It means "writings." I write things.

9:03 AM

Grace...sort of

Posted by Brad Polley |

I was flipping through channels again last night (I really need to stop doing that) and came across my favorite aforementioned religious channel. Every Sunday night, the chapel service from Pensacola Christian College (Our motto: "Jesus never smiled so neither do we") airs on Lesea broadcasting. I happened to catch the service just as the preacher got up to speak. He gets up and he gives the usual guilt trip deal to the students. You know what I mean, "This may be your last day on earth, you may never have another chance to accept Jesus blah, blah, blah." I've heard this kind of crap so much that it doesn't even make me mad anymore. However, what he said next did make me mad. "If you have accepted Jesus before, but have hardened your heart to him, the same warning goes to you. If your heart is hardened (is that a clinical problem by the way?) you may make it through the next week without incident, but you may miss God's final call to you."

I let that last statement sink in and listened to his follow up on it. Let me tell you what he meant by that. He was suggesting that God has a limited number of times that he "calls" you (hopefully not collect, because I'm not accepting the charges). If you don't accept any of these "calls" to you, then God basically gives up and moves on to the next person. I was sitting there, jaw on the floor with expletives running through my head at an alarming rate, thinking "Has this guy ever heard of Jesus?"

I'm not sure how you can read a story like the parable of the lost son and say something like he said. In that story, I see a God who pursues those who abandon him. I don't see a Father that says, "You disowned me too many times, I give up." I don't find this idea anywhere in scripture. I have so much I could say pertaining to all of this, but I want to know what everyone thinks.

11:27 AM

(Insert Dr. Evil voice here) rrrrrrriiiiiiggggghhhht

Posted by Brad Polley |

So I was perusing my 15 channels the other night and I came across, what I believe to be the most humerous channel on television, Lesea broadcasting. If you know nothing of Lesea broadcasting, it could be best described as the lesbian step-sister of TBN (Editor's note: I have no idea what that means, but it sounded funny). Anyway, the other night a man by the name of Mike Murdoch, or as he's known by the Mafia, "Mikey Hair-dye", was on and he was, of course, speaking of prosperity. I say "of course" because that's all he ever talks about. He said something interesting during his diatribe that piqued my interest a bit. He said, "Don't let anyone tell you that you can't have nice things. Anyone that says that you have to do without is an idiot."

I've mentioned before that I have a pretty finely-tuned crap detector. After that statement, it was going off so loudly that my neighbor came over in sponge rollers asking me to shut my "pretty little mouth." Upon hearing Mikey say those things, my first thought was, "You know, he's right, the Bible never said anything about having to do without...oh seem to remember Jesus saying something to the effect of, 'deny yourself.'" To be honest with you, I think it's ok to have nice things at times, as long as those things don't become your god. However, he was advocating that whatever our heart desires is ours as long as we send in our "seed money" so that God will bless us.

When Jesus said, "deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me," he was saying that if we follow him, we no longer live our lives by our wants and desires. Our life is not our own. Our life is to be lived by what God wants for us, not what we want for us. I'm tired of hearing these prosperity guys talking about the spiritual life like it has everything to do with us. With their "theology" God is nothing more than a high-yield mutual fund where you put a certain amount of money in, and he multiplies it so that you can have a vacation home in Colorado.

What does this say about our brothers and sisters around the world who are striving to live for God, and as such, are being imprisoned, killed, or live in extreme poverty? By Mikey's line of thought, they are doing something wrong. They're not "planting their seeds" in the right area, so God isn't blessing them. America is the only place where you will hear this message preached. Let's face it, these teachings are nothing more than using the Bible to justify extravagant living. It's a copout so that these guys won't have to deny themselves.

10:58 AM

Addendum on Community Posts

Posted by Brad Polley |

I believe I wrote briefly about the point that you can't manufacture community in a church, it just happens as a special grace from God. I believe I also spoke about how churches continue to try and manufacture community and it usually turns into nothing more than a 6-month trainwreck.

Well, I got a catalog in the mail today from Group Publishing, whose company slogan should be "The company that cheese built." Their stuff is, for the most part, complete and utter crap. I was thumbing through the endless pages of mindless curriculum and I came across an add for a curriculum and on the top of the page, I found the emblazoned 56-point font words, "Build Commuity in Your Church." My bullcrap detector about knocked me out of my chair as soon as I finished reading that phrase. But wait, there's more. Under that gigantic farcical statement was this three-point add on: Welcome New Members, Enhance Your Small Groups, Easy and Effective Outreach. As if that wasn't enough, in Ron Popeil style I tell you, "But wait, there's more." This curriculum is apparently "Stuffed with 13 weeks of tasty, life-changing experiences." I'll have to be honest with you when I say that I have no desire to know what it means to have a tasty, life-changing experience. Apparently along with Bible study, you spend a half-hour marinating a Jesus-shaped chicken and then expound on what the Holy Spirit smells like.

I'll have to tell you that my experience with most curriculum has done nothing for my life other than making me want to take my own. How can a curriculum foster community? It can't. As I said in a previous post, real community takes time and grace; it takes people who are willing to lay down their lives for one another. It can't be accomplished when people come together in the hopes of having a "tasty, life-changing experience."

What does it cost to have real community in your church? Not your life, just 70 bucks...and, oh yeah, your soul.

10:20 AM

To Live in Community - part 2

Posted by Brad Polley |

"Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers' houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head."

