Anything In My Name?

John 14 14 b

Q. Jesus said in Jn 14:14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. I know He did not mean tagging “in Jesus’ name” to everything I ask, e.g. to win the lottery, but is it really anything? What about the salvation of family and friends? Surely that is according to His will, but not everyone is saved.

A. First, Jn 14:14 is a conditional “if” statement, the condition being to ask “in My (Jesus) name”. If the condition is fulfilled, the petitioner can ask anything and Jesus will do it. So the key turns on “in My name”. What does that mean? The phrase “in My name” appears 17 times in the NT, 16 times of which are in the gospels referring to Jesus, and once in 1 Co 1:15 referring to Paul, which we can ignore since our focus is on “in Jesus name”.

To these we might add the phrase “in His name”, which appear 6 times in the NT, all referring to Jesus. The complete list is as follows, with the verse in italics and my comment in regular font:

“In My name”
Mt 18:5 And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; (also Mk 9:37; Lk 9:48) Here “In My name” = Me, as if the person was receiving Jesus
Mt 18:20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Jesus is in the midst of those who gather in His name. “In My name” represents Jesus personally.
Mt 24:5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. (also Mk 13:6; Lk 21:8) Those who come “In My name” present themselves as if they were Christ. Again “In My name” = Me
Mk 9:39 But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. “In My name” = in My authority
Mk 16:17 These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; Again “In My name” = in My authority
Jn 14:13-14 Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. “In My name” = as if I was asking it, according to My will
Jn 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. “In My name” = to replace Me, as My substitute
Jn 15:16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. “in My name” = as if I was asking
Jn 16:23-24 Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. Again, “in My name” = as if I was asking
Jn 16:26 In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; “in My name” = as if I was asking

“In His name”
Mt 12:21 “AND IN HIS NAME THE GENTILES WILL HOPE.” “in His name” = in Him
Lk 24:47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. “in His name” = in His authority
Jn 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, “in His name” = in Him
Jn 2:23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. “in His name” = in Him
Jn 20:31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. “in His name” = in Him
Acts 3:16 And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; “in His name” = in Him

On the basis of all the passages, “in My name” means as Jesus Himself would have asked, personally, according to His will and, in His authority. Now if you ask like that, of course you could ask anything and He will do it, since it is His will. You would not be asking anything selfishly, in your own interest, not for the Father’s glory.

Concerning the salvation of your family and friends, I believe not only your wish and the Lord’s desire are involved:

1 Tim 2:4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
• 2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

but also that of your family and friends:

Mt 23:37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.

So notwithstanding your and our Lord’s desire to save them, if they are unwilling to repent, the Lord will not force them. Each of us is responsible before God to follow Him or reject His offer of salvation.

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God’s Will (3 of 3)

God's will 14

(Continued from yesterday)

So far we’ve talked about God’s will in general, for all people. What about His will for you and me in particular? How can we find out? I can think of 8-10 ways, but will limit myself to the most important five.

The first one is prayer. If I don’t know what you want, the best way to find out is to ask you. Similarly, if I don’t know God’s will in a particular issue, the best is to ask God directly in prayer.

Jas 1:5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Obviously, if our relationship is not good, you would not tell me. Similarly, if you want to know God’s will, you need to be in a good relationship with God.

Php 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
• 1 Thes 5:17 pray without ceasing

Do you pray about everything, or only those big things you can’t handle yourself? How often do you pray? Without ceasing?

Secondly, through Scripture. How would God answer your prayer? Often through His word – the Bible.

Ps 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.

God would bring up verses you’ve read or studied before to guide you what route to take. But how can God bring verses up to memory if you’ve never studied the Bible? Often believers don’t know God’s will because they don’t know the Bible. Some Christians read 3 chapters a day and read through the entire Bible in about a year. That’s not bad but you don’t retain too much that way. A better approach is to read 7 chapters a day, but repeat it for the week. This way you remember not only what each chapter said, but also the flow. The Holy Spirit would remind you from what you put into your mind and heart which is the right way. Saturate yourself with God’s word, and you’ll never go wrong.

Thirdly, through godly counsel:

Prov 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
• Prov 15:22 Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.

God leads us through the counsel of wise, trustworthy people. Usually they are older, more mature, and have nothing to gain or lose from our decision. Often they are not in our immediate family or our best friends. This way they are not motivated by selfish reasons, or emotionally attached. Often they want to think and pray about it before offering any advice.

Fourthly, God accomplishes His will through circumstances.

Php 1:12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel

Paul did not ask for his imprisonment, but through it all the guards heard about Christ, and encouraged others to testify without fear. So both favorable and unfavorable circumstances can be used to achieve God’s will.

A fifth principle is that God leads us into His will by giving us an inner assurance of peace.

Phil 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

When deciding between two or more alternatives that you have been praying about, sometimes one of the options will give you a greater peace. Often that option is God’s will.

Isa 32:17 And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever.

