It means "writings." I write things.

I just saw on CNN that their New Year's show is being hosted by Anderson Cooper (okay, I can see that) and Kathy Griffin (okay, I can see th...wait what?).  Kathy Griffin?  Really?  Are they trying to one-up Ryan Seacrest for the "Most Obnoxious New Year's Host" award?  Were all of the other 3 million people more qualified to do this job already busy?

Jesus' return must be imminent.

8:46 AM


Posted by Brad Polley |

Incarnation.  It's a word that Christians throw around a lot.  I think it's best explained in the gospel of John where it says, "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."  It's a fancy way saying that God put on skin and in order to relate to us.  It's something we celebrate this time of year when we focus on God arriving on earth with poor shepherds and farm animals as his only pomp and circumstance.  All of that is nice, but for some reason we humans tend to need more here and now and concrete examples to understand a concept as mind-shattering as the Incarnation.  

The Church is called to be the Incarnation of Christ to the world.  That football team is a simple example of a difficult concept to grasp.  Merry Christmas to everyone reading this.  May you remember that God decided he couldn't get close enough to us being where he was, so he decided to walk around here for awhile.  

Thanks Dad for the heads-up on that article.

11:31 AM

God as a crutch

Posted by Brad Polley |

I've often heard people who don't believe in God say something to the effect of, "You Christians/Jews/Muslims just use God as a crutch.  If I'm honest, this has offended me at times in the past and I'm generally not an easily offended person.  It's offended me because it just assumes that I'm a weak minded person, who, instead of using my brain and my strength, I prefer to lean on a figment of my imagination.  

Recently, I've been less offended by this statement and have taken the approach of: So what?  What's wrong with having a crutch?  If someone is limping and in pain, they need a crutch to help them.  If someone is in pain and can't walk on their own, they need help.  The reality is that sometimes we need a crutch, so why not God?  

I can never convince you that God is real.  I'll never try to convince you of that.  All I know is my own experience.  My recent struggles are no secret to anyone who reads this blog.  In the last couple of weeks, I've seen how God is my crutch, whether I ask him to be or not.  He has sustained me, blessed me more than I deserve, and is bringing me back to standing.  

Could I live without God?  Yeah.  Could I live without him?  No.

9:11 AM

Not intended for consumption

Posted by Brad Polley |

I followed a tanker truck into town today that had this to say on the back:

"Inedible.  Technical Animal Fat.  Not intended for human consumption."

So this led to one big question in my mind: what makes animal fat "technical?"  What does that even mean?  

I can only assume that this tanker was headed to a McDonald's somewhere.   

9:22 AM


Posted by Brad Polley |

We bailed out another American industry.  How much this time?  Only a measly $14 billion.  So the message is this:

Is your business struggling?  Have you driven your business into the ground by making crappy products that no one wants?  Have you used shady business practices that have blown up in your face?  Don't fret, Uncle Sam will come to the rescue.  And don't worry about that little thing called accountability, we won't have any of that.  Continue what you do, and if you need more money, just give us a call.

Pop quiz.  How many people in the world have zero access to clean water?  Over 1 billion.  Approximately how much money would it take to eliminate this problem?  About $10 billion.  At least we're a Christian nation right?

12:44 PM

He restores my soul

Posted by Brad Polley |

I'm currently reading a book by Harold Kushner called, "The Lord is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-third Psalm."  He breaks down each statement from, what is most likely, the most well-recognized passage in the entire Bible.  I would venture to guess that almost everyone, at least in this country, has heard this Psalm.  If you've ever attended the funeral of a loved one, you've probably heard this Psalm that begins, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want..." and continues with "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..."  

As any of you who read this blog know, I'm a person who is almost constantly plagued with doubt about my life.  I posted a couple of weeks ago about the level of discontent in my life.  One of the biggest reasons for this discontent is that I'm wondering whether or not I'm still valuable in my current occupation as a youth pastor.  Today, I received an email from one of my college students telling me how much he appreciates me and the fact that I was responsible for changing his life (I would argue that God did the changing, but that's for another post).  

In the twenty-third Psalm, the psalmist says, "he (God) restores my soul."  I've been thinking about that line all day because it seems that in my times of greatest doubt concerning my ministry, someone always comes along with a kind word, or I stumble upon a certain passage of Scripture that lifts my spirit.  It's as if I'm walking through the desert, wondering when I'm going to die of thirst, only to stumble upon a small stream flowing with cold water.  It's not necessarily an over-abundance of water, but just enough to continue on the journey.  It's a restorative drink, one that gives the energy needed to continue on in the heat and wilderness.  In fact, as I look at the history of the Bible story, I see this kind of thing happen all the time to God's people.  He provided a spring to the Israelites wandering in the desert, manna and quail for them to eat, a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, etc.  

God won't necessarily speak to you directly (presumably with the voice of Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones), but he will bring people into your life to restore you when you need it the most.     

