Friday, November 30, 2012

Today in Revelation ~ It Will be God’s Will

Revelation shows pictures of things that will look hopelessly terrible to God’s people. The whole book resonates with the declaration: God’s will absolutely will be done on earth as his will is done in heaven. The 7 in the book keeps telling us that each thing that happens will be completed according to the will of God. Whether it is seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls of wrath, things that God himself is doing, or 7 years of tribulation, things the world, the flesh and the devil will be doing, they will be brought to their fullness according to the will of God, not the will of man, not the will of the flesh, not the will of the red dragon, and most definitely, not the Mayan calendar!

© 2012 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, Canada, V1K 1B8 ~

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Considerations ~ God Cares For Our Cry

Here is an amazing description of God’s care of his people: 15 Whenever they (God’s people) marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress” (Judges 2).

Why is this care? Because the people kept turning to false gods, non-gods, and so trusting in stones and wood and demons that could not help them.

What happened when God carried out his discipline until the people were in “terrible distress”? 6 And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord” (Judges 6). Being “brought low” caused the people to cry out to God for help.

What did God do every time the people cried out for help? He worked for their deliverance and brought their land to peace.

God will use trials to humble us of our idolatry to pride, in order to get us to cry out to him instead of to ourselves, or our worldly loves, or other religions and philosophies. When we cry out to him, when we humble ourselves before him, he comes to our rescue and lifts us up.

© 2012 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, Canada, V1K 1B8 ~

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Reveling in Revelation ~ The Garland of Grace and Peace

4 ”…Grace to you and peace…” (Revelation 1)

          Occasionally my head ends up thinking of this journey through Revelation as an exploration of a Museum that puts God’s plans for the future on display. The first three verses are like the big main sign on the building that says, “The Revelation”, and, on the corner of the sign is a signature, “of Jesus Christ”. Then there is an explanatory sign lower on the wall that explains how this Revelation came from God, to Jesus, to his angel, to John, and now to Jesus’ servants. At the bottom of this sign is the promise of blessing on those who read, hear and do what is revealed throughout the Museum.

          As we open the door to enter the Museum we are greeted by our tour guide, a fellow servant named John. The first thing he does is place a garland of grace and peace around the necks of each of the servants of Jesus Christ who enter the building. At the same time, he explains to us that this is a gift of grace and peace from God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son.

          In the Revelation Museum we will see displays of all kinds of terrible things that will happen in the world. Beasts and dragons will seek to destroy the servants of God. There will be times that God’s servants would lose all hope except for this one thing: we keep looking at the garland of grace and peace and realize that God is always helping us through all the bad things we face in life. One day his grace and peace will bring us into the new home that Jesus has prepared for us, and we will never regret depending on his grace and peace no matter how long the journey.

          The point is that grace and peace are given to the Museum travelers. It does not say “grace and peace FOR you,” but “grace and peace TO you”. We will not need to look for secret stashes of grace and peace as we go through the difficult scenes of the journey. The first thing that Jesus wants us to know as we enter his Museum is that he lovingly adorns us with his grace and peace for all we will face.

          What this means is that we will travel through the Revelation Museum, and through the life that is previewed in the book of revelation, wearing a constant supply of the undeserved favor of God guiding us along every step of our way. We will not be victorious over beasts and dragons because we deserve to be victorious. We will not win victories because we are mighty warriors. We will win because of the abundant grace that God gives us at the very beginning of our journey.

          The peace on our garland gives off the fragrance of Jesus’ words: I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”[1] We could say that, because the Revelation is “of Jesus Christ”, that he is continuing to say things to his servants so that we may have his peace. Revelation shows what Jesus meant by telling us that we would live in a world of tribulation. However, he has overcome the world in his death, burial and resurrection, and the Revelation Museum shows how he will overcome the world in the working out of God’s plans and purposes.

          Now that I see God’s servants as standing inside the door of the Revelation Museum in eagerness to get the journey started, the garland around our necks wafting up the fragrance of God’s grace and peace must be seen in every section of the journey, no matter how dark and scary it may sometimes appear.

          All Jesus’ servants have been saved by grace through faith.[2] That has brought us into a life described like this: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.[3] If we have peace with God in this way, we certainly can stand in his grace. Our hope will not be disappointed.

© 2012 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, Canada, V1K 1B8 ~

[1] John 16:33
[2] Ephesians 2:8-9
[3] Romans 5:1-2

Considerations ~ The Good of Loving Discipline

“You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2). What an amazing acknowledgement from God. He knows his people. However, this is the rest of the sentence: “therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities”. OUCH!

