I don't know if you're familiar with Dr. John Hannah, professor of Church History at Dallas Seminary, but he's one of my professors this semester. He's a quirky man, self proclaimedly, but also one of those people with the ability to create "sound bites" of wisdom with nearly every sentence.

For the most part, church history isn't one of the subjects that get my motor running. Mostly, I pay attention because (a) my grade depends on it, (b) I understand how important history is to an understanding of the future, and (c) because you never know when Dr. Hannah is going to say something great.

I've begun the habit of taking two sets of notes simultaneously. The first set of notes are notes about church history; diagrams, dates, names, and doodles of stick people who take up the space in the margin. The second set of notes are what I call "Hannahisms" - usually a sentence or two that sum up what would have taken the majority of us 3 weeks of blogs to say. Sometimes they're funny; sometimes they're serious. But they always make you think.

Since I've been pretty swamped between work and school, I thought it might be good to give you a top-ten of my list of Hannahisms for the first two class periods. Let me know if any jump out at you one way or the other - they're fun to think about and discuss.

1. Seek more than excitement. It is a shadow of eternity, but that is all.
2. A friend is a person who never believes the best things you say because he knows you're a liar, but never believes the worst things you say because he thinks better of you than that.
3. There has never been a time in our history when there were so many of us who have had so little influence.
4. If you're a Christian and willingly disobey God, He will judge your sin and break every bone in your body. In that day, thank Him for His grace.
5. A man is simply not equipped to meet the needs of a woman.
6. People preach toleration when they don't have power. Once they get power they stop preaching it.
7. Committees are places where minutes are kept and hours are lost.
8. You can get away with sin, but not forever. You can also blindfold yourself and walk across the interstate safely a time or two...
9. If God has called you to be a janitor, you should not stoop so low as to be a clergyman.

...and my favorite...

10. Don't think too highly of yourself. The best this world will do for you is to build a statue of you so the birds can come defecate on your face.

"Real" People Make the Best Fiction

As I've mentioned before, my wife and I are hopelessly addicted to "24," the Kiefer Sutherland drama that packs more heart pounding drama than a pacemaker with a turbo gear. A new season of 24 premiered on Sunday and Monday, and Kari and I were settled in our seats at promptly 7:00 to start the 24 hour saga that will fill our Monday nights for the next several weeks. We weren't disappointed.

After watching the Monday night edition, our adrenaline levels were at dangerous levels, so we flipped channels to see if there was something on that would calm our nerves. Believe it or not, we have sixty something channels on our satellite package and couldn't find anything better than "The Bachelor." (which speaks more to the lack of good programming on TV than it does the quality of "The Bachelor)

I've been promising people for a long time that the Reality TV phase is on its last legs, but somehow these shows keep reappearing. And sadly, America still seems to be interested in reality shows ranging in topic from washed up TV celebrities who want to learn to ice skate to desperate singles attempting to win a marriage proposal.

I don't know what the fascination is with Reality TV. Personally, I think of it a lot like I think of a really gory car accident. You know you shouldn't look, and determine to drive by, but at the last second you always sneak a peak.

But there's something fundamental that bothers me about Reality TV: It doesn't picture reality.

Maybe some of you had a budget the size of NBC's, or ABC's millions of dollars behind you when you lined up the fifty girls who wanted to date you so bad they'd quit their jobs and leave everything behind to travel to bite, scratch, and pull-hair over who would get your hand in marriage on national television. I missed out on that bit of reality.

Maybe your first job out of college was one where you worked in a swanky building, got chartered around on a private jet, and pitched your proposals to high-ranking executives of the world's top companies, in hopes that you would impress a boss who has more power than the President of the United States, but who obviously doesn't have the authority to hire a decent hairstylist. But for the vast majority of Americans, that's not reality.

Where am I going? I'll tell you.

Authenticity is one of the things I value most in my life and ministry. I feel that others deserve a pastor who approaches them with an appropriate level of openness and vulnerability, and expect that from others in return. That means being "real" with the people I serve, rather than someone who preaches down to people from a podium set high above them. I'm not talking about guys who feel the need to turn their public speaking opportunities into confession time, but about being a real person who leads a real life trying to do the best he can to bring glory to a real God. After all, if people don't perceive me as a real guy leading a real life, why should they perceive the God I speak about as being real?

