Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pastoral Ponderings ~ Finding the Real Me in the Real God

          I think it all began with the discovery that the denying ourselves I read about in the Bible is not talking about the denial of Me.[1] Jesus was talking about people denying self-rule, and turning to Christ-rule. He was describing people renouncing the kingdom of the self, the world, the devil, and surrendering to the powerful work of salvation that would bring them into the kingdom of heaven. Instead of depending on ourselves for right standing with God, we would deny ourselves as our hope of righteousness.

          In other words, Jesus was not telling us to deny our identity as persons created in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ, but to deny the sarky, independent, ignorance of the flesh that was holding us prisoners to sin. Everyone who hears the gospel of Jesus Christ must come to the conscious decision to repent of self-rule, to renounce our decision to eat from the forbidden tree, and return to God’s love where we become in Christ all that God ever wanted us to be.

          Today this became clear to me in four-part harmony. This is the introductory movement, the quartet that showcases the whole symphony, if you will.[2] The rest is in the works.

1.  I Find the Real Me in God my Designer

          After more than half a century to consider how I fit into the world I’m living in, and how to understand where I came from and why I am here, the only thing that fits everything to do with life is the acknowledgment that there is One True God who had me in mind before the beginning of time.[3] The magnificence of the universe, and the micro-complexity of the inner workings of life, all speak of the God who is bigger than it all, and who brought all these things into existence.

          When I look in a mirror, I see someone who is here because someone else designed me. I am too well designed to deny a Designer.[4] Once I acknowledge a Designer, I also understand that he is my Designer, the Designer of the Me-ness of Me. Therefore, I can only know who I really am when I come to know who I really am to him. And, once I recognize that he designed me to be “in the image and likeness of God”,[5] I am on the road to understanding the real Me in ways that the world around me could never reveal.

2.  I Find the Real Me in God my Creator

          The fact of my design takes me all the way back to my Designer, and the fact that I am more than a design, but a living, breathing human being, makes my Designer known to me as my Creator. My Designer took his blueprint for man-in-the-image-of-God and created what he designed.[6]

          It is exciting to be living in a day when Darwinian evolution is being debunked right, left, and center. Satan’s attempt to destroy faith in God through the evolutionary religion is being exposed as the red-dragon-masquerading-as-an-angel-of-light deception it really is.[7]

          Both Science and Scripture make it clear that the God who designed Man also created Man.[8] The God who wanted to have a creature in his own image and likeness also created a creature with such unique glory. I am here because God created a man as his image-bearer. I can only explain my incessant need to know myself, and to know where I came from, as the expression of the Designer and Creator of all things, with humanity as the crowning jewel of his creative genius.

3.  I Find the Real Me in God my Savior

          My understanding of myself has to explain why Man is so “fearfully and wonderfully made”,[9] and yet so thoroughly messed-up at the same time. Man has such incredible ability because God made us like himself, and we are so broken and messed-up because we have all “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.[10]

          Therefore, if God were going to have man in his image and likeness, something that was severely damaged within us during our fall into sin,[11] God himself would have to find a way to save us out of our sin and bring us into the Christlikeness he desires. It is well documented that he has done this very thing in the salvation he has given us through Jesus Christ our Lord.[12]

          The fact is that, through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, people like me, people who have trusted in Jesus Christ through repentance and faith, “with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.[13] The real me has been found in Jesus Christ who has saved me from the unreal me, the broken me, the sinful me, to make me once again like him.

4.  I Find the Real Me in God my Forever-Home Maker

          The finishing touch to this grand symphony of divine genius is that the God who designed me, the God who created me, the God who saved me out of my devil-like condition, is presently preparing a home for me where I will be just like him forever. That means that, in being just like him forever, I will be just like myself forever. No more pretense; no more role-playing; no more self-protection or denial; no more pseudo-comfort in the deadly pleasures of sin; no more dissociating from pain and sorrow, for pain, sorrow, sin, and death, have no place in my Forever-Home.

          Jesus, the Creator of the real me, promised, “In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.[14] This tells the real me that I most definitely have a Forever-Home in the works, and I will one day live there forever.

          God’s word goes on to tell me this: Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.[15] One day, with my own eyes, I will see Jesus face to face, and, in seeing him, I will become just like him. At the same time, I will feel within myself the fullness of becoming myself, all that I was designed, created, saved, and adopted to be. I will be at peace with God, at peace with me, and at peace with the whole household of God’s children. We will all be ourselves, like Jesus, and yet each as unique as an individual snowflake.

          I share this with you because I know that many of us have been the victims of the church throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Yes, there is the dirty water of the “self” that must be thrown out. Yes, we are to deny this sarky-self, and all that makes us self-centered, self-dependent, self-protective people.

