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A sure sign the apocolypse is near, if not upon us

When your mom gets herself a Facebook account. (Welcome, Mother!)

Now, if she were to get on MySpace, I would expect the antichrist to unveil himself any day. And if DAD started using Facebook or MySpace… (or even e-mail for that matter) well… my ears will be perked for trumpets.

And for all you wondering what the above reveals about my eschatology (and that would probably none of you)… it doesn’t reveal much. There will be signs of the times and at some point after that an unveiling of the antichrist and then at some point after that a return of Christ. And lots of stuff between and after those events.

Real complex, eh?

My understanding of these events and personal view on things will firm up quite a bit over the next months and years, as I continue a study of the end times that I’m in the very early stages of.

It’s costly to serve God…

But it’s not nearly as costly as serving the slavemaster of your flesh and the cravings of your own sinfulness. – Allan Hood, during OneThing ’06

“It’s a bad night to be an atheist”

That was the greatest line of the night during ESPN’s coverage of the home run derby. It came while the announcers, and myself, were still rubbing our eyes from what we had just witnessed: Josh Hamilton setting a new home run derby record by crushing 28 home runs, 13 consecutively, in the first round of the competition. And most of them were 450’+ moon shots. It was an amazing performance.

But what does that have to do with atheists? Well, just three years ago Josh Hamilton had made his bed in hell and was the definition of wasted talent. He was the No. 1 pick in the 1999 draft, but quickly spiraled into drug addiction, including cocaine and heroin. He was out of baseball for three entire years, whittling away to skin and bones while he battled his addiction, checking in and out of rehab eight times.

But the Lord brought him back.

ESPN tells much of the story in their article from 2007: “I’m proof that hope is never lost.” I recommend reading it; it’s pretty amazing.

The whole night the broadcasting crew had been making a big deal about Hamilton’s story and how dramatic it was. They of course didn’t make mention of The Savior’s role in his recovery, but Hamilton would bring it up often in his interviews. He’d thank God, which isn’t anything terribly unique among athletes. But he’d then go on to speak of “It’s amazing how quick He’s turned me around” and I started realizing this guy’s for real. And during his last interview, he made a specific effort to thank his “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

So, the broadcast crew could skirt around the topic only so much. And eventually they caved and mentioned that “finding religion” was part of his recovery story. And that’s when the “bad night to be an atheist” comment came out. A quick Google of the phase reveals that many found it unprofessional and offensive. I suppose from a broadcasting standpoint, it was a bit over-the-line. Oh well. Kinda pales in comparison to things Howard Stern throws out there.

It’s good to finally know more about this Josh Hamilton guy. I occasionally check the baseball stats on ESPN and always see Hamilton’s name near the top in home runs and RBIs. I had never heard of him before this season. Now I know why; and now now I know he’s the guy with the amazing testimony.

Adding to the drama of the story is the fact that when Hamilton was pretty much at his worst, Hamilton’s wife prophesied to him that he’s be back in baseball. They were separated at the time and Josh was heavily battling his addiction. But she felt the Lord assuring her that He’d turn Josh around. And so she boldly told Josh that it was going to happen.

She said, “Josh, I’ve been praying about it, and God’s going to let you back into baseball.”

Josh would say, “Yeah, whatever.”

She said, “No, it’s true! I’ve been praying about it, and He laid it on my heart that you were going back to baseball. But it won’t be about baseball. It’s going to be about what He’s brought you from and what He’s brought you through.”

Even though Josh laughed at the idea, it encouraged him to continue reading his Bible. Katie continued looking to God.

That’s from CBN‘s Web site, which also tells the story (but not as good as ESPN does).

And adding even more drama to the story is that two years ago Hamilton had a “vivid dream… he was being interviewed at Yankee Stadium after participating in the Home Run Derby.” And tonight he found himself in that very dream. Just watching him take it all in while launching home run after home run after home run after home run… it was powerful. God’s redemption is powerful.

The whole story kinda sounds like Joel 2:

And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days…
And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the LORD
Shall be saved.