God made known some of His will for us. He desires for us to be saved, sanctified, sorrowful when we fail, willing to suffer for Christ’s sake, and thankful in everything. We can find out His will through prayer, studying the Bible, listening to godly counsel, discerning our circumstances, and following the peace that God gives.

Let me close by giving you this challenge:

Start small – you may think what can I do? Our small effort doesn’t matter. But it does! Start by finding out how God can use you to help others.
• Start here – wherever you are, whether in Canada, or China, start right there. God will lead you step by step. It is easy to steer a moving car.
Start now – don’t wait till you’re established in your career, or after you start your family. Don’t procrastinate. Start now.

Ask God to help you. He will.

Variety of Gifts

Tree house

Tree house

Enjoying cake

Enjoying cake

Partying with friends

Partying with friends

Playing watchmen to sound the alarm when enemy approaches

Playing watchmen to sound the alarm when enemy approaches

Family photo

Family photo

Our son-in-law is very handy. He knows how to repair cars, and fixes many
things around the house. He built the foundation for his tool sheds, and flower beds by splitting logs a foot in diameter. For his children, he designed and built a tree house from scratch, single-handedly, within a couple of weeks. He is good in photography too, and plays drums for the worship team. In short, he is very gifted with his hands.

I have a friend who is very handy too. He is an outdoors man – hunting, archery, fishing, camping, whether in trailers, tents, or even perched up in trees waiting for deer. He renovated his basement by himself, and of course fixes all kinds of furniture and gadgets. He too, is his church’s drummer, and gifted with his hands.

I am the exact opposite. I am happy when I can assemble a BBQ or a desk from components within half a day when others take only a couple of hours. I’m the only one in the family who can’t play any music instruments, and my eye-hand coordination is such that I can’t save myself if my life depended on it! Does that mean I’m useless? Not at all, because there are varieties of gifts:

1 Co 12:4-11 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

Are we different? Yes. Are some unimportant? No! Just as there are many members to the body, and no part can say to another, “I have no need of you”, so no individual member within Christ’s body can live without other members. We need the same care for one another, because if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. I do wish I am more handy, but I’m glad I can do my part, even in a small way, and contribute to Christ’s body. Thanks and praise be to God.

God’s Work

Spanish 3

Our friends are missionaries to Panama, sent to pastor a Chinese church there. After they’ve been there for a little while, they observed that one ministry essential to the continuance and growth of the church is youth ministry, in Spanish. When the second generation of the church were children, the parents could teach them Sunday school in Chinese. But as the children grew up to be teenagers and develop their independence, Chinese no longer suffice and they began to drop out.

Just as Chinese churches in Canada need English ministry to keep the families together, Chinese churches in Panama need Spanish ministry to survive. It’s not an option up for discussion, but a necessity if they do not want to lose their children. Most of the adults do not have much education and run small businesses such as convenience stores, laundromats, bakeries etc.. They picked up just enough Spanish to make a living, and are inadequate when it comes to reading the Spanish bible, let alone teach it. Without internal resources, the only means is to enlist external help from local Spanish churches.

Previously the church had attempted to get help through joining the local denomination. However, this involved submitting their constitution, bylaws, statement of faith etc. in Spanish, something beyond their capability at that time, so the whole idea was shelved. But with the teens staying away from church, or going to Spanish churches instead, the need becomes more pressing. So our friends investigated possible sources of Spanish help, and began approaching them one by one.

One of the church’s teens left and went to a Spanish Baptist church in the neighborhood. Our friends did not expect them to help, so went to them last. Ironically, this is the church that came to the rescue. The Spanish church had wanted to reach out to the Chinese adults for a long time, but hitherto had been unable to do so because of the language barrier. However, they kept praying about it for 10 years, and God answered both their and our friends’ prayers.

When our friends contacted them to request help, they were delighted to do so. Their dream to reach the Chinese can now be fulfilled, only it was the youth, not adults. Enthusiastically they sent four of their young adults to the Chinese church every week to teach Spanish Sunday school, plus two children’s workers who take turns to come as well. Our friends attend their monthly staff meeting to maintain the relationship and coordinate schedules.

The youth group was keen on reaching their peers, and grew from a handful of teens to as many as 35 people when there are special events, averaging 25 weekly. They have grown to be even bigger than the adult congregation. A good number were willing to do daily devotions, so the growth was not only quantitative, but qualitative as well. Our friends got more than they hoped for, not just Spanish helpers to stop the hemorrhage, but new blood to revitalize the next generation. Truly this is of the Lord. Praise and thanks be to God!

