Archives For obedience

The Impostor of Guilt

Erik Cooper —  January 26, 2011 — 2 Comments

Sometimes following Jesus is like having the stomach flu. That internal rumbling in your digestive track. Uncomfortable. Disturbing. I thought Jesus lived in my heart, how did he find His way to my small intestine?

I’ve definitely been there. The summer of 2000, I was avoiding full time ministry like Jay Cutler and the second half of the NFC Championship game. And it was eating me for lunch. We Christians call it conviction. That gnawing feeling inside your gut that is spelling out in no uncertain terms:

God is compelling me to do something I don’t really want to do. Insert vomit here.

But honestly, I’ve learned to welcome this type of nausea.  When we have the courage to respond and obey, life becomes beautiful. The Kingdom of God comes alive in us and around us. We begin to live in the reality of doing things God’s way. Never painless. Never without a cost. But always full of life. Real life.

But I’ve also experienced an impostor.

Rather than wrestling with internal, God-initiated challenges, I far too often find myself embracing the sinister villain of guilt. I wear its heavy strands around my neck like a concrete necklace even Mr. T. would see as a bad fashion statement.

I compare myself to others.

She’s taking a missions trip to Kenya.

He volunteers at the homeless shelter.

They’re adopting a child from Eastern Europe.

He quit his job to start a non-profit.

And rather than allowing the challenge of those we admire to inspire our own obedience to the Father, we become overwhelmed by shameful comparisons. Why am I not doing what “that guy” is doing? Maybe some day I’ll have “that kind” of faith. When will I man up to “that kind” of courage?” When will God be “that proud” of me?

Let me both let you off and put you back on the hook, ok?

Jesus said:

“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”Matthew 11:29-30

Jesus isn’t asking you to be somebody you’re not.  He isn’t asking you to mimic someone else’s obedience. He’s not placing anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. You can’t sustain that.

But He is calling you to obey. To become who He created you to be. And He never said it wouldn’t be painful. He never said it wouldn’t be costly. He never said it wouldn’t rumble in your stomach at 2am like a bad piece of meat.

So be inspired by others. Be challenged by their actions. But don’t wear the guilt of comparison. The question for you is simple:

What is God asking of you? Are you responding?

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).

My kids rarely like to listen. (All the parents out there just perked up like their morning coffee finally kicked in). Yep, mine too. No Walt Disney animatronic perfections in the Cooper house. You mistakenly thought it was an “It’s a Small World” boat ride everyday at my place, didn’t you?

Nope.  Just lots of…

Real.

Normal.

Children.

Who are a whole lot more like me than I’d like to admit.

Something major registered with me this morning as I was chiding my 8 year old up the stairs (again). “Teeth. Hair. Shoes!” Far too often, I’m not much different than they are.

Instead of listening and responding to the desires of my Heavenly Father, I choose to wait until the circumstances around me force a reaction. When the bullhorn of reality hits the threshold of pain. And far too often, avoidable chaos ensues (“seriously, you don’t have your shoes on yet?!”).

Thank God He’s far more patient than me.

How would life change if we learned to listen and immediately respond to the ever-speaking voice of our Creator (to become actual followers of Jesus), instead of waiting for the ensuing circumstances to dictate our necessary reactions?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself locked in conversation with a number of people asking themselves the quintessential Christian question:

What does God want me to do?

And because processing these crossroads with others is often the best way to wrestle with them yourself, I’ve been looking back on ways God has directed me over the course of my life. How does God lead?  For me, every time has been a little different.

I’ve walked through seasons of calculated and detailed direction: “I want you to do exactly this.”  Where the steps were clear and the commands convicting.  Specific.

But the older I get and the longer I live in consistent connection to the Lord, the more often I seem to hear Him say:  “I know you.  You know me.  I trust you.  Make the call.

This is a tricky conversation. The Bible is very clear we’re to “submit to the Lord” (2 Chr. 30:8) and “obey His commands” (1 John 2:3).  We’re followers. But I also think we make a serious error in always assuming God’s plan for our lives is some skinny little tight rope we’re destined to tumble from into the deadly abyss of disobedience.

Let’s face it.  Sometimes our fear of “missing God” is really just our fear of making a decision.

Always inquire of the Lord.  Always listen for His direction.  Always submit to His desire and instruction.  Make obedience the posture of your life. But I don’t think God is vying to become your puppet master.  He wants a relationship, not the marionette strings.

The more He comes alive in me, the less He seems to have to tell me exactly what to do. The more our motives and desires become one. The more I hear Him say, “Hey Erik…I’m in you.  You make the call.

So perhaps our pursuit should be less about what God wants us to do, and more about how much we truly know Him? Maybe always asking for direction is really just a cheap cop-out on cultivating a relationship.  Maybe God wants to be more than our cosmic MapQuest.  Our genie in a bottle.  The magic eight ball.  Maybe.

What do you think?  How have you seen God shape the trajectory of your life?

I originally wrote these words 18 months ago, not realizing how much I would need to read them today. This re-post is for me (and if you get something out of it, too…well, then bonus).

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself locked in conversation with a number of people asking themselves the quintessential Christian question:

What does God want me to do?

And because processing these crossroads with others is often the best way to wrestle with them yourself, I’ve been looking back on ways God has directed me over the course of my life. How does God lead?  For me, every time has been a little different.

I’ve walked through seasons of calculated and detailed direction: “I want you to do exactly this.”  Where the steps were clear and the commands convicting.  Specific.

But the older I get and the longer I live in consistent connection to the Lord, the more often I seem to hear Him say:  “I know you.  You know me.  I trust you.  Make the call.

This is a tricky conversation. The Bible is very clear we’re to “submit to the Lord” (2 Chr. 30:8) and “obey His commands” (1 John 2:3).  We’re followers. But I also think we make a serious error in always assuming God’s plan for our lives is some skinny little tight rope we’re destined to tumble from into the deadly abyss of disobedience.

Let’s face it.  Sometimes our fear of “missing God” is really just our fear of making a decision.

Always inquire of the Lord.  Always listen for His direction.  Always submit to His desire and instruction.  Make obedience the posture of your life. But I don’t think God is vying to become your puppet master.  He wants a relationship, not the marionette strings.

The more He comes alive in me, the less He seems to have to tell me exactly what to do. The more our motives and desires become one. The more I hear Him say, “Hey Erik…I’m in you.  You make the call.

So perhaps our pursuit should be less about what God wants us to do, and more about how much we truly know Him? Maybe always asking for direction is really just a cheap cop-out on cultivating a relationship.  Maybe God wants to be more than our cosmic MapQuest.  Our genie in a bottle.  The magic eight ball.  Maybe.

What do you think?  How have you seen God shape the trajectory of your life?