But God: Changes Everything

But God: Changes Everything

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310338925
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 01/06/2015
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 485,241
Product dimensions: 4.70(w) x 7.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Herbert Cooper is the senior pastor of People's Church, a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, multi-site church in Oklahoma City. As a football scholarship athlete and full-time student, Herbert preached at revivals and youth camps across America. When he graduated from Evangel University in Springfield in 1997, he launched a full-time evangelistic ministry and married his college sweetheart, Tiffany. Herbert has preached the gospel in almost every state in America and around the world in the Ukraine, Malawi, and Uganda. The Coopers live in the Oklahoma City metro area with their four children.

Read an Excerpt

But God


By Herbert Cooper

ZONDERVAN

Copyright © 2014 Herbert Cooper
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-33892-5



CHAPTER 1

We Wander ... But God Finds us


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ROMANS 5:8


Wewoka, Oklahoma, is the kind of town where teenage excitement on the weekend consists of cruising the main drag in your pickup truck (cool), your parents' SUV (not so cool), or a friend's pimped-up hatchback (the coolest). I'm proud to say that growing up there, I knew every dusty square inch of asphalt from the IGA supermarket at one end all the way to the mini-mart convenience store and gas station a couple miles down the road. Of course, this was back when gas was 89 cents a gallon, and you could afford to drive around without a reason.

High school football and basketball games captured everyone's attention, along with the team's record and stats on its star players. Otherwise, there wasn't much going on. Needless to say, when teens go looking for fun in a small town, they sometimes find it in the wrong places or create their own out of the perceived building blocks of bliss: alcohol, drugs, partying, and sex. For some reason, I never cared about alcohol or drugs, but I had my own form of searching for fun. As one of the star athletes of the football team, my full-time job was working on my image as a player off the field as much as I was one on the field. I chased girls, pumped my mind full of filthy music, dabbled in pornography, and engaged in sex outside of marriage with numerous young women.

Although it seemed exciting at first, it became exhausting to maintain this lifestyle. I had to always think about how I looked and how others might view me. It was like leading a double life. Yet I couldn't let go of the importance of making sure my peers viewed me a certain way — you know, cool beyond cool, original but standing out only for the right reasons, a man all the guys envied and all the women wanted to be with.

As a result, I made sure everything I did added to this persona — like rolling up to the school parking lot in the mornings, windows down, bass pumpin', hip-hop blastin', making sure everyone knew I was there. Yes, I was well liked, but honestly, I knew it and it showed. I was not only a bit too sexy for my shirt (remember that song?), but for my jeans and leather Nikes as well!

Part of my need to build up my image stemmed from how vulnerable I felt on the inside. I wanted to make sure stories about my upbringing and home life never made it to the school grapevine. The events sound like last week's episode of The Real Housewives of Wewoka. I'll try to fill you in on my world then.


Turning Points


My mom and dad's marriage was the second for both of them. My older half brother, who lived with us, resulted from my mom's previous marriage. My father had two kids from previous relationships, but they were fifteen or twenty years older than I was and lived in a different city, so we didn't see them much. And then I had a sister who was eleven months younger than I was.

So growing up, we three kids shared the house, and we were close. I shared a room and bunk beds with my older brother until he moved out after high school. Every Friday night my mom, sister, brother, and I would have a family burrito night — forget bean burritos, I'm talking BBQ burritos! As much fun as those meals were, though, we eventually had to leave the restaurant and return home. And our home was in shambles.

There, alcoholism and abuse presided. Frequently, my parents exploded into fits of screaming, yelling, and fighting. Aware that an emotional bomb might go off any minute, I constantly dodged land mines of tension, fear, and anger. I even installed a lock on my bedroom door to feel safer while I was at home, but many times, it was just easier for me to leave, to be anywhere else but in the midst of my parents' collateral damage.

So can you see why I felt like two different people? When I was at home, I felt vulnerable, unsure, afraid. When I was on the football field, at school, or cruising the boulevard, I could create that "cool jock" image. This image gave me a sense of confidence and acceptance, so I worked to maintain it no matter what it took.

