in Jesus’ Name!

Reading Andrew Murray’s “With Christ in the School of Prayer,” has been such a great companion on my sabbatical. The book is organized conveniently into 31 chapters so I can read a chapter a day. This is my second month of doing so and it has been transformational!

“You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”  John 14:13-14

Murray writes, “He (Jesus) wanted to teach them and us that His name is our only, but also our completely sufficient, plea. The power of prayer and its answer depend on the right use of the name.” I read that and thought about all the times I prayed, “In Jesus’ name.” I thought about why I did so. Well, Jesus did say so here in John 14 as well as in John 16. But being totally honest, so often, I say those words automatically, in a very rote, end-of-a-prayer kind of way. I even rush through those words, especially when I’m hungry!

But Murray reminded me and challenged me that it is far more than a way to end a prayer. Far more! He writes,

“What does it mean to do a thing in the name of another? It is to come with his power and authority, as his representative and substitute…What does it mean when Jesus gives us power over His name–the free use of it–with the assurance that whatever we ask in it will be given to us? Jesus solemnly gives to all His disciples a general and unlimited power to use His name at all times for everything they desire. He could not do this if He did not know that He could trust us with His interests and that His honor would be safe in our hands.”

Wow! Closing my eyes, I thought about the truth of what Murray was writing. Suddenly, a relatively recent event came to mind. Last December, Jo and I were blessed with a trip to Arizona to join up with very close family friends to watch their son play in a football game. We have known this family for years, watching our kids grow up into adults. I can’t tell you what I thrill it was to finally get to see him play in person. We prayed consistently all through college and now as he plays in the NFL. As we walked with our friends to the stadium, I get a text from their son. He tells me to go to the will call window to pick up some passes for after the game. There were passes for the families to greet players following the game before they headed out. I showed the text to my friend and said, “Isn’t this just for the families of the players? Am I now His asian uncle?” He laughed and said, “Yup, that’s what you are. You are family.” So I said okay and went to pick up the passes.


Our instructions were to go down after the game, show the pass and give the security the name of the player we were family with. For some silly reason, I was a bit nervous going down after the game. After all, I was not aware of any Asians on that team. But we followed along, got to the area, gave his name, and lo and behold, they let us in! I guess I am his Asian uncle!

Anyway, as I meditated on the truth of praying in the name of Jesus, I thought, “If giving a name of a professional football player could get me access where the general public was not allowed, that is nothing compared to the power of the name of Jesus! It’s not even close. It’s not even in the same universe!” And if I was so thrilled to give a name of a person, to say, “Yes, I know that player. He’s family,” how much more thrilled should I be to give the name of Jesus, the King of kings and the Lord of lords! Really, that should be the thrill of all thrills!

The profundity of that truth and personalizing it, brought me to my knees. This was no small thing. This was far more than an end-of-a-prayer thing I say.  This is something powerful. This is something to be held with much reverence, awe, honor and respect at the power of God and His trust in us. It was also another breathtaking example of God’s great love for me. That God would entrust me with His name! To think that He loves me enough to trust me with His interests and that His honor would be safe in my hand. This was God saying, “You are family!” 

That truth leads me and draws me closer to Him. I want to be worthy of that trust and honor. It doesn’t lead me to be flippant but to more passionately seek to bring glory to Him in all that I do. It motivates me to seek Him in greater ways so that I would be in totally alignment with His will.  And from out of that alignment, I can pray with confidence, asking in the name of Jesus. What an amazing thing! May I never again just say those precious and powerful words, “In Jesus’ name!”

another step…


more lessons along the way

This sabbatical has been good. Good for my soul. For the first time in a very long time, I feel like I am intentionally doing something to benefit me. Just writing that stirs feelings that I am being selfish. But knowing the Lord has been leading and teaching me to find rest for my soul puts things in proper perspective. It has been nice to begin feeling more refreshed. It has only taken me 2 months to get there! But, I am learning it’s all about the journey, about what I learn along the way, as much as getting to the end. And there is so much to learn. That has probably been at the heart of this sabbatical. Like Dale Wolyniak wrote,  “A ministry sabbatical is ideally quite different from a traditional academic sabbatical or a sabbatical practiced in business. It is about the spirit and soul being refreshed, renewed, and redirected.” 

