The Year of No is predicated on the idea that you can only overcome the temptation you are faced with right now. You can’t resist the sins and temptations that are going to face you in six months. You can’t tackle your entire entitlement-mountain today, but you can take one step in the right direction. You can say “No” to what’s tempting you right now.


Small acts of self-denial make room for larger acts of God’s kingdom.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” In my experience, the way out is simply to say, “No.” Granted, this isn’t always easy. We are tempted by things we desire, and most of us are not used to denying ourselves what we desire. We want what we want, and our culture has taught us that self-indulgence is not simply normative, but a moral good. I’m convinced that this is destructive, both to our souls and to our society, and the only way to right the wrongs of self-indulgence is through self-denial. As I wrote last year, small acts of self-denial make room for larger acts of God’s kingdom.

Now it’s time to focus. Just as you can’t overcome today the sin you’ll be tempted by in the future, you can’t tackle every issue in your life all at once. You need to narrow the scope. There are a lot of areas in my life where I want to grow, but I can’t deal with them all at the same time. I need to focus on a few problem areas in order to experience real victory in my life. This means naming the two or three things you want to work on saying “No” to this year. The first step of self-denial is naming that which you feel entitled to or the sins to which you regularly succumb. As I said in the original Year of No post, “clarity is the first step toward victory.” We can only overcome that which we clearly and continually name.

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At about this time last year I had an idea that I thought would help people make lasting changes in their lives. I called it The Year of No. The idea took hold with some folks, myself included, but my life took a very hard turn last winter with my son Zekey’s health, and I quickly lost focus of everything except for him. When he went home to Jesus in March, my family was devastated, and the rest of this year has been spent adjusting to our new normal.

Losing my son has been traumatic, and I will walk with a limp for the rest of my life. But Zekey has also inspired me to try to become the best version of myself I can be, and that’s what The Year of No is all about. So as 2015 stares us in the face, I want to give this thing another shot. Here’s what I wrote about it last year.

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The zombie phenomenon is fascinating. Our culture has become obsessed with the undead, and no show on television is capitalizing off of this phenomenon – or driving it – more than The Walking Dead. At first blush The Walking Dead appears to be nothing more than a serialized monster movie, a sprawling scare fest creeping its way into a fifth season. But I believe that the show is so much more than it appears.

Underneath that scary, monster movie exterior, is a host of deep questions that are being asked with sincerity and earnestness: Questions of the limits of science and the trajectory of society; Questions of God, faith, and the end of all things; Questions of humanity and what it means to be human – and not just to be human, but to also be good.

The zombie phenomenon in general, and The Walking Dead in particular, represents a dramatic shift in our culture toward something I call PostScience. Like postmodernism, PostScience is the belief (or perhaps the fear) that all of our scientific knowledge and technological advancement is either destroying us or will be powerless to save us from disaster. A zombie represents postmodernism’s greatest suspicion that we are doing irreversible damage to ourselves.

Beneath the suspicion of science, technology, and modernism is the terrifying idea that we cannot trust either ourselves or one another. We are postmodern not so much because modernism itself failed, but because we failed to live up to its ideals. We are PostScience not because we don’t believe in science, but because we cannot be trusted with the power science allows us to wield. It is we who have failed, and the subtle message of The Walking Dead and other zombie movies is that, with all of this great power we possess, in the end we have managed only to make monsters of ourselves.

What is the Christian response to this? Find out in my sermon from The Netflix Gospel on The Walking Dead.

This morning we began a new series at Grace Church called The Netflix Gospel. This was an idea I had several months ago, based on a series we did at LifePoint Church last year called Now Playing. At LifePoint, we examined several movies (which were in theaters at the time) for their spiritual insights and messages. In this series at Grace, we’re doing the same thing, but for TV series currently available on Netflix.

The first series we looked at was Fringe, a science-fiction epic (think: X-Files) that ran on Fox from 2008-2013. I first discovered the show on Netflix last fall, and very quickly became a fan. It follows the story of three FBI operatives as they unravel the secrets behind a mysterious sequence of events called The Pattern. The central character, Walter Bishop, is a brilliant but broken scientist trying to make up for a lifetime of destructive choices.

The spiritual arc of the show follows Walter’s journey from atheistic hubris to theistic humility. In the message, I shared two powerful scenes from the second season that demonstrate Walter’s journey into brokenness and, ultimately, a redemptive belief in God. Many folks expressed an interest in the show after the message this morning, and while I highly recommend it to adult viewers, please be aware that it gets very grotesque at times. There is a lot of blood and other disturbing material along those lines. There is also a significant amount of drug content – typically in the context of Walter’s fondness for using LSD in his experiments.

The series continues next week as we look at Breaking Bad. (Yes, I said Breaking Bad.) Then, two weeks from now, we finish out by examining the spiritual elements of The Walking Dead. (I know.) All in all, it was a fun weekend, and I think it’s just going to get better from here!

Last Thursday we left our campsite in Flagstaff, AZ, and headed north in a rented car toward the Grand Canyon. It would be my second time to the Grand Canyon, but for Breena and the kids, it was their first. Before we arrived at the park, we drove through some beautiful country on the Arizona backroads.

Just south of the park is a little town that has benefitted greatly from the tourism the Canyon draws. I don’t remember it being there when I last visited the park in 2003, and anyway, all the buildings look as though they’ve been built in the last five years. The kids were grateful to stop someplace familiar: Wendy’s. As we waited in line, Breena spotted a brochure for a helicopter ride over the Canyon. On a normal trip this wouldn’t even be a consideration, but this is the Zekey Trip after all, and we’re here to make memories. So we booked our helicopter ride for 4:10, and we sped off toward the Canyon to get as much sight-seeing in as we could in the meantime.

The Canyon defies description. It is vast and deep and intricate and beautiful. That first glimpse into the Canyon’s depths will take your breath away, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. Photographs, obviously, cannot do it justice. The kids loved it, especially the girls. Bexley had no fear – she wanted to get as close to the edge as she could. But all Cyrus and Eisley could seem to talk about was the impending helicopter ride.

It was amazing. It was worth the cost. I almost threw up.

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