Becoming a Disciplined Person – Part Three

This is the third in a series on becoming more disciplined in your life and ministry …


I have never known a person who lacked awareness of time who was self-disciplined. Successful people, people who accomplish things in life, are time conscious; they know how they spend the time they have, and they understand that every minute matters. 

“If you become aware of the importance of time, you’ll have a different concept of time, valuing of time, and how you must exercise control over your use and others’ consumption of your time in order to have a reasonable chance of achieving your goals and tapping your full potential. You’ll have new awareness of how your time is used or abused, invested or squandered, organized and controlled or let flow about at random”

(a quote from my files – author no longer known)

So, a self-disciplined person is aways conscious of time and what they must do to maximize their efforts. As I get older I have become more aware that time is slipping past me, my days are numbered, and my time is limited. I think we become more aware of this as we age, but it is true no matter if you are seventeen or in your mid-seventies as I am.

If you want to maximize the time you have, then I recommend that you do two things that I do continually (learned from a former mentor)….

A> Set upfront expectations

Have you ever noticed that the completion of tasks often fills whatever time we allot to it? If you have to get an article written and you give yourself a week to do it, the writing takes a week.  If you give yourself a day, it takes a day. If you say to yourself, “I have to get this done in two hours,” it will take the entire two hours. The same kind of thing happens in meetings — unless you set expectations up front.

When I meet with people, I always tell them the time frame that we will be together. I also mention that if they are going to be late they need to let me know. And, I wait only ten minutes and then if they are not there I leave and don’t rebook the appointment. If they don’t value my time enough to arrive on time, I do. If I set the appointment then I express what I would like to accomplish during our time together. If they have asked for the appointment and time together then I ask what they wish to accomplish and set the time frame accordingly. This helps them and me be time conscious, causes us to set priorities, and allows us to accomplish what is needed in the time allotted. We enter our time together knowing the agenda and the time frame it must all fit in. 

When you practice the disciplined use of time, you have an edge. Start setting expectations for yourself and others up front. Once you make this a regular practice, you can begin compressing the time you allot and keep compressing it until you figure out how efficient you truly can be with your time. Then you will know how quickly you can get things done and set aggressive yet realistic time frames for meetings and tasks.

B> Set external deadlines

So much of what we do in life has no deadline. As a result, many things get put off and float from day to day on our to-do lists. That’s why I give myself eternal deadlines for nearly everything I want to get done. These visible deadlines create an awareness of time for me.

On Sundays I look at the coming week’s schedule of events and ministry appointments and opportunities. I look at the things that need to be accomplished. Then I schedule everything that needs to be accomplished into the days that I have available (the week minus my sabbath, family time, and personal time needed for the week). I make sure everything has a spot but that each day is not too crowded and has some breathing room in case things take longer, meetings go longer, or emergencies pop up. 

Then the last thing I do each night is make a list of the things, meetings, and people I have scheduled for the next day. I adjust the schedule if needed. Then this becomes my schedule for the following day. The deadlines and calendar work keeps me moving mentally and helps avoid any waste of time doing non-productive work (weeded out in the scheduling stages) or unnecessarily taking longer to do what needs to be done. 

Remember: discipline is like a muscle. The more we train it, the better we become in developing it. 

Remember: Every moment you stay in dreamland is a moment you lose in working for that dream.

Expectations and deadlines are great friends for any disciplined person. Try using them. I am sure you will be amazed at how they increase your discipline capacity and your use of time. 

Becoming a Disciplined Person – Part Two

Most people are not naturally disciplined in the various aspects of their life – at home, at work, or even at play. Becoming disciplined is, however, something we can learn. Last time we looked at two aspects of building a daily discipline into our lives:

1> Know what is important in your life

2> Get rid of excuses that we all make for not being disciplined


Our culture does not help us with this. Looking around at how others are living does not motivate us to act in spite of not feeling like it. The message we hear over and over is that we should do what we feel. But what if we don’t feel like doing something? Should we wait for inspiration? In the case of writing, every experienced writer will tell you that you have to write when you don’t feel like it. Otherwise, you’ll never get much done. That has been very true in my life. So, every day I sit down in front of the computer screen and write regardless of how I am feeling.