During my junior year, my parents went through a horrible split. The time had finally come when my mom decided she needed to leave.

I'll never forget the day I helped her load up her car after my dad left the house. She had decided to take my brother and sister to Rochester, New York, where her sister lived and where she could put thousands of miles between herself and my father.

She wanted me to go with them, of course. And, honestly, being something of a "mama's boy," I was torn.

But I knew that if I wanted any shot at a football scholarship, I had to stay put. I couldn't risk trading the rest of my junior year and senior season at Wewoka for starting over in a place where my talent was unknown.

As I stood watching the car roll away from the house that day, I wondered what life would be like after the people I cared about most were no longer in it. I had chosen to stay with my dad, gambling on a future that remained uncertain, but at least offered the possibility of permanent escape. If I could get noticed by college scouts and offered a football scholarship, then I could leave behind the scared boy I was on the inside and become the cool jock I wanted to be.

That day will forever stand out in my mind. Not just because my mother and siblings moved out, but also because she had left it to me to inform my dad of their departure. When my dad returned home that day and discovered his wife had left him, I saw him cry for one of the few times in my life.


Friday Night Lights

My parents' divorce shattered my world. When I recall the emotions of this part of my past, tears still come to my eyes. This mama's boy had to learn how to cook, clean, do my own laundry, get myself up for school on time, meet my homework deadlines, and do other chores my mom had always done. It was time to grow up — fast — to survive. I felt angry, confused, isolated, and so lonely.

Not only was I trapped by the pursuit of my image, but now my family was torn apart and my heart ached more than ever. I didn't want our home life to continue on as it had been, but neither did I want my mom, brother, and sister living all the way across the country. They had moved in the fall, and I remember waking up on that first Christmas morning without them. If I could have skipped that day, I would have. What was the point of Christmas if our whole family wasn't going to be together? Once one of my favorite times of the year when I'd count down the days until the twenty-fifth, now Christmas was just another day — no, worse, since I felt more miserable than ever.

So I devoted myself to sports — especially football. I couldn't wait to put those pads on. I lived to get out on the field and score a touchdown or grab an interception. It was my outlet, my escape from the pain I was feeling at home. I lived for Thursdays and Fridays when I could wear my jersey to school. I lived for those pep rallies. I lived for Friday nights under the white lights of a cool autumn night. I felt like a winner out there, in control of my destiny, in a world where I belonged.

For a few hours on Friday night, all felt right with the world. Seemed like the whole town showed up to cheer for our team, my dad included. He would scream at the top of his lungs and run back and forth in front of the bleachers, providing some of the affirmation every boy craves from his dad. This game — and all it included — was what I had stayed behind for. But no matter how many touchdowns I scored or how many games our team won, off the field nothing changed. My life was still a mess.

Angry and confused, I continued my lifestyle, not caring much about other people — just about what they thought of me. From all outward appearances, I was on a roll: a good student, a star athlete, student council president, National Honor Society member, and never without a beautiful young woman by my side. Most people thought I had it all together — which, as you can imagine, could not be further from the truth. I was actually hanging on by a thread.

One day I found myself in a shouting match with one of my coaches and realized how low I had sunk. Though I can't remember what triggered it, I do remember that I had a bad attitude at practice, and he rightly called me on it. My thinking clouded by my pain, I couldn't understand why the coach would single me out like that. I just kept insisting, "You don't understand what I've been going through! You don't understand!"

Normally, I never would have had an outburst like that, but my volatile emotions just erupted. No one seemed able to look beyond my external facade and figure out what was really going on with me. Football was the only great thing left in my life, and suddenly I was losing control of that too! To top it off, my teammates witnessed my outburst, which went against the carefully crafted cool image I had worked so hard to construct.

I couldn't take much more.


Wandering Alone

I don't know what your story is or how you grew up, but I'm guessing you know what it means to wander without going anywhere. Doesn't matter if you're a star on the high school football field or an executive in a corner office, an unwed mother in a small town or a career mom in the 'burbs, we all create an image of how we want others to see us. We all struggle to know who we really are and why we're here. As we travel down this journey toward discovering who God made us to be, we often take a few detours in pursuit of what we think will fulfill us. When we don't know who we are in Christ, we're prone to experiment, to wander, to get lost along the way.

