It means "writings." I write things.

12:03 PM

Unanswered invitations

Posted by Brad Polley |

For the last few years I've been questioning everything that the Church does. Personally, I feel like I should be doing this as a minister. I think that one of the reasons the Church is in such a mess is that there haven't been enough people asking the big "why?" question. But I digress. Actually, I didn't digress because I haven't made a point about anything yet (editor's note: This section should have been removed before hitting the publish button. Sorry for the inconvenience.), but whatever.

So what I've been thinking about recently is, why do churches offer an "invitation" time (some churches call this an altar call). If you've never been to church before, let me explain. This is the time, usually after the teaching, where the speaker invites people to come forward and "accept Jesus." There is then 3 or so minutes of music in which people can respond. Here's the thing, I've grown up in church my whole life, and I can honestly only remember 3 times where someone has come forward spontaneously. In every other instance, it was scripted. The people had already met with the pastor and scheduled the time they would come forward. Does this seem ridiculous to anyone else? Out of thousands of church services I have attended, I've only seen 3 spontaneous responses. That's crazy.

So why do we do it? This is a question where I can honestly say I don't have an answer. The only thing I can figure is that the modern "altar call" as we know it, must have evolved out of tent revivals. At some point along the way, someone must have said, "Let's do that this Sunday" and the rest is history. I firmly believe that we offer invitation times simply because we always have. It's another instance of doing things just because that's the way it's always been done. It's time for the Church to stop and think about these kinds of things.

Unanswered invitations make the Church and the pastor look bad. When no one comes forward, which is definitely a majority of the time, what that says to anyone visiting who isn't a follower of Jesus is this, "Our message is so revolutionary and earth-shattering, that no one responded to it." That's not to say that people don't make changes in their lives, and it's not to say that people don't sit in their seats and make a decision to do something, but that's exactly my point. Why do you have to come forward in order to decide to follow Jesus? The answer: you don't. If there are any other pastors out there reading this, take a good look at the issue and ask some of the tougher questions of "why?". You may find that there isn't a good answer.

1:03 PM

Good article

Posted by Brad Polley |

Here's a good article from the ooze. A little grumpy at times, but then again, you're probably used to that from reading my crap.

8:37 AM

When did Christian become an adjective?

Posted by Brad Polley |

I was thinking about something the other day. The word "Christian" only appears in the Bible three times. In all of those three instances, the word Christian is a noun. It's a person, not a description of an activity. Think about how often we use "Christian" as an adjective. Christian music, Christian book store, Christian radio station, "that wasn't a very Christian thing to do," etc.

We use Christian as an adjective to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the "world." Maybe I'm overestimating the importance of this, but what if I'm not? What if we're doing ourselves a huge disservice by using "Christian" as an adjective as much as we do? What if we're not supposed to section ourselves off from society by re-creating everything in our society as "Christian." We even have "Christian" satellite service. Does anyone else see a problem with this?

9:00 AM

My new hero

Posted by Brad Polley |

So if there were more coaches like this, sports, as an entity, wouldn't be the ridiculous soul-sucking debacle that it has become. I love this guy. Basically, the coach is ticked off that a local newspaper went after one of his players who is struggling on the field and "kicked him while he's down."

Here's the video. Enjoy.

1:21 PM

Salvation - part 3

Posted by Brad Polley |

So if salvation is about nothing more than heaven and hell (which most Christians in this country would propose), then how do you get it? Who gets it? Is it us? Only us? Who is "us?" Are there certain hoops you have to jump through to get it? What are those hoops? In what way is the "hoop" system considered grace?

Most evangelical Christians, when asked how someone goes about getting to heaven, will say any combination of these things: be baptized, say the "sinner's prayer," repent, confess Jesus as Lord, ask Jesus into your heart. There will be some variables depending on which denomination the person subscribes to, but those are generally the responses you will get. So here's another question; if different denominations of the same religion can't agree on how to get to heaven, then who's right? Who's really in? We're pretty certain on how to get to heaven, but no one can agree on the criteria. And not to mention that the words "sinner's prayer" and "ask Jesus into your heart" never appear in the Bible.