The long overdue—maybe elaborate, maybe not—update

So, I’m nearing almost an entire month of blog negligence. But it’s been a busy month, so I’m making no apologies.

Two days after my last update, my employer switched its name from Foote Health System to Allegiance Health. The new name called for a new logo, new Web site, new marketing collateral, new just-about-everything. The Web site portion of the new stuff was basically what I was hired to do.

I didn’t work on it solid for the year I’ve been there, because there are other things I’m responsible for, but for the past few months I was pretty consumed with it. Web site launches are always big projects and this one was no exception. Thankfully, it was drama-free for the most part, unlike an SAU site launch I blogged about in the past.

With the site launch out of the way on June 20, I could enjoy the company of my parents and beautiful girlfriend for my birthday that very weekend. I had a great time biking, watching a movie, grilling, talking, eating out and just hanging out with my parents.

Heather joined us Saturday night and stayed in Jackson through Monday night so she could take me out to eat for my 29th. We hit up the Bella Notté, went for a walk and then retired to the apartment before she returned to Valpo.

Even though she’d already surprised me with awesome grilling gear and a very large roll of paper (and yes, it was something I wanted. You’ll have to see my bedroom to understand), she also bought me Mere Christianity, a sweet wrist-mount GPS device and A GIANT SWORD–Aragon’s sword from Lord of the Rings, to be exact! It’s awesome and a great addition to my prayer times.

(Yes, this post is now officially of the elaborate sorts.)

Just two days later (we’re on Wednesday, June 25, now), Heather was back in town because we went to Cedar Point on Thursday for her FIRST EVER experience at America’s Roller Coast. We of course had an awesome time, even if it did sprinkle once in a while, was amazingly warm and muggy, had someone throw up close to us while in the Millennium Force line, and got mixed up on a few roads on the way back. But when you’re with someone you enjoy as much as I do Heather, all of those things become fun stories, not annoyances.

Heather was around Friday night, when we enjoyed a great message at Real Life and a post-church firefly festival in Pastor Scott’s front yard, and Saturday morning, when we enjoyed breakfast with him and Kim. Saturday afternoon Heather was on her way back to Valpo and I had a wedding photo job. Sunday, I did nothing. Whew.

The next week, I worked another three days before heading to Valparaiso for a much needed, super-long 4th of July weekend. Heather and I ventured up to a KOA near South Haven and met Scott and Julie, Iggy and Sherri, Otis and Hayley, and Clark and Erin for a weekend of camping. The weather was just perfect all weekend and we had a really good time.

If you’ve never been to St. Joseph’s Silver Beach, I highly recommend it. That’s where we spent July 4. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going there on the 4th because it was a madhouse, but still, it’s a great beach. Beautiful sand, lots of volleyball courts and other great amenities. The town of St. Joe is nice, too, with lots of places to eat, shop and enjoy yourself. Plus, it’s “The Most Romantic City in Michigan,” so why not visit it?!? :)

We were back in Valparaiso Saturday night so we could enjoy Sunday at Bethel (Heather’s church) and another day on the beach with her friends Sarah and Josh. And Sunday night was the much anticipated dinner at House of Kobe–an excellent Japanese steakhouse. If you ever visit, just be sure to properly articulate you want the “Samurai” (New York Strip) lest you be given salmon (which is also very tasty, by the way).

After sleeping in a good long while on Monday, we spent the afternoon with Heather’s parents and grandmother. Leaving Heather in Valparaiso, knowing that our run of seeing each other 12 out of 16 days was over, was pretty tough, that’s for sure. It was awfully nice being able to spend so much time together after doing short two or three day stints every couple weekends the past five months.

So there you have it: my big update. Life’s kinda back to normal now: work has slowed down, travels have slowed down… Things are good; things are moving along. God has me in an interesting place, but that’s for another time. Now, I’m going to get in a little more reading before bed.

Things you love your boss to tell your vice president

“You need to give Joel a raise.”

