Monthly Archives: May 2011

Finishing Well

“…Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.  For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5b NLT

As I have been reading through the scriptures this spring, one thing has continued to jump off of the pages at me. That is that some people in scripture lived a season or seasons of their lives dedicated to the things of the Lord, but somewhere along the way, they got distracted, life got comfortable, and they did not manage to finish well.   In other words for a large portion of their life, they lived whole heartedly for the glory of the Lord, but scripture shows at some point in their life, the Lord’s will was no longer being accomplished through them.

Let’s look at a few of these people:  Continue reading

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Limiting Language

I’ve written before about the power of words. In short, I spend a lot of my time and make my living reading, writing, and otherwise working with words. I’m astonished at the power of the spoken and written word to instruct, inspire, empower, and less desirably to undermine, manipulate, and deflate the human spirit. Today, I want to offer some thoughts on the words we use when we talk to ourselves.

The Bible – and the book of Proverbs in particular – mentions the power of speech a LOT. A sampling:

  • Proverbs 12:19 says “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.”
  • Proverbs 15:4 calls a “gentle tongue… a tree of life” and says “perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”
  • Proverbs 21:23 says that “whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
  • The author of the book of James compares “the tongue” (you could substitute “speech”) to a fire with the power set a great forest ablaze, a spring that pours forth either fresh or salt water (but never both), and a tree whose nature can be determined by the fruit it bears. (James 3:5-12)

Evidenced by these and other verses, it’s clear that God intends his children to use the gift of communication wisely and with care. “With great power comes great responsibility”, as the great folk hero Spider-Man taught us. That admonishment applies to more than just the words we use when talking to others, though. It applies in the realm of self-talk, too.

Have you ever said (or thought) something along these lines: “I’ll never be the kind of person who can speak in public.” Or: “As much as I want to, I just can’t forgive them for what they did.” Or: “I’ll never get over what happened to me when I was a kid.” How often do you use the words can’t, won’t, don’t, never, always, or have to when talking to or about yourself? When you do, you’re selling God short and limiting what He can – and probably wants to – do in your life. Continue reading


Learn To Unlearn

“We are born with two fears: fear of loud noises and fear of falling.  All of our other fears are learned.  If we can learn them, then we can unlearn them.”  Craig Groeschel

This is a challenging topic and thought line that I am attempting to write about here, so try and stick with me.  This week I have been preparing to deliver the message in one of our services at Oasis Church.  I’m going to be speaking on chasing down our fears in life that keep us from reaching the potential God has placed within us and arriving at the destinations God has called us too.   Through my research I heard Craig Groeschel share the thought I have quoted above.  Even though I came across these words while preparing to speak about fear, the thought of unlearning certain things in my life really forced me to look within.

Think about this with me for a second.  How many things do we say, not say, do, not do, feel, or not feel, all because we have just assumed that is just the way we are? I think there are things in our lives that may not actually be wrong in and of themselves but may be keeping us from experiencing the life God desires for us.

For example, you may not meet many new people or make new friends because you are a loner.  But are you really a loner, or do you choose to be?  Some where along the way you learned to be a loner and now you use that as a crutch for meeting new people and making new friends.  In turn this keeps you from building the community God has hard wired you to need.  How different would your life look if you unlearned being a loner?

Maybe you have been labeled a control freak.  You have probably been labeled a control freak because you want everyone to do everything your way or no way at all.  But are you really a control freak?  Somewhere along the way you developed a habit of controlling and your mind learned to function that way.  How different could your life and relationships be if you reprogrammed yourself to be less controlling and allowed others the freedom to do things different than you?

I think we go through life making excuses like “God just made me this way” or “I have always been like this, always have, always will be” or “I’ve just always gotten what I wanted when I want it, so I will continue to get what I want, when I want.”  And because many of us believe these things, we convince ourselves that we are just stuck this way forever.  When the truth is at some point in your life you developed a habit, a cycle began, you learned something, and then just accepted that you have to live this way or that way.

If we take a long hard look in the mirror, humble ourselves before the Lord, and ask him to show us what it is in our lives that needs to be unlearned or reprogrammed we would be blown away at what we accept as normal.

What’s in your life that needs to be unlearned?  What do you need to reprogram?  Where does your thinking and living need to shift so that you can experience more of the abundant living, healing, hope, and purpose that God has prepared for you?

P.J.