Every person has a weak area that is especially hard to discipline. So what should you do to implement more discipline in that area and in your life in general?


If you don’t make the right decisions and choices and then act upon them, there will be consequences. We need to understand that truth and remind ourselves of it on a daily basis.


If you think about having to do something you don’t want to do every day for the rest of your life, it will most likely discourage you. So simply focus on today. One day at a time (a good Alcoholic’s Anonymous slogan) has worked for me for the last 40+ years. I can handle the ‘today’. So I live one day at a time. 


Few things are more effective in the area of self-discipline than accountability. Why? Because we all need help with our weaknesses! You need to answer to someone besides yourself. When you have only yourself to answer to, you don’t do nearly as well as you do when someone else is holding you accountable.

So, my question is: What systems do you have in place to prompt you to take the right action when you don’t feel like it? Who have you enlisted to hold you accountable? No matter how much self-discipline you have, you could benefit from ways to help you take action when it counts.


People who accomplish things in life that benefit and impact others are careful what they focus on and thus what they allow or don’t allow to distract them from their primary purpose. In other words, know your priorities and stick to them. This may require learning some basic time management skills. This will require that you set boundaries and know what you should and can say “yes” to and what you must say “no” to. 

Each week (and, as a result, each day) I have goals set that I want to (often need to) reach and accomplish during that specific day. That means there are many things I need to be disciplined enough to not become involved in — a number of things that I simply need to say “no” to; things that take my focus away from what really needs to be accomplished.

For example:

    • I get almost daily requests to prophecy over people who are “friends” on Facebook or who connect through my ministry’s web site. The answer is always no!
    • I don’t answer any phone call directly when the phone rings. I let it go to the message manager and then listen to my messages near the end of the work day and return those that need my attention.
    • I don’t listen for or look at messages that come in on the various message apps. They can wait because what I have determined needs to be accomplished today is more important than what might be in those messages. They are, most often, simply a distraction.
    • I run all messages for family and for ministry during one two hour period on Monday mornings when the stores are least busy.
    • I schedule daily reading and research time which is a non-negotiable and cannot be replaced by anything else no matter how important.

Stephen Covey called this doing first things first. It could also be called the Crowding Out Principle. It goes like this:

If you spend all your time on highly productive tasks, by the end of the day, you will have ‘crowded out’ all the unproductive activities that might have distracted you from your real work. On the other hand, if you spend your time on low value activities, those low value activities will crowd out the time that you needed to complete the tasks that can make all the difference in your life. And the key to this attitude toward time and personal management is always self-discipline.”

Ask yourself: “What am I crowding out of my life these days?” Are you doing the unimportant or the convenient at the expense of the essential? I hope not, because, if you are, you are going to be in trouble. You aren’t expending your energy on what really matters,

So ask yourself that question daily as a reminder to feed your focus and diminish your distraction: What am I crowding out today? When you’re thinking about and doing those things that bring a high return every day, you won’t have time to do the things that have low return. And that will move you forward in your life so that you fulfill God’s plan for your life. 

Becoming a Disciplined Person – Part One

Too many people see life as a waiting room. People sit and wait for their names to be called. But progress in life – moving forward to maturity and effectiveness in what we do and achieve – does not come looking for us. We won’t achieve great things accidentally. Never forget, as one of my mentors taught me, “Everything worthwhile is uphill.” Achieving what you want in life takes time, effort, consistency, energy, and commitment. A word for all of this is “self-discipline.”

Self-discipline is what allows us to grow up, mature, develop, learn new skills, hone our present abilities and talents, accomplish, succeed, impact and influence those around us. If you are my age self-discipline is still needed as you work towards leaving a legacy behind when it is time to head home and meet the Master, Jesus. Self-discipline is what makes those things possible and puts success within reach – whatever your goals are and however you determine success. 