Some would say to look to the Bible to see how attain salvation. Okey-dokey. The Bible is all over the map as far as how to attain salvation. Jesus seems to throw salvation out to people in the strangest of ways. We already looked at Zaccheus and the fact that all Zac had to do was tell Jesus he was going to do something. Jesus resonded with salvation. So how do you get it? Just say you're going to do something?

Find a concordance, look up "salvation," "save," and "saved." I want you to especially look at the instances of those words in the gospels. I want you to notice how Jesus gives "salvation" to people and under what circumstances. He's all over the map. In one instance, he says that unless we believe in him and are baptized, we will be condemned. In another instance, a guy is saved when Jesus sees the faith of his friends. So in order to be saved, we have to have the right friends.

The fact is that the salvation Jesus speaks of is holistic. It is designed to permeate our lives, our whole lives. It isn't just about dying. It's about living and living life to the full. Jesus saves me every day and I thank him for that. I think it's time for the Church to stop wasting time talking about who's in and who's out. I have an idea. Why don't we let God decide that? It's not our job to say who's in and who's out, because we, as Christians, can't even agree on the criteria. I believe that when we start talking about which people are going to heaven and which are going to hell, we start treading on very dangerous ground. I'm not willing to tread on that ground.

1:35 PM

The competition is over

Posted by Brad Polley |

I have spawned the cutest kid on the face of the earth. Here are some pictures taken of Ezra at the RCA Dome where the Colts play.
He looks pretty good in endzone huh? I wouldn't mind that being his future career choice. How soon is too soon to have him start lifting weights?

9:19 AM

So what does Jesus look like?

Posted by Brad Polley |

Like this. For anyone that thinks following Jesus is all about being lame and judgmental, I hope you see that when people really follow Jesus, it looks quite opposite to that.

8:47 AM

Salvation - part 2

Posted by Brad Polley |

So where was I? I'm actually not sure, so I'll just start in. One thing to know in this whole conversation is that our word "salvation" comes from the Latin word "salus" which means healing. Take a minute and think about that from a spiritual perspective. We live in an incredibly fractured world. The fact that we live in this broken place makes us broken. There's something deep down in us that isn't right, and if you take a few minutes (hours?) and sit down to think about it, you'll know what I mean. We all have a nagging sense in the pit of us that we're not right, that there's something more. When something is broken and fractured, it needs to be fixed.

So in walks salvation to the party to bring healing. Think of the word salvation and see if there's another english word that fits in with it. How about salve? A salve is an agent of healing. It's something that you put on a wound to heal it. I hope you see that salvation has to have an earthly component to it. It can't just be about a future other-worldly problem-solver. I mean, if that's the best God can do, then we have to stop talking about how powerful he is. If all God can do is maintain the status-quo of crap we live with, then he doesn't sound all that powerful to me. Personally, I need salve, and I need it now. I'm a mess most of the time. I need some healing, I need fixing, and I'm not willing to sit around and wait to die for that to happen.

It's not that I'm against a future hope. Paul himself says, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all others." I'm just advocating that the Church start putting more emphasis on this life than the afterlife. I believe that God isn't done with this earth yet. I believe that he's calling his people toward a better way of living and to bring about change on this earth. If my focus is on heaven, then I'm not all that concerned with changing anything about this place. I'm not all that concerned with seeing anyone transformed, I'm just concerned with trying to procure a heavenly home for them, while ignoring the fact that they may be living in hell right now.

I honestly believe that the impotence of the American Church and a great many of its members is due, largely, with the fact that we're taught that heaven and only heaven is where it's at. It's much easier to ignore the problems of this world if you have this mindset, because as long as you're "saved" who cares? It really leads to a selfish mindset. Following Jesus becomes about me and my salvation, and trying to make sure I do enough to stay on the "heaven" side of the ledger.

Part three will be next week.

10:27 AM

My dream come true

Posted by Brad Polley |

This is what I would look like if I was on the Simpsons.
It needs a bit more paunch around the midsection, but all in all, not too bad.

