max and his many legged nemesis

Today was our last staff meeting with Jared. It has been a real joy working with him for the past ten years. We have both grown a lot, spiritually and physically (at least I have, weight wise). Anyway, going into our meeting, I wondered what it was going to be like. Was I to impart words of wisdom? A final pep talk? A heartfelt word that would evoke much tears? As I have been learning to do in abiding in Christ, I asked the Holy Spirit for guidance. And He guided indeed. This was to be a meeting of joy, KCF style. Let me explain.

Serving alongside folks over a stretch of time teaches you much about each other. I learned today that Max is slightly afraid of centipedes. We started our meeting, going over the calendar for the next month or so when Jared jumps up saying that he saw something fall from our ceiling. He gets up and walks toward the couch where he saw the object fall. Now our office ceilings are fairly high, around 15 feet. Max was not sure what was going on, munching on organic tortilla chips. When Jared gets there, he looks under the couch and spots a fairly healthy sized centipede crawling around. He moves the couch and sure enough, we all see about a six inch centipede! That got Max’s attention and he begins a hunt for something to get rid of it, all the while shouting how much he hates centipedes.

Fear has a funny way of messing up our judgment and so he picks up a 5 gallon bottle of water for our cooler.


With a determination previously unknown to mankind, he faced his fear head on. From the side, I see Max’s plan and said, “Don’t do it.” But Max was on a mission and so he dropped the 5 gallon bottle on the intruder. Well, he didn’t take into consideration that water is very heavy and the plastic bottle was not made to withstand centipede extermination. The water bottle cracks, water splashes all over and about 4 5/6 gallons of water pours over the office carpet. What happened to the centipede? Well the bottom of the bottom was not perfectly flat but indented in the middle. So the centipede escaped the smashing! But Max had succeeded in drowning it. We all learned that 4 5/6 gallons of water will drown a centipede. All the while, Jared is laughing semi hysterically and having a great time. His final staff meeting with us was a meeting of joy. It was a perfect KCF way to send Jared off.

On the way home, I got to thinking about our memorable staff meeting. What was I going to miss about not having Jared there with us? More than anything, his presence. Going to miss having that day to day relationship with him. Isn’t that what is most important? It’s not the work that we accomplished together. It’s not our serious discussions on football, reality and fantasy. It’s not all the things Jared did for us. It’s not even the gift of worship which is so apparent in his life. It’s the relationship. As we laughed, cleaned up, teased Max, scared him with a straw, it was clear that the best thing about being together on staff was just being together. Relationships.

We are going to miss Jared. But we are also very excited that a new adventure awaits them, Tiana, his wife, gets to go home and God’s kingdom will be extended because of the Miyamoto family. To that, I am grateful and thankful. And I still have my centipede eliminating partner, fearless Max to serve with. And truly the best is yet to come, for all of us, except our friend, the drowned centipede.

I also thought about God and how it really is all about a relationship. Prayer is an opportunity to connect with Him. Worship is an opportunity to express our love and thanksgiving to Him as well as entering His presence. The Bible is an opportunity to hear from Him and learn more about Him. It really is a love letter from an amazing God. And abiding in Christ is staying close and continually being in relationship with Jesus. To commune with Him. With the Father. And with the Holy Spirit. With the beyond-my-comprehension triune God.

I think I’m beginning to get it. Thanks Jared and Max for helping me to see that it really is all about relationships. I am grateful that I get to serve alongside amazing people on our staff, Jared, Max, John and David. Amazing elders. Amazing leaders. And amazing people. I get to do life with an amazing wife and 3 amazing kids. An amazing pup. And an amazing bunny. And all this amazing-ness help me to be more passionate about abiding with my amazing God. Simply amazing.

another step….

in memory of a drowned centipede

He does make our paths straight

I must confess that it is a real challenge to abide in Christ when things become busy for me. More specifically, when a flurry of unscheduled things come up. But God is great and in the midst of busyness and stress, the Holy Spirit reminds me to keep my focus on Christ.