Here’s the good news. Self-discipline is something you can develop. You don’t need to be born with it. In fact, few are. It is a choice you make and then keep on making. So, let spend a few minutes looking at how to develop self-discipline…


If you are having an issue with self-disciple it may be that you have not thought through what matters the most to you. You have not taken the time to sort through what is really important to you as a person. Once you have a burning “yes” inside you about what’s truly important to you, it’s very easy to say no to the unimportant. Thus you can stay focused and self-disciplined.

Most people (statistics say as many as 97% of adults) are trying to live their lives without clear, specific, written goals. This is like setting off across an unknown country without a road map. It you want to get somewhere worthwhile, we need to identify where you are going. This means knowing what is important right now in your life and then choosing to stay focused on what will help you to accomplish it. 

Do you know what’;s important to you? If you have not thought it through and written it out, it’s very likely that any lack of self-discipline you’re experiencing is coming from that. The single greatest way to increase your discipline capacity is to know what’s important at this stage of your life and then aim for it with your whole heart. 


If discipline is the highway that takes us where we want to go in life, then excuses are exits off that highway. And there are lots of exits. I have taken many of them personally over the last five decades of ministry. Take a look at this partial list of excuses and see if you have ever found yourself saying any of them:

      • I’ll start after the new year
      • I don’t want to do it alone
      • My spouse won’t do it with me
      • I’ll do it when I finish school
      • I’ll do it after the kids get out of school
      • I’ll do it after the kids go back to school
      • I’ll do it when I have more energy
      • I’ll start it when the weather gets better!
      • I’ll do it when I’m not as busy
      • I’ll do it after my birthday
      • I’ll do it tomorrow
      • I’ll do it when I retire
      • I’m too heavy – I’ll do it after I lose some weight
      • I’m too old (Are you planning to get younger?)
      • I’m too inexperienced
      • I’m too afraid
      • I’m too tired
      • I don’t know how to start

How do you know something is an excuse? Ask yourself, “Would it stop me from doing something I love to do?” If it wouldn’t, it’s an excuse. Get rid of it.

More next time…


Jesus is speaking prophetically to His closest disciples – future leader of this new entity called the Church 

Matthew 24:3-14 NET “As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered them, “Watch out that no one misleads you. For many will come in my name, saying, ʻI am the Christ,ʼ and they will mislead many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars. Make sure that you are not alarmed, for this must happen, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these things are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and will kill you. You will be hated by all the nations because of my name. Then many will be led into sin, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will appear and deceive many, and because lawlessness will increase so much, the love of many will grow cold. But the person who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole inhabited earth as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

We are in a season in world history when Jesus’s words are front and center 

They should be speaking very loudly to the believers and His disciples today

1> Many people are being misled in the Name of Christ and the Church 

Many false prophets and false apostles speaking forth misleading and false prophetic words and giving false hope and false direction

Matthew 24:24 NET “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”

2 Corinthians 11:13 NET ”For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.”

2> There are currently a number of wars being fought – the most current and the one that is ‘in your face’ right now is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

“… nation will rise up in arms against nation, kingdom against kingdom”

3> The true Christian Church is hated and is being persecuted as never before in our long history

Persecuted by governments, other religions, and even many who call themselves believers in Jesus

No longer being “tolerated” even though nations are declaring that they are tolerant of and accepting of people who live, think, and believe differently 

4> Lawlessness has and is increasing 

Lawlessness is rooted in rebellion against the plans and purposes of God

The root of lawlessness is sin and is firmly planted in selfishness

Lawlessness is the exact and total opposite of righteousness

Everyone doing what seems right in their eyes (Judges 21:25)

5> Many who declare the Name of Jesus will fall away and leave the faith (church)

“The love of many…” is agapé love – God’s love within the believer


Many will simply leave the Christian faith and the Church because it will be uncomfortable and even difficult to be a true believer 

6> The Gospel of the Kingdom (the true Gospel) will be preached everywhere

Matthew 24:14 NET “… this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole inhabited earth”

Matthew 28:19-20 NET “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Within this biblical context, let’s take a partial look at the current war between Russia and Ukraine.