          However, at the same time, we cannot throw out the in-the-image-of-God person we were designed, created, saved, and adopted to be. This person is as loved by Jesus as Jesus is loved by his Father.[16] This person is called Jesus’ friend.[17] This is the person Jesus is not ashamed to call his brother.[18] This is the person that is God’s beloved who is now able to imitate God’s love.[19]

          So, while we seek to fully obey Jesus’ line-in-the-sand that we can only follow him if we deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow him, we also rejoice as the beloved children of God who have been saved through this cross of Jesus Christ, and repeat with the wondering Psalmist:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! [20]

          From my heart,



© 2014 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] “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’” (Luke 9:23).
[2] This began as a Ping, changed to a Pings (Plus), and ended up a Pondering, with much more to say on the matter!
[3] And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3); Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1)
[4] Accepting, of course, all the flaws, deformities, and deficiencies that sin has added to life’s experience.
[5] Genesis 1:26-27
[6] Genesis 1-2
[7] II Corinthians 11:14 and context
[8] “13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139)
[9] Psalm 139:14
[10] Romans 3:23
[11] Genesis 3
[12] 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8)
[13] II Corinthians 3:18
[14] John 14:2-3
[15] I John 3:2
[16] “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9)
[17] “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)
[18] “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,” (Hebrews 2:11)
[19] Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.(Ephesians 5)
[20] Psalm 8:5-9

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bible Study (Online): Gospel of Mark ~ Study Thirty-one (6:30-44)

Getting to Know Jesus in the Gospel of Mark
Study Thirty-One ~ Mark 6:30-44

30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. (Mark 6)

1.  The disciples had just returned from their travels around Israel, preaching the gospel, healing the sick, and driving out demons. What do we learn about Jesus’ care for his disciples in the instructions he gives them upon their return?


2. What actually happened when Jesus and the disciples crossed the lake for their time of rest? What does this tell us about what it may sometimes be like when we are following Jesus through life?


3. What did this look like from the perspective of the crowds of people?


4. What do you learn about Jesus’ response to the crowds? What encouragement does this give you about approaching him?


5. Describe the difference between the way the disciples thought the needs of the people should be met, and the way Jesus thought their needs should be met. What are some ways we see these same differences of point of view in the church today?


6. What was Jesus teaching the crowds through his miracle? What was he teaching the disciples?


7. Jesus taught his church to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). How does Jesus’ interaction with the crowds and his disciples encourage us in this regard?


© 2014 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 ~ Ageless Devotion to Prayer

          This morning I was sending out a word of encouragement to our home church regarding our prayer meeting tonight, and thought that others might benefit from encouragement to prayer with their church family. My focus is on a particular quality that was in the early church, a quality that was there because the Church was filled with the Spirit (not full of themselves, so to speak).[1] It is described as one of four distinctive qualities of the Spirit’s activity in God’s people.

          This foursome of qualities is described like this: "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."[2] In our case, I am emphasizing the Spirit’s work of making churches “devoted to the prayers”, or “devoted to prayer”.

          When Luke wrote about the early church being devoted to prayer, he was talking about a church made up of the eleven apostles,[3] just over a hundred disciples who had come out of Jesus' ministry,[4] and three thousand-plus brand new converts.[5] Although these converts were religious Jews, those who were worshipers of God in the Jewish religion, they were still brand new in the faith in Jesus Christ.

          Paul affirms this quality of devotion to prayer later on in the life of the church when he wrote, Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”[6] He also kept the church pointed in the right direction regarding where devotion to prayer comes from. It came from the filling of the Spirit in the first place, and it is maintained by being “filled with the Spirit”,[7] as an expression of living worthy of the calling we have received in Jesus Christ.[8]

          My pastoral-point is that being "devoted" to prayer is not a sign of maturity, but a sign of life in the Spirit. Immature believers who are devoted to prayer simply pray immature prayers (which are a delight to the Lord the way we delight to hear the voices of the little children talking to us about things they think, and feel, and wonder). Mature believers who are devoted to prayer pray mature prayers. Devotion to prayer should be like a family gathering, with everyone in the family free to contribute to the conversation with the Father, through the name of the Son, in fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

          While devotion to prayer is primarily a corporate experience, we must encourage devotion to prayer among all believers, including those who are unable to attend prayer gatherings because of health-related issues. We must let shut-ins know that their place in prayer at home is just as important as the place of those who are able to come together. We can share prayer-needs with them so that when God answers prayers, everyone knows he was hearing us as his body, not just hearing certain members of the body.

          At the same time, we must encourage all those who are able to gather for prayer that each person’s place in our "coming together" is just as important as everyone else's place. We can all be devoted to prayer together even when we cannot all be together for prayer. And, we can all contribute to prayer from whatever maturity-levels, or life-experiences we are in at the time. The Spirit-filled church is devoted to prayer, simple as that.