What it means to be a man

I’ll admit it: a month or so ago, I went through a few-day crisis, succumbing to lots of enemy accusation. The lies I was giving ear to were that I wasn’t really much of “a man” because I had never done a, b and c and would never be able to do x, y and z.

If you’ve ever read John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, you may remember that he feels the looming questing haunting every man is “Do I have what it takes?” Or, in other words “Am I really a man? Will I be able to come through when it counts?” Questions like those; questions in which every man longs to answer “Yes!” to. And he wants to feel like others would say the same about him.

When I was debriefing my mini identity crisis with my pastor, he challenged me to take the opportunity, now that I had regained clear thinking and was no longer my own worst enemy, to define what being a man really looks like according to God’s Word. Because when the lies and accusations would come again, and the certainly would, I needed to be able to compare myself to God’s standards, not the world’s. That’s the trap I had fallen into.

Anyway, lately I’ve become increasingly aware of our country’s dire need of real men. No, not Real Men of Genius (though, I really do appreciate the real genius behind Budweiser’s ad campaign), but real men of God who will truly take up their cross and follow Him, never looking back.

I have yet to fully complete my pastor’s challenge and firmly establish what the Bible says a man is, but I was grateful for AW Tozer’s thoughts on the topic, which I can add to my resource bank of Godly wisdom and council on the topic. This came through in my daily devotional just yesterday.

But the thinking, worshiping man is still short of perfection until he becomes also the working man. In a world like ours there is and always will be plenty of important work for the thoughtful, reverent man to do. Morally the world is like a bombed city. The streets are blocked, the buildings lie in ruins and the wounded and homeless wait for the healing services of men and women who can help them in their distress. No man can be said to be truly educated who cannot relate his intellectual gifts to creative work. And no work, however sacrificial, will be permanent unless it is geared to eternity. Only what is done in a spirit of worship will last forever. When the man becomes a thinking man a great deal has been accomplished. When the thinking man goes on to become a worshiping man a longer step has been taken toward full and perfect manhood. When the thinking, worshiping man has found his hands and has put his whole personality to work for the high honor of God and the blessing of mankind, some modest approach at least has been made toward Christlikeness and the restoration of the heavenly image ruined in the Fall.

While I certainly haven’t arrived, I can see how I’m making progress. I’ve had the thinking thing down for as long as I can remember, though I’ve obviously had to grow in wisdom and knowledge over the years… and must continue to do so. And the worshiping part I’ve entered into these last few years, though I know I’ve just scratched the surface on what it means to be a worshiper. Now the working part… I think that’s one of my next growth points. Sure, I’ve worked, and often as unto the Lord. But have I “found [my] hands and put [my] whole personality to work for the high honor of God and the blessing of mankind”? I surely can’t say that.

That whole quote is rich, but the phrase that really sticks out to me is “has found his hands.” That’s the looming question… What were my hands made for? To open a camera’s shutter for the right length of time, set at the right aperture? To press the right keys on a keyboard, in the right order, to construct the right paragraphs? To repeatedly click a mouse on the right part of the screen? To swing a hammer, saw a board, measure a span and lift a truss? To heal the sick, worship my King, hug a friend, hold a baby, pet a cat?

Grant me wisdom, O Lord, as the working man is birthed from within the worshiping man.

It must be prophetic

Had an interesting thing happen to me this morning: When I finished my shower, I could not turn off the hot water; the nob had stopped working. I fiddled with it for a while, wondering if I was simply turning it the wrong way or not hard enough or what. But I couldn’t get it stop no matter how hard I reamed on the nob. And I can ream pretty hard, I might add. Summer after summer of swinging hammers and carrying OSB developed in me a pretty decent grip, even if years of keyboard and mouse use have tamed it.

So, in summary, the cold water nob worked fine *, but not the hot. The hot, gushing water could not be stopped.

I called the office and had them send emergency maintenance over. Not quite an “emergency” per se, but something that needed to be fixed sooner rather than later. At first I thought I would have to bail water out of the tub with a bucket until it was fixed. Then I remembered that tubs come equipped with overflow preventers that let water out when it gets near the top. And then I realized that I had access to the water line valves through a wall panel and could shut the water off that way. So I did.

