Monthly Archives: January 2011

Confession: I Blocked For Caleb Hanie

The confession for the week is just a bit out of the ordinary here at Neutral Gets You Nowhere.  If you are a football fan then this post will connect with you.  If your not a football fan, then read on, maybe you will get something out of it.  This past Sunday the Chicago Bears played their long time rival the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.  Long story short Chicago’s starting QB left the game with an injury and the second string QB was pulled after just a few snaps behind center.  The Bears put in third string QB Caleb Hanie.  With little playing time over the course of the regular season, Caleb was thrown into the biggest game of the playoffs. Caleb lead the Bears back within reach of a trip to the Super Bowl and wowed people with his poise.

So, here is my confession.  I actually used to be one the line men that blocked for Caleb in junior high and even caught a few passes from him in high school football practice as a third string tight end.  Caleb and I were never close friends, but it was cool to watch a former team mate from junior and high school get to live out his dream.  I’m happy for Caleb.

I remember Caleb always being a hard worker on the grid iron in both game time and practice.  He pushed himself to get better and better.  He even took criticism at times for working so hard at being a good QB.  So what’s the point behind the confession?  Well, I played with a guy that just threw TD passes in the NFC Championship Game!  : )

Actually what I’m getting at here is that God has placed gifts with in each and everyone of us.  Some are gifted speakers, leaders, encouragers, singers, musicians, artists, teachers, managers, and I could list so many more.  The problem is many are not willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears, to develop their gifts.  But God can’t and won’t take us where he could if we are not willing to work out and practice our gifts for his glory.  Caleb is playing the NFL.  Caleb has endured many practices, lifted lots of weights, thrown lots of footballs, ran lots of plays, and studied lots of film to get better and better.

What do you need to do to strengthen your gifts, to get better and better, so that God can do big things through you?

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…” 2 Tim. 1:6




The Gospel According to Bubba: Why I Used to Distrust Small Groups in Church but Don’t Anymore

Most Mondays at NGYN we recap Oasis Church’s sermon from the previous morning, but today’s a little different. Yesterday, Todd West’s message served as a kick-off for Oasis’s Spring Groups: a program of season-long, home-based bible-study-slash-fellowships that’ll be taking place all over Central Arkansas this Spring, led by members of the church. Rather than recap that message, though (since it directly applies only to the members of Oasis church), I’m going to mine Todd’s awesome message for some more generalizable lessons that I think can benefit everybody. Here goes…

Sunday school was my favorite part of church as a kid. While the grown-ups listened to boring sermons or studied genealogy and translated scripture to and from Greek, I got to play with glue sticks and Play-Doh.

Adults don’t get to go to Sunday school. Instead, they go to small groups (or community groups, family groups, prayer circles, or whatever they’re called where you’re from). It’s taken me awhile to warm to this format, but I finally have.

I distrusted the small group format for the same reason I distrusted a lot of institutions: the fallibility of those in charge. What authority does Group Leader Bubba J. Smith have to teach me about God’s holy word, etc? In many cases, such cynicism is probably justifiable. There are plenty of organizations and groups of people being led by individuals who are corrupt, inept, and ignorant. But my time Oasis Church has taught me to trust in the strategic, scripturally-sound, and effective principal of the small group.

If you’re going to “do church”, what better model of discipleship could you follow than Jesus Christ’s? He kind of invented the process, after all. When Christ set out to spread his father’s word, he didn’t build a temple and invite people to come listen to him teach once a week. And he didn’t go on a speaking tour. Not alone, at least, because he knew he could change the world alone. Instead, he found people with great potential and equipped  them to teach on his behalf. When Jesus Christ established the church, he formed a small group. Continue reading

A New New Year (or, Why Tuesdays Are a Bummer)

I’ve read that diets that start on Mondays are doomed to fail. Start dieting on Monday and subconsciously you associate the diet’s lifespan with the days of the week. Friday comes, your focus drifts to the weekend and relaxation, and your commitment to eating right wanes in direct correlation to your work ethic.