How is that good news? “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Heb 12:6). It is a mark of being in God’s family that he lovingly disciplines us for our sin. Sin takes our hearts away from our Father, his discipline brings us back. In love he disciplines his children now; everyone else gets judged and condemned later. Our discipline is temporary; their condemnation is eternal. How much better to be known and disciplined by God our Father.

© 2012 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, Canada, V1K 1B8 ~

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Reveling in Revelation ~ The Sovereign Seven

          This past week I spent considerable time exploring how the number seven is used throughout Scripture in order to grow in my understanding of how it is used in the book of Revelation. From its first reference in Genesis to describe the seventh day bringing the six days of creation to completion[1], to the “seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues” at the end of the book of Revelation[2], God uses the number seven to indicate completeness, or fullness, from the divine perspective.

          Now that I’m beginning to grasp the significance of various things being sealed with God’s number seven, I find myself growing in my awe and wonder at the sovereignty of God over all the things his people could ever face in life and in death. No matter what we go through, if it is sealed with “7”, it means it will turn out the way God’s plans and purposes have ordained its completion. This is why we do not live by sight of what the enemies of God do, but by faith in what God says.[3]

          One thing that struck me this morning is that the SEVEN of God is a seven of LOVE. The seven is not merely emphasizing God’s SOVEREIGNTY, but it is emphasizing GOD’S sovereignty. That means it is the sovereignty of the God revealed in Scripture. It is the sovereignty of all that God is in every way he is.

          God’s servants can rejoice in our suffering, not because we are right and our opponents are wrong, but because God is sovereignly working out his loving plans to bring all his people into the likeness of his Son.

          Instead of looking at what we see people getting away with; we look to God who will do a complete 7 of everything. We wait for Jesus because he is not only watching over us, but also carrying out what must soon take place.[4] God is not idle, as though he does not know how to handle our situation; he is working for his glory and honor and praise so that his children have every reason to rejoice in him.

          Somehow, this led me to the book of Daniel. I have been troubled by the apparent connections between the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation because I have not had any confidence-building thoughts about what to do with them. However, God had something much more edifying in mind for me and so brought these two witnesses together in a very uplifting testimony to my heart.

          I suspect that the most well-known segment of the book of Daniel is about Daniel and the lions’ den. As I looked this up in Daniel 6, I was amazed to discover that the connection between Daniel and Revelation was very clearly staring me in the face. Daniel was going through a period of great trouble, as he was part of the utter defeat of his people, and their experience of captivity. Today we would call Daniel a Prisoner of War.

          Daniel was now in the difficult situation of being a POW in a land that worshipped idols while he was devoted to worshiping Yahweh, the Creator of all things. To continue worshiping God in such a nation was literally life threatening, just as is later described in Revelation. Political leaders actually conspired against him, hoping to have him executed for his worship of God. This is also a strong theme in Revelation. When Daniel was thrown to the lions, he experienced the kind of situation that Revelation refers to as the work of that terrible roaring lion[5], also known as the red dragon[6], who is the constant enemy of God’s children.

          When Daniel escapes the Lions’ den without harm, it is not a declaration that God always rescues his children from physical harm, or even death. It is a living illustration of God’s 7, his sovereign lordship over every government, every King, every edict, even a law as binding as one made by the “Medes and Persians”.[7] He made Daniel a testimony to God’s deliverance so that every generation of believers, including all those who read of such similar perils in the Revelation, would remember that God is sovereign over all things no matter what they look like.

          It is our appreciation of God’s sovereign purposes that enables us to understand that our brother James could glorify God when he was put to death by the sword,[8] and Peter could glorify God when he was miraculously delivered out of jail.[9] The same picture is replayed further along in church history when John Hus was burned at the stake in 1415 because he worked to get the Bible into the common language of the people, while, a hundred years later, Martin Luther’s work of getting Bibles into the hands of the people was a major contributor to the Protestant Reformation. What is clear throughout Scripture is that God’s children can glorify our Father in both life and death.

          All this brought me to the realization that the number 7 in Revelation, first given to us in reference to the “seven churches”,[10] also sealed the experience that Daniel was going through. The book of Daniel takes place during what is called “the captivity,” and the captivity has a number on it. It is the number 7!

11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste. (Jeremiah 25)

          God decreed that the captivity would be marked by a 7. God works in sevens because it is his number. The captivity would be 70 years because it would be completed according to God’s timeframe. It would not be a Babylonian King who determined when he would release Israel from their captivity. Neither would it be the Israelites deciding when their discipline was over. The captivity would last as long and short as God said because it was serving God’s purposes.

          The book of Daniel was written in the midst of a season of great tribulation that had God’s seal on it. It was sealed with his 7 in order to radiate hope to his disciplined people that it would end precisely at the moment God had determined it would be complete. Daniel enduring faithfully through this season of tribulation is exactly the way we need to walk through the kinds of experiences described in Revelation. God is sovereign over everything that is happening, so we put our faith in him and his sovereignty over all that is taking place in the world.