God instructs the leaders of Israel at the beginning of the book of Numbers to take a census of their people. When we think census, we think about strange people in ties showing up at our doorstep every few years to count how many people live in the United States. All we think about is the numbers they are looking for. However, what is a census? In a census, they ask many questions to try and gauge things like income, number of children, and that sort of thing. They don't just come to the house and count how many people live in the US.

By asking the Israelites to take a census of their people, is it possible that God was asking them for more than just numbers of people? By asking questions of their fellow Israelites, they were finding out more about their countrymen.

As a minister, I know quite a bit about some people in my congregation. I know the good, the bad, and the ugly about some of the people. This has only happened because I have invested my time in them to get to know them. I'm a part of a small group, and we have become very close. We've been meeting for three years now and, in that time, we have learned a lot about one another. We know each others' good points, as well as bad points. We know each others' struggles and triumphs.

It seems to me that true community can only happen if we are willing to take a census of those around us. We can only have real community when we invest in the lives of others. It takes time, it takes commitment to one another, and it takes honesty to make it happen. You can't force real community. Too often churches try to force community, and what comes out is a half-baked version of community where no one knows anything about anyone past the surface. Real community flows out of love and a desire to get to know your brothers and sisters. Real community is a grace from God, you can't force it, it just has to come from him.

Take a census of your brothers and sisters. Invest your life into them because you love them. You'll never have joy in the Church without it.

1:21 PM

To Live in Community - part 1

Posted by Brad Polley |

One of the things that has bothered me about The Church for a long time is that it seems to be anemic when it comes to community. When I read the account of the early Church in the book of Acts I always end up sighing and say something like, "I want to be a part of that." Apparently a lot of other people in that day wanted to be a part of it as well, because the text in Acts says that The Church added to its number daily. It says that the people of the early Church had everything in common and no one claimed that anything else was his own. They ate together, prayed together, worshipped together; they truly had community. However, it seems to me that today's "Church" looks more like this: we come together, sit together, shake hands for two minutes, exhange small talk, half-sing a few songs, listen to a sermon that we don't comprehend, and then go to our respective homes and repeat the process a week later. That couldn't be further from real community.

Acts says that the people enjoyed fellowship. The word "fellowship" has lost pretty much all of its meaning today. When we say fellowship, we immediately conjure up images of pot-lucks and ice cream socials, youth group trips and chili suppers. The sad truth is that these things have nothing to do with fellowship. These should just be by-products of fellowship, not fellowship itself. The Greek word for fellowship actually means "brotherhood." To have real fellowship within the church, we have to be a brotherhood. This means that we live "all for one and one for all." The New Testament writers knew what they were doing when referring to their fellow believers as "brother" and "sister." These weren't just words they decided to use, it was the truth. They lived in community even with all of their faults, bumps, bruises, scars, and crap. They didn't all get along, but they were admonished to love one another anyway as Christ loves the Church. That's so beautiful, there's nothing more beautiful than two enemies who make a conscious choice to love one another even in disagreement. They decide to be brothers even though they disagree. But what does all of this mean for us in the 21st century? In a couple of days, we'll explore what it might mean to have real brotherhood within the Church today.

1:16 PM

Olive Oil and Us

Posted by Brad Polley |

In Exodus 27:20-21, God instructs the Israelites to put a light in the tent of meeting and that the light is to be lit with "clear oil of beaten olives." If you know anything about cooking, you know that extra virgin olive oil is the first pressing of the olives and yields a greenish- yellow oil. The more pressings the olives go through, the clearer the product becomes. God tells the Israelites that they are to use only clear oil for lighting the lamp in the tent of meeting? Why clear oil? Why not the first and finest pressing of the olives? Lawrence Kushner states this as the reason.

It's because you just can't get the real clear and pure stuff until they pound the hell out of it (or you). We have a classic rabbinic teaching drawn from Psalm 51:19: "The offering to God is a contrite spirit..." The rabbis teach that the ultimate sacrifice is our smug expectation that we can do it alone, that we are in control of our own destiny. Suffering reminds us that we are not and, in so doing, purifies us. Anguish is simply a necessary precondition for the purification of the fuel required for the Tabernacle.

Suffering and anguish are all that can lead us to life and purity. The olives must endure a pounding of immense proportions in order to render their purest oil. We must endure much through trial and suffering in order to grow and be pure. Here's to allowing God to "pound the hell out of" us; pound out all of the impurities and all of the junk to render us pure and holy.

8:51 AM

All is well in Larva-land

Posted by Brad Polley |

Mandy and I went to the doctor yesterday and all seems to be well with our human larva. It apparently doesn't appreciate the microphone thingy the doctor uses to hear the heartbeat, because it moves everytime she hits the right spot. I'm assuming it is perfectly content in its sack-o-fluid and doesn't want to be disturbed while it's reading, pondering existential quandries, or wondering why it is growing a third arm or has two butts.

In about a month, we'll find out the identity of the aforementioned larva. We were reading somewhere that they now have ultrasounds in 2-D, 3-D, or 4-D. I understand 2-D and 3-D, but what in the world is 4-D? Do they show you, not only the baby, but a vast other universe inside my wife's womb? I can just hear the doctor now, "Ok, there's the baby...there's its twang, it's a boy...and here's the constellation 'Uterine 5'." It should be an interesting doctor visit to say the least. All I know is that if William Shatner is dwelling within my wife's uterus somewhere, I'm not going to be happy.