Anyway, it got fixed soon enough by Mr. Emergency Maintenance Guy. As it turned out, some washer had broke and some screw had stripped or something like that. But even before it was fixed, I was left wondering: What could this mean? What could God be trying to say to me through this? It’s a question I ask all the time of seemingly random life events. I’m finding more and more that there are all sorts of deep meanings to be found in everyday life.

For instance: One day on the way to work, twice as I was walking from the parking garage to my office, someone on the opposite side of a door opened it pretty much the second I was reaching for the handle. Two times could surely be coincidental, but why not probe it for meaning. It doesn’t hurt anything, does it? What meaning did I pull from it, you might ask? Well, a door opening reminds me off all sorts of scriptures, such as Matt. 7 and Luke 11. But the one that fits especially well is Rev. 3:8 where Jesus tells the Church in Philadelphia that he has “set before you an open door.” So, I use such situations to study out relevant scriptures and see what God may be trying to show me.

The day after the two-open-doors incident, I was driving to church and, as I entered Albion, had three cars pull out in front of me in rapid succession. I didn’t have to slam on the breaks or anything, but they all caused me to slow down a bit. As it turns out, they slowed me just enough so that as I neared a red light, it turned green before I had to break. I can’t remember any scripture coming to mind with this situation, but I felt impressed with the idea that God can orchestrate events in our lives to control our pace so that we can cruise through green lights rather than sit at red lights. That lesson even connects with the above open doors. Had I arrived to work just a second or two later, neither of those doors would have opened for me.

The day after the three-cars-pulling-out-in-front-of-me incident, I was again driving to Albion and I passed four Army humvees traveling west on I-94. I doubt I would normally think anything of that particular incident, but since it built upon the patter of two open doors and three cars pulling out in front of me, the four humvees made me think. Again, no scripture for this one. Just felt it represented the move of God’s army into the Albion region.

The day after that, I was super pumped to see what five things God lined up to communicate something to me. But, alas, I was probably looking so hard for it, I missed it.

Last summer, the very morning I was driving to Lansing to test drive a new Toyota Rav4, I walked to my car only to discover my stereo had been stolen out of it. The driver door was slightly open and the dash trim was pulled off and laying in my seat. I was pissed. Not so much that my stereo was gone, but that someone would have the gull to do that to another human–to totally invade another’s property and take what wasn’t theirs. Such disrespect.

Whenever something is stolen, I think it’s a no-brainer to consider what it may represent from a spiritual perspective. We know the devil is a thief who comes to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). He’s the root of all robbery; he loves to pilfer from God’s people. So why not try to discern what spiritual reality could be manifesting in the natural? The spiritual is more real than the natural, remember.

This one was pretty easy: Cars, in dreams, usually represent a person’s calling or ministry–the “vehicle” through which you will serve God. I felt the stereo represented music and worship. So, I took it as an indicator that the enemy may be trying to mute the worship and praise in my life and thus sabotage my calling. Worship is such an essential component of serving God and ministering to and for Him.

A few months ago, a good friend of mine had his wife’s bicycle stolen right out of their garage. And just her bike, nothing else. No tools. No ladders. No nothing. They had four bikes handing from their rafters and someone stole the most inconveniently located one. When he was telling me this, I felt it simply had to have some prophetic and spiritual significance. The scenario was just too random to think otherwise. I have some ideas of what it may mean, but it would take too long to type out.

Anyway, those are just a few examples of insights I glean from random life events. There are a lot of others.

Such events are deemed “prophetic” because God can speak to us through them. Prophecy isn’t just about the future; prophecy is, at its most basic level, a communication from God. God had the prophets of old use all sorts of bizarre situations as object lessons for His people, such as preaching naked (Isaiah), marrying a prostitute (Hosea) and having a king strike the ground with arrows (Elisha). These were “prophetic” acts that gave insight into God heart.