I’ve also heard people claim Tuesdays are the worst day of the week you’re dieting (the same goes for trying to form any good habit, I’d wager). Monday’s are easy: you’ve had Saturday and Sunday to rest and psyche yourself up for the week, and you can do almost anything for one day. But by the second day, Tuesday, things are routine again. It’s hard to sustain Monday-morning energy, and you know after today you’ve still got three more whole days ’til another weekend comes around.

I’ve experienced the same thing on a little bigger scale this month. At the start of the new year, I made a whole slew of resolutions: to exercise consistently, build more and deeper relationships with people, save more money, and so on. Things went well for the first week or so. I was off work still, so I had all day with which to work out, plan meals, make phone calls and send emails, and meditate on my goals. Then came week two, and frankly I’ve been struggling ever since to stay committed to my resolutions. Continue reading

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 choice Continue reading

Confession: I Hide from Problems

I have a problem. Actually, I have a meta-problem – a problem with problems, in other words. Too often, instead of dealing with troubles head on, I ignore them and hope they go away. Wanna know something? They hardly ever do.

The way I deal with our family budget is a good example – and one that’s come back to bite me frequently. April and I have developed a pretty reasonable budget for ourselves, no small feat considering how poorly the two of us grasp financial concepts (we liken our understanding of budgets to our understanding of Inception: passable but dizzying). It’s a pretty good system as long as we both do our part throughout the week by keeping track of expenditures and sticking to the budget. When we don’t… *ahem*

I’ve tried for a long time to figure out why it’s so hard for me to stick to a budget. It finally clicked with me two days ago during a sermon about remaining in God’s will (preached by none other than NGYN’s own PJ Noland and handily recapped for your reading pleasure here). Sticking to a budget, or doing anything else well depends on the confluence of three things: trust, willingness, and obedience (it goes without saying for me that “well” is synonymous with “according to God’s will”).

Trust means believing that some process or plan will work for you. Elijah, for example, trusted that absolute faith in God could empower him to call down fire and rain from the sky. In my case, that means believing that God will provide financially for my family (and that I can go a few days without feeding my caffeine habit). Continue reading

Remain (Sunday Sermon Recap: “RE:” Part 4 – Remaining)

Here at NGYN we are continuing to recap our current sermon series “re:” at Oasis Church.  I happen to have had the privilege of delivering the message to the congregation in our second service yesterday.  With that said, I get to recap my own sermon.

I think it’s safe to assume that you and I both want to see God work mightily in our lives.  I mean, it’s difficult to read the scriptures and the stories of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Daniel, Rahab, Peter, and Paul to name a few, and not walk away being inspired to want  God to work in a big way in our own lives.  And the truth is the same God that worked wonders all through out the bible is still alive today and he is eager to work wonderfully and mightily on our behalf.  So what’s the problem? Continue reading

Uncle Gene

Last week my moms uncle (my great uncle) Gene passed away at the age of 81.  Uncle Gene was survived by his wife of 56 years, had 4 children, 13 grand children, and 15 great grand children.  He served in the U.S. Navy for seven years and worked for the Dallas Morning News for 27 years.  I was never real close to uncle Gene.  But, from the time uncle Gene gave me a copy of the movie Roger Rabbit, being joined to the same church family for a little while, and the other times I was able to be around him, uncle Gene always left me with a positive impression of who he was as a man.

I will always remember Gene for his Continue reading

What Prayer Is (Part Three): Different for Everybody

Part 3 in a series on the nature of prayer. Check out the introductory post What Is Prayer? for more background, or go here to see all of the posts in this series so far.

A few weeks back I asked my facebook friends and this blog’s readers to share their take on prayer. Do they pray? How often? If not, why not? What do pray for? What do they think the point of prayer is? I also cruised around WordPress for other blog posts about prayer, to see what others outside the NGYN network had to say.

