Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Fall and Rise of the Internet Revolution

The online invasion continues.....

More of us are getting online and communicating through online means, leading to a greater leveling of the playing field than ever before. The media revolution has been on the rise recently, but has never before been so readily democratized than through the Internet.

Yes, the Net is STILL the wonderful place that we all know and love -- a place where you can get all of the free porn you'd ever want, all of the unattached contacts with members of the opposite sex you can imagine, and all of the ridiculous information you'd ever even dream that was available.

However, the Interner has given people the wonderful opportunity to share & share alike between people who really and truly want to learn, grow, develop, challenge, & be challenged. The Liquid Cell and BookWorm University are looking to take their place within the new Roman Pantheon of ideas that is changing the way that people surf the Internet. I hope that you like what you see, so feel free to read, think, and contribute.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Sowing Wild Grapes (or would those be sour grapes?)

"Let me sing for my beloved, my love-song concerning his vineyard: 'My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.' And now, inhabitants of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected to yield grapes, why did it yiled wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waster; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justics, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry."

Isaiah 5:1-7 (NRSV)

Song of the (Unfruitful) Vineyard
"Why did it yield wild grapes? This poem is a parable that features God as the vineyard keeper and Israel as the vineyard. Through the course of the parable, the vineyard keeper goes to great pains to take good care of the vineyard; when the vineyard produces "wild grapes," the vineyard keeper abandons the vineyard. The abandonment refers to the exile and complese abandonment of the city of Jerusalem by God. This imagery of vine keeper and vineyard is picked up and reused in the New Testament in John 15 to describe the relationship between God and the community gathered around Jesus. In both places, the same two points are accented: that the vine is completely dependent upon the vine tree and that the vine must bear fruit."

(Commentary comes courtesy of: The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible)

I read this and such intense feelings wash over me: despair, doubt, chagrin, disillusionment, angst, hurt, and, eventually, hope. I read through this poetic chastisement of Israel and think to myself, "Where have I been producing wild grapes in my life? What have I been doing wrong towards God (AKA: sin) even after He's put so much into my life that should be bearing good fruit?"

Now, don't misunderstand me. I'm not here whining and complaining about my moral failures -- I have enough of them and I badger myself constantly in my Pauline conflict (Romans 7:14 - 8:1). Thus, I don't need any help first tearing myself down and then bringing myself to my knees repenting and seeking grace once again. However, I do wonder how these wild grapes come about in my life.

Is it my inherent, Adamic, original sin nature that produces these grapes?

Is it that I can't find a way to follow the example that Jesus set before me in his 33 years & 4 Gospels of living?

Or maybe, it's that I don't actually allow the vineyard keeper to sow in my life?

Maybe it's the fact that I tend to be like the stony ground -- I have scant soil where roots can go down so that I might actually grow and be able to produce good fruit (Luke 8:4-15). Maybe I always find ways to allow my water supply to get poisoned or tainted, thus making my fruit wild & unedible. Maybe I simply kick the vineyard keeper out of my life at the precise time He's trying to prune me, shape me, mold me, help me. My fruit is wild because it's untamed in all of the wrong ways.

However, this is where I garner a glimpse of hope. I should not be lamenting at my inadequacies (though that could/would/should be a start), but I should be rejoicing in the stunning conclusion that I have failed and I cannot redeem myself, even though I so greatly attempt to do so. I am filled with hope and thankfulness that I have a God, a Redeemer, and a Comforter who are always there to work in me, forgive me, discipline me, and direct me upon a better way -- a way that's not of my design at all. My hope lies in a God who shows me undeserved grace & love and lets me know, day after day, that He knows what's going on so that I don't have to know.

Yes, I might have produced bad fruit at some point, but, if I turn back to my vineyard keeper, He will help me with the pruning and the fertilizing so that my fruit will be good. This will not through my attempts at purifying my soil, but because He's already done the work. Unlike an Israel that chose to face away from God, thus allowing their hedges to be torn down and protection to be taken away, I will remember that I cannot protect or cleanse myself. My inadequacies give me hope because I am inadequate, yet God is not.

"Lord God, help me produce fruit that is worthy of You, not because I'm worthy, but because I want to honor You and Your work in my life. You have invested everything in me, specifically the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. I want to bear fruit that is proof of your glorious handiwork, so that people will not see my good works, but Your good work in me. And it's in Jesus Christ's name that I pray this prayer of contrition. Amen."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Scene 3, Parts 1 & 2

Hey there folks. It seems that my friend Simon has finally gotten around to writing Scene 3 of his screenplay. It's looking good so far. Go check it out and let him know what you think of his work. And as usual, I know that he does appreciate constructive criticism.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The End of All Kinds of Nigh

OK. Now, I don't rather like posting other people's material. I say that, NOT because I think that only I have something important to say, but because I want to work on my writing and not always rely on the previously blogged or published material of others. Trust me -- I read plenty; hence, many of my posts come about through the book(s) that I've been reading as well as from the (often turbluent) rumblings in my brain/soul/spirit. But there are times when I just can't help but reference the work of others, mostly because I think they have something to say and, since they've already blogged or published it, I don't want to rehash their material. Besides, I studied Political Science, History, and Economics in college -- I know how easy it is to plagarize and how readily available that temptation can be when constructing papers and theses days & hours before the due date.

