Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ Forever Father, Forever Home

          I often see advertisements and social-media posts telling us that there are abandoned and abused animals that need a forever home. This does not suggest that people think animals or humans live forever. It is really a way of saying that these animals need a home that will be their home all the rest of their lives.
          There is something about a home that we want to last a lifetime. It doesn’t matter whether we are animal or people, a home that is always there for us is of huge significance. This is just as important for people who have too many stories of broken homes. People have watched their parents get divorced and break up their home. They have watched one of their family members get very sick and die, leaving a huge hole in their home. They have family members who work away from home for long periods of time, and it makes it feel like something huge is missing. Some people know what it feels like when one family member disowns them and doesn’t want them to be part of their home any longer.
          All that to say that people often feel abandoned, abused, and neglected, and have a deep, gaping wound in their heart that can only be healed by a forever home of the best kind.
          So, when Jesus taught his friends that we can pray, “Our Father in heaven,”[1] he presented every generation of these last days with the wonderful invitation to not only have a Forever Home, but to have a Forever Father. Here’s how this works.     
          There are three things in Jesus’ welcoming first line of prayer: “Father,” “in heaven,” and, “our.” “Father” means that God is a Father. This does not mean he is like our dads. Our dads were really supposed to try to be like him! People need fathers. We need to know what it is like for a father to love us.
          Because it is God who is “Father”, that means that we can have a Father no matter what we have experienced in life in relation to our dads, or in relation to men. If we have a good dad, we still need this Father. If we have had a bad dad, we need to know how good this Father is. If our Dad died, we can have a Father walk with us throughout our whole lives.
          It isn’t just that God is a good option for a Father, as if we could go to an online-store and pick out the dad we always wanted. It is that God is our Creator, so he is the one person everyone has to deal with. But Jesus, who knows this Father best, doesn’t want us to think of him as some evil king who gets to do whatever he wants with the universe he created. Jesus wants us to know that his Father is the very best Father anyone could ever wish for.
          “In heaven,” tells us that God is different than any other Father we could think of. On one side, this assures us that God is the perfect Father. We cannot compare him to any father on earth, good or bad. He is better than the best father, and the comforter and healer to those whose hearts have been broken by the worst of dads. We can’t think of him as just like one of us. I was a pretty good dad, but I left my children with hurts and heartaches that I couldn’t fix for them. Only God could be the complete and perfect Father they always wanted.
          When we think of God as our Father in heaven, we must not think of him as far away, because Jesus came very close to us to make the Father known to us. But think of him as different, and better, than any other dad here on earth. Jesus is inviting us to pray to him.
          “Our” Father means that Jesus wants us to know this Father. Without God as our Father, we are like orphans living on the street trying to find scraps of food, and rags of clothes, just to survive. We are like orphans living outside of God’s kingdom, seeing that he is a Father to other children, but not knowing him as our Father.
          We might feel sorry for ourselves in a hopeless kind of way because we see that he is a Father, and we see that other children enjoy him as a Father, but we believe that he could never be our Father because we weren’t born into his family.
          However, God has a very special message for us. He does have only one Son who is his natural child, or his child by divine nature. But, all the rest of God’s children only become his children through adoption.
          This means that anyone who sees that God is a Father, and wants God to be his or her Father, can sign up for adoption. If you are tired of living like an orphan, someone who has lost all your connection with the God who created you, Jesus has spoken to us, and through the Bible, he still speaks today, telling us that we could know God as “our” Father.
          We don’t need to know how all of this works that God could be our Father, or how it is that Jesus can bring us to the Father.[2] What we need is to have faith that because Jesus said we can know God as our Father, we will tell God right now that we want him as our Father. And, if we know in our minds that God is our Father because Jesus is our Lord and Savior, but in our hearts we still don’t know what it feels like for God to be our Father, we can ask him to make this known to us.
          Sometimes I pray a prayer that I call the “Whatever it takes” kind of prayer. It is for when I am not exactly sure what a passage of the Bible means, or how God will do for me what his word promises, but I have faith that this is God speaking to me through his word, and so I tell God, “Father, whatever it takes for me to have this the way you mean it, please give it to me!”
          In the case of knowing God as Father, we can pray, “God in heaven, no matter what you have to do to bring me into this relationship with you so that you are my Forever Father, I ask you to do it!”
          We can tell God, “I have faith that you are a Father, and that you adopt people like me to be your children, and I want that. I know I have done bad things to make myself like an orphan to you, but I want to be your child. I know that Jesus teaches us the truth about you, and I have faith in Jesus telling me the truth, so I want you to do whatever you have to do so that I can know you as my Father, just as Jesus taught it to us in the Bible.”
          I know that, when I was a child, I wanted to know this God who was making himself known to me through the things he created (it was like the sky was telling me that God was there). At the same time, he was making himself known to me through his written word, the book he had made for us. And, although I didn’t really understand it so much back then, I was beginning to know that Jesus himself was the Word of God who was personally working in my life by his Holy Spirit so that I would know God as my Father.
          Those things that God started doing in my life when I was a child, kept growing so that, by the time I was in grade six I knew for certain that Jesus had died for my sins, that God would forgive my sins if I received Jesus, and that I could receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior. In my early teenage years God made very clear to me that I was his, that all my sins were forgiven, and that I was his child.
          Now, approaching my fifty-sixth birthday, I can add my testimony to the revelation of God’s word,[3] as one trophy of the grace of God showing how broken, orphan-minded children can live a lifetime of getting to know God as Father. Jesus said that eternal life is to know his Father, and to know him, the Son of God who makes the Father known.[4] Consider today as a day you are invited to him for the first time, or to know your heavenly Father better today than you have ever known him before. Either one would be wonderful.