          When I see how many things are going on in, around, and among God’s people, and how many things God is speaking about through his word, I want to make sure that no one misses out on our dependence on God in prayer, and that no church group misses out on the blessing of all those who could be there in prayer.  

          The bottom line is that, devotion to prayer is of the greatest importance. And, if any of us don't feel the least bit devoted to prayer... then join with your church family and make that the first thing you pray about!

          From my heart,



© 2014 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] Acts 2 describes the church’s first experience with the filling of the Holy Spirit.
[2] Acts 2:42
[3] We can read of Judas’s demise in Acts 1:15-19 and Matthew 27:3-10.
[4] In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) (Acts 1:15)
[5] So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)
[6] Colossians 4:2
[7] Ephesians 5:18
[8] Ephesians 4:1

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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

Getting to Know Jesus in the Gospel of Mark
Study Thirty ~ Mark 6:14-29

14 King Herod heard of it (that Jesus’ disciples were healing and driving out demons), for Jesus' name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias's daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. (Mark 6)

1.  What personal issue had shaped the way Herod thought of Jesus?


2. What personal issues had shaped the way Herod handled John the Baptist?


3. How did Herodias want to handle her issues with John?


4. What quandary did Herod feel in his thoughts about John?


5. What does John’s life show about what can happen to those who are faithful in calling people into repentance and faith in Jesus Christ? What does Herod’s life show in regard to those who are double-minded about Jesus?


6. What do you know about the way God would look at John’s life and death? How about the way God would look at Herod and Herodius?


7. Mark’s gospel account began with the declaration that John the Baptist was the one God had sent to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1-3). Now that you see all the different things people thought about John, and the different ways they treated him, how has John’s work affected your heart in relation to Jesus Christ?


© 2014 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 Anguish that Love Feels

          For a little while, God has been addressing a work he is doing in me to make me accept that there is a certain way that anguish and love must be together. In a fallen world, with ruined lives all round us, and the world, the flesh, and the devil constantly working to pull people out of the light and into the darkness, we cannot love as Jesus loves without feeling anguish over anyone or anything that is not maturing in Christlikeness.

          I have been focusing on this verse: “my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” (Galatians 4:19) In context, Paul was writing to the Galatians who were turning away from the purity of the gospel to receive a deceptive message that mixed together the gospel with the law. This “grace + good works” gospel was so contrary to truth that Paul said that anyone who taught such a thing should be accursed for doing so.[1] In other words, this was a false gospel of death that was leading people away from the true gospel that gives life.

          In the context of the above verse, Paul was addressing the way the false teachers had come in to take a place of prominence in the people’s hearts so that they were rejecting what they had been given through the true apostles. Here is that context:

15 I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.[2]

          One thing that stood out to me was the way Paul described the relationship he used to have with this church, where they would have made incredible sacrifices to help him in his ministry. Just before this passage he had written, You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.[3] There is good reason to believe that Paul had some condition with his eyes that prompted him to describe the love of the Galatian Christians as being willing to replace his eyes with theirs.

          However, Paul came to feel like he had become their enemy by telling them the truth. He was not willing to develop a friendship based on cunning and deception, so he was the one being cast aside. And, he was heartbroken by the way the false teachers were shutting the people out from the apostolic leadership in order that the church would make much of them instead of Christ.

          Another thing that really stood out today is that false teachers want people to make much of them, while true teachers want people to make much of Christ. The false teachers wanted people to make them central so that they could maintain control. True teachers want Christ to be formed in people. False teachers feel anguish if they are not the center of attention; while true teachers feel anguish if Christ is not the center of attention.

          I appreciate Paul’s example, his sincerity, his genuineness that leads the way for me. He endured people changing their minds about him because some false teacher stole the spotlight, so to speak. But, because his heart was for Christ to be formed in these people, he did not give up and concede that these people had just moved on to another ministry. Rather, he was perplexed about why they were turning away from their first love for Christ. He felt anguish because they were turning away to a false gospel that would take them away from Christ.

          Once again I see a pattern. We are all being called to accept some kind of anguish that must be woven into our love so that we are willing to be so burdened for people to return to Christ that we would actually feel worse over their condition than they do.

          So much for God letting us wait for someone else to get their act together! It appears it is the act of the guy I see in the mirror that needs to receive such a love as felt anguish over me, so that I will be that branch of Christ (with all God’s children, of course) that feels loving anguish that brings love to others. The ultimate desire of love is that Christ be formed in the people we love (even our enemies) so that they can be accepted by God.

          So, the day begins. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.[4]

          From my heart,


© 2014 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] “6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1)
[2] Galatians 4
[3] Galatians 4:13-14
[4] I Corinthians 13:7