It means "writings." I write things.

4:51 PM

I find this a little sad

Posted by Brad Polley |

I was driving in town today and I saw a church sign that said, "Free wight-loss class, Tuesday night 8:00. Public Welcome." I have no problem with churches offering weight loss classes, God knows we can use them in this country. However, the message on the sign tells us a great deal about the state of the American Church. Does anyone else find it sad that a church has to put "public welcome" on a sign in relation to one of their programs? Is it possible that this isn't as harmless as it sounds?

The fact is that people should know that they are welcome to a church for anything. It's obvious that this church felt it important to put on their sign that the public is welcome because there is a perception among the public that they need an invitation to church. I don't fault this church for their message, I fault the Church as a whole for closing themselves off for so long, that people think they need a personal invitation to come. Man, do we have a lot of work to do.

8:22 AM


Posted by Brad Polley |

Seeing as how Halloween is upon us, I've been thinking some about masks. A mask, by definition, is something that we wear so that our real identity can be hidden. The masks I'm talking about should not be confused with "The Mask," a nightmarishly awful Jim Carrey movie from the 90s. But I digress. A mask is used to reveal identity, this is why thieves often wear them to hide their true selves from the cameras and/or employess that are robbing.

Well, I've been thinking about masks a great deal this week because of church. This past Sunday, I preached a sermon on breathing and talked about all of the crap that we carry around with us. We were not created to carry around all of this junk that we carry with us. God desires us to breathe that stuff out to him, so that we can breathe him in. At the end ofthe sermon, I asked people to come forward to be prayed with if they needed it. My thinking being that if they would come forward, someone could bear their burden with them (I think that's in the Bible somewhere), therefore making it easier to breathe out. Guess what happened? No one came forward. This problem is that I know for a fact that we have some people in our church dealing with some heavy stuff. Stuff that they can't handle alone. Stuff that they need to breathe out. So after the service, someone came to me and asked me to pray for something. My wife then told me on the way home that someone told her that they wanted to go forward but were embarrassed.

Who are we trying to fool? Everyone in churches are so self-sufficient and closed off, that nothing ever gets revealed in the open. We're so afraid that someone may see us for who we are; a messy person. I would be willing to bet that 90% of the people sitting in the church had something they needed prayer for. Maybe it was a secret sin, maybe it was depression, an addiction, whatever. It's no wonder American Christians are so screwed up. We're all a mess, but we put on a facade of perfection. If we can't be open at church with our brothers and sisters, then we're in serious trouble. We have to regain this ability to be open with each other.

Jesus had a term for people who wear masks...hypocrite. The word "hypocrite" is derived from a Greek theater term that spoke of "painted faces" or "actors." Jesus couldn't stand actors. He couldn't stand people that were polished on the outside, and dead on the inside. He realized that life was found in the heart and wearing masks and pretending that everything was ok, didn't lead to life.

It's time to put away the masks and be real. Our lives depend on it.

10:15 AM

I wish I was smart enough to write this

Posted by Brad Polley |

I have another thought from Brother Lawrence, who just so happens to be my favorite 17th century Parisian monk. I was reading in "The Practice of the Presence of God" yesterday and this statement caught my eye:

"God desires to possess our heart completely; if we do not empty it of everything other than himself, he cannot act nor do there what he pleases."

Ok, so good thoughts from Brother Larry, but it raises some questions for me. How does someone get smart enough to say something so simple, so eloquently? What does it mean to let God possess your heart completely? What does that look like? Is this something that is possible for us to do outside of the cloister? If so, how the crap do you do it? When you go to a Chinese buffet, when have you eaten enough to lose your self-respect?

I agree wholeheartedly with Brother Lawrence that God desires all of us (i.e. "deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me"), not just part of us. He wants it all. I'm just wondering how this is possible in today's world, with so many distractions around us. Even in ministry, most of my week is consumed with doing busy work that has very little to do with Jesus at all. I'm so frail, like all of us, and I get distracted so easily, I sometimes wonder if he even has 10% of my heart. I'm almost sure that most of our problems (including my own) exist because we haven't allowed God to have all of us, so he hasn't been allowed to "do there what he pleases."

I know very few people who have an effective prayer life. You know what I mean by "effective," when they pray, things happen. In my own life, my prayers rarely seem to work, which isn't God's fault at all, it's mine. Maybe if our hearts were tuned in to God's frequency, we would notice that stuff happens when we pray. I don't know, maybe I'm off track, it wouldn't be the first time. Any thoughts?

P.S. I'm not sure when it is you cross the line of self-respect at a Chinese buffet, but I'm sure I cross it just about every time. Mmmmmmm...General Tso's Chicken...