The insights I had into the above situations are entirely subjective, though. I don’t make decisions based on them or make “Thus saith the Lord” speeches based on them. I’m comfortable saying things like “I think God might be saying…” when talking to someone about these things, but I never put them on the level of inerrant Scripture. What God might say through a random life event will never conflict with his established Word.

All that to say: I encourage you to look for little things He might have to share with you throughout your days and seemingly random life events. Some might say I’m a little overboard with “finding God everywhere” or making something out of nothing. But if “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” as Paul says, how could we not run into God wherever we go and look. If He is “with you always, even to the end of the age,” how could He not have little things to talk to you about during everyday life? Don’t you and your friends have random observations about life you share with each other from time to time? Just some food for thought.

Oh… and if you’re wondering what lesson I pulled from this morning’s hot water affair: Well, we all know that we’re to be “hot” for the Lord. He’s an All-Consuming Fire (Heb. 12:29), after all. He’s also Living Water. Aand since He’s in us, “out of [our] heart[s] will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). I felt the fact that the hot, gushing water could not be turned off was a good sign–that as I continue to draw near to Him, He’s birthing from within me uncontrollable hotness for Him and will gush it out of me for His praise and the blessing of others.

Taking it step further: I could only stand in the water that was accumulating in the tub for a little while. Eventually, because it was the hot water that was not shutting off, I had to get out of the tub, lest I scald my feet. It was getting really hot! The hot water had overridden the lukewarm water in the tub and made it hot.

It feels good to soak and relax in hot water for a while, but if it continues to increase in temperature, you have to get out. I feel that’s a decent prophetic picture of where the body of Real Life Ministries. For almost the last year, we’ve been enjoying a good, long soak in the Holy Spirit’s warm bathwater, being cleansed and refreshed by Living Water. But hot water is continuing to pour in. The temperature is rising. And it’s going to cause us to go out. We aren’t going to be able to ramain in the safe, cleansing confines of our tub much longer.

So, I’ll commit to being one who always releases that hot water.

* Just an FYI: I hate any faucet that has separate hot and cold controls. All the faucets in my apartment work that way and I just think it’s stupid. I suppose it’s cheaper… but it’s still stupid. Who wants to have to balance two sources of pressure and temperature when they could both be controlled at once? Realize, though, that I am thankful for instant access to water.

Unbelief is not ok

Sometimes I like to believe God coddles me in my areas of unbelief. As you’ll read below, AW Tozer and the Word disagree. It’s also interesting to consider what America’s collective idea of God may be (a god of convenience, maybe?) and what we are experiencing collectively as a result of erroneous understandings of God.

All things else being equal, the destiny of a man or nation may safely be predicted from the idea of God which that man or that nation holds. No nation can rise higher than its conception of God. While Rome held to her faith in the stern old gods of the Pantheon she remained an iron kingdom. Her citizens unconsciously imitated the character of her gods, however erroneous their conception of the Deity might have been. When Rome began to think loosely about God she began to rot inwardly, and that rot never stopped till it brought her to the ground. So it must always be with men and nations. A church is strong or weak just as it holds to a high or low idea of God. For faith rests not primarily upon promises, but upon character. A believer’s faith can never rise higher than his conception of God. A promise is never better or worse than the character of the one who makes it. An inadequate conception of God must result in a weak faith, for faith depends upon the character of God just as a building rests upon its foundation. This explains why unbelief is such a grievous sin; it is pure libel against the Lord of heaven and earth. Unbelief judges God to be unworthy of confidence and withholds its trust from Him. Can there be a more heinous sin than this? “He that believeth not God hath made him a liar” (1 John 5:10). Our hearts shrink from the full implications of such a statement, but would not this seem to teach that unbelief attributes to God the character of Satan? Jesus said of Satan, He is a liar and the father of it. Unbelief says virtually the same thing of God.

I post quotes from Tozer quite often. If you’d like to subscribe to the same source of these writings as I do, head to his part of The Alliance Web site, where you can get the RSS feed.