© 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] Matthew 6:9
[2] John 14:1-14
[3] Revelation 12:11
[4] John 17:3

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pastoral Pings ~ A Father’s Word to His Beloved Children

          Two things especially ministered to me this morning. The first was the reminder of what it means that God is a Father who wants people like me as his children. The verse I considered is this: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”[1]
          What this came down to for me is that there is this God who is “the Father.” The thing that stands out about him in relation to people like me is the “kind of love” that he has. Not only is there a distinctive characteristic to this love that makes it utterly desirable to the human heart, but it is “given to us”. And, the way this Father has given his love to the people referred to as “us” is that “we should be called children of God.”
          All of that communicates such a profound reality that it leaves the seeking heart in awe and wonder that such a thing could be true. That is, if the “and so we are,” is talking about us.
          This Scripture is talking about people who are the children of God through their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life who brings us to the Father,[2] and, once we come to the Father through Jesus Christ, God assures us of both the certainty, and the security, of his love.
          Along with this wonderful and wonder-filled expression of the loving relationship between Father and child, I was reminded of the three ways that God speaks to us. It is as though God has covered every possible way that we would need to hear from him, all with the aim of assuring us that he is the Father who loves his children with undying love.
          God speaks to us through creation. This is something like the way we can speak to one another without words, showing our affection for each other with smiles, hugs, kisses, cuddles, tears, and the like. God’s word says, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”[3] The things God has made tell us a lot of things about God, but there is more.
          God also speaks through his word, the Bible. This is what he says about his written word, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”[4] God gives us his words so we have no doubt who he is, and what he has done for us. While the glory of his creation is wonderful, he makes sure we will have no problem knowing what he means by putting his thoughts into words.
          The third way God speaks is directly through his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is called, “the Word of God”.[5] God has thoughts that are invisible to us, and Jesus is the Word who reveals those thoughts. Jesus is the “image of the invisible God,”[6] meaning the one who makes the invisible God knowable to us. The written word of God explains it further like this: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”[7]
          God makes his eternal power and divine nature known through creation; he clearly describes himself to us in his written words; and he speaks through his Son, the Word of God who makes God known as personally as God can be known.
          In a world that believes the lie of evolution, tramples on the written word of God, and denies the Son of God, those who can say that God has reached into our hearts and made us into his children through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ must rejoice that God has spoken to us, and that all his words lead us to the grand and wonderful conclusion that we are the beloved children of the God of everlasting love.
          All of us must make sure that we are one of these children.