((And besides that -- look at how many articles in your local newspapers are BORROWED from the AP wire or some other larger newspaper's own work. If your local paper is anything like my town's, you think that the only local reporting that goes on deals with wrecks, sports, and cheesy special interest-type pieces. Blah....))

THUS, my thoughts today come courtesy of Jason Boyett and his masterful piece of research and satire entitled Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse: The Official Field Manual for the End of the World. Along with the introduction to the book which I will be (most likely illegally) typing here for your reading enjoyment, I'm also giving you the link to the online posting of Boyett's First Chapter. Please read both and enjoy. I simply think that this fine gentleman has grasped the spirit in which we all should be regarding the endtimes -- with humor, satire, and a healthy dose of "the Church has spent the last 2000 years trying to figure out the end of the world and we haven't gotten it right YET!!" This guy should be writing pieces for the Wittenberg Door, a great satire magazine that you should all check out. Run, don't walk, to my right sidebar and the link that I've posted to THEIR material. Anyways.... Read on....


Beginning of the End

The End is Near.
Not to get all Chicken Little on you, but global catastrophe is pretty much inevitable. Could be an act of God. Could be a collision with an asteroid. Nuclear holocaust is a familiar candidate, as is global warming. And even if those options fall through, we're still looking at the spectacular flameout of our sun when it runs out of fuel in five billion years - give or take - at which point it will start swelling up like a flaming cosmic beach ball until it swallows the earth in a spectacular blaze of cataclysmic glory.
So you'd better start getting ready, kids, because the end of the world as we know it could happen this week. It could happen today. It could happen before you even finish this senten....
Still here? Whew. Good thing you're reading this book.
People are more fascinated with apocalyptic prophecy than ever before. This may be due to the dire events happening around the world on a daily basis, especially in the Middle East. But, more likely, this fascination owes itself to the kajillions who have been waiting with sweaty, trembling hands for each new installment of Left Behind. Which, for those of you living in caves, is the best selling series of apocalyptic novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. They detail the Rapture (the insta-snatching of faithful Christians into Heaven), the ascension of the Antichrist, and the glorious Second Coming of Jesus. Good stuff. End-times publishing hasn't been this hot since Hal Lindsey sold 35 million copies of The Late, Great Planet Earth back in the 1970's.
Want numbers? A Barna Research Group survey in 2001 found that 40 percent of Americans believe that the world will end someday thanks to some sort of "supernatural intervention." An Associate Press survey released in 1997 revealed that a quarter of American adults expect this "intervention" to involve the return of Christ - and figure they'll still be around when he shows up. A 2001 Newsweek poll found that 52 percent expected Jesus to come back at some point during the next millennium (between the years 2001 and 3000). And four out of five of those familiar with the Left Behind books said it was possible that the fictional events they describe could happen in real life.
Which is probably why, despite a historical success rate over the past two thousand years of, um, exactly zero, theologians and preachers and delusional cultists still insist on making end-of-the-world predictions. And why biblical prophecy seminars are all the rage amongst conservative Christian churches in the South. And why we continue to see the coming Apocalypse in everything from Y2K to WMD to implantable microchip identification devices (Mark of the Beast alert!). And why everyone - besides Tim LaHaye, of course - is still struggling to understand what the book of Revelation is talking about with all of its horsemen and trumpets and seals and multi-eyed, dragon-headed creatures.
Thank heaven you've got your own sweaty, trembling hands wrapped around The Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse. Consider it your personal tour director for the swan song of Old Blue. A jargon decoder. A history professor. An Antichrist identifier. At the least, it may provide some entertaining reading during that blasted Tribulation.
Which is probably right around the corner. Don't get too comfortable.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Communicative Abilities & Propensities

If you're anything like me (if that's even possible), you think a lot. And you do that thinking fairly often. I've been told that thinking can get you into trouble because you'll start questioning things. You'll start questioning the theology that's been driven into you by your cultural surroundings and, according to some, that kind of thinking is very bad. And I used to think that too; thus, when I started engaging in such thinking, I became consumed with a fairly large amount of guilt. Needless to say, I wasn't too healthy spiritually. But I've worked through much of that guilt (thanks in part to "Finding Faith" by Brian McLaren) and I'm glad to say that I enjoy a healthy dose of questioning, doubting, pondering, and such like intellectual pursuits.