What I found through my totally unscientific study confirmed what I already held to be true: prayer is different for everybody. In the responses I got and the blogs I read, I heard of people praying for daily strength; to get them through tough times; out of thankfulness, obligation, and fear; for peace, forgiveness, courage, and even retribution; and to a God that I inferred them to regard as caring, strong, angry, loving, gentle, steady, attentive, and whimsical. In other words, people’s prayers are as diverse as they are. And while some of what I read I considered way off the mark, I have no problem accepting that God probably delights in the varied nature of our prayers. He’s the one who created us all to be so different, after all.

The Bible gives us guidelines for prayer, even very specific ones such as in “the Lord’s prayer” in the sixth chapter of the book of Matthew. There, Jesus lays out prayer about as plainly as it could be done.Throughout God’s word, though, we also see many of God’s chosen people talking to God in their own distinct ways. Hannah prayed silently, weeping (1 Samuel 1); Hezekiah prayed in the temple (Isaiah 37); Paul prayed with groups of people (Acts 20); Jesus prayed on a mountainside (Luke 6); and the book of Psalms contains dozens of prayers by David that were composed as songs and set to music.

My point is this: prayer is a means of communicating with God, and there are thus as many different ways to pray as there are to tell someone you love them.

Prayer should not be a ritual. It should be a dynamic and unique experience. It will be colored by context: your prayers will inherently be as unique as your accent, voice, and language. Most of all, prayer should be authentic.

I used to hate praying out loud in front of other people. April and I used to attend a church where the pastor would call on people in the congregation to close out every service. My palms got sweaty every Sunday, and my heart would speed up  out of fear that I’d be the one he called on. It took me awhile to figure out why: that I was intimidated by all the other folks I’d heard pray eloquently. I thought they could somehow pray better than me. Since then, though, I’ve gotten more comfortable in my own skin, and I realize that my prayers – as stumbly and rambling as they can be some of the time – are as sweet to God’s ears as those of David’s recorded in the book of Psalms. As long as they’re from the heart, that is.

I’m thankful to have a creative God, who accepts and even encourages our differences.

Let’s hear from you: How do you pray? Loudly? Quietly? Alone? With others? In what language? Do you even use words? In what context to you find that its easiest to talk openly with God?


Confession: I’m Impatient

This week I’ve found myself struggling with impatience.  I would normally say that I’m a pretty patient guy.  However, when I think about me being a patient guy, I can see that I’m only patient when things are operating on my time line.  Which means, I’m not really patient, but controlling.  I’ll save the discussion of my control issues for a later post.

For a couple of hours here and there this week, I have been preparing to deliver the message to our congregation at Oasis Church this coming Sunday morning.  This has been kind of a difficult sermon to prepare.  Why? Continue reading

Glory in the Church (Sunday Sermon Recap: “RE:” Part 3 – Remembering)

“We [Christians] don’t go to church to meet our needs. We do it to glorify God.”

So began Pastor Todd West’s sermon at Oasis Church yesterday, a convicting message that outlined both the expectations that particular church has of its members and the characteristics I believe God had in mind when he formed his church, as recorded in the Bible.

The modern Christian church (at least in America; I can’t speak for churches abroad) is one of the only organizations in existence to which you can belong and never contribute. High school football teams require their members to come to practice faithfully; health clubs expect members to pay dues; even hunting clubs have expectations that, if violated, will get a member ejected. Why, then, should the church be content with a membership roster full of people who give nothing, serve nowhere, and attend only rarely?

Tradition, for one, and fear. In recent history, church attendance has waned. Churches are dying. And in response, their administrators have lowered the bar, doing and allowing whatever necessary to keep butts in seats.

Sunday’s message at Oasis was about raising that bar. And it made me proud to be a part of the body of Christ. If you’re looking for a church, I encourage you to look for one expectations like these, which come directly from Oasis’s membership covenant: Continue reading

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