The biggest challenge for anyone trying to grasp what is going on in the world today – and especially in the war now happening in Ukraine –  has always been this: 

If you don’t understand God, you won’t understand the world. 

Most of the Western media outlets trying to report on “Bloody Putin” versus “Oh So Holy NATO” entirely miss this. 

Same is true for the Russian-controlled press, just the other way around – “The Great Putin” and “Terrible and dangerous NATO and Ukraine”

A prophetic voice, John Mulinde of Uganda, once said, “God preaches through geography” and I call that a major Kingdom truth … 

The first of a number of Kingdom truths we are going to look at

Kingdom truth # 1: “God preaches through geography.” 

In his insightful book, “Prisoners of Geography“, journalist Tim Marshall describes Russia as a prisoner of its own vast – and vulnerable – geography. 

He portrays Putin as someone who goes to bed praying: “Why, God, did you not put some mountains into Ukraine?!” 

Russia has always been most vulnerable towards the Western flatlands (Ukraine)– and will forever try to protect its imperial interests there.

As a result of the geography Putin does not want Ukraine to join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) because this would put a strong foreign horse (30 countries*) on his immediate border


*28 in Europe and area and 2 in North America 

On a mundane level, the cultural West often conveniently “forgets” to mention that, as the Soviet Union went bust in 1989, they made a deal with NATO to completely withdraw from East-Germany which Russia did

Against the NATO-promise that they will not extend NATO eastwards. 

Russia kept that deal, NATO absolutely did not. 

So Russia – no choirboy in that matter itself – has been betrayed and is agitated.

Remember that the national symbol for Russia is the bear

Why is the bear the national emblem of Russia?

Later, after the breakup of the USSR, the bear was one of the contenders to appear on the Russian national emblem, but it lost to the Russian Imperial double-headed eagle. However, the bear had a comeback in the early 2000s, when it was picked as the symbol of the ruling United Russia party (Putin’s party)

And if you come too close to a dangerous and hungry bear, setting up a tent right in front of its lair, what will be the outcome? 

Peace and cozying up? 

No way, Norway

You will have a country (bear) that wants to eat you for breakfast

The Kingdom truth # 2 is: Russia is a prisoner of an imperial spirit placed in it by God himself. 

The world has seen its sequence of the “Age of Empires” 

Jesus calls it the “Kairos of Nations” 

Luke 21:24 NET “They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away as captives among all nations. Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

“…the times of the Gentiles” = the Kairos of Nations”

This time – this Kairos – will be followed by the time of the Kingdom of God when Jesus is declared King and rules

Meanwhile we see nations rise and fall, kingdoms come and go, and wars and rumours of wars

Daniel 2 and 7 introduces four creatures that are the hallmark or Totems of four empires that will come and rule on the earth

Let’s read it from Daniel, Chapter 7…

“In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream filled with visions while he was lying on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream in summary fashion. Daniel explained: “I was watching in my vision during the night as the four winds of the sky were stirring up the great sea. Then four large beasts came up from the sea; they were different from one another.

“The first one was like a lion with eaglesʼ wings. As I watched, its wings were pulled off and it was lifted up from the ground. It was made to stand on two feet like a human being, and a human mind was given to it.

“Then a second beast appeared, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and there were three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ʻGet up and devour much flesh!ʼ

“After these things, as I was watching, another beast like a leopard appeared, with four bird-like wings on its back. This beast had four heads, and ruling authority was given to it.

“After these things, as I was watching in the night visions a fourth beast appeared – one dreadful, terrible, and very strong. It had two large rows of iron teeth. It devoured and crushed, and anything that was left it trampled with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that came before it, and it had ten horns.

“As I was contemplating the horns, another horn – a small one – came up between them, and three of the former horns were torn out by the roots to make room for it. This horn had eyes resembling human eyes and a mouth speaking arrogant things.

“While I was watching,

thrones were set up,

and the Ancient of Days took his seat.

His attire was white like snow;

the hair of his head was like lambʼs wool.