But television is attempting to redefine authenticity. The conversations with "The Bachelor" are supposed to reveal him as a "real" guy who's having a difficult time choosing between fifty of the hottest girls on the planet. We're supposed to feel for him. He has a tough task ahead of him.

Who are we trying to kid?

That guy's not real. He's not revealing his innermost thoughts. On national television? Yeah right. The rare parts of the show that are not scripted are still a part of the game. "Authentic" comments are calculated; guarded. There's not an ounce of reality there, but we're supposed to think there is.

We're supposed to identify with the reality that television is creating - a reality in which "authenticity" is just a part of the game.

That's scary. When authenticity because a part of the game, it's no longer authenticity. When we become self-revalatory because of where it will get us, we're denying who we really are: selfish, self-absorbed, insecure manipulators who will pretend to be "real" to enhance the charade. And that type of authenticity, frankly, is conceived in the pits of hell.


I never got into the WWJD kick. I never owned a bracelet, or a t-shirt, or a hat, or a belt, or the trendy boxers that sported the "WWJD" fad phrase. I overanalyzed the whole fad, (that's what they train us to do in seminary), so I never got around to buying a bracelet. I wasn't really comfortable asking myself "What would Jesus do?" in a questionable situation.

There was the time I forgot to order the pizza for our huge youth lockin. The teenagers were there, the volunteers were there, the drinks were there, but we were starving... no pizza. I didn't have a bracelet on, and it's probably a good thing because I probably would have gone in search of a kid with 5 pizza rolls and a few breadsticks hoping to multiply them. That could have been disastrous. Instead, I just ordered the pizza.

Then there was the time when the Coke machine ran out at the church. If I had donned a bracelet that morning, I probably would have told people to go to the water fountain to get their Dr. Pepper fix. After all, Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding... maybe I should try to turn the drinking fountain into a Dr. Pepper fountain.

Jesus was God on earth. He did everything to the end of dying for the sins of world. Maybe WWJD is not the most logical question I can ask myself in every situation. Yes, I understand the spirit behind the bracelets, and think it's admirable to ask ourselves what Jesus would think about our actions, specifically in moral questions, but I couldn't quite be so pious to wear a bracelet around advertising to the world that I planned to do the things Jesus did throughout the day.

But here's a fad I could get in to. I'm crossing my fingers like crazy that someone gets me a IWJO (I Watch Joel Osteen) pin for my birthday. It's this year's hot item, and I want to catch the fad before it gets rocking so I'm in on the ground level.

I'm not such a big fan of Joel Osteen, honestly. He doesn't believe in the Trinity, and prefers not to talk about sin, or judgment, or anything that might be considered a "negative." But he's got such a great smile, and a southern drawl that has the ability to draw you in. He's captivating. And his church service is good entertainment.

Season 5 of the TV show 24 comes out this Sunday, and I can't wait for that. Kari and I love to watch 24. It's full of suspense, action, drama, and betrayal. We can't get enough. But hey, Osteen's show is like that too. Joel's pretty subdued, but his wife is fiery. When she starts talking, I'm on the edge of my seat. Heck, she took on a flight attendant not long ago because the flight attendant hadn't cleaned out her seat properly. The FBI got involved and the Osteens were invited to take another flight. Days of Our Lives has nothing on this...

IWJO is the fad of the year, and I'm jumping in early. You should too. These pins will be harder to get than an Oral Roberts prayer hankie. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Praying the Scriptures

"Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank you so much for this day. Thank you for [insert daily event here]. Please bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies, and our bodies to your service. In Jesus Name, Amen."

That's what God heard from me for about fifteen years. When it was my turn to pray at family dinners, that's what I came up with. On special occasions, I would read the cross-stitch prayers that hung behind our dinner table to mix things up a bit, but for the most part I stayed true to the original prayer you can read above.

I meant it too - every word of it. Throughout my growing up years, I knew God was the Most Gracious Heavenly Father. I was truly thankful for the day, and the day's events. And I hoped Mom's meatloaf would bless my body, because it evidently hadn't blessed the body of the person who ate it before me.

I prayed that prayer for years and years. It was heartfelt, sincere, and to the point. But it was also a habit.