3:05 PM

This probably won't be popular

Posted by Brad Polley |

I think we, in churches, sometimes worship the Bible more than we do God.  There I said it.  Now here's what I mean.  

I've heard so many sermons (probably some of mine as well) in my life where the preacher has said something to the effect of: The Bible is the answer.  Of course, the question that the person may have is irrelevant, but the Bible is, apparently, the answer.  Over the last few years, I've tried to analyze that idea to figure out whether it is true or not.  The idea that the Bible is "God's answer book" bugs me greatly and here's why: we aren't called to follow the Bible, we're called to follow Christ.  There's a major difference between those two things.  The idea also bugs me because the Bible was never intended to be an answer book (more on this later).

I know people who know the Bible front to back, inside and out, and yet they, in no way, model the life Jesus laid out (this obviously isn't true of everyone who knows the Bible well).  They put the authority of Scripture up so high that they miss out on following Christ, which, it seems to me, is the point of being a Christian.  We need to remember that the earliest Christians didn't have the Bible as we know it.  The Bible as we know it didn't exist until almost 400 c.e., and even then you could only read it if your were a higher up in the Church.  It wasn't until Martin Luther (and the printing press) came along in the 1500s that people were allowed to read the Bible at all.  That means the church got by for 1500 years without really being able to study Scripture at all.  However, millions of people found a way during that time to worship God and follow Christ.  The only guide they had was their community of believers and the Church.    

So what's my point?  The point is this: the Bible is important, but it isn't as important as Jesus.  The Bible isn't an answer book, although it has some answers to life in it.  The Bible is a collection of stories of how God relates to people and how we relate to God.  It's a beautiful text because, upon reading it, we find ourselves as part of the story.  We find a bit of ourselves in Moses, David, Peter, Paul, Mary (did you know that Puff the Magic Dragon lives by the sea?), etc.  We have the benefit of the Bible today that 1500 years of worth of Christians really didn't have.  It's an important document, but it isn't as important as Jesus.  That may not be popular with some of you, but it's true.  

The Pharisees knew the Scriptures, but, according to Jesus, they didn't really know God or truly follow him or his intent with the Scriptures.  Jesus was constantly saying, You do what the Scripture says, but not what it intends.  They knew the word, but they didn't know the Word, and that makes all the difference in the world.  

3:40 PM

Why does it always boil down to this?

Posted by Brad Polley |

A few weeks ago, I encouraged my middle school students to email me or call me they had any questions about anything.  I did this because middle school students generally have a million questions but either a) don't feel comfortable asking them or b)think the questions are stupid so they refrain.  I always strive in my ministry to create a space where students can ask the tough questions that they all have without fear of being judged or condemned for a lack of faith or whatever.  

One of my students called me yesterday.  This is a girl who has very little experience with church or Jesus or whatever, but, because of a great family in our church, is being lovingly introduced to it.  She asks the best questions on Sunday nights and I genuinely love when she's there.  Anyway, here's the question she asked me.

If you don't pray, will you go to hell?

My response?  No.  When I told her, there was a couple of seconds of silence and then she said, "Oh...okay."  I told her I would email her a better and more extended response.  I stand by my answer and I would love anyone to argue this point with me biblically (you can't).

I got off the phone and I thought: why does it always boil down to heaven and hell?  Let me be very clear about this next point: BEING A CHRISTIAN ISN'T ABOUT GOING TO HEAVEN AND AVOIDING HELL.  I can't be any more clear than that (I mean, look at all the caps).  Avoiding hell, attaining some heavenly reward has never been, nor will it ever be, the point of following Jesus.  The point of following Jesus is to follow his way of life, that just so happens to lead to real life here and now.  It's a life of peace, joy, and love.  It's a way of life that Jesus describes as a "narrow way" that few find.  

This doesn't mean that stuff like prayer, reading your Bible, etc. isn't important.  Those things are done as a response to living this way of life, they aren't the way of life itself.  Jesus would seem to suggest that the calling card of this way of life is love and love alone.  So we pray because we love God, not to garner his love.  We pray because we want to, not because we have to to avoid a fiery end.  

This girl's question happened for a reason.  It happened because, somewhere along the line, she's been given the understanding by the Church that the reason to be a Christian is because, well, it's better than the alternative.  That kind of thinking will never lead to the kind of life Jesus lived.  It will lead to nothing but a life based on fear.  Fear will only get you so far and eventually you'll give up on the whole thing.  Jesus never guilted people into following and he never scared them into it either.  We probably shouldn't either.

11:46 AM

Dear Santa

Posted by Brad Polley |

Looking for a good Christmas gift this holiday season?  Are you wanting to find the perfect gift without being trampled to death at Wal-Mart?  Are you looking for that one-of-a-kind gift that will show your youth pastor just how special you think he is?  Look no further than this amazing infomercial.