Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pastoral Ponderings ~ The Angels' Joy in Our Joy in God's Joy

          I love it when God surprises me with something I have never noticed in his word. For twenty-one years this has felt very personal, like God teaching me things I could never know without him. Today was a fresh experience with something in God’s word that made my joy in Jesus feel as personal and real as ever.

          This week I have been considering the innumerable angels of Revelation 5, all “saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’”[1] The question that suddenly came to mind was this: since the angels are beyond the scope of redemption, what is their background that would tell us why they are so wrapped up in the worship of Jesus Christ because of what he has accomplished through his sacrificial, atoning, propitiating death?

          The passage that got me doing the most thinking was Luke’s description of the angels bringing Jesus’ birth announcement to the shepherds.

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[2]

          I have read this so many times from the viewpoint of salvation, shepherds, the earth waiting for its Savior, but never from the viewpoint of the angels. The angel that appeared to the shepherds was surrounded by the glory of the Lord. The angel lived in God’s glory, and was coming as an ambassador of that glory.

          The glory of the Lord that was a terror to the shepherds, was the heavenly home of the angel. There was nothing new, surprising, strange or fearful about the glory of the Lord that shone around the angel’s visitation. The angel was bringing its home into our home, its world into our world, its glorious light into our demoralizing darkness.

          When the angel said, “Fear not,” it was not merely giving information to the shepherds. It was speaking as a never-ending inhabitant of the glory of God. It knew the glory of God. It knew the safety of the glory of God. It had seen the glory of God deal justly with the rebellious angels who followed Lucifer to their demise, and it had seen the same glory deal justly with all the righteous angels that continued in their love and devotion to the Living God.

          This angel knew what the Scriptures had to repeatedly publicize to God’s children, that, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”[3] The angels knew that God was love, and that there was no fear in his love. The habitation of the perfect love of God was a habitation without fear. Fear has to do with punishment. The angels of heaven knew that they would not be punished. They knew that God was carrying out a redemptive work to deliver his people from the punishment of death demanded by the law.

          On the other hand, this angel knew that “whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” He knew that the recipients of salvation were sinners, doubters, little children who still believed they were the center of all things, including God, and truth. The angel had witnessed the failings of man for millennia. It was well aware of God’s judgments against sin in the flood, the tower of Babel, the plagues of Egypt, and the destruction of the enemies of God in the Promised Land.

          So now, as the shepherds immediately responded to God’s glory with fear, the angel knew that there was no need to fear, and yet knew the propensity of sheep to feel afraid at the slightest disruption to their quiet little worlds.

          The angel assured the shepherds that there was no need to fear because they were dealing with the glory of God. Not only so, but the angel knew that it had a message that was characterized by “good news”. This angel knew, more than any human being could comprehend, what it meant to all the angels that on that very night a baby had been born who was “Christ the Lord.” This baby was the “Christ”, the Messiah, the anointed one sent into the world to bring about eternal redemption. But, he was also “the Lord,” the King of heaven, the Son of God, the Lord of glory, the Lord of eternity, the Lord of all.

          What would the angel have felt speaking of this good news being “of great joy”? What did it know of its own great joy in watching the behind-the-scenes view of God-inspired  prophecies unfolding from behind the scenes? While shepherds saw the stage of darkness suddenly shattered with the spotlight of God’s glory surrounding this one solitary angel, the angel had just come out of the glorious presence of God where the throne room of God was filled with God’s glory, and filled with the praises of the heavenly hosts all joyfully delighting in this glory.

          So, today marks the day that I clue in to this wondrous truth, that the angel of God was speaking of a “great joy” that was shared by the angels as well as the recipients of salvation. This was more than an announcement of great joy to come, but it was already a great joy to the angels of heaven.

          I never cease to marvel at the grace and mercy of God in sending only one angel to center stage with this birth announcement of great joy. This speaks of the wonder of these angelic beings, and the joy of their place in the home of God’s glory, that one angel alone would bring such fear to the awestruck shepherds.

          And then God graciously gives the shepherds the joyful news of salvation, lets this wonder settle into their hearts, and stir them up with hope and expectation, before he suddenly shines the spotlight of his glory on a “multitude of the heavenly host” joining their comrade in declaring the praises of God’s glory.

