness of this little 24 hour gift in time by the beauty I created, instead of the quantity I consumed? By the value I gave to others, rather than what they did or didn’t give to me?  By the worth I added verses the profit I gained?

Maybe there’s a new scale? A different paradigm?  A more accurate way to assess value?

Or maybe it’s just the one Jesus showed us already?

Fix You: Honduras Day 5

Erik Cooper —  June 16, 2010 — 6 Comments

Fix You isn’t only an epic song by the band Coldplay.  When you come to a developing country like Honduras, it becomes a constant battle you fight.  And lose.

Today we visited another impoverished neighborhood in La Ceiba, home to 13 children sponsored by people from City Community Church.  The kids were energetic.  Grateful.  Full of joy.

But the conditions were what you’d expect in a neighborhood slum.

Enter the dilemma.

I can’t fix what I see here in La Ceiba, Honduras. I want to.  I want to bulldoze these wooden shacks and their pitiful dirt floors.  I want to build suitable structures to house human beings.  I want to make sure every child has two parents, and every parent has a respectable paying job.  I want to stop people from living this way.

I want to.  I really want to.

But I can’t.

So many layers to any mess that creates this kind of poverty. Corrupt politicians.  Socio-economic injustice.  Drug cartels and gangs.  And no ability to imagine a different future.

Poverty cycles.  And then recycles.  You can’t unwind it in 7 days.  You can’t just make a few phone calls, call a town hall meeting, give them the Eliminating Poverty for Dummies book, and fix the system.

But you can help one.

Mandy and I can help Jorge.  The LaGranges can help Anna.  Bill can help Caroline, and the Browns can help Jose.  Andy can help Angel.  Lindsey can help Kenneth.  Mike can help Isis.  And CityCom can walk alongside a little block-wall church called Lilly of the Valley in the outskirts of an impoverished Honduran neighborhood.

But maybe more importantly they can help us, too. Help us lose our self absorption.  Help us separate our understanding of God’s Kingdom from our American way of life.  Help us find Jesus living here among the least of these.

Some days I wonder if those aren’t actually the things that need the most fixing.