Archives For repentance

I love Tom & Jerry. That playful cat and mouse bring back such beautiful memories of after school peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.

(Oh, and of course, gratuitous violence).

Remember those classic reels where Jerry would smash Tom with a hammer and a giant lump would grow out of his head? And then in a beautiful moment of animated realism, Tom would push the bulging lump back down into his skull only to watch it pop up again on the other side.

Watching these cartoons didn’t turn me into a violent criminal, but I wonder if I subliminally learned more from them than I realize.

As I wrote in yesterday’s post, we’re wired to build over the top of our broken places rather than dig them up from the roots. And just like Tom, we end up trying to push these giant, gaping wounds back down into place only to watch them re-emerge just as blatantly somewhere else.

We can put filters in place to help manage an internet porn addiction. But if we don’t dig up the root of lust, the issue will just find a new place to grow.

We can work through feelings of jealousy towards a friend. But if we refuse to address the core of our insecurity, envy will just find new victims to target.

Arrogance doesn’t always manifest as obnoxious overconfidence. Squelch it there, and it could find new expression in your piety. Spiritual pride is perhaps the ugliest mutation. Deal with it at the root.

What brokenness are you simply trying to manage? Find the courage to go back to the source. Dig it up. Or you may find yourself maneuvering around different expressions of the same root cause. Pushing down one cranial contusion only to find it popping up again somewhere else. Maybe somewhere you weren’t expecting.

Repentance is a beautiful thing. Jesus is ready to meet you there.

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know (let’s politely say) I’m on the lower end of the bell curve when it comes to fixing anything. If you’re a car, furnace, leaky roof, broken appliance, you’re out of luck.  I wont’ even attempt a Chris Martin and “try to fix you” (yeah, that’s bad).

(My greatest success story in fighting an “Ice Dam” that formed on our roof last week was simply not adding an additional consonant to the end of that second word).

My name is Erik, and I am constructionally challenged.

And sometimes I think the Church is, too.

We’re broken people. All of us. Some of our brokenness is more socially acceptable, but all of us are cracked. Flawed at the foundation. But our churches are usually more wired to build up, not root up. To look up, not necessarily dig under the surface.

Read another book. Complete another study. Build Christian friendships. Attend another service. Subscribe to more Christian podcasts. Listen to positive and encouraging Christian music. Ingest more God-information. Construct a bigger God-edifice and you’ll effectively swallow up those broken places.

These are all worthy and noble pursuits. Imperative pieces to our Christian journey. But thrown at a shattered foundation, I fear they’re just masking an impending disaster.

I know what some of you are saying. “Hey, our church has a 12 step program. We even have a small group for porn addicts. And a staff counselor for people having marital problems.” Great! Don’t quit.

But I’m not talking about the brokenness that’s easy to see. Compartmentalize. Separate into one of those “dysfunctional boxes” that allow us to express pity with a little side of self-righteousness.

I’m talking about you and me.

Self-reliance. Materialism. Insecurity. Control. Self-protections. Immaturity. Arrogance. Past rejection. Religious abuse. Things we believe about God that just aren’t true. (Do you want to keep brainstorming this list together?)

These are just a few of the “respectable” cracks and fissures we easily overlook, drowned under a deluge of God-knowledge and socially acceptable church-culture behavior. Yet underneath, these godly facades are fueled by depression, anxiety, doubt, and fear. Do any of those words describe you?

Broken foundations.

So what’s the answer?

I think we’ve got to commit to getting our hands dirty. We need each other. The beauty and risk of godly community is where we find the courage to identify and call our broken places. But these aren’t issues we can simply reason, talk, or will our way out of.

The ultimate remedy is repentance.

Repentance begins the Jesus journey. Allows Him to begin miraculously doing what only He can do. What He promised to do. Fix our cracked foundation. I don’ care how long you’ve been a Christian, it’s time for an assessment.

What if the Church became great at repenting? At rooting out as well as building up? What if we stopped ignoring the broken places? What if we found the courage to lovingly take them on? In ourselves? In one another?

We’re not doing this well. Not yet. But this is one area of construction I’m determined to become skilled at.

Monuments to Me

Erik Cooper —  January 31, 2011 — 5 Comments

We humans are a screwed up bunch.

