Archives For sin

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.

Saying Goodbye

Erik Cooper —  September 22, 2010 — 1 Comment

We just finished moving my parents from their home (our home) of 32 years. House empty. Papers signed. Deal done.

And even though I haven’t called that space home for over a decade and half now, I still feel like we’ve said goodbye to a friend. A refuge. Home base. A constant in a world that never seems to want to stop spinning and changing.

Why is it so hard to say goodbye, (you know you’re singing Boys 2 Men right now) even to an inanimate piece of architecture? For a few reasons I think:

Every smell, every creak, every space holds a richness of life-defining memories. The b-roll of life I can’t always conjure up unless I’m physically there.

Endless hours of rubber band wars with green plastic army men.

Scavenging for hidden Christmas presents while my parents were out to dinner (that Todd Tyson kid was always a bad influence).

Baking gingerbread cookies during the Holidays.

Practicing my fastball in the side yard next to the air conditioning unit (still sorry for all those low and insides dad).

Watching Michael Jackson do the moonwalk at the ’83 Grammy’s (which spawned my enviable fourth grade parachute pant collection).

The walk home with dad after learning of my mom’s first bout with cancer.

The memories travel with us, but they do pixilate over time. And access to the space they were created gives us a renewed development of the slowly deteriorating images. What if I can’t recall? What if I can’t remember? What if I lose the ability to retrieve defining moments that are so much a part of who I am? Of who we are? It can be scary.

But beyond the sentimentality, I think closing a chapter of our lives triggers something deeply spiritual in us as well. We were created for eternity (Ecc. 3:11), and saying a goodbye of any kind reminds us of our curse. That sin emerged and ruined God’s original design. That things just aren’t the way they were supposed to be. That this life is terminal.

That goodbye is inevitable.

Thank God He provided The Way to ensure goodbye can also just be a temporary concept.

There are a lot of arrogant, isolated, self-reliant, “I’m never wrong” jerks in this world. (I contemplated stronger language, but I think you get the picture).  You’re probably visualizing a few right now.

But honestly, I think there’s a much more dangerous epidemic.

An epidemic of self-protection. A sickness that defines itself by validation from others. A disease that stifles conviction, and forces God-given potential back into the turtle shell of self-doubt.

It’s ugly.  It’s sinful.  And it’s something I battle daily in my own life.

Below is an excerpt from my personal journal. A little butt kicking I got from God last week (He wears big shoes, but I think they’re Toms. Soft soles).  A bit of a pep talk that may mean something to you, too.

6-29-2010

Stop waiting for others to define or validate you. If you blow it, blow it BIG.  And blow it based on a deep conviction you feel in your heart.  Stop waiting for a wave to ride.  Go create a wave!

Stop mentally adjusting to criticism you haven’t really heard, but imagine or anticipate. That’s CRAZY!  Put what you think out there.  If others disagree, – listen, critique, adjust if needed – but don’t hide out of fear of rejection or criticism. You’re big enough to handle that.

Listen for God’s voice, but when you hear as much as a whisper – GO!  Run!  Stop waiting for others to give you permission. Stop trying to hedge your potential for mistakes.  Stop being a slave to opinion.  Start being a true follower of Christ.

Does any of this resonate with you?  Are you ever paralyzed by the fear of screwing things up? Of facing shame from those who may see things differently?  Are you avoiding creating, injecting, speaking, writing, asking, or starting something today because you lack the courage to face the criticism if you’re wrong?

What if we feared missing a God-0pportunity more than we feared making a mistake?

What’s the difference between a prophet and a cynic? No punchline here.  That’s an honest question.

Last week we talked about Hard Truth, that the truth is offensive and really does hurt sometimes.  But when does hard truth cross the line and become wicked cynicism (you have to say that with your best Boston accent)?  Are they even points on the same continuum?

Cynicism is easy.  It’s not hard to identify corruption in the brokenness of humanity, and being hurt by it isn’t a question of if, but when. Unfortunately, the church isn’t much different.  And our heightened expectations in spiritual environments just adds to the disappointment when the proximity of human interaction shows it’s ugly side.

“…cynicism emerges like an evil alien from some b-rate horror flick.”

Sometimes we take it on the chin and lower our expectations.  Sometimes we might even lose our naivete and learn to rightly speak hard truths.  But far too often we cocoon our disillusionment and begin nurturing a cesspool of anger and resentment.  And cynicism emerges like an evil alien from some b-rate horror flick.

There’s a fundamental difference between a proclaimer of truth and a cynic. Prophetic voices speak hard truths, but they’re God’s truths, spoken in response to His Word and His revelation.  The motive is obedience.  The desired outcome redemption.

Cynics are selfish.  And while their words may carry some nuggets of truth, their motives are self-gratifying.  Self-justifying.  Self-righteous.  Cynicis aren’t seeking restoration, only the euphoria of pointing a finger at other people’s junk. The want to be right, not reconciled.

“Cynicis aren’t seeking restoration, only the euphoria of pointing a finger at other people’s junk.”

The Old Testament prophets agonized, even wept over their words. Cynics embrace theirs with glee, almost as if they desire to spread the pain and disappointment that drives the core of their own existence.

Becoming a cynic is almost natural, the path of least resistance.  Seeing beauty and potential amidst the brokenness of humanity is the tough road. Embracing Christ’s redemption is the challenge, and also our calling.

Some days I’m a cynic.

But what if we made this pact?  Instead of just pointing out what’s wrong, let’s endeavor to create what’s right. Cynicism is just words.  Let’s allow hard truth to become action.

I Am Tiger Woods

Erik Cooper —  December 16, 2009 — 5 Comments

I am Tiger Woods.  That was a compelling Nike Ad when Tiger burst onto the public scene over a decade ago.  But it’s true.  I really am Tiger Woods. Seriously.  Don’t believe me?

No, I’m not the world’s number one golfer. I’m not worth even a minuscule fraction of a billion dollars.  I have no endorsement contracts (unless you include being sent a pre-release of Mark Batterson’s new book, Primal for a blog review).  And no (my wife and mother will be so relieved), I haven’t fallen victim to “infidelity” or “transgressions” that would fill tabloid journals and pop-culture news programs.

But I could.

(the ugly, transgression thing…not the world’s number one golfer or billionaire endorsement thing…just to be clear)

That potential exists inside of me. I’m just as broken.  Just as vile.  Just as selfish.  Just as prone to destroying myself and everyone around me. And if you’re really honest with yourself (come on now, you can do it), you’ll admit that you are, too.

My Midwestern Evangelical ingraining used to immediately launch into rants of condescension, condemnation, and arrogant opining.  We tend to hide our own propensity for sin in almost gleefully acknowledging it others. But today as I stare in the mirror, I see less of that religious hypocrite and more the face of a Tiger staring back at me.

Without Jesus I’m a complete mess. Unchecked, I am capable of unspeakable evil.  I will destroy myself and worse yet, everyone around me.  To bury that reality in self-righteousness is to exclude myself from the very grace I proclaim for the world.  I’m not suggesting there’s not choice, responsibility, or consequence.  But I certainly hope I extend the same mercy to others that I know I so desperately and personally need God to extend to me.

“God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” (John 3:17 MSG)

I am Tiger Woods. And so are you.  Do you have the courage to admit it, too?