His throne was ablaze with fire

and its wheels were all aflame.

A river of fire was streaming forth

and proceeding from his presence.

Many thousands were ministering to him;

Many tens of thousands stood ready to serve him.

The court convened

and the books were opened.

“Then I kept on watching because of the arrogant words of the horn that was speaking. I was watching until the beast was killed and its body destroyed and thrown into the flaming fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their ruling authority had already been removed, though they were permitted to go on living for a time and a season. I was watching in the night visions,

“And with the clouds of the sky

one like a son of man was approaching.

He went up to the Ancient of Days

and was escorted before him.

To him was given ruling authority, honour, and sovereignty.

All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him.

His authority is eternal and will not pass away.

His kingdom will not be destroyed.

“As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed, and the visions of my mind were alarming me. I approached one of those standing nearby and asked him about the meaning of all this. So he spoke with me and revealed to me the interpretation of the vision: ʻThese large beasts, which are four in number, represent four kings who will arise from the earth. The holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will take possession of the kingdom forever and ever.ʼ”

(Daniel 7:1-18 NET)

In Daniel’s day – that season and “spiritual age”

The “lion with wings like an Eagle,” Babylon

The bear, Medo-Persia empire

The leopard, Greece

 The mutant-monster Chimera, Rome.

These empires are given a time window to be imperial as a corrective measure of God

A way for God’s people to be corrected, disciplined, and chastised after they had rejected his rule over them 

1 Samuel 8:6-7 NET “But this request displeased Samuel, for they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us.’ So Samuel prayed to the LORD. The LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do everything the people request of you. For it is not you that they have rejected, but it is me that they have rejected as their king.’”

God simply said: 

“You, my own people, reject me to be who I am, King of kings? OK, then as a homework for the next couple of thousand years, you will all learn what it is to be under the fist of global empires that will fill the God-shaped void. The King-shaped void. Then you will say: ‘Oh my God, we would have better submitted to you than those brute colonizers!’”

These empires of the past were controlled by territorial spirits and these spirits have not ceased to exist and work on the earth today

They are assigned certain geographical areas to rule over and influence (control)

So, this leads us to Kingdom Truth #3

Kingdom truth #3: These empires still exist; their imperial spirit is still alive

  Although we need to know that they are coming swiftly to an end in the times in which we now live

If you are just following the beasts … you will see that:

The first empire (Babylon), is still alive in the German Nation with the LION and the EAGLE as its original double-totem 

Yes, remember Hitler


It does not take much prophetic insight to see “Russia the Bear” as an heir to the Medo-Persian bear-spirit. 

And, for the sake of completion …

The British Empire, with originally a LEOPARD, not three lions, in its flag, and so is a continuation of Greece under Alexander the Great. 

And what is left of the USA is nothing but a Roman Empire Spirit gone West – and now soon going South (as in: falling apart)

Watch it very carefully as this pillar of democracy fails and falls

Kingdom Truth #4 is that Russia, called names like Magog, Gog, Thogarma or Mesech has a gaff in its cheek, a hook, a leash placed there by God himself 

The bear is God’s bear and will dance to God’s flute

Ezekiel, Chapters 38 and 39 … Prophetic words against Gog and Magog (Russia)

Ezekiel 38:4 NET “I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and bring you out with all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them fully armed, a great company with shields of different types, all of them armed with swords.

So, all that is happening today is not lost on the Lord and is not happening in a void

It is part of a Kingdom plan that has been in motion for many thousands of years

Kingdom truth #5: The bear was told by God to move forward and devour

Daniel 7:5 “Then a second beast appeared, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and there were three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ʻGet up and devour much flesh!ʼ”

Just as every animal on our planet has a driving thought and intention in line with how it was created … each with a different function

A cat or a dog as a pet – a bear and a lion as wild animals

So God allows nations to have specific purposes — to be vessels for good or bad, holy or unholy. 

Does the pot have the right to tell its potter: Why did you make me like this? No. 

But it has the right to ask: WHAT is my purpose? 

And God would answer: You are carrying a partial Kingdom truth as a narrative and message about a world that ran away from me. 