The Levite’s Concubine (3 of 3)

Levite concubine 1

(Continued from yesterday)

My observation is therefore as follows:

• The men of Gibeah committed gang rape and must be punished. God used Israel as His instrument to execute justice.
• However, Israel was not “a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master” (2 Tim 2:21), and need to be cleansed.
• God humbled the Israelites twice by giving them defeat. 40,000 (22,000 v 21 plus 18,000 v 25) or one tenth of the 400,000 foot soldiers (v 2) were killed.
Then all the sons of Israel and all the people went up and came to Bethel and wept; thus they remained there before the LORD and fasted that day until evening. And they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. (Judg 20:26) After they repented God delivered the Benjamites into Israel’s hands (Judg 20:28).
• However, the Israelites took matters into their own hands and, even though God never told them to do so, killed 25,100 (v 35, v 46’s 25,000 is round number) of the 26,700 (26,000 Benjamites + 700 from Gibeah v 15) men on that day, leaving only 600 who escaped. By deduction 1,000 were killed on the first two days.
• One error leads to another, leading to the fiasco to provide for the survival of the Benjamites in Judges 21.

Actually there are more problems in the story leading up to the civil war, including:

• The Levite took a concubine for himself (v 1). God’s plan is one husband, one wife.
• The concubine played the harlot (v 2) and should have been stoned (Deut 22:22).
• Homosexuals demanding sex with the Levite (v 22) reminiscent of Genesis 19;
• The owner of the house offering his virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine to appease the gay attackers (v 24). What father would have done that?
• The selfish Levite bringing his concubine to the men, who gang raped her all night (v 25).
• Committing indignity to a dead body by dismemberment, and sending her body parts to incite war (v 29).

All these were recorded to illustrate what happened when people do not acknowledge God and did what was right in his own eyes. That’s where the focus is, not whether God’s actions were justified. God is just, but men were, and still are, disobedient, causing all the sins and evils. He will return soon to rectify all problems.

The Levite’s Concubine (2 of 3)

Levite concubine 4

(Continued from yesterday)

Second, the sons of Israel inquired of God three times, each time before they battle against the sons of Benjamin:

Judg 20:18 Now the sons of Israel arose, went up to Bethel, and inquired of God and said, “Who shall go up first for us to battle against the sons of Benjamin?” Then the LORD said, “Judah shall go up first.”
• Judg 20:23 The sons of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until evening, and inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall we again draw near for battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin?” And the LORD said, “Go up against him.”
• Judg 20:27-28 The sons of Israel inquired of the LORD (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, Aaron’s son, stood before it to minister in those days), saying, “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin, or shall I cease?” And the LORD said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand.”

But note that they had already decided what to do before they inquired of God:
Judg 20:8 Then all the people arose as one man, saying, “Not one of us will go to his tent, nor will any of us return to his house.”
• Judg 20:10 that when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, they may punish them for all the disgraceful acts that they have committed in Israel.
• Judg 20:12 that we may put them to death and remove this wickedness from Israel.

To punish the perpetrators of Gibeah was not wrong, but Israel had determined what to do before bothering to ask God. Their first inquiry was not what they should do, but “who shall go up first“.

Even after God gave them victory on the third day, they swore rash oaths before consulting the Lord:

Judg 21:1 Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpah, saying, “None of us shall give his daughter to Benjamin in marriage.”
• Judg 21:5 Then the sons of Israel said, “Who is there among all the tribes of Israel who did not come up in the assembly to the LORD?” For they had taken a great oath concerning him who did not come up to the LORD at Mizpah, saying, “He shall surely be put to death.”

So while they inquired of God and even wept before Him, their hearts, as betrayed by their actions, were bent on calling the shots themselves and not following Him as Lord.

(To be continued)

The Levite’s Concubine (1 of 3)

Levite concubine 5

Q. In Judges 19-20, to protect himself from homosexual attack, a Levite pushed his concubine to the wicked men of Gibeah (Benjamites) who raped her to death. He then cut up her body into 12 pieces and sent one piece to each tribe in Israel. This triggered a civil war between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of Israel. Israel inquired of God and yet was defeated twice before they won. The tribe of Benjamin was almost annihilated. Why would God do this to Israel and Benjamin?

A. No one knows for sure what’s on God’s mind because the Bible did not tell us. Skeptics use this passage to attack God’s character and the Bible’s morality. However, even though we do not know for certain, there are clues for us to deduce a plausible explanation. Similarities exist between this incident and that of Genesis 19, where God destroyed Sodom for her wickedness. Before we question God, let’s note what’s in the text.

First, the broad theme was “in those days, there was no king in Israel“, repeated four times in the text and immediate context:
Judg 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.
• Judg 18:1 In those days there was no king of Israel;
• Judg 19:1 Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel,
• Judg 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

The meaning of “no king” is not only literal, but also “no King” figuratively, i.e. no recognition of God, as “every man did what was right in his own eyes”. No one acknowledged God as Lord of their lives, and did as he pleased. The biblical principles on our relationship with God are:

Jas 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you, and
• 2 Tim 2:12 If we deny Him, He also will deny us.

It wasn’t God did not care, but men ignored God. So God gave them over to impurity, degrading passions, and a depraved mind:

Rom 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity,
• Rom 1:26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions;
• Rom 1:28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind,

and allowed them to suffer the consequences of their action. This is exactly what happened in Judges 19-20.

(To be continued)