10:02 AM

This should be illegal

Posted by Brad Polley |

I'm going to be a father again. I personally blame my wife's left ovary, since that's where the fated egg originated. We had our first ultrasound this morning and everything's looking fine. Here's the picture:It looks like a Teddy Graham. Well, a Teddy Graham with a gigantic cranium. Do you want to know the best words on the planet? "There's only one." God help us all.

2:32 PM

Salvation - part 1

Posted by Brad Polley |

Did you whince when you read the title for this post? Me too. This may sound heretical and sacriligious, but I can't stand that word. Maybe that's not 100% true. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I can't stand what the Church has done to that word. We've neutered it, narrowed it down to just a select few that we can't agree on, and, in turn, lost nearly all of the original meaning of the word itself.

When you think of the the word salvation, what comes to mind? For some of us, the thoughts that come to us might be positive. Mine would be positive, but also incredibly muddy and odd. But for a great many people, the word salvation conjours up nothing but horrible memories. I have a kid in my youth group who's dad will have nothing to do with the Church because, as a child, he was at a church camp where they blocked him onto a boat dock and wouldn't let him off until he "accepted Jesus and was saved." That makes me want to puke, but many people have similar thoughts about salvation. So what else comes to mind? Heaven? Hell? A helmet-haired televangelist admonishing you to secure your place in heaven by sending that check? These are some of the thoughts that come to my mind as well.

I'm pretty tired of hearing about salvation in the Church. I'm tired of salvation being reduced to a future thing, while ignoring this life. I'm tired of Christians talking about who they "saved" this week, as if people are part of some giant checklist.

It sounds scandalous to a great many Christians, but the salvation that Jesus spoke of had very little to do with the afterlife. It had everything to do with this life. There's a great story in the book of Luke where Jesus talks to a man named Zacchaeus (evidentally a wee little man). Zacchaeus was a tax collector, which meant that he was basically a rip-off artist who preyed on the poor and oppressed in order to line his own pockets (did tunics have pockets?). Jesus comes into town and calls to Zac (I'm tired of typing his whole name) and invites himself over to dinner at Zac's house. The religious people start grumbling about the fact that Jesus is associating with a "sinner," but Jesus continues on to Zac's house anyway. Zac's first words to Jesus are this:

"Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."

Interesting words from Zac, because he's essentially agreeing to bankrupt himself. Keep in mind that the text never says whether or not Zac followed through on his promise. All it says is that he makes this promise to Jesus. Jesus' response is, "Today, salvation has come to this house..." An interesting note here is Jesus' play on words. The Hebrew word for salvation is "Yeshua," which, incidentally, is Jesus' real name in Hebrew.

So this passage leads to a lot of questions. What does Jesus mean by salvation? If he means what most American Christians believe he means, then we have to conclude that all it takes to get to heaven is to say you're going to do something. Forget all of our doctrine on baptism being the means to salvation (it doesn't say anything about Zac being baptized, and interestingly enough, the Bible never mentions any of Jesus' disciples being baptized either). Forget all of our doctrine on "accepting Jesus into your heart" or "professing Jesus as oyur Lord and Savior. All we get from the text is that Zac said he would give half of everything he had to the poor, and Jesus in return "saves" Zac. If you're going to stick to the fundamentalist view that salvation is all about heaven, then you're quickly painting yourself into a corner that you can't get out of. We'll talk more about that in the next post.

I contend that Jesus is speaking of a much deeper salvation; a salvation that takes place in the here and now. I believe that Zac was saved from a life of materialism. I believe that he was saved from a life of ripping people off. I believe he was saved from a life of selfishness and greed. That's real, down-to-earth, present-day salvation, not some "pie in the sky when you die" garbage. Jesus realized that Zac needed to be saved from his ways. He needed to be saved from a horrible life of not caring about anyone but himself.

In the next post, we'll explore the root of the word salvation and, according to the Bible, how you attain it.