We rarely want to admit these struggles. We're unhappy, searching for something more, so we wander, trying to find happiness in the wrong things. We look for comfort wherever we can find it, whether in the arms of an illicit lover, or the taste of triple-fudge ice cream, or the thrill of our latest online purchase. Our distractions keep us from asking the hard questions and having an honest conversation with God.

But there's one thing you need to know about the way God rolls. He will never force you to have a "but God" encounter. He's always present in your life, willing to help you, to welcome you home, to provide for your needs, to comfort and protect you.

But we have to admit that we need him. We have to acknowledge our fear, unhappiness, and loneliness and recognize that we're lost. We have to invite God to butt into our business if we want to experience the healing he wants to bring. This requires telling ourselves, and others around us, the truth. Our most important "but God" experience occurs when we recognize just how empty our lives are without him.


Divine Appointment

I recognized this truth in a high school locker room. At the beginning of my senior year, a scout from an East Coast school scheduled a visit to watch me play. His interest was exactly what I'd been hoping for — the chance to be recruited to play college football. Stopping first in Oklahoma City, he called on the night we were supposed to meet and informed me that he wouldn't arrive in Wewoka until the following day.

My night and plans were blown. I was disappointed, but I tried to be patient and hold myself together. So with nothing else to do that evening, I decided to make an appearance in our locker room for a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting. Truth be told, I went because they were serving free pizza. Yep, if you want old Coop to show up, all you have to do is offer a deluxe with extra cheese!

Todd Thompson, former kicker for the Oklahoma Sooners, was the guest speaker that night. As an avid Sooners fan, I knew who Thompson was, but since I was still angry, hurting, and confused — as well as self-conscious of my precious image — I remained aloof. But despite the protective wall around my battered heart, Thompson commanded my attention.

For one thing, I was surprised to see him simply sit in a chair and speak to us conversationally, rather than jumping up and screaming at us about Jesus or hell or both as I expected. He communicated the simple gospel message: Jesus came, died, and rose again. He explained that all of us have done things that are wrong; no one is innocent or even close to perfect. But God loves us so much that he gave up what was most precious to him — his only Son — as payment for our sins. He cares for us so much that no matter what we've done, he still welcomes us as his sons and daughters.

Listening to Todd talk, I wondered if maybe what I needed was what he was talking about. Here was someone explaining to me that God had made me for something more than what I was chasing. I caught a glimpse of something that felt like that first gulp of air after being underwater for a long time. Hope. Suddenly, I could breathe again for the first time since I was a little kid.

Then I felt tears coursing down my face. I could feel them not just on my cheeks, but landing on my hands, dropping to the floor. Before I knew it, I had passed the point of no return. I wasn't just crying — this was blubbering! And strangest of all, I didn't even care that a locker room full of teammates could see the captain of their football team weeping.

This was bigger.

Finally, I found something I wanted more than being cool.

That night, I gave my life to Christ, beginning a complete change in my life. There's no doubt about it. Without that moment, I would have headed down a very different road. Sure, I may have ended up with a football scholarship, yet I would have continued to live a reckless lifestyle that would have destroyed me in the end. But God had a better plan for my college years. I ended up with a football scholarship that helped pay for my education, but I also took an opportunity to transfer to another university to pursue a biblical studies degree. And there I met the woman who became my wife!

Without that life-changing encounter with God in high school, I would not be the man I am now, the man God created me to be. I would not have the amazing family I have now. And I definitely would not have the privilege of pastoring a church — something that not only challenged me but also fulfilled me.

But God had a plan for finding me, a plan that involved a college scout canceling our meeting and a young man's hunger for more than just free pizza. I was lost, wandering from one bad choice to another, but God cared enough about me to schedule a divine appointment in that locker room, an encounter that forever changed my life.