I am learning to rest and allow God to bring refreshment in my  spirit and soul. In surprising ways, maybe just to me, He is bringing renewal to my spirit and soul.  I say it’s surprising because He is revealing areas I thought I was doing okay in. Letting the Son shine in on my life has been painfully beneficial. I see God identifying, dealing and bringing renewal in my spirit and soul. One dictionary lists as one of the definitions of renewal as “the repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken.” What a perfect way to describe what God is doing in my life.

re·new·al (rəˈn(y)ooəl)–“replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken.”
Out of God’s great love for me, and for those around me, He has been revealing and bringing repair to areas that have been worn out, run-down or broken in my life. The irony is I didn’t think those were areas that needed repair. Don’t get me wrong, there are a multitude of areas that worn out, run-down or broken in my life. I just didn’t think the areas God has been revealing were among those. (Yup, the joke is on me!)
Here’s an example: I have always thought of myself as a pretty forgiving person. Definitely not perfect but overall I find it easy to forgive. I don’t hold grudges. I don’t stay angry for very long. But alas there’s that influence of self-delusion in my life. Very recently, I found myself in the presence of someone I have known for years but haven’t seen in awhile. Instead of being happy to see that person, it felt like there was a dark cloud hanging over me. With the risk of appearing to defend myself and my “attitude,” I did try reaching out a couple of times. Both attempts were met with what I interpreted as being brushed off. I let those thoughts cloud my mind and reinforce all the times I felt offended and hurt by them and all that resulted was being in a funk. My attitude was lousy. I didn’t have much to say that was positive. I just felt like removing myself from that situation. All I could think about was “poor me.” So what did I do? I removed myself from the situation. It felt pretty good!
Then resting in the comfort of my bad attitude and my good old friend, my bed, I sighed and smiled, feeling so good to be there where I felt I wasn’t welcomed. It was nice. Until God felt it was a good time to do some renewing in my life. As I laid there, I could sense the Holy Spirit poking at my heart. In moments like that, my favorite phrase is “but God.” “But God, I tried! I reached out. I was nice. I was cordial.” “But God, I didn’t really say anything bad or nasty or mean.” “But God, I didn’t really do anything to warrant being rebuffed or brushed off.” And a part of that is true. I did reach out. I didn’t say anything bad. I didn’t do anything, I don’t think, to warrant being brushed off.
But it didn’t really matter because there were feelings of unforgiveness in my heart. God began to reveal how those feelings were there and how they surfaced even before that encounter. How those feelings were there for probably years. I just was pretty good at stuffing them. Unforgiveness was there affecting my heart, my spirit and soul and needed to be renewed. Time doesn’t heal unforgiveness. It’s just that over time, unforgiveness gets pushed to the back by all the other stuff going on. But it’s there. And with it, came the negative results.
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.  Hebrews 12:14-15
Unforgiveness can lead to bitterness which messes up our lives and our relationships with others. The Holy Spirit gently opened my eyes to see how my unforgiveness led to me being grumpy with those around me, especially my wife. Friendly fire. Not a good thing. Lying there in my self pity and self righteousness, God reminded me of the antidote for the poison of unforgiveness:
“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13
Renewal means repairing. God wants to renew areas in my life. I must open my heart and allow God to renew me. So I took Paul’s words in Colossians to heart. Familiar words. I have read them before. I have studied them before. I have shared them before. But it was time to apply these words of renewal to a broken part of my life. I made a decision to make allowance for the faults of others. I chose to forgive others who offended me. I chose to remember God’s love and example to me. This was about me. About my unforgiveness. It wasn’t about a person who offended or hurt me. No “but God,” no finger pointing, no trying to justify or defend myself. My heart needed renewing. So I spent some time praying, forgiving and asking God to forgive me. It was a good time. It reminded me of a picture my son John took of his sister in Niigata. There my daughter was, looking out in the darkness of the night with hope and wonder in her eyes. In the midst of the darkness that unforgiveness brought, there is hope because God is there. There is hope because He is renewing in me what needs to be renewed.