2:08 PM

Mystery and understanding

Posted by Brad Polley |

I've been thinking about mystery. No, not the cheesy Jamiroquai throwback, soul-patch wearing, creep on VH1's "The Pick-up Artist," I mean actual mystery. I was thinking about mystery as it pertains to God. Mystery is something that we westerners hate. We want everything in a nice and neat package that we can neatly unpack at our convenience. The problem is that God doesn't operate like that. He's hidden and enigmatic at times. The definition of mystery is: a hidden or secret thing, not obvious to the understanding. This leads me to some questions. Is it possible that this is one of the bigger reasons why people don't follow God? Is it because they feel like they have to know everything about him before they can give their life to him? Why does the Church talk about the mystery of God, and then try and give easy, lame answers to everything that happens in life? If a mystery is something that is hidden or secret, doesn't this mean that there are just some things we aren't ever going to know about God?

I've struggled with God's mystery at times in my life. There are times, even now, when I'm bothered by a particular aspect of God. There are times when I wish God would just come down, give me a three-hour lecture (with a flashy powerpoint presentation) about who he is and who he is not, so that my eyes would be opened. Here's the thing though. When I buy a new video game, I don't sit down with the instructions and memorize them before I play the game. I just start playing, and I figure it out as I go.

When I bought a new digital camera, I didn't make sure that I had everything figured out before I turned it on, I just turned it on and started taking pictures.

Do you like art? Do you have to understand an artist and his motivations, before you can appreciate and love his art? Isn't it possible to just appreciate the art without understanding the artist?

What about music? Do you have to understand all of the lyrics, all of their meanings before you can listen to and enjoy their music? I listen to and enjoy Sigur Ros. All of their lyrics are in Icelandic. I don't have the first clue what they're saying, or even the subject matter of what they are singing; all I know is their music moves me. All I know is that it's beautiful and I can just close my eyes and let the sound wash over me.

It's like that with God. I don't understand everything about him. In fact, there are times when I'm not sure I know anything about him. All I can say is that he moves me. There are times when all I can do is sit back and let him wash over me. Sometimes that's all the understanding I have. It may be the only understanding I'm going to get. Maybe that's ok.

9:10 AM

Dude, what's eating you?

Posted by Brad Polley |

So I just engaged in my favorite wallet-raping excursion of putting gas in my car, and I realized something, we are an incredibly impatient people. Let me just say, straight away that I struggle from time to time with patience, usually behind the wheel, but it's something I've worked on and continue to work on.

I was about three people deep in line after filling up and the guy at the counter was buying cigarettes and a lighter and about everything else he could find. There was this older guy in front of me and I could tell he was getting antsy. Not slighty antsy, more like totally ticked off kind of antsy. He was doing that sigh thing, where he was hoping the guy in front of him would hear him and realize that he was ruining his whole day by buying a pack of cigs. So the guy at the front of the line was done paying and he was putting his change back in his wallet and the cashier said "Next." The guy in front of me steps forward to the counter and growls, "Pump 5" and just sort of tosses his $20 bill on the counter and walks out.

I paid my money and left and the guy was still angrily mumbling to himself. All I could do was shake my head. I probably stood in line for a total of two minutes. This guy wasn't there much longer. I had a bunch of thoughts going through my head as I watched this guy. Why are you in so big of a hurry? Does this really matter? Is it really something to get angry about? Then I realized something. He isn't impatient/angry/upset at the guy in front of him at all. His misguided emotions had nothing to do with the guy in front of him. It had everything to do with a deeper unrest inside of him. That kind of ridiculous anger and impatience comes from somewhere else, somewhere deeper, somewhere unseen. It's the opposite of what God intends. He wants his people to have a deep sense of shalom, a wholeness and peace that endures even through life's difficulties. I mean, what would this guy's reaction be to something that mattered? What would his reaction be to something really difficult. Judging by his reaction to a meaningless loss of two minutes, I'm guessing his head would pop off. No shalom, no peace, no wholeness.

If you're someone who struggles with anger and impatience (as I have and still do fromt time to time), I hope you realize that your anger runs deeper than your circumstances. Take a deep breath and ask yourself the question, is this really a big deal?