I didn't realize it until I was asked to pray for a Bible Study I was attending, and I accidentally slipped in the "bless this food" part at the end. There were doughnuts and coffee at the Bible Study, so nobody else cared, but it hit me hard.

This is the Sovereign God of the Universe Who spoke the Universe into existence, and I come at him with cliche? Something was wrong. If I stepped back and thought about it, I meant what I said. But I had to step back to consider it. My sincere prayers had become trite formulas, and that was a problem for me.

So I started reading. I read every book on prayer I could get my hands on at the small Christian bookstore near my apartment. But nothing flipped the switch. I loved to study the Bible, but couldn't quite get my prayer life going.

One day, I mentioned my quandry to one of the interns at the church where I was working. He showed me something I've been using off and on ever since. Maybe it will be useful to you as well.

He called it "Praying the Scriptures," and the premise is simple: You attach your prayers directly to the Bible Study you're doing. This way, the Bible Study (God talking to me) and prayer life (me talking to God) are intermingled like a conversation I would have with someone sitting across the desk from me.

It's especially easy with the Epistles, but can be done with any book. Here's how it works:

First, I read a short passage of Scripture I've been studying. Say I'm reading Ephesians; I might start with Ephesians 1:1, where I read:

"From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus. "

After reading the verse, I begin to pray chunks of the verse at a time like this:

"Lord, thank you for the ministry of Paul and for the lives he touched while he ministered on the earth. Thank you for gifting Him as an apostle. Help me to understand and implement my own spiritual gifts as Paul did. Just as he was an apostle by the will of God, I know that it is Your will for me to serve You using my gifts as well. Lord, Paul mentions that the Ephesians were faithful in Christ Jesus. I want to be like that. Help me to be faithful to you above and beyond anything else in this world; that's my desire."

Then I would move to verse two, and so on.

For the most part, it has helped me break out of the "habit" of praying, and has allowed me to view prayer for what it truly is. This month, as you might guess from my previous blog, I'm praying through 1 Samuel. Today my prayer was that my ministry would be protected from the selfishness that plagued Saul, and that I might have a heart like David's.

Happy "Pimped Out" New Year!

This morning I set a world record for the shortest amount of time to hold a New Years Resolution. Unfortunately after beginning the paperwork, I was told that a witness from the Guiness corporation needed to be onhand to witness my flop before it was recorded in the Book of World Records. I'll make sure they get my Christmas Card next year...

Prior to our move, I had been doing pretty well at keeping in shape. I ran two or three miles, two or three times a week, in addition to playing softball and volleyball with the guys from church. But a new job, finals, packing, moving, and Christmas bumped my exercise regimen down on the priority list. Although I know I should excercise, I hate excercise with the white hot intensity of a thousand flames, so watching it fall off my to do list was not a sad occasion. Nevertheless, now that we're starting to get unpacked, I resolved to get back into some type of excercise program.


This morning I woke up with a cough, and a stopped up nose. God doesn't want me to excercise, I'm sure of it.

So I started over from scratch. After all... what's really important? Shaving ten seconds off my mile time, or growing closer to God? (Feel free to comment on the art and grace with which I justified my failure of the first set of resolutions).

This year, instead of making a major resolution (turning this ship requires small adjustments), I decided to set some goals for my devotionals this year. You might remember, I talked about pimping my devotional time several weeks ago. When I do things right, I set New Years resolutions every month, so it only goes to reason that I should start the year by planning to do my devotional time right. So if you're interested in this philosophy and don't already have a devotional plan in place, I'd encourage you to work alongside me this year. From time to time, I'll post some of my observations/applications, and expand a little on how I go through the process. There are certainly other ways, but this one has made a huge difference in my lifel maybe it will do the same for you.

Check out the link above if you need a refresher on the "rules." (Make sure to read the comment I made about commentaries. That's pretty important to the overall philosophy... I very rarely use commentaries for my devotional time because I tend to cheat when the going gets tough, which defeats the purpose).

If you're up to it, here's the schedule I plan to follow this year:

January - 1 Samuel
February - Luke
March - Ezra
April - 1 Thessalonians
May - Esther
June - 1 John
July - Lamentations
August - 1 Peter
September - 1 Kings
October - Colossians
November - 2 Kings
December - Titus

2006, here I come!