Change The Scenery

“Sometimes it’s hard to smell something if you’re surrounded by it everyday.  It’s like coming home after a week’s vacation-when you walk in the door, you recognize an odor that had become so familiar, you had stopped smelling it.  You can’t evaluate something if you stay in the middle of it too long.  You can’t help but miss some things. Things you’ve seen for so long that you just don’t see them anymore. Things that have started to decay and you’ve become accustomed to the smell.” – Andy Stanley

As Derek mentioned on Monday, our wives and we were blessed with the opportunity to spend several days on the beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama.  We had a great time!  I was ready for a vacation and was very excited to spend some time with my wife and close friends.  However, It wasn’t until I got some time alone on the beach and dove into the scriptures, that I realized how desperately I needed to change the scenery in my personal life, for a few days.  I was in major need of a vacation.

I spent hours of my vacation soaking up God’s word, worshipping, and listening to some of my favorite speakers.  I was able to get away from all of the distractions and get spiritually recharged.  I don’t think this would have happened for me if it weren’t for the change in scenery.  As Andy Stanley basically says above, when you’re around something everyday it’s easy to get used to it.  To take things for granted.  To overlook things that should change in your life.  When you’re around something every day it’s easy to think you need to change things that don’t need to be changed at all.

Occasionally we all need to Change The Scenery in our lives.  

Why? Continue reading


On Rest and Relaxation

NGYN is back from a much-needed vacation in Gulf Shores, AL, where we and our wives whiled away the past few days soaking up sun, battling waves, and sampling the Gulf’s best cuisine. As we ease back into normal operations here, I thought I’d share a few reflections on rest and relaxation that came to me over the course of our trip:

Rest is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. God designed our bodies to automatically shut down for about a third of every day. He designed trees and plants to fall dormant for a portion of every year. All of creation is made to rest, so there’s no reason to feel guilty about taking some time to recharge your batteries. I, for one, feel clearer-headed and energized than I have in a long time, thanks to just a few days spent without a t0-do list. Which brings me to my next point…

Vacations should be restful, not stressful. There’s a temptation when planning vacations to pack every day full of as much doing and seeing as possible, leaving no time to rest. The Speed Pass that’s a staple of most amusement parks these days is a great illustration of this point. You rent a gizmo that holds your place, guaranteeing you can hop to the front of every line and ride as many rides as you can stomach. What it means, though, is that you pay for the headache of running from one side of the park to another all day long to keep your reservations. Continue reading


NGYN’s Greatest Hits: What Prayer Is (Part One): Communicating with God

All week long, while Derek and PJ (and their wives) are on vacation, we’ll be re-posting our favorite messages from the blog’s first few months. We’ll be back next week with all-new content, but in the meantime we hope you rediscover some good ideas or see something you missed the first time around. See you in a few!

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 2, 2010:

[Part 1 in a series of posts on the nature of prayer. Check out the post What Is Prayer? for a little background.]

On a whiteboard in my cube at work, I’ve written a short quote credited to a psychologist and philosopher named Paul Watzlawick:

You cannot not communicate.

I ran across the quote in grad school while studying theories of human communication. It means, to me at least, that everything we do communicates something. Our words, sure, but also our gestures, body language, the clothes we wear, and our behavior. Even silence – sometimes especially silence – communicates something to those around us.

The implication here is that what we communicate to others involves a lot more than what we directly and intentionally say. When our actions contradict our words, for instance, others infer meanings from them, and regardless of what we meant, our listeners wind up being the ones who determine what was actually communicated.

The same rules apply to our relationship with God. We often think of prayer – and by prayer here I mean knees-on-the-ground, hands-together, dedicated prayer-time – as our primary means of communicating with God. We treat prayer like a phone call, thinking that when we stand up from the altar the line goes dead and we stop communicating until the next time we bow and say “Dear Heavenly Father…” We’re wrong.

The truth is that we communicate to God all the time. And just like our communication with other humans, what we’re conveying to him involves everything we do. Yes, our words matter, but so do our thoughts and actions, which often contradict what we deliberately say. So does our silence, especially.

I don’t think we give other humans enough credit when it comes to seeing through our words. I think most people are far more sensitive to inconsistencies between our words and actions than we think or admit. And certainly, to an infinitely greater degree, God sees through our lies.

My hope, then, is that my every word, fleeting thought, and action be a deliberate prayer to God. Because I’m always communicating to him, whether I intend to or not.

What do you think prayer is? Let us know in the comments below, and watch for the next post in this series – which will explore another aspect of prayer – in a few days.

Thanks for reading!