You are whom I made you to be. 

And a bear is not a household pet like a cat!

Although most bears actually like being a bear, to be a voracious and devouring bear is not the prettiest and most romantic of animals but that is how they were created

Russia is the bear and it is devouring… but God has a hook in its mouth – has the nation (spirit) on a leash 

Something to note as we see the spiritual reality a little more clearly…

There is a physical reality as well:

Remember that most of the current “Russian population” are not ethnic Russians

And that the Russian people are seriously fed up with Putin and his bloody wars 

A long war in Afghanistan, which they lost (1979-1989)

A violent and deadly war in Syria (2015-2021)

This is why many in Russia now turning away from the empire mindset that traps a man like Putin 

Many are currently leaving Russia to relocate in Finland and other neighbouring countries

Many are demonstrating against what their government is currently doing in Ukraine

All independent media has been shut down – foreign media have left – Facebook is shut down

The younger generation has started looking for a better framework for their future — a better allegiance than with Soviet Union 2.0. 

And this search mode will lead many to the discovery that yes, there is exactly such an empire – totally loving, benevolent, powerful and meaningful – under the wise rulership of Jesus

And this empire is called The Kingdom of God 

Be ready, therefore, for a huge Kingdom harvest in Russia of many who are getting tired of PK – Putin & Kyrill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, both of whom are running in circles and whose time to rule is coming to an end

There is a Kingdom perspective to all that is happening today… we took a small peak at it tonight

A closing comment and an historical note:

Let’s remember that what is Russia today actually started in Kiev, as a loose federation of Slavic States called “Kievan Rus,” along the Dnieper River in what is todays – Ukraine!

Heaven On Earth – Part Three

If you want a strange verse about what will happen at the end of time, read Isaiah 11:9: “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

The word knowledge used there is a Hebrew word that can mean “intimate.” It’s not knowledge of mathematics or science; it’s knowledge of intimacy. If you’re married, you know your spouse.

This is also the verse that says at the end of time, when everything is fully restored, God’s weight, glory, and knowledge will cover the earth the way the waters cover the sea.

The verse sounds cute and poetic at first, but if you think about it, it sounds strange. 

How does water cover the sea? Water doesn’t just cover the sea; water is the sea. They are so interwoven that they are basically the same because sea is a type of water.

What God is saying is that when He finally reaches His goal and is fully dwelling with His people, in full intimacy, and sin, death, and all evil are gone, His glory and beauty will be so deeply covering the earth and our lives that they won’t ever be able to be separated again. Similar to the water and the sea, His glory and the earth will be married fully as one, never to be separated again.

Is that the trajectory your life is on?

The cool part about the Bible is we can read the ending. And every time I do, I have to ask myself, is my life going in that direction? Toward closer intimacy with God? Toward beauty? Toward Him dwelling more fully with me? Am I allowing Him to take up residence in my life in all things? He’s coming down and being vulnerable; am I reciprocating and dancing back with Him in the music of eternity?

The incredible things about this is once you step into it, it never ends. Once we start following Jesus, every day of our entire lives is about us getting closer and closer to our Creator. This isn’t something you achieve or reach the finish line on.

Every day is a battle, and some days are better than others, but it’s about resolving to put our moment-by-moment lives on that path. What can you do to put yourself on the right path? What little thing can you do today to put you on the right trajectory?

 After all, you already know the ending.

Heaven On Earth – Part Two

The Gospel of John, while the Jewish people are still waiting for the glory of Yahweh to return to His temple, begins with the word, “In the beginning..”

Any faithful Jew would have immediately recognized the book’s introduction as the same introduction to Genesis — the book of beginnings and creation, when God sealed the earth with His presence. John is invoking the Genesis language to get his readers ready for a new story about another beginning, or a new beginning.

Skip down a few verses from that first verse and we see one of our most famous Christmas verses. In the beginning there is this “Word” being, John says. And this Word being is somehow like God, with God, and is God. As a believer you’ve probably quoted John 1:14 at least once…

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

But the Greek word translated as “dwelt” in that verse is eskenosen, which can literally mean “to fix a tent.”

