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The start of a new year always comes with a sense of excitement and anticipation for me. It’s like I get to have a fresh start in some ways. My mind wonders what God will bring in the coming year. There’s always a sense of wonder with a new year.

This year, I have begun to read a book that is unlike most books I tend to read. One day while meeting with someone, this book came to mind and I decided to read it. Madame Guyon, who some would describe as a French mystic, lived from 1648-1717, wrote a book entitled, “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ.” The title page says that it was formerly entitled, “Short and Very Easy Method of Prayer; which all can practice with the greatest facility, and arrive in a short time, by its means, at a high degree of perfection.”

Now with a title like that, who wouldn’t want to dive right in. And I dive right in I did! So far, it has been a wonderful adventure of drawing closer to God. Short and very easy? Not so much, at least for me. One of the ways she suggests coming to the Lord is “praying the Scripture.” Here’s what Madame Guyon suggests: “Turn to the Scripture; choose some passage that is simple and fairly practical. Next, come to the Lord. Come quietly and humbly. There, before Him, read a small portion of the passage of Scripture you have opened to. Be careful as you read. Take in fully, gently and carefully what you are reading. Taste it and digest it as you read.”

“Turn to the Scripture; choose some passage that is simple and fairly practical. Next, come to the Lord. Come quietly and humbly. There, before Him, read a small portion of the passage of Scripture you have opened to. Be careful as you read. Take in fully, gently and carefully what you are reading. Taste it and digest it as you read.”  Madame Guyon

I felt God’s leading to read Ps. 19. I started to read and landed on verse 4-5. This is what I took in fully, gently, and carefully, tasting and digesting as I read: God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.” And here’s what my first sense was: “What the heck?” I was wondering what God could possibly want to tell me in these verses. But I quieted my heart, rested in God’s presence, and waited. And waited. And waited. As impatient as I usually am, I began to sense a real peace, just being in the presence of God. It was nice. And then it happened.

God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding

As I rested in the Lord’s presence, this thought came to mind. “Were you a radiant bridegroom? Do you remember how joyful were you that day you got married? Do you remember how thrilled you were becoming one with My gift to you in Jo?” I began to remember! Remembering how happy I was. How thankful to God I was. I remembered not being hungry at all at the reception because I was so excited. I remembered the first dance with my bride, which is a miracle because I don’t like to dance. I remembered how happy I was on that day. It was wonderful remembering, over 36 years later, that amazing and special day.

Then I sensed God’s voice. “Remember. Appreciate. Think of that day. Think of Jo. Think of Me. And whenever you see or feel the warmth of the sun, let it be a reminder to you of that wonderful day and how radiant you felt.” I stopped to think of how kind God is. How He loved me enough to give such a wonderful bride, wife, and partner to go through all the ups and downs of life with. How good God is! And to have the sun as a constant reminder of how good God is and how much He loves me is so amazing.

I remember thanking God and getting up from my desk thinking, Jeanne (Madame Guyon’s first name. We are on first name basis now!), you are on to something! Thank you. I look forward every day now, to experience more of the depths of Jesus Christ. I look forward to looking outside my window every morning, seeing and feeling the warmth of the sun, reminding me of that special day when I was a radiant bridegroom. And that God is there. He’s always been there.

Thanks, Jeanne! Another step!


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…



decompression [dee-kuh m-presh-uh n] noun. the act or process of releasing from pressure.

I am officially on my sabbatical! It started last week but before I could really press into what God is leading me to, I realized I needed to decompress. I have heard that when you go scuba diving at a certain depth, you will need to slowly and methodically ascent from the depth. If you ascent too quickly, the body cannot adjust to the pressure and will experience decompression sickness commonly referred to as the “bends.”

While decompressing from ministry is not life-threatening as “the bends” can be, it’s still important. I decided I needed to take the time to decompress. As I struggled decompressing over the course of seven days, I learned or was reminded of some things in my life. Here’s some of the stuff I realized:

  • It is necessary for me to decompress before I can rest in the Lord.
  • Ministry is on my mind almost all of my waking hours and even as I try to sleep.
  • I need to have other interests that I enjoy other than ministry related matters.
  • I am wired or have become used to “doing” rather than “being.”
  • I need change. It hasn’t been the healthiest of mindsets.