Cheers,
D


NGYN’s Greatest Hits: You Will Still Have A Difference To Make

“Now Joshua was old and advanced in years, and the Lord said to him, “You are old and advanced in years, and there remains yet very much land to possess.” Joshua 13:1 ESV

While you are here on earth You Will Still Have A Difference To Make. 

Far too many people reach a stage or stages in their lives where they begin to feel old, washed up, useless, without purpose, and believe the time has run out for them to make a difference.  I can kind of see why a non-believer could feel this way. But what burdens me even more is the amount of Christians that buy into this belief.

I see and hear about this in churches often.  People’s kids grow up, leave the nest, get married, start a family, and attend a new church.  And for some reason the parents of those who left, no longer serve in their church, attend services less often, and make excuses for why they can no longer be as involved as they once were.

People reach the age of retirement and instead of pouring their life and wisdom into the kingdom of God they begin to withdraw and say things like “That is for those young people, I am too old to do that, I have served my time.”

This is wrong.  As long as God allows you to walk on the earth, You Will Still Have A Difference To Make!

Just like the Lord told Joshua there was still land to be conquered, I believe he would tell you; I still have work to do through your life.   You too will still have land to conquer. 

The child has a difference to make in the lives of those he or she grows up playing with.  The teen has difference to make in their family, school, and extracurricular activities.  The college student has much strength and energy to pour into serving the Lord.  The young adult has a difference to make in their work place.  The young married couple has a godly marriage to build as an example to those around them.  As parents raise their children they have a responsibility to point their kids to God’s vision for their lives.  The empty nester has people to pray for and lives to touch with godly wisdom.  The old sage has a young warrior or king to lead along.  The grand parent has grandkids to show the love of God too.

You and I never reach the age where the Lord decides he is done using us.  Until we breathe our last breath the Lord still wants to work through us.  I don’t care what stage of the game you are at.  You are not too old to be used. You are not with out purpose.  The Lord is not done telling your story.  You are not too young to begin changing the world.  The Lord is eager to watch you fulfill the destiny that he desires for you.

“And now behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.” Caleb  (Joshua 14:10b-11 ESV)

Do not put your life in coast.

You have a difference to make and You will still have a difference to make. 

P.J.



NGYN’s Greatest Hits: Make Miracles Happen

All week long, while Derek and PJ (and their wives) are on vacation, we’ll be re-posting our favorite messages from the blog’s first few months. We’ll be back next week with all-new content, but in the meantime we hope you rediscover some good ideas or see something you missed the first time around. See you in a few!

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 8, 2011:

Today NGYN is proud to welcome our first-ever guest blogger: April Wingfield, wife (and muse) of Derek! Here she is:

So, we’re sitting at IHOP last Tuesday night because we’re suckers for anything “free,” and that day was free pancake day. But, of course, there’s nothing in life really free so, in lieu of paying for our pancakes, we were asked to make a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network. I was happy to do that. And so we were enjoying our pancakes when Derek says to me, “When are you going to write a guest post for our blog?” He’s been bugging me to do this for a while now, but I haven’t because, frankly, I don’t know if I can keep up! PJ and Derek are a couple of incredibly gifted guys and their posts are pretty spot on. But, we have not been given a spirit of fear, so I said, tell me what to write about and I’ll do it. PJ sees the card lying on the table for the Children’s Miracle Network and it says, “Make Miracles Happen.” So he said, “Write about that: Make Miracles Happen.” Oh, I can definitely do that.

I am not afraid to ask God for miracles. I do it all the time.

Lord, please bless us financially.

Lord, please give us a child.

God, if you could just grow my business a little more, that would be awesome. I know you’re capable.

God WANTS us to ask Him for miracles. In Exodus 14, he parted the Red Sea for the Israelites. In Genesis 21, Sarah and Abraham conceived a child against all odds. In Matthew 14, he feeds 5,000 people with hardly enough food for five.

The problem with the miracles that I tend to ask God for is that they’re kinda selfish. Oh, they don’t seem selfish on the surface. I really do want to give more to others and to our church. This requires financial blessing. And I really do want a child to invest in and prepare for kingdom work. And, by all means, I would love to reach more women with the hope of time and financial freedom through my business. But I kept praying that God would provide these things without ever really giving it over to him. So, deep down, I think I don’t need God to perform miracles for me. I can take care of my own miracles, thankyouverymuch.