          When we consider the angels praising the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of God’s people all over the world, and how they had brought the announcement of a great joy that the very Son of God had been born in the flesh for the salvation of God’s children, we can get a sense that they had their own experience of the “great joy” of God’s plan of salvation. As the audience to God’s redemptive drama, and the participants in ministering this salvation to the servants of God, the angels were sharing in the great joy in whatever way angels can share in this great joy. They are not the recipients of this salvation, but they are the wondering servants of God who rejoice to see the glory of God in the salvation he brought to such sinful people as us.

          As we further consider the angels bringing their praises to God in heaven, we must keep in mind this description of their role in the work of God. The writer of the book of Hebrews wrote, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”[4] The inherent nature of angels is to be ministering spirits. Their service is focused on “those who are to inherit salvation,” meaning, all those who repent and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That is what they were doing the night they announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, and it is what they are doing through the pages of Scripture as they leave us with their testimony that our Savior is worthy “to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

          So, with this in mind, that angels are ministering spirits serving the ones the Lamb of God had redeemed to reign on the earth as a kingdom and priesthood of all believers, we can now look at the specific qualities the angels use in their sevenfold expression of praise, and ask God to bring us to know Jesus in the very same way. Except, of course, as those who are the recipients of the salvation the angels long to look into.[5]

          From my heart,



© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Revelation 5:12
[2] Luke 2
[3] I John 4:18
[4] Hebrews 1:14
[5] “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” (I Peter 1:12)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Bible Study (Online): Gospel of Mark ~ Study Nine

Getting to Know Jesus in the Gospel of Mark
Study Nine: Mark 1:40-45

40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter. (Mark 1)

1.  How would you describe the faith of the leper?


2. How would you describe Jesus’ response to the leper?


3. What was the result of Jesus’ response to the leper?


4. What do these two sides of the picture tell us about Jesus?


5. If Jesus does whatever he wills to do, where should we put our focus if we want to be part of what he is doing?


6. What would you say is Jesus’ will in relation to your life?


© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Bible Study (Online): Gospel of Mark ~ Study Eight

Getting to Know Jesus in the Gospel of Mark
Study Eight: Mark 1:35-39

35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mark 1)

1.  The night before this we read, “That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons” (Mark 1:32). This means that the previous evening Jesus spent considerable time ministering to the people who came to him. What does this next picture tell us about the significance of Jesus’ relationship to his Father?


2.  Why was everyone looking for Jesus the next morning (from previous study)?


3.  What did Jesus decide to do instead?


4. What was directing Jesus so that he knew what he should do that day?


5. What do we already know that Jesus was preaching about when he went from town to town? (1:14-15 ~ Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”)


6. How does Jesus continue to “come” to people in every age with the good news of the gospel?


7. Why is the message, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (1:15), still necessary for every town of our world to hear?


© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

Pastoral Ponderings ~ To Be the Same in Our Differences

          I represent the many people who have difficulty comprehending that when God’s attention appears to be on someone else, it is also still on me. I carry within me the scars of a soul that knows what it is like for people to move on from me because they have found someone better. It is not easy to leave behind the mindset of trying to be the same as others who seem more acceptable than myself.

          In the wonder of God’s creative glory, he makes many things that are the same and different at the same time. Every snowflake is the same thing as another snowflake, and yet no two snowflakes are the same. The cells that form our body tissues are all cells, and yet each kind of cells looks different from the others. All molecules are molecules, but each kind of molecule has a harmonious uniqueness from other kinds of molecules.

          Human beings are all human beings, but the differences between us in appearance, size, shape, color, and style, are remarkable. The planets in our solar system are all planets, and yet each one has distinctive properties. The stars we see in the night sky, all looking like identical little bright lights in the universe, are actually full of variations from one star to another.

          The human body has many parts, but they are filled with differences. Even the repeated parts are harmoniously different from one another. The right hand is identical to the left, except in an oppositely different kind of way. I can use my hands to do the same thing, like typing out these thoughts, and yet both hands are coming from a different angle, and each finger and thumb is doing the same kind of things, but not at the same time or in the same places. Each digit is typing different letters at different times, each doing their part, adding together a harmony of letters that make up words, sentences, paragraphs, and stories, that can only become what they are by the parts of my body doing things slightly different from the other parts.