John is saying loud and clear that Jesus Himself is pitching His tent (that is, His holy tabernacle) among us. His body is now the place where Heaven and earth crash together. The temple system has reached its fulfillment and was always a signpost pointing to the great temple Jesus. The glory of God has returned to His temple, and it looks like a Jewish rabbi in Judea. How strange is that?

So John, in just a few verses, is purposely saying things to draw strong echos. Jesus is the new genesis, the beginning of a new creation; and God Himself is pitching His tent with its — to be with His people. 

What if we believe that?

Growing up I believed that Jesus was very far away. That He was standing up in Heaven with His arms crossed waiting for me to get it right. Or even if He did show me grace, I imagined Him rolling His eyes, saying, “Ugh, not the same mistake for the twenty thousandth time.”

But John’s words say otherwise. God really does want to dwell with me. He really wants to pitch His tent in my life. And when I continually fall, He says, “Hey, I’m in this for the long haul.” He is God with us, Emmanuel. 

In the Gospels, we see Jesus as the walking temple. God in flesh. The dwelling place of God now walking among us. But many of the Jews missed Him. They wanted power more than they wanted love and justice and mercy.

In fact, they went so far as to kill Him. They put God on the cross. We put God on the cross.

You would think God would have reached His tolerance limit and gotten rid of us all. Can you see all the pain and grief from God’s point of view? Just think of a friend or sibling who’s making poor decisions and choices, and how it literally hurts you. Now multiply that by billions, over thousands of years, and that’s the pain we’ve caused God. He could have stayed high and lofty, but he knows love isn’t possible without vulnerability.

So instead of blowing us off the planet after hundreds of years of rebellion, He resurrects Himself from the grave and then sends His very Spirit to dwell in us! It doesn’t get much more vulnerable than that. We can grieve the very Spirit of God because we are now His dwelling place, His temple.

God is forever taking one more step toward us, and every time He reveals Himself it’s in a less guarded way. He wants to make Himself known, and to do that He makes Himself vulnerable. 

The other gods seem high, mighty, and untouchable; they leave us to move first, to initiate, to appease them.

But thus God, Jesus says, “No. I’ll go first. I’ll lean in. I’ll risk being hurt. I’ll come down to you.”

And He relentlessly pursues and chases. He shows that sooner or later, love will woo a human heart. Might we lean back into Him?

God in the temple, God in Jesus, and now God in us. And the Scriptures keep going all the way to Revelation 21, where it says we don’t need a temple because God is our very dwelling place. 

The conclusion next time…

Heaven On Earth – Part One

In Exodus (second book of the Bible) God tells us that He “will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God” (Exodus 29:45). Millennia later, John, the writer of Revelation, tells us he “heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3). This is a major theme throughout Scripture (Exodus 25:8; Leviticus 26:12; Zechariah 2:10; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Revelation 21:3).

So one of the overarching themes in Scripture — from the very beginning to the very end — isn’t to “get people saved” but for God to dwell down here with His people. We are so concerned about going up to Heaven, but God is concerned with bringing Heaven down to earth. Revelation, chapter 22 even says the new heavens and the new earth won’t need a temple because God will be our dwelling place (think back to Genesis!). We are working so hard to get out of this place, while God is working hard to recreate and come down to this place.

Because dwelling is God’s goal, He provided instructions for building a tabernacle (think portable temple) when He pulled the Israelites out of Egypt. God wanted to be in the midst of the Israelites. They were moving, so He would move with them.

Then later down the road, God gave kings David and Solomon permission and instructions for building a permanent dwelling place for him (1 Kings 6:1; 1 Chronicles 22).

The temple Solomon built, with God’s glory in the Holy of Holies, came to represent the Israelites’ national and personal identities. It was the center of everything: Jerusalem literally was built up around it, and the people organized their lives according to its annual festivals. But Israel began to worship other gods. Maybe it was because they got tired of making frequent trips to Jerusalem, or maybe they just wanted perceived control over their own lives. Since the fall in Genesis 3, it was almost more natural to worship false gods than the real God.