Except that I can’t. So, lately, God has been speaking to me about how he works in my life, and this is what I’ve learned:

1. Expect God to change you, not your circumstances.

This is not so fun to learn, but He rarely swoops in and rearranges everything so that it suddenly falls into place. More often, he changes your heart, which in turn will change your outlook; or He changes your heart and THEN he changes your circumstances, after a season of preparation. See, often when we pray for a miracle, we’re praying for something we can’t handle yet. And that’s a good thing. God takes that opportunity to stretch us so that he CAN provide the miracle later.

2. Be thankful.

God does not honor our requests when we refuse to use the resources He’s already given us. Be thankful for what you already have, and know that He is enough.

3. Pray specifically, but with a bent toward God’s will.

God wants to hear our earnest requests, our specific hopes and dreams. But be careful of veering into “nagging child” territory – listen as you request your miracle. He may be trying to change the desires of your heart and keep you on His plan.

4. Obey, obey, obey.

When we pray for miracles, He will work through us as WE work. I’m so Type A that I have a hard time grasping the concept of doing all I can but still leaving it in God’s hands. One day I’ll get it. Until then, it’s a tightrope I walk. But I do know that it’s not OK to ask for a miracle and expect that He’ll provide it without any labor on our end.

God wants to make miracles happen for all of us. But more than that, He wants us to have a relationship with Him. If you think long enough about it, that’s what you’ll see in every situation you’ve prayed about in your life. He was giving you an opportunity to draw closer to Him. Keep pressing forward, keep praying, and, by all means, keep asking for a miracle.


NGYN’s Greatest Hits: Predictable Resistance

“22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”  Acts 20:22-24 NIV

A couple of days ago I began listening to a series of sermons delivered by Craig Groeschel.  The series is titled Chazown.  Chazown is the hebrew word for vision, purpose, or revelation of or from God.  God has a chazown for each and everyone of our lives.  We all have a choiceto live according to our own pleasures and desires, which will ultimately lead to a withering life.  Or we can choose to seek out and live God’s chazown for our lives.

The apostle Paul chose to run after Gods chazown for his life.  One of the great things about Paul was that he was a straight shooter.  He didn’t hold back any punches.  In the verses above from Acts 20:22-24, Paul tells us he was compelled by the Holy Spirit to go.  And go is obediently what he chose to do.  But Paul also shares with us that when we follow Gods chazown and go, we face predictable resistance.  Paul said “I am compelled to go…I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.”  In other words, Paul says, I know which direction God wants me to go in this season of my life, but I also know that there will be plenty of bumps in the road.

When  you and I embrace and obediently GO for God’s chazown in our lives, we will face predictable resistance.

Trying to get out of debt so that you can honor God financially?  Expect resistance.

Trying to move closer to God to hear his voice in your life? Expect unexpected noise from other circumstances.

Trying to pursue God’s chazown for your marriage?  Expect resistance.

Trying to save up an emergency savings for the rainy days of life?  Expect something to break.

Starting to make sense?  I hope so.

Don’t give up!   Notice what Paul said after he admitted there would be hardships in pursuing God’s chazown. “…My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…”

When the resistance resists, reset your aim, press on, and complete the task the Lord Jesus has set before you.  After all, the great stories of God’s power all through out scripture are filled with predictable resistance.

Don’t cower when resistance rises.  Fight back.  And fight for the chazown God has for you.

PJ


NGYN’s Greatest Hits: Get Out of the Way

All week long, while Derek and PJ (and their wives) are on vacation, we’ll be re-posting our favorite messages from the blog’s first few months. We’ll be back next week with all-new content, but in the meantime we hope you rediscover some good ideas or see something you missed the first time around. See you in a few!

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 4, 2011:

In the last month, two of NGYN’s favorite writers/bloggers – Donald Miller and Steven Furtick – have written about humility’s role in the life of a Christian evangelist (links here and here). It’s an important dimension of the character of a believer, but one that gets misunderstood.

When you’re equipped and empowered by the creator of the universe to fight an eternal battle for the sake of all creation – as Christ’s followers are – it’s easy to develop a false sense of superiority. On a simpler, smaller, more mundane scale, it’s tempting to do God’s work for your own benefit rather than for His. I think this explains, for example, why so many Christians grow to be snobs (see the story of the good Samaritan in Luke 10) and get caught up in the desire to serve so much that they get burnt out (see plenty of examples in your home church, I’ll wager).

A fresh look at a brief passage from Jesus’ sermon on the mount offers some guidance on this matter. Continue reading


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