But God Runs to Meet You

I'm certainly not the only one who has had a "but God" moment. As I mentioned earlier, the Bible is full of them. One of my favorites serves as a good starting point because it reminds us that no matter how far away we may wander, God always runs to meet us. We can be off somewhere doing our own thing, maybe rebelling outright like a prodigal son or daughter, or maybe just trying to make life work on our own terms. But regardless of where we are or what other people think of us, God knows our heart. He knows the desperate loneliness and aching need we carry around inside. He knows our fears and dreams as well as our worst mistakes and best efforts.

One of Jesus' best-known parables captures our Father's love, compassion, and mercy in a simple story of rebellion and reconciliation. An ambitious son, eager to grab life by the tail and enjoy all of the world's pleasures, insults his father and goes off in pursuit of what he thinks will make him happy. But after the money dries up and the parties end, after the friends-for-hire and the groupies fade away, the lost son hits rock bottom. He's lost everything — including his own dignity. Then one day he remembers something that's more powerful than his mistakes:

"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.' So he got up and went to his father.

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate." LUKE 15:17 – 24, emphasis mine


(Continues...)

Excerpted from But God by Herbert Cooper. Copyright © 2014 Herbert Cooper. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword Craig Groeschel 11

Introduction: Two Little Words 15

1 We Wander … But God Finds Us 21

2 We're Wounded … But God Heals Us 37

3 We're Insecure … But God Gives Us Confidence 59

4 We Search for Identity … But God Gives Us Purpose 79

5 We Lose Our Way … But God Guides Us 97

6 We Seek Relationships … But God Gives Us Divine Connections 115

7 We're Bound … But God Sets Us Free 141

8 We're Tempted … But God Delivers Us 159

9 We Don't Have Enough … But God Provides for Us 179

10 We See Impossible … But God Makes All Things Possible 197

Appendix: "But God" Verses in the Holy Bible, KJV 213

Acknowledgments 219

Notes 221

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But God: Changes Everything 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A refreshing book about real change “But God”, two words that will change your life. And that is what this book is all about: Life change. But it’s not just about one small sliver of our lives, it’s about the whole thing. Like The Purpose Driven Life, But God takes a journey through every bump, bruise and scar that we’ve acquired over the years (self-inflicted or not) and takes us step by step through how to invite God’s transformative work into that arena of our life. I don’t know anyone else that can break down such powerful truth, and make it seem so incredibly simple the way that Herbert does in this book. Each and every chapter is so clear and practical, I walked away knowing exactly what my next step needed to be. The way Herbert tells his life story is at once humorous, compelling, and packed with biblical truth. He’s from a small town, a broken home, has a past of abuse…the list goes on. Hearing the things that God has brought him through eliminated my excuses one by one. The truth is, if you look at all the things that were stacked up against Herbert Cooper in his life, he shouldn’t be in the position he is today. This book lays out the “X factor”, the real secret to defying the odds: God’s presence in your life. While I was incredibly encouraged, this book isn’t just about inspiring flowery positive feelings. It’s about walking us through how to throw off the hindrances that hold us back from God’s transformative work in our life. His stories about his own insecurities made me laugh, and at the same time held up a mirror to my own life. He handled sticky subjects like forgiving those that have done us serious harm in an incredibly practical, life-giving way. From beginning to end it was both challenging and uplifting. “But God” isn’t just a great book for you to read, it’s a great book for you to give away. I know it sounds like hyperbole, but if you know someone that is struggling, a friend that has had a rough go of it, a relative that just doesn’t seem to be able to get a leg up on life, they need this book. The moment I put it down I could think of so many people in my life that I want to see have a “But God” encounter. That is why I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone that needs more than a superficial, New Year’s resolution kind of change. You want real life transformation and so far you’ve come up short…But God changes everything.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A book I couldn't put down. Herbert shares with us the obstacles he faced and the road to overcoming the challenges.  I would find myself reading a page while tears stream down my face. Feeling the direct impact the words have on me, clearly reminding me. This book is so biblically true, honest and impactful. He reminds us all But God Changes Everything. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So when i saw this book i just had to read it because my pastor just preached about that how when ever we are in a situation we can look back on itand say but god did this and that for me and here i am today because of it.