          Daniels’ example is not primarily about God rescuing him from the lions. It is about his faith in God that enabled him to continue publicly worshiping his heavenly Father even while he knew it could end in death. Right now, there are servants of Jesus Christ who are being put in prison camps, disowned by their families, living under the constant threat of violence from extreme religious groups, and even being put to death. At the same time, there are servants of Jesus Christ who are publicly declaring Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior without immediate threat to their lives or their livelihoods.

          The point is that, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”[11] If we live, we must live to the glory of Jesus Christ. If we are in danger of dying because we make Jesus Christ known, that is gain because we will be present with the Savior we love, which, Paul said, “is far better.”[12]

          Because the church is sealed with God’s 7, every child of God can confidently live for Christ no matter how the red dragon roars at us to scare us into silence. Whether we glorify God in life or in death is part of God’s sovereign 7. Paul gave us such a good example because he glorified our Lord and Savior in his life, in his suffering, and in his death. Why? Because, he said, “…I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”[13]

          Knowing “whom” we have believed, means the One True God revealed in the Bible. Knowing this God means that we will trust him to look after us as we do all he has entrusted to us.

© 2012 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, Canada, V1K 1B8 ~

[1] Genesis 2:1-3
[2] Revelation 21:9
[3] Romans 10:17
[4] Revelation 1:1
[5] I Peter 5:8
[6] Revelation 12
[7] Daniel 6:8
[8] Acts 12:2
[9] Acts 12:6-19
[10] Revelation 1:4
[11] Philippians 1:21
[12] Philippians 1:23
[13] II Timothy 1:12

Revelation Video Study Six - "The 'Seven' of the Churches"

Study six of our Revelation series brings us to explore the significance of the number "7". It is an amazing seal of assurance that God is in sovereign control of history, and will fulfill everything he says must happen at just the right time.

Today in Revelation ~ "Daniel and Revelation: Two Witnesses"

November 27, 2012
Daniel and Revelation: Two Witnesses
      Last night I went to bed troubled with the thought that the prophecies of the book of Daniel were quite significant to understanding the prophecies of the book of Revelation. The popular methods of handling these prophecies are totally out of my league, so I went to sleep with a feeling of weariness about having to try and figure out such things.
      This morning God connected the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation in quite a different way than I imagined, and yet in the way that shows how God will always use his word to interpret his word. What I learned was that, the emphasis in using Daniel to interpret Revelation is not on the similarity of some of the prophecies, but on the similarity of the experiences.
      Daniel is a beacon of hope to present day believers because it shows a real life experience of Jesus’ servants going through the same kinds of hardships as are described in Revelation. Daniel’s faithfulness in serving God even under threat of death is exactly what the book of Revelation is getting at.
      As we go through Revelation and see the troubles that God’s servants will face, we are called to look at how Daniel and others went through their trials with exemplary faithfulness. They were not heroic. They were not different than God’s servants can be today. They trusted God and persevered through their trials.
      If any of us are struggling through trials and can’t quite understand how the visions and symbols of Revelation are intended to help us, look at how Daniel endured in his trials, how he was unashamed to make his worship of God public even while knowing it would land him in a lions’ den.
      So, if you find that your faithful obedience to Christ keeps you always aware that you could get into trouble at a moment’s notice, the books of Daniel and Revelation are two witnesses that God’s servants come into the full experience of salvation by persevering until the end, whenever our end may be.

© 2012 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, Canada, V1K 1B8 ~


Monday, November 26, 2012

Pastoral Ponderings ~ The Blessing of Grace and Peace

…Grace to you and peace…” (Revelation 1:4)

          This morning (Monday), I woke up feeling the grace and peace of God. After a painful letter arrived Saturday morning, sending me into a tailspin of depression, Sunday was different. My time in God’s word, a few hours of fellowship with God’s people, a good Sunday afternoon nap, and another letter offering hope I could not see the day before, led me to a feeling of peace I could only explain in one way: God was pouring his grace into my heart and blessing me with his peace. I was experiencing Revelation’s greeting of “grace to you and peace”, and I was thankful.

          All of this reminded me of a beautiful expression of blessing God presented to his people approximately a couple of dozen centuries ago. It reads:

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.[1]

          Unlike any other blessing we may have heard, this blessing is straight from the mouth of God. This is his desire for his people. And, not only is it his desire to bless his people in these ways, it is his desire that his people know that he wants to bless us in these ways.