I thank God for His leading to decompress. As I worked on removing all our kitchen cabinets, due to termites, tried to figure some semblance of order in our makeshift kitchen and bathroom dishwashing station, washing and polishing my car, fixing our screen door, working on all the details of our Japan adventure, washing and cleaning our living room rug, as well as other stuff, God was slowly helping me to let go of my “ministry mentality.” I guess being physically tired helps the process.

As the first week of the sabbatical ended, I felt a lot more ready to truly rest in Him. The primary focus of this sabbatical, learning to truly abide in Jesus, became a lot more important and motivating. I feel my spirit beginning to yearn for this. But I will need the help of the Holy Spirit to keep my focus and not worry about how quickly the days pass without noticeable improvement. I need His help to rest in the truth that this is a process, perhaps a lifelong adventure for me according to God’s timing, and the willingness of my heart. That’s the challenge for me.

Something that kept coming to mind over the last seven days is the importance of learning to decompress every week and really every day, and not just wait for a sabbatical. I kept thinking about Jesus and the pressurized life of ministry He lived while on earth. Some verses that came to mind.

“Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” Mark 1:35

“Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them.” Luke 4:42

But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” Luke 5:16

“One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.” Luke 6:12

“Then, accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.” Luke 22:39-40

“Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” Mark 1:35

Something Jesus did on a regular basis was getting away from the pressures of ministry to decompress. I need to learn how to do that. In the busyness of ministry, it is vital to get away and decompress.

“Lord, like the disciples, I ask, “Teach me to pray.” And I also ask, “Teach me when to pray. Teach me to get away to spend time with you. To decompress from the pressures of ministry and just rest in your presence. You are the vine and I am but a branch. Teach me to abide in You.”

Another step…

camino de filipenses

Well, as I considered all that God has been teaching me and encouraging me to step forward in, a thought came to mind. In part it was motivated by my friend, Dave OC, who is halfway around the world, on the Camino de Santiago, on a trek, a “pilgrimage” to hear God. What came to mind was a passage from the Bible.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:4-7

I am encouraged and challenged by God’s instructions as I seek to abide in Christ in a deeper way. Paul is encouraging me to make some things, things that don’t come natural or easy to, foundations in my life.

Rejoice! “Mark, always, not just when you are happy or when you receive something you like, but always, be full of My joy.” That’s good, but challenging. Which leads to another step.

Be gentle! “Mark, with an attitude of gratitude and worship, let it so fill your heart and life that it results in gentleness in your relationships with others.” Again, good, but really, God? Gentleness? Yup, gentleness seen in my words and actions.

Stop worrying, start praying! “Mark, come to Me for everything. Everything. Come to Me with an attitude of worship, in gentleness and humility recognizing that you are helpless on your own, and give Me everything that worries you. Everything. And experience my peace and rest.” Thank you, Father!

Then there’s something that really stirred my heart. One more important thing God is saying to me. “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.” Phil. 4:8-9

Set your mind on that which is pleasing to Me! “Mark, you think about all kinds of stuff, even junk, throughout the day. That which you think about fills your mind. That is why you are having a hard time abiding in Christ and resting in My peace.”

I thought and considered God’s Word to me. Which led me to a Camino that I believe God is leading me to trek on. “Camino” is “road or way” in Spanish. “Santiago” is “St. James.” Hence “Camino de Santiago” is “The way of St. James.” That’s what my Dave OC is walking at this moment. I believe God is leading me on a “Camino de Filipenses” or the “Way of Philippians.” I feel God’s leading to adjust what I think about. For at least today, I am to think only about that which is pleasing to God. That which is true, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy. That which I have learned or received or heard or seen in the Scriptures and think about such things and put it into practice. So no television. No Wong Fu on Youtube. No NBA or checking in on Kirk Cousins or 49er news.

So I’m off! I rejoice as I step out. Another step….