As I look back on the past few weeks, here’s something I have discovered. As I seek to abide in Christ, I can actually see God’s hand in my life a lot clearer. A very familiar passage that I pray often is Prov. 3:5-6.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Looking back, I actually see God doing this! Here’s what I mean: I start this journey to abide in Christ in a deeper and more intentional way. I don’t really know what to do so I pray and ask God to lead me and make my path straight.

  • So first, He leads me to camp in on John 15, the chapter about the vine and the branches. Perfect place to start.
  • Then I feel His leading to start reading Andrew Murray’s “Abide in Christ.” Where does Murray start the book? John 15, of course. And I gain so much insight and application on my journey to abide in Christ.
  • After about 3 weeks, I feel God lead me to start John Bevere’s DVD study on the Holy Spirit. And have the entire family go through it with me. So on Sunday nights, that’s what we do. As I was doing the study one day, I realized  how vital the Holy Spirit is in abiding in Christ. In fact, I can’t abide with the Holy Spirit. I must say, it has been a wonderful study.

So now I am praying and seeking God through prayer and the Bible. I read a chapter from Murray’s book about 5 days a week. We watch a lesson from Bevere’s study and read a chapter from his book 5 days a week. And it’s been so good. I can actually see God making my path straight! And He’s bringing the family along for the ride.

  • Then while going through my email I see one from Bethel TV and was about to delete it. I felt like the Holy Spirit was saying, “STOP! Don’t delete it. Read it.” So I did. Then I was going to delete it. Again, the Holy Spirit nudges me, “STOP! Don’t delete it. Take it!” I thought to myself, “What? Take the e-course that the email is promoting? I really don’t have the time or really the oomph to take it.” But after praying, I signed up for it. The title of the e-course, “Spirit Wars.” It’s about spiritual warfare. After viewing the first session online, it became very clear to me. If I am to abide in Christ, I need to make time to really pray, read the Bible and get into God’s presence. And I need instructions about abiding from someone who has journeyed before me. And I also need the Holy Spirit to lead me into all truth. And I also need to understand and engage in the spirit wars, because there is an enemy who will do anything to get off this journey.

I look back in awe of God’s leading. Yes He’s there. Yes He cares about me. Yes God does make my path straight. So the journey continues. I am excited and encouraged.

“Thank you, Father, for giving me your joy for the journey. And for making my path straight!”


looking at vines in a whole new way

Affliction. Trials. Who in the world enjoys them? I know it’s not something I have enjoyed. At least not up to this point in my life.

As I continue to read Andrew Murray’s book, “Abide in Christ,”God speaks to me right where I am. It’s really amazing! Today, it’s all about the affliction and trials that I face.


“He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”  John 15:2

Murray writes, “In the whole plant world there is not a tree to be found so specifically suited to the image of man in his relation to God as the vine. There is none of which the fruit and its juice are so full of spirit, so quickening and stimulating. But there is also none of which the natural tendency is so entirely evil–none where the growth is so ready to run into wood that is utterly worthless except for the fine. Of all plants, not one needs the pruning knife so unsparingly and so unceasingly.”

This really encourages me, especially when I experience struggles and trials and affliction and the like. As Murray writes, “And so He prepared His people, who are so ready when trial comes to be shaken in their confidence, and to moved from their abiding in Christ, to hear in each affliction the voice of a messenger that comes to call them to abide still more closely. Yes believer, most especially in times of trial, abide in Christ.” These trials and afflictions have a divine purpose. God is using them for my good. They are actually an answer to prayer. I did ask God to help me to truly abide in Christ.

So when I go through stuff, it is not punishment or pain without purpose. It’s about God’s love for me that He is pruning me to grow closer to Him and stronger. It’s about bearing more fruit. That old children’s song is really true! “Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so.”