8:43 AM

A Strange Dichotomy

Posted by Brad Polley |

This past week, I had the privilege to visit a new mom and baby in the hospital. As i was sitting there, looking at this beautiful baby, I got this really weird feeling. I started thinking about the fact that, as I was sitting there, someone on the other side of the hosptial was laying in intensive care on life support. As this family was feeling joy at their new life, another was experiencing deep sadness at bad news from a doctor. I don't know, it was just one of those times where the dichotomy between life and death became very real to me. It was strange to have this sense of life and death going on all around you in the same building. Does anyone else ever have times like this?

10:21 AM

Just how far does His grace extend?

Posted by Brad Polley |

I heard on the news this morning that a mother in San Francisco chucked her kids off of a pier and into SanFrancisco bay. Not only did she have the nerve (or whatever the freak it is that makes someone do this) to do it, she did it in front of people.

This raises a number of questions for me. How do you get to the point in your life where you would do something like that? What circumstances contributed to this action? What went through her head in the moments leading up to it? Where is God in all of this? What does he think when he sees something like this happening? How does he keep himself from vaporizing her into billions of particles for killing her children? Finally, how far does his grace extend?

Here in lies the greatest mystery of God. He is a God of judgment and a God of love. Are the scales really balanced? Does his love trump his judgment, or does his judgment trump his love. Who knows if the woman will even ask for forgiveness for what she has done. God is a great paradox, it seems that he is full of contradictions at times. I guess my thoughts extend from the fact that I want a nice, predictable God who dances when I play the fiddle, and always acts in the same way. To be a being who is both judgment and mercy, wrath and love, seems incongruous to me, but maybe that's why I follow God. Maybe deep down in the recesses of my heart, I need this adventurous Deity who is wild and seemingly erratic. Maybe that's what draws me to him.

Whatever he is thinking right now about this woman, I am sure that he loves her, although his heart breaks for her and her children. This Sunday, this family will be on the prayer lists of many churches and I'm guessing only a handful of churches will pray for the mother. Join me now in praying this prayer for this mother, who in a moment of senselessness, killed her children.

Almighty and Everlasting Father, we pray now for this woman in San Francisco who desperately needs you. Her actions, Lord, are both despicable and disgusting, and yet she is your creation, who needs an invasion of your Holy Spirit. There will be those, Father, who will call for her immediate death, but we pray for her life. May your grace cover her and release her from the power of the Enemy, and may you give her life, even in the midst of the tremendous guilt she now lives with, in the name of your Son, Jesus, Amen.

3:27 PM

This is what Jesus had in mind

Posted by Brad Polley |

I got this in the mail today at church. Anyone else see a problem with the first line of this? Please tell me you do. Posted by Picasa

7:48 PM

I'm not going to lie...

Posted by Brad Polley |

...this may be the funniest picture I have ever seen. I came across it quite awhile ago and just came across it again in my "my pictures" file. I laugh every single time I see it. Posted by Picasa

2:38 PM

My Church Rocks

Posted by Brad Polley |

Ok, so it isn't "my church" persay, it's more like Jesus' church, but I figure I had to use the parlance of our times. Anyway, we had our one-year celebration today. It was pretty sweet. We had a cake, we sang happy birthday. I think what I like about the church is that it is so messy. We don't have too many people who care to put on a "starched and pressed" facade on Sunday mornings. We genuinely love to be with one another. That's what I love the most. The people actually want to be there, they (probably not all, of course) aren't there out of compulsion, they're there out of joy and desire to commune with one another and with God. We're no where near perfect, but maybe that's the best part.

9:05 PM

Why Are Ministers So Insecure?

Posted by Brad Polley |

I've always been a big proponent of discipleship over numbers in my ministry, but for some reason, I'm almost continually plagued by insecurity. i'm definitely not the only minister who is like this. I'm guessing if you took a poll, you would find that most ministers share the same problem. I still get down when our Sunday attendence is down for a couple of weeks. I still worry about people going somewhere else instead of our church. I don't know why. I'm always worrying about whether or not I did something to drive someone else away. If someone misses for a couple of weeks, I automatically in my mind think that they're gone for good and it's all my fault. As you can tell, I'm just a smidge discouraged right now. I don't know why. Satan has a way of taking me (all of us?) from the heights to the depths within a matter of days. I hate it.

9:01 PM

No Wonder Saul Hated David

Posted by Brad Polley |

I came across a story today in Scripture about Saul and David. I always wondered what the turning point was in the relationship between these two men. At the beginning, Saul really likes David, but then at some point, he pretty much starts hating him. The story goes like this.