The Israelites liked gods that were controllable, and the Creator God wasn’t. They began to make a mockery of the temple system. They wanted to pursue other gods around them, when the true God Yahweh was right in their midst.There was one point where some even began following the god Molech, who called for child sacrifice.

As judgment, and maybe as a sign to wake them up, God send the leaders of Jerusalem into exile in Babylon. They were enslaved to people who worshipped Marduk. The very presence of God was seen leaving the temple right before this judgment. And then the temple got destroyed (Jeremiah 52).

Can you imagine how this must have felt? How would you feel if you home and the city or town you live in was totally destroyed? That’s about as close as you can get to imagining what the Israelites felt when the temple complex was razed by the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar. They sing,

Psalm 137:1-3 NET “By the waters of Babylon,

there we sat down and wept,

when we remembered Zion.

On the willows there

we hung up our lyres.

For there our captors

required of us songs,

and our tormentors, mirth, saying,

“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

They are undone.

A generation later, after Babylonia has been overthrown by Persia, some of the Jews are allowed to make their way back to Jerusalem and begin rebuilding the temple. But it’s clear Got isn’t there anymore. The “Shekinah glory,” as it’s called, never seems to return.

From this period until the last sentence of the Old Testament, the Israelites are left wondering when God will return to dwell with them. He promised he’d come back and be with His people. His very presence in their midst.

Can you imagine the hundreds of years of longing, aching, and praying for this to happen? With every year that passed, the expectation that God would do a new thing, a big thing, a monumental thing got larger and larger.

And then it happens. Just not the way they expected.

More next time…

The Choice Is Yours!

In the Garden of Eden, God created this beautiful and amazing world and put image-bearing humans (Adam and Eve) there to care for it, create within it, and reflect Him to it. He gives them one law: don’t eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

As its name suggests, when the couple eats of that tree, they will know the difference between good and evil. This implies that before they eat it, they don’t know good from evil. So as humans in the world tasked with a job, how are they to know what to do? The only possible explanation is total dependency on God their Creator. The only way for them to avoid an evil they wouldn’t recognize is to be leaning on God so completely that He tells them. So eating from the tree is actually saying no to dependency on and intimacy with God.

We don’t need you; we don’t want you; we can do this on our own without you.

In the West, this doesn’t sound very offensive; our entire culture is built on autonomy and a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality. But ultimately we have to admit there’s something in us that tells us we weren’t created to do this life thing alone, and that such independence leads to exhaustion. 

In the garden, that command not to eat from the tree wasn’t some arbitrary rule. One could think it was the weirdest command, as if God were temping us to sin. Like, God, if you don’t want us to eat from the tree then why put it there?

But the tee wasn’t the temptation to sin; it was an invitation to intimacy. Christianity is God giving humans the choice to live with Him or without Him. We can lean into Him for what’s right and wrong, since we don’t truthfully know, or we can “eat the fruit” and have our own standards, ways, and paths. One choice leads to life, and the other leads to destruction.

And so in Genesis 3:4-5, Eve and Adam believe the words of the serpent, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” and grab for the throne. Instantly they know good and evil. Something cracks. Something breaks. The fruit promised something it couldn’t deliver, and the mirage falls away. The text says, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” Exposed. Uncovered. Shamed. Guilty. Out in the open. 

It goes on to say, “And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” So the primal sin, the sin behind every sin, is saying, “I want to be like God. I want to know what’s good and evil. I want to be fully autonomous. I want to sit on His throne.”

Sin is less defined as smoking weed and stealing money from your boss and more defined simply as, I know best. And whenever we say we know what’s right and wrong, we become our own judge and god, and that can play out in all sorts of behaviour that isn’t best for ourselves or human flourishing.

Now, let me clarify that the issue isn’t knowing right and wrong at all. The issue is where we find out right and wrong. Do we lean on God for what’s right and wrong, or do we lean on ourselves? One creates life; one creates death.

You choose!