The revelation and reminder for me is that when I go through stuff, it’s a reminder of God’s love and it’s God’s love in action as He uses the stuff to  prune and prepare me to bear more fruit. That’s a whole different perspective for me. It makes James 1 so much clearer and more meaningful to me, especially verse 2.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

“Dear Christian, in affliction abide in Christ. When you see it coming, meet it in Christ; when it has come, feel that you are more in Christ than in it, for He is nearer you than affliction ever can be; when it is passing, still abide in Him. And let the one thought of the Savior, as He speaks of the pruning, and the one desire of the Father, as He does the pruning, be yours too: “Every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Andrew Murray

As I let that truth soak into my heart, a memory comes to mind. When it was time to welcome our firstborn, Michelle, into the world, I was excited and nervous. We get to the hospital and suddenly it becomes very real. We are going to have our baby! They lead us into the birthing room, which looked like a nice hotel room. But they couldn’t fool me, it was still a hospital room where all the linens smell like blood to me. Yes I know it’s my imagination going wild…again! After a number of hours go by with no baby launching, the doctor recommended sedating Jo, letting her sleep some, to let things regroup. They sent me home to rest and said they would call when things picked up. Now let me tell you, I was stressed. “What is going on?” ” Why?” “I never saw this on any of the Lamaze class videos. Maybe I should have watched them better instead of being bored out of my mind!” I got home and prayed for God’s help. After awhile, I fell asleep. Then hearing the phone ring, I jumped out of bed, picked up the phone and got ready to go back to the hospital. It was on! Putting down the phone I hear voices. No, not that kind! Voices of people singing. I had never heard people singing in our condo before. Ever! But that afternoon I did. And they were singing an old hymn. They were singing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” I stopped to see if I was just imagining things. Maybe it was the radio. As I listened, it was clear that it was people singing live that great hymn. It was so surreal. I sat down and just listened and soaked it in for a bit. I got up, clothed in God’s peace. I get back to the hospital and after just one or two pushes, we welcomed Michelle Morimoto into the world. It was amazing. I was amazed. Even Jo was amazed, after going through her first delivery. The nurses were amazed. They said, “This is great. This is a new one. Sleep delivery.”

Yes, I need to remember, “Dear Christian, in affliction abide in Christ.”

another step…

three steps forward and two steps back

It has been an interesting journey so far in learning to abide in Christ. Now I struggle with impatience so I would love to see a whole lot of progress. But this is a journey of steps. Steps I take and steps that are implanted into my heart. So alas, it takes time.

But as I reflect on the past month or so, I thank God for the steps He has led me to take.

  • It’s been about a month of not watching television. And the crazy thing is I don’t really miss it. Now television in and of itself is not bad. It’s how we use it that determines its value. For me it was a step in applying Phil. 4:8-9-“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” For me it was a step to think about things that I often ignored while watching tv. It’s been good.
  • I continue to take steps to overcome fear with a decision to abide in Christ. Do I still have fears? Yes. Do I still worry? Yes. But not as much. I am learning to admit and take my fears to God in a more intentional way. I am learning to make a conscious effort to abide and remain in Christ. I am learning to open my heart to receive more fully the love of God because perfect love casts out all fear.
  • I am learning to go to God with all my stuff. To lay it at His feet and rest in His presence. It’s still a challenge but understanding that I need to give Him all the stuff really helps. It’s so easy for me to just hold on to things, let them swirl around in my head and heart and even burden and weigh me down. I wish I had less stuff, especially heart stuff that burdens me but that is life. I am learning that God is more than able, and willing, to take my stuff. He just wants me to come into His presence, let go of my stuff to Him and rest there.

