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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Our Belarus Trip (2 of 2)

(Continued from yesterday)

One of our Belarusian friends is a gifted singer who recorded 3 CDs, 2 in English and 1 in Russian. She has a deep devotional life and her songs reflect her faith. Here is a snipet:

We attended a baptismal service on Sunday, which is rare. Official statistics in 2011 cite 59% of Belarusians are believers, of which 82% are Orthodox, 12% Catholics, and 6% all other denominations, including Protestants, cults, Jews and Muslims. The percentage born-again is therefore small. Making a decision is easy, but public witness by baptism is hard to come by.

Protestant baptism service

Protestant baptism service

The church’s music director has a strong tenor voice and tours often to present in other churches. Here is a sample:

A challenge we faced cooking an authentic oriental mean is the lack of condiments to season the food. This is the only Vietnamese grocery store we know of in Minsk that has a supply of Chinese and SE Asian spices to prepare a decent meal. We actually saved up seasoning packets from instant noodles to bring on trips to help out in a crunch!

Vietnamese grocery store in Zhdanovichi Market

Vietnamese grocery store in Zhdanovichi Market

Of course we can always eat out, budget permitting. The best Chinese restaurant we tried in Minsk is “Chinatown”, opened just last week and where our friend is a junior partner. It is a first class diner with good food, excellent decor and service, and reasonable prices. Many of the decorations are imported from China, as is the chef who comes from Szechuan. We were the first customers on opening day, and it does not disappoint!

Ready for a hearty meal!

Ready for a hearty meal!

Among our Vietnamese merchant friends, the mood is sombre because of the poor economy. The Belarusian currency had depreciated 1/3 from US$1 = 10,000 BLR (Belarusian Ruble) to US$1 = 15,000 BLR, and sales had plummeted. Some shops have closed and the owners returned to Vietnam. Those staying open are eating into their capital in the hope that business will improve by year-end.

Many stores closed as a result of the economic downturn.

Many stores closed as a result of the economic downturn.

Despite the gloomy outlook, life goes on. Believers are helped by their faith and hope for a brighter future. Here we are in front of the white Holy Spirit Cathedral, a famous landmark in Minsk dating to nearly 400 years ago. The original building burned down about 100 years later, and the Bernadine monastery was rebuilt over 270 years ago.

Holy Spirit Cathedral (Orthodox)

Holy Spirit Cathedral (Orthodox)

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)