Scripture clearly states we’re created with God’s nature (Genesis 1:27). Yet we’re also cursed with our own inner Charlie Sheen (Genesis 6:5). Don’t think that tension goes unnoticed as BeyondTheRisk 2.0 goes live today.

Confession…

I write to express what God’s doing in me. To create something beautiful. To inspire action. To challenge perspective. To share something I value with you.

But I also write to please my inner narcissist. Because I want you to like me. For your approval. So you’ll make me feel valuable. So you’ll know who I am.

Just keeping it real.

Everything we create has the ability to elevate God and serve humanity, or become another monument to me.

We have to engage that tension with a lot of honest confession and repentance (and a good dose of loving community). It seems the only other option is to never create anything at all.

Where do you feel that tension?

Becoming Mike Ditka

Erik Cooper —  December 13, 2010 — 2 Comments

As a father, I’ve always thought my personality was a little Tony Dungy integrity meets Bill Belichick stoicism (Yes, two of the most prolific coaches in NFL history. This is my blog here, roll with it). But last night I embodied a bit of Mike Ditka hothead.

I yelled at my son.

Not the kind of normal, everyday, sometimes audibly-elevated verbal correction that comes with the fatherhood territory. The kind that erupts from frustration. That serves no real purpose other than a momentary release of endorphins (like I just watched the New Orleans Saints recover another onside kick to start the second half of the Super Bowl).

It was an un-proud parental moment, and one I’m intentionally sharing in public to try and make a vulnerable point.


http://flyingpigskin.com/tag/nick-thomas/

The nature of my son’s lamentable behavior is inconsequential. He was wrong.

I was wrong-er.

As the tears were drying, I had to ask him for forgiveness. And in that moment, I was reminded that my little boy doesn’t know me as pastor. He doesn’t know me as writer. He doesn’t know me as leader, or teacher, or musician.

He knows me as daddy.

A daddy that often reflects the love and life of Jesus Christ, but who sometimes shows his broken humanity.

A daddy grateful for his Father’s unending grace, the same grace he sometimes forgets to show to his own children.

A daddy who’s far from perfect, but is thankful He knows One who is.

Last night reminded of some lyrics Nathan LaGrange and I penned as a prayer for our children way back in 2002 (three years before Austin was even born). They’re still some of my favorites:

Father forgive me, even on the best of days
I am a poor reflection of Who You really are
So give me the strength to lead them through another day
And when I stumble and I fail
Keep their eyes on You

You’re not perfect. Neither am I. That’s what makes this Jesus thing such unbelievable news.

I’ve noticed an interesting, little phenomenon through the last year of consistent blogging:  people respond when I post my thoughts on the dysfunction, systematization, or abuses of the organized Church (and when I use words like “suck” in my blog titles).

That’s not difficult to unwind.

The Church is often deserving of criticism. And those of us longing to emerge from a predominantly cultural acceptance of Christ into a more vital, life-breathing relationship with Him, have had to take a long and honest look at what we’ve truly embraced.

We’ve had to point at it.  Name it.  Call it what it was. And often times distance ourselves from it.

It’s true.  The Church can be:

hypocritical

manipulative

money-hungry

behavior driven

backward

controlling

institutional

stale

abusive

self-serving

self-righteous

(fill in your favorite missing adjective)

And I don’t think pointing at the truth is unwarranted.

The Old Testament prophets violently confronted poor spiritual leadership.  Jesus Himself had more than passive insults to throw at the religious hierarchy of His day.

But it’s so easy to chuck stones at the institution. To critique the caricature.  To cynically slam the fundamentalist control-mongers.

(and let’s be honest, it’s a lot of fun, too)

It’s much scarier to take a hard look at ourselves.

Here’s the deal:  I am the church. And so are you if you claim to follow Jesus Christ.  So perhaps we should focus first on embracing our personal responsibility to the Kingdom rather than just gleefully pointing at the Emperor with his pants around his ankles.  Maybe we should repent of our own dysfunction, hypocrisy, and control issues. Remove the “plank” from our eye so we can see clearly to help The Church at large.

Let’s continue to wrestle. To challenge.  To embrace the tension.  To call the spades what they are.  (I plan on it).

Let’s just always be willing to start with the me before we take on the we.