I look back and it’s encouraging to see where God has taken me. It might be three steps forward and two steps back but it is progress. I think of Phil. 3:13-14.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

It’s funny how very familiar verses take on a whole new meaning depending on the situation you are in. And more importantly, what the Holy Spirit wants you to know at that  time. So yes, I thank God for this journey and I press on!

the next ten years

A few weeks ago, I performed a wedding for a couple I didn’t know until a few days before the wedding. A wedding planner I know referred this couple to me. The bride and groom are from one of my favorite parts of the world, Vancouver, BC. I normally don’t perform weddings of people I don’t know, but I felt God’s leading to do it. And I am so glad that I did. In the few hours of getting to know them, I was so blessed. Believe it or not, I really felt a love for the both of them. They’re a really special couple. After the wedding, as I said goodbye to them, I was actually a bit sad thinking I might not ever see them again. God willing, we will keep in touch and maybe cross paths in the future. I sure hope so. One of the blessings of FB, I guess.

As I drove away, I thought back on my wedding, 34 years ago. I could remember it vividly. The joy. The thrill of seeing Jo walk down that aisle. Getting choked up while reciting my vows. It was a great day. I thought how quickly time has flown by. Where will I be 34 years from now? Most likely in heaven with my Savior. But if the next 34 years go as quickly as the past 34, all I can say is “Wow, it’s going to go by faster than I can imagine!”

That thought dominated my thinking for a bit and a few days ago, as I prayed, these words just tumbled out of my mouth as I wrote in my journal, “Father, make my life count for something in the next ten years. Make this the most powerful decade of my life! Cleanse me. Teach me. Prepare me and use me for your glory!” Can you imagine that? What was I thinking? But you know what? I meant it from the depth of my soul. I will be entering the sixth decade of my life next year. I realized that this is a year of preparation for the next decade. It began to dawn on me that no wonder God has been leading me to really and truly learn to abide in Christ. I’m to be prepared for what lies ahead. More than getting senior discounts around town, there’s a call that God wants me to answer. Needless to say, I was very excited and yet sobered by the seriousness of my prayer. As I continued to pray, I grew in my conviction and desire to see that happen. Then I felt prompted to a verse I used to pray often.

“Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 90:12

“Yes Father, teach me to number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom. That I may walk in your call and destiny for my life. That my life will count for something in the next decade. That my life would bring you glory.” And I realized that it starts with truly abiding in Christ. The fact that God has been leading me in this way, encourages me that I am on the right track. That God indeed wants me to number my days and make my life count for something in the next 10 years.

As I look around at all the craziness in the world right now, that desire grows even stronger in my heart. It grows because I know that the only answer to all this madness is Jesus. That is how my life will count for something. Sharing the love and person of our amazing and wonderful Jesus with everyone around me and spurring others on to do the same. That would make life worth living. That would make my life count for something.

Teach me to number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom and make my life count for something.  Another step…

enough for the day

It’s exciting when I stop long enough, and stay long enough, to hear what God is trying to tell me. Isn’t that’s the joy of abiding in Christ? Well, I was reading another chapter in “Abide in Christ” by Andrew Murray and felt God’s strong encouragement.

In the chapter, Murray referred to Exodus 16:4 and the collection of manna by the people.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.   

Exodus 16:4

He writes, “The day’s portion in its day: such was the rule for God’s giving and man’s working in the ingathering of the manna. It is still the law in all the dealings of God’s grace with His children.”

Murray then shares a story about a doctor who was asked by a patient who was just in a serious accident. The patient asked the doctor how long would he have to lie in bed. To which the doctor replied, “Only a day at a time.” Only a day at a time. Recently I have asked God a number of times, “Father, how long do I have to go on itching with this eczema?” I thought, a few day? A week? A month? Forever? But God’s answer is, “Only a day at a time. Mark, just think a day at a time. Only a day at a time. You can definitely do that, my son.” I must confess that it was quite the revelation! Do I have enough grace to endure for just one day? Yes! Can I ask God for the grace to endure for just another day? Yes! All of a sudden, I was filled with encouragement. I have enough for the day. God gives me the grace to make it through a day. I get discouraged when I don’t see an end. I get frustrated when I don’t know how long something will go on.