          Now, what if my right pinky felt it had to hit all the same letters on the keyboard as my left pinky? That would require such a cross-over of actions that I would never get anything done. My right pinky would be forcing its way into the spaces where my left pinky was trying to do its work, and messing up the number and order of the letters. At the same time, my writing would miss all the letter “P’s”, all the number “0’s”, all kinds of symbols,[1] and the actions of shift, enter, backspace, and delete. That’s a lot to miss just because one finger wants to be just like the other.

          When each part of my body does what it is uniquely designed to do, accepting that even what we call identical parts have enough differences that they add distinctive harmonies to the orchestration of our physical activities, there is a comprehensive movement of my body accomplishing great tasks for the one simple reason that every part is doing its part.

          And then there is the church. All over the world, church-gatherings are the same. They are made up of people. All these people who make up Jesus’ true church have been born again by the same Spirit of God, through the same gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every one of these people has repented of their sins, received Jesus Christ by faith, and experienced adoption as sons of God. All of us have the same standing in the grace of God, the same promises of God leading us to the same heavenly home, and the same identity as a beloved child of our heavenly Father. Each and every one of these people is a member of the body of Christ.

          Which brings us to the amazing differences within the worldwide church, and even in each local expression of the body of Christ. All around the world, every believer in Jesus Christ is unique from another. The same God who makes snowflakes similar and distinct in their design, also makes the members of his household similar and distinct in our design and function within his body. If the church were an orchestra, we would play the songs of heaven in far greater harmonies than any of us could imagine.

          To be sure, we can never have the kind of differences where people attempt to rewrite the score, or play at a different tempo than the conductor has chosen. Neither can we add our own unique attention-getting style to the distraction of those who are welcoming the life-giving music of God to their souls. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.[2] There is enough clarity in the “one’s” of the church that we must never cross over from harmony into discord.

          However, “…grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.[3] This means that each of us have our own unique place within the oneness of our salvation, the oneness of the body of Christ, the oneness of relationship with the one God and Father who is over us all. There is a gift Christ has given us in our distinctive design as members of the household of God. And, there is a measure of grace given to each of us in accordance with whatever Jesus has designed us to do.

          This unity and harmony is necessary to the life of the church, and the life of the individuals within the church. For this reason, Paul concludes his focus on our unified harmony in the body of Christ by exhorting: “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.[4] When “each part is working properly,” we can have the kind of body of Christ that “builds itself up in love”.

          When we have “jealousy and selfish ambition… there will be disorder and every vile practice.[5] The body of Christ cannot maintain order when each part is trying to be another part instead of being themselves. When we are jealous of others, and have selfish ambitions to receive the accolades others appear to get from their work, we introduce practices to the church that are vile, corrupt, poisonous, and deadly. This is why Scripture clarifies, “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.[6]

          However, when we abide by the wisdom from above”, we get what is, “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.[7]Obviously, when every member of God’s orchestra plays by this quality of peace, in the harmonies of our unique gifting, everyone would benefit from the joyful sound.

          Now, I’m not sure that it is fair to say that God gives the stereotypical “slap upside the head” to get our attention. However, my time in the word this morning certainly had that feel to it, at least the “God got my attention” part. The God that declared of himself, I am who I am,[8] made me in the image and likeness of his Son, so that I could be who I am in him.

          Another day to grow up a little bit more to be like Jesus (in our own unique and wonderful ways, of course)!

          From my heart,


© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] ?/:;’”[{}]\|)_-+=
[2] Ephesians 4:4-5
[3] Ephesians 4:6
[4] Ephesians 4:15-16
[5] James 3:16
[6] James 3:15
[7] James 3:17-18
[8] Exodus 3:14

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bible Study (Online): Gospel of Mark ~ Study Seven

Getting to Know Jesus in the Gospel of Mark
Study Seven: Mark 1:29-34

29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. (Mark 1)

1.  In our last study we saw that Jesus’ authority in teaching was matched with authority over unclean spirits. What more do we learn about the extent of Jesus’ authority?


2. How thorough was Jesus’ ministry of grace to Simon’s mother-in-law?


3. When Jesus called the fishermen to follow him, they left their careers and families to join Jesus. What do we learn about their ongoing relationship to their families?


4. How did Jesus use of visible signs reveal himself as the “Son of God” (1:1), “the Lord” (1:3), one who would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (1:8), God’s “beloved Son” (1:11)?    