          When we add to this all the other God-breathed expressions of blessing, we get an amazingly clear look into the heart of God. He wants to “bless us… keep us… make his face shine upon us… be gracious to us… lift up his countenance upon us… and give us peace.” As the last book of the Bible declares, he wants to bless his people with grace and peace.

          In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he totally turned religion on its head by challenging what people thought would bring about God’s blessing[2]. People were indoctrinated with the idea that they had to be as good as the religious leaders to have any assurance of blessing from God. The prostitutes, drunks and tax collectors could not even dream of being good enough for that blessing, so they simply indulged in their sinful lives and tried to squeeze out of the world’s deadness as much happiness as they could imagine was there.

          Jesus began his good news by saying that God’s blessing was on the “poor in spirit”, rather than the proud, religious hypocrites. He said that God blessed those who mourned their sinful condition, not those who were self-satisfied in their pompous activities. He declared that God’s blessing was expressed to the meek who knew they could not fix their lives, not the arrogant who believed they could be good enough for God in their own good works. And, he promised God’s blessing on those who hungered for the righteousness they knew they did not have, not on those who imagined they were already as righteous as God could ever wish.

          What were the blessings on the poor in spirit? Jesus promised, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven… they shall be comforted… they shall inherit the earth… they shall be satisfied… they shall receive mercy… they shall see God… they shall be called sons of God… theirs is the kingdom of heaven… your reward is great in heaven…” That is all contained in the summary of “grace to you and peace”.

          One thing stood out to me about the earlier blessing God pronounced on his people centuries before Jesus came and proclaimed the good news. It was the way God concluded the blessing. He said, “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”[3] I had never noticed this before, the connection between God’s “name upon the people,” and his promise, “I will bless them.”

          Noticing this suddenly caused me to gain some insight into Jesus identifying that his people had to do things in his name[4]. It also added some understanding to why Paul would put such great emphasis on believers being “in the Beloved.”[5] God will bless what bears his name, and be a terror to those who do not bear his name.

          When God delivered Israel out of Egypt, the Egyptian army chased after the Israelites because their whole work force had just left town[6]. By the time the Egyptians caught up to the Israelites, God showed both groups of people that he was present between them in a pillar of cloud and fire. This pillar of cloud by day and fire by night was God’s assurance to Israel that he was with them to bless them. It was also God’s assurance to Egypt that they were doomed because they were against his name.

          God’s name must be on people in order for them to receive his blessing. That is why there is such emphasis on Jesus’ name.

ü  “you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”[7]

ü  Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,”[8]

ü  “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”[9]

ü  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”[10]

ü  “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”[11]

ü  “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”[12]

ü  “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.[13]

ü  “…you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ..”[14]

ü  “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”[15]

ü  “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”[16]

          Another way this is expressed is in Jesus’ use of the vine-and-branches metaphor. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.[17] This cannot be true of a relationship with a god by any other name. It is only true of those who are in Jesus’ name, who are in Christ, who are under the name of the only true God. If we abide in Christ the way a branch lives in the vine, we will have life. Apart from Jesus, apart from his name, apart from living in him, we can do nothing.

          All of this tells us why we cannot believe that God makes himself known to different ethnic groups by different names and descriptions. All through the word of God, the gods with other names are called idols, and worship of idols is condemned[18]. Why? Because God knows his name, and will only bless those who are “in his name”. There is no other god, or even any other version of God, that can grant the fullness of the divine blessing on those who come into Jesus’ name.

          One day, “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.[19] If we lived in Jesus’ name in this earthly life, confessing Jesus Christ as Lord in heaven will be a thrilling and wonderful blessing. If we rejected Jesus’ name in this earthly lifetime, confessing Jesus Christ as Lord will be our own admission of guilt, shame and fear that we so poorly handled such a rich and gracious name.

          When Jesus came the first time, many people did not know him, and many others would not receive him and come under the blessing of his name. However, this description of those who are blessed in Jesus’ name stands as an ongoing invitation to all who are living outside of God’s blessing: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.[20]

          Receive Jesus and be blessed in his name with grace and peace!


© 2012 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, Canada, V1K 1B8 ~

[1] Numbers 6:24-26
[2] Matthew 5:1-12
[3] Numbers 6:27
[4] Colossians 3:17
[5] Ephesians 1:6
[6] Exodus 14
[7] Matthew 1:21
[8] Matthew 18:5
[9] Matthew 18:20
[10] John 14:13,14
[11] John 20:31
[12] Acts 2:21
[13] Acts 2:38
[14] I Corinthians 6:11
[15] Colossians 3:17
[16] I John 3:23
[17] John 15:5
[18] Deuteronomy 11:6 is just an example. The Old Testament is full of such declarations.
[19] Philippians 2:10-11
[20] John 1:12,13