Yes, it goes back to my impatience. I know. It’s just like with movies. I am a weirdo when it comes to movies. One of the first, if not the first question I ask is, “How long is the movie, anyway?” If it’s in the Lord of the Rings time category, forget it! Or I will watch it on DVD so I can do other things while I watch a movie that is longer than 2 hours. Yes, I’m weird that way. But that carries over to other areas of my life. How long will this eczema flare up last? How long will this head cold last? How long is this going to take? Even in my abiding in Christ, staying in Him, remaining in Him.

But do I have grace enough for the day? That’s encouraging to me. Murray goes on to write, “The morning manna fed all the day; it is only when the believer in the morning secures his quiet time in secret to renew distinctly and effectually loving fellowship with his Savior, that the abiding can be kept up al the day.” That is a good picture for me. So I have begun to spend time with God in the morning, with the picture of collecting “manna” for my day. I’ve begun to ask God for grace enough for the day. I then I go out with excitement to experience that grace enough for the day. I have just begun to do this with this new perspective. But I am excited and encouraged. And I hope to experience what Murray then writes, “The blessed abiding grasped by faith for each day apart is an unceasing and ever increasing growth. Each day of faithfulness brings a blessing for the next, makes both the trust and the surrender easier and more blessed. And so the Christian life grows: as we give our whole heart to the work of each day, it becomes all the day from that every day. And so each day separately, all the day continually, day by day successively, we abide in Jesus.”

So thank you Father for another practical step. And thank you for Andrew Murray. Another step. Just enough for day!

Isaac’s little patch of skin

As I have battled with eczema over the past year or so, I have a greater appreciation for all that Job went through in terms of his physical affliction. Now I am in no way saying that what I experience is anything close to what Job did. Far, far from it. But in a very minute way, I can relate to him. Job is the man!

Something I am learning in my journey to abide in Christ is how important my attitude is. All those sayings like, “Your attitude will determine your altitude,” and “Have an attitude of gratitude,” or “Be humble, no grumble,” have some truth in them. And there’s a verse that is also very true and also very challenging.

1 Thess. 5:18-“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Be thankful in ALL circumstances. Now that is a challenge. Be thankful when I can’t sleep waking up every 10 minutes because of the itchiness of eczema. Really? Be thankful when things don’t go my way. Be thankful when insensitive or mean things are said to you. Be thankful when things are just not working out. Now that is a challenge.

I have a friend, Isaac, who has suffered from eczema in a far worse way than I have and for a much longer time. Isaac is over 25 years younger than I am but he inspires me to be thankful in all circumstances. When he was younger and really suffering from eczema affecting over 75% of his body, Isaac chose to do something awesome. He could have grumbled. He could have been really angry. But looking at a small patch of unaffected, smooth skin, maybe the size of a quarter, he was thankful for the smoothness of that patch of skin. He didn’t focus on the eczema all over his body. He focused on that small little patch. And he gave thanks. That is a great picture and reminder to me to “be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”  

I am becoming more and more aware that being thankful in all circumstances is a very important key in abiding in Christ. Where will I place my focus? Will I choose to give thanks? How I answer those questions will greatly determine if I am abiding in Christ.

So thanks, Isaac!

another step…

the lesson of the crayfish

One of my fondest childhood memories is going down to the river to play. We used to spend all day down at that river in Kaneohe. We built stone and algae dams. We experimented with ways to catch fish, swordtails, guppies and all the rest. Fun times. A fun and simple time in life. Just being there, sun shining, hearing the water make its way over and around the rocks, feeling the cool water envelop your feet as you make your way around. Just being there.

Makes me think: Isn’t that a part of abiding in Christ? Just enjoying being there with Him. Just being there.

Thinking about that river, one of the things I loved to do was catch crayfish. Sometimes by net but sometimes by a string and a piece of bread. We would squeeze the bread into a little ball and tie that to a string. Then when we spotted a crayfish, we would slowly dangle the bread and string in front of it. Soon it would come out and grab hold of the bread. Once it started to nibble on it, game over. We would slowly lift the string up out of the water and incredibly, the crayfish hung on to that piece of bread. We would place a net under the crayfish and shake it free. Another crayfish caught! And believe it or not, we tried cooking them up once. It wasn’t shrimp, let me tell you.