I say all of that to say this: Go read the blog of my friend Rick, especially his most recent post. I find his lines of thinking to be refreshing and rather engaging. More than anything else, I'm amazed at his ability to write so frequently, so freely, and with so much depth on a regular basis. I often spend days just chasing around on my favorite blogs and commenting there to even write a post of my own every 2 or 3 days. Rick, on the other hand, typically writes once a day, along with reading through the material of others. His blogrole is much longer than mine, yet I'm sure he gets to most everyone's on a regular basis. I hope you like what you find there. I do....

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Men & Women

Yes. Men & Women....

The preeminent topic.
The primary source of debate.
The focal point of so much misunderstanding.

And I, being a single male, am going to attempt to talk about this. "Why is this?" you might ask. "Where do you think you're going to get the information and experience to actually discourse upon this topic? You're a single guy!"

Exactly. I'm a single guy, so I feel more than entitled to discuss such a heavy & weighty topic, because, as Derek Webb states so well, single guys probably talk/think about women more than any other possible group. They might not be talking about getting married to women, per se, but they talk about women. And more often than not, the following topics (amongst others) come up: why they can't understand them, why they wish they could understand them, how they often feel unprepared for marriage, how they wish they could figure out what a woman would want from them/in their lives, what they can do to attract a woman, how they've failed to attract a woman, how they've failed in past relationships, and so much else. Suffice to say, I feel able to talk about men and women because I'm a guy and I've talked with other guys fairly often about women.

"What brings all this about?" you might again ask. "What is the cause behind this conversation you seem to be having with yourself and others?" Well, you see, I've been reading this excellent book entitled "Men and Women in the Church". The author is a woman named Sarah Sumner and she holds the distinction of being the first woman to graduate with a doctorate in systematic theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The book takes a fresh, honest look into the debate between Complementarians and Egalitarians -- the two schools of thought in terms of women's involvement in the Church. Complementarians say that women should "complement" and not serve in any leadership roles in the church, specifically those where a woman would be in leadership over a man. Egalitarians say that women and men are equal and should be such in terms of church leadership. Granted, there are nuances within each group and both are representative of major sections of conservative evangelicism. However, as I'm about halfway through the book, I'm still in the middle of absorbing her material, but I am rather excited and intrigued by the book so far.

But on top of this, her book has caused within me some serious reflection concerning my maleness, my manhood in a fairly good way. In my attempts to be a non-stereotypical male and to not be misogynistic, I have stunted and retarded my maleness. I have lost sight of what it means to be a man, though I'm getting a better picture of it through her book. Being a man doesn't mean that I'm to dominate women; however, my reaction to those kinds of guys should NOT be that I subserviate myself, my emotions, my feelings in order to not be a jerk of a guy. I have to create a balance in my manhood and I'm still trying to figure that out. Dr. Sumner's book is giving me much food for thought, though I'm persuing conversations with friends of mine on this topic in order to better faciliatate a quality understanding and application to these revelations of mine.

(Side Note: Just don't ask me to read "Wild At Heart" by John Eldridge. From what I've read of that book, as well as reviews on it, it seems that he has an overly romanticized view of what manhood looks like. I don't deny some of his statements and conclusions, but not every guy is so "wild at heart" as he says they are.)

Any thoughts? I hope that we can get some relational conversation going on this....

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

How does one celebrate independence?

Yes, I wanted to get home and write this last night, but I didn't. I was too tired to do so after a long day of being with friends and family. So, forgive the lateness of this post.

But how does one celebrate independence? What would a July 4th look like if we identified and discussed what being independent is really about? What conclusions would we come up with? What would such a day look like? Would it look like the celebrations we currently practice?

Let's take a look at our current practices and different parts of them:
1) Fireworks and lots of them
2) Food and lots of it
3) (Often) Drinking and lots of it
4) Water (as in boats, lakes, and such) and lots of it
5) People and lots of them
6) Family and lots of them

Besides the cursory mention of the Declaration of Independence (and reference to whatever current military conflict our nation is embroiled in overseas), do many people actually talk about what July 4th is all about? (If you do so, that's great, but are you in the majority?) How many of us even know, outside of even celebrating July 4th, what the day is about? (And no, this won't be a history lesson today)

I say all that to say this -- I probably had the best July 4th yesterday that I've had in awhile. Why is that, you might say? It's most likely because I spent the day with people who are important to me, people who matter in my life. My close friend Carrie would tell you that July 4th is her MOST favorite holiday, not because of what the day commemorates, but because it's a day to unabashedly spend with your best of friends and family, more so than Thanksgiving, more so than Christmas. And after spending a absolutely great day with my friends and family, I would be inclined to agree with her, though none of us ever talked about the Declaration of Independence, the Second Continental Congress, King George III, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or anything else of that nature. We just spent the day together at an Astros' game, at a late lunch, at the house resting, at a fireworks display, and at a restaurant for dessert afterwards.

Thus, we didn't celebrate independence; we celebrated friendship and family. Is that so wrong? Again, how does one celebrate a national day of independence? What does that look like? I know that, for me, my visions on that topic have changed. And they've changed for the better.