5. What effect did Jesus’ miraculous work have on the people of the area?


6. What effect is this revelation of Jesus’ life and ministry having on you?


© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ The Experience of Truth

          The doctrines of God are not doctrines alone. They are doctrines of experience. We do not live by every word that comes from the mouth of God without eating every word that comes from the mouth of God.[1] We do not live by a doctrine that God is good, but we taste and see that he is good.[2] We do not live by a menu, but we affirm that the menu is correct in telling us what God is like because we taste and see and know by experience that this is so.

          The reason that legalism is so deadly to the life of God’s people is that it dupes us into thinking that words are enough to get us through whatever life has to offer. We are deceived into thinking that a statement of correct doctrine is all that we need, and that it is good and necessary to fight with other believers over words and meanings because our faith is in those words and meanings.

          The Bible, the true words of God, consistently partner truth and experience, doctrine and practice, faith and works. This means that, to live by the words of God we must have the experience the words of God are revealing.

          For example, we cannot merely hold to doctrines about conversion; we must be converted by those doctrines.[3] We cannot limit ourselves to thinking we have faith no matter what we do; but must have a faith that does the deeds of faith.[4] We cannot pridefully hold to doctrines we believe are truer than what others believe; but must know the truth in the experience of love that sent truth into the world to seek us out, to find us, and to save us.[5] We cannot argue the truth of a matter as though knowing facts can make one group better than other; but must be the kind of worshipers who worship in spirit and in truth.[6]

          When Paul wrote about how people are saved, he clarified that there must be a partnership between inner experience of truth, and outer expression of truth. He wrote, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.[7] It is true that Jesus is Lord, and so our salvation requires us to confess this to be true. It is also true that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and so we must believe this in our hearts. The inner experience of believing the gospel is matched by the outer expression of confessing the gospel.

          Paul continued, “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.[8] Paul knew what it was like to be positive he knew the truth about God while still dead in his trespasses and sins,[9] living in the flesh,[10] persecuting the very Christ he thought he was waiting for.[11] It wasn’t until he encountered Jesus Christ that he believed in his heart that Jesus truly was the Messiah of God, that he had truly died for his sins, and that God had truly raised him from the dead; and he confessed with his mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord in a way that continues to resonate throughout the world to this very day.

          The whole message of the Bible is presented as truth in life-experience. The Psalms are filled with expressions of worship that identify the wonderful attributes of God in the context of the life-situations where these attributes were experienced. David knew that God was, “the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel,[12] not only because it was true, but because he had already known God by experience when he was able to kill the lions and bears that were attacking his flocks.[13] For David, it was a natural conclusion that, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”[14] God was who he was, and David knew him that way by experience.

          The point of the matter is that having eternal life the way Jesus described it, And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent,”[15] means knowing both the truth of who God is, and knowing the experience of who God is. To say I am loved, I must experience being loved. To say I am saved, as the doctrines of salvation so gloriously describe, I must experience this salvation saving me from sin. To say I am forgiven, as biblical doctrine so graciously presents in so many revelations of truth, I must know in my heart of hearts what it feels like to experience the forgiveness of my sins.

          I could go on with examples of the ways that knowledge and experience partner together in the doctrines of God. For the moment I would like to encourage you that, if considering the Bible’s wonderful descriptions of the God of heaven and earth leaves you wondering if you have experienced any of these things at all, you only have to let your hunger and thirst for the righteousness you hear of[16] turn into the asking, seeking, and knocking that guarantees to lead you from knowledge to experience in answer to your prayers.[17]

          From my heart,


© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)
[2] Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (I Peter 2)
[3] Acts 2 shows how people who had come to Jerusalem based on their knowledge of the truth had to be converted by the truth they believed in.
[4] “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2:26)
[5] “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:15).
[6] 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4) Note that this doctrine of worshiping in spirit and in truth is shared in the experience of a woman personally dialoguing with Jesus.
[7] Romans 10:9
[8] Romans 10:10
[9] Ephesians 2:1-3
[10] Romans 7
[11] Acts 8; “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (I Corinthians 15:9); “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13); “as to zeal, a persecutor of the church (Philippians 3:6).
[12] I Samuel 17:45
[13] 34Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” (I Samuel 17)
[14] I Samuel 17:37
[15] John 17:3
[16] “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)
[17] 7 ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.’” (Matthew 7)