After David kills Goliath, he and Saul are traveling back to Israel with their armies. As they're passing villages, the women come out and sing a song to them. The song goes like this, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands."

Ok, so if you're a macho tough guy like Saul and you hear a bunch of women basically singing that you aren't as tough as this little kid, wouldn't you be hacked? It says that Saul was irate at this song. Yeah, no kidding. From this point on, he hates David and seeks to kill him. I really have no point to this post, I just thought it was interesting. I guess the cult of macho can get you into real trouble, Saul's life was never the same.

3:50 PM

I'm not sure why this keeps happening

Posted by Brad Polley |

I'm not obsessed with suffering or anything, in fact, I'm not a huge fan of it myself. However, God keeps sending me these thoughs and ideas. I'm not sure why this is. I keep waiting for something really bad to happen. There seems to be a pattern to the things I'm reading right now, and that pattern is suffering. Anyway, I came across this prayer today while praying the hours.

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to the joy before he first suffered pain, and did not enter into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that I, walking in the way of the cross, may find it to be none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son my Lord. Amen.

It seems once again that the way of suffering is the way to life and peace. This certainly makes sense in the light of Jesus' life. I don't think we should deliberately seek out suffering, but it seems as though it finds us pretty well on it's own. I heard a saying once, "God doesn't want us to live under the circumstances, he wants us to live despite the circumstances." Maybe that's an oversimplified version of what this prayer and Brother Lawrence's comments are talking about.

9:42 AM

What is with kids?

Posted by Brad Polley |

I spent the day yesterday substitute teaching at the junior high. I've done this numerous times, and I always leave at the end of the day with the same question on my lips, "What is with kids?" Maybe it's because I've been out of school for so long, but I can't remember being as bad as some of these kids. I'm sure I had many of the "fine" qualities that these students now have, but I was never disrespectful. I was so afraid of being sent to the principal's office that I always sort of "towed the line" in order to stay out of trouble. Not only are most of these students not afraid of getting in trouble, some of them streak toward it like it's the gold at the end of the rainbow or something. They delight in it and revel in it. One kid actually said to me (after I told him many times to be quiet and stop jacking around), "I'm sure you've heard about me, I have a pretty bad reputation." My first thought was (as he laughed about it), "You're actually proud of that?" I was sitting there watching a lot of these kids and, this is awful, but I was thinking, "That one won't graduate, neither will that one..." And what about their souls? If they don't care about their grades, and their reputation, they certainly aren't going to care about the state of their souls. They're dead and they don't even know or care.

I sit and observe the students while they're working and as I do that, I sit and pray. I pray for God to show me a way to reach kids like these. I want them to live. I want them to realize that the universe is bigger than them, and that there is a big God who cares about them so much. I want them to learn to live for someone other than themselves.

I understand that the Bible says, "with God all things are possible" but I'm also starting to think that maybe John Calvin's doctrine of predestination has some validity to it. Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us.

5:30 PM

The Suffering From God

Posted by Brad Polley |

I was reading "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection today and I came across this statement in a letter he wrote to a nun in 1690.

"God often permits us to suffer alittle in order to purify our souls, and to make us remain in him." He then says in another letter: "The worldly do not understand these truths, and I am not surprised; the reason is that they suffer as citizens of this world and not as Christians. They consider illnesses as natural afflictions and not as graces from God..."

Ok, so does anyone else find this a little strange and, maybe, more than a little bit disturbing? This isn't something you're going to hear Joel Osteen and the rest of the prosperity gospel guys preaching about on TBN. According to them, God wants you to be healthy, rich, and beautiful. Brother Lawrence, however, says that God allows us to suffer so that we may be reliant on him. I don't know about you, but even though I find this idea slightly disturbing, I think he is closer to the truth than Joel, and Benny, and the rest of their ilk. I think I'll believe a 17th century monk who renounced everything for the sake of Christ over someone who lives in a 1.5 million dollar house in Houston, Texas.

Brother Lawrence then gives us the good news about suffering and illness: "I wish you were convinced that God is often closer to us in times of sickness and suffering than when we enjoy perfect health." May we run to God in times of suffering, rather than run away from him. May we see that he is closer when we hurt than when we don't. May we rest in the arms of the Great Physician and let him cure us, rather than blaming him for the suffering. May we let our suffering purify us and draw us near to the One we serve. Amen.

10:33 AM

Welcome to Kethuvim

Posted by Brad Polley |

Hey all three of you! Welcome to Kethuvim (writings). I hope you enjoy this blog. I'll have more to share later.