How crazy it was for the crayfish to hang on to something it liked, even if it meant being caught. Then it struck me. I’m like that crayfish. Not being willing to let go is often a great hindrance for me in abiding in Christ. How I choose to hang on and preoccupy myself with bread on a string dangled in front of me. How crazy it is for me to hang on to something instead of letting go and abide in Christ. And letting go for me is just as Andrew Murray wrote, “Abiding in Him is not a work that we have to do as the condition for enjoying His salvation, but a consenting to let Him do all for us, and in us, and through us. It is a work He does for us: the fruit and the power of His redeeming love. Our part is simply to yield, to trust, and to wait for what He has engaged to perform.” Yup, it’s remembering my friend the crayfish and letting go.

“Father, help me to let go and fully trust You to do all for me, and in me and through me. Teach me to more fully abide in You.”


are you tired yet?

“Abiding in Him is not a work that we have to do as the condition for enjoying His salvation, but a consenting to let Him do all for us, and in us, and through us. It is a work He does for us: the fruit and the power of His redeeming love. Our part is simply to yield, to trust and to wait for what He has engaged to perform.”  Andrew Murray, Abide In Christ.

And hence the challenge of abiding in Christ for me. It’s not a work I do for Him but a work He does for me. Abiding in Christ is a consenting to let Him do all for me, and in me, and through me. Now that may sound easy  to let God do all in and through me. But, for me, that is really hard. Really hard.

Why is it so hard? Two things come to mind. Guilt and pride. I feel so guilty when anyone does something for me, much less God. I have always thought that responsibility is doing things, all things for yourself and not relying on anyone. Right? And if I was really honest, there pride in there, thinking that I can do things on my own, thank you. There’s an unwillingness to let go because I want to do things my way. I cringe a little writing this but I feel good about myself when I do things for other people. I feel important and useful. Now I know that it’s good to love and do things for others. Where the trouble comes in for me is my motive. What is my motive for doing for others? Is it about them? Is it about bringing God the glory? Or is it about me. Unfortunately, there’s still a mixture in my motive. And that’s where the pride comes in.

So what comes first, guilt or pride? The chicken or the egg. Answer–does it even matter what comes first? No it doesn’t matter. What matters is that guilt and pride hinders me from truly abiding in Christ. “Mark, will you allow Me to come and work in and through your life?” The response that comes to my mind instantly? “Lord, no, no, no. I’m here to serve you! What can I do for You? And if there’s things I need to work on in my life, show me so I can take for things. Don’t worry, Lord, I got it.” Yeah right. Just writing that makes me want to laugh, or more honestly, cringe a little. Actually a lot.

Two passages pop into my mind:

James 4:6- “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Prov. 3:34- “The Lord mocks the mockers but is gracious to the humble.”

Doesn’t matter what comes first. What matters is what comes next. For me it’s clear–humble myself. Humbly myself is asking God to come and do all for me. On my own, I can’t do anything. Humbly myself is asking God to do all in me. I can’t really change me. But God can and will transform me. I look back and I see His presence and work in transforming my life. Humbly myself is asking God to do all through me. Yes, it’s not me trying to impress God by doing things for Him. It’s me humbling myself and being a vessel He can use for His glory.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself thinking of yourself less.”    C.S. Lewis

So abiding in Christ is allowing God to do His good work in and through me. And it’s yielding and trusting Him to do His work in and through me according to His perfect timing. No wonder I hear so, so, so often when I’m praying, “Mark, are you tired of trying to show Me what you can do for Me, yet? Let Me show you what I can do in the through you.” Okay, God, I get it (at least a little more) now. Give me Your grace and the patience I need to truly abide in You.

another step…