After awhile, I opened my eyes and something was different. There were no dark clouds. There wasn’t a heaviness in my heart. God had begun to renew me, His loyal and stubborn love, repairing my heart and soul. What a difference! With God leading and supplying the grace needed, it was remarkably easy.  Am I a new person with a new heart? Not exactly. I’m a person under construction, being refreshed, renewed and redirected (that’s a story for another day) by the love and power of my Father heaven.
I am learning how true the words written by my buddy, Andrew Murray, really are:

“As bread is the first need of the body, so forgiveness is for the soul.” 

Thank you Father for your love for me. You love me enough not to let me wallow in my unforgiveness and suffer the consequences of a bitter root. How wonderful You are. Thank you!!!

another step…

weakness is, well, weak

I am enjoying the challenge of reading Andrew Murray’s book, “Abide in Christ.” Being that Murray lived from 1828-1917, one of the challenge is understanding the style in which the book was written. It has taken me a number of chapters to get the hang of it, sort of. But the biggest challenge has been trying to digest and apply what he presents. It’s a challenge but I must say that it has been one of the biggest blessings. I thank God for His leading to read this book. And I thank His Spirit for leading me to understanding. Thanks, Father!

As I read the chapter, “As Your Strength,” I could sense the Spirit of God trying to get through to my hard head and heart. Murray writes, “There is no truth more generally admitted among earnest Christians than that of their utter weakness.” I wholeheartedly concur. He continues, “There is no truth generally misunderstood and abused. Here, as elsewhere, God’s thoughts are heaven-high above man’s thoughts.” In now what is ancient vernacular, I declare, “True dat!” Then Murray issues the challenge: “The Christian often tries to forget his weakness; God wants us to remember it, to feel it deeply. The Christian wants to conquer his weakness and to be freed from it; God wants us to rest and even rejoice in it. The Christian mourns over his weakness; Christ teach His servant to say, “I take pleasure in infirmities. ‘Most gladly…will I…glory in my infirmities (2 Cor. 12:9).” The Christian thinks his weakness his greatest hindrance in the life and service of God’ God tells us that it is the secret of strength and success. It is our weakness, heartily accepted and continually realized, that gives us our claim and access to the strength of Him who has said, “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).  And there it is, laid bare before me in black and white, my struggle as an imperfect, under construction, follower of Christ.

I confess that weakness has not been a quality that I have strived for. Weakness is, well, weak! Strength! Resolve! Steely determination! Toughing it out! Shaking it off! Now that seems more attractive to me. But what I realize now more than ever is that mentality has caused me more grief and has caused me to drift away from God too often than I care to remember or confess. It has probably been one of my greatest hindrances to truly abiding in Christ.

“… My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness…” 2 Cor. 12:9

As much as I am embarrassed to say, too often my attitude has been, “Hey God, look at what I am doing for you. Look at how hard I am working. Look at what I am trying to accomplish for you. Look how strong I am. Look how much faith I have!” Murray reminds me, and it’s something I know full well, that my attitude should be, “Father, I need You. Apart from you I can do nothing. There’s so much I feel You calling me to step into, and I can’t do it on my own. I really need you. Your power works best in weakness.” True faith is found in my weakness, not in my strength. When I can see things for what they truly are and see me for who I truly am, that I am weak, it leads me to exercise faith to trust God for the help I need. It leads me to humble myself and exercise faith that it is God’s strength and His power that I need. That I cannot do anything on my own. That is true faith. And that is true strength.

I want to see and experience the power of God in greater ways. I want what Murray describes, “It is in the power of the omnipotent Savior that the believer must find his strength for life and for work.” I am understanding more fully that abiding in Christ means admitting my weakness and trusting in God’s omnipotence for everything. And the truth is, as I get older, my weakness is more and more apparent and so is my need for God’s power! Hmm, a benefit of getting old. Imagine that!

another step…


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…

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!

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.”