© 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] I John 3:1
[2] John 14:6
[3] Romans 1:20
[4] II Timothy 3:16-17
[5] Revelation 19:13
[6] Colossians 1:15
[7] Hebrews 1:1-2

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ The Life That Flows from One Word

          Everyone knows that words are the primary communication between human beings. We know the power of words to hurt and to heal. We know the regret of saying words we wish we could take back, and not saying words we wish we had spoken. We know the grief of no longer hearing a loved one’s voice speaking to us, and the delight of hearing the surprise greeting of a long lost friend.
          If I was to ask people to give the one word that summarizes what life means to them, there would likely be many answers. People might give the name of someone that has meant more to them than anyone else. Perhaps they would use a word to describe the feeling they enjoy more than any other. Perhaps they would have a negative word to encapsulate all the hurt and hopelessness life has been to them. Or, maybe there is one positive word that identifies the essence of life more than any other word could do.
          While a blog-post would be fairly nebulous if it only contained one word, there is one Word that not only gives meaning to life, but truly gives life. In just a few words, God’s word tells us about the one Word that gives life to all who receive this gift of God.
“1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”[1]
          This is talking about Jesus. He is “the Word”. He was with God as the Son distinct from the Father. He was God, the Son who is fully God as the Father is fully God. He was God with God in the beginning, sharing with the Father in the creation of all things.
          When Jesus came into the world, “born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law,”[2] he came as the light of life. We were all “dead in trespasses and sins.”[3] Jesus came with life in him, the same life that he breathed into Adam on the sixth day of creation.[4] The life that was in Jesus was the light of “the people dwelling in darkness… those dwelling in the region and shadow of death.” When Jesus came to them with the gospel, he fulfilled God’s promise that, “on them a light has dawned.”[5]
          The thing that stood out to me was the consideration of what it means that Jesus is “the Word”. We understand that words are used to communicate. We all have thoughts that are invisible to everyone else. The only way that anyone can know what is going on inside us is if we put those thoughts into words.
          Jesus’ place within the Triunity of God is consistently revealed to us as the expression of the Father. He is the Son of God, “the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”[6] He is “the image of the invisible God.”[7] He is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”[8] And, he is “the Word of God.”[9]
          In the Bible, God used over 700,000 words to make something clear to us, that there is only one Word of God who brings us to God. While many people have been given the name “Jesus”, no one else, of human or angelic nature, is the one and only Word of God.
          One of the things I love about this revelation of God is that we cannot have a more personal word from God than his Son, the Word of God. Of the people who read this blog-post, there will be varying degrees of connection based on whether you know me or not. One post might feel very personal because it speaks directly to something you are going through, while another won’t feel personal at all because I’m just some stranger out there talking about stuff that doesn’t connect with you in the least.
          When we come to God, his Son, the Word of God, is as personal as personal can be. This is why it is so important for us to accept this fact, that, “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”[10]
          Jesus is the only Word of God for these last days. The Bible alone is the “living word of God”[11] that reveals God to us through his Son. If we know Jesus, we know the Father, because Jesus is his Word who makes him known.
          This gives so much sense and wonder to what Jesus said shortly before his crucifixion: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”[12]
          Jesus is the way to the Father because he is the Word who comes from the Father. Jesus is the truth that draws us to the Father, because he is the Word of the holy God. Jesus is the life, because he is the Word of the Living God.
          Everything about Jesus announces that he is the image of the invisible God. He continues to tell us today that, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,”[13] because he is the Word of the Father, the Word who was with God in the beginning, was already God in the beginning, who calls out to us in the Father’s words during this last hour, in order to bring us to the eternal life which is, “that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”[14]
          God has spoken to us through his Son. The words of Scripture tell us about the Son who tells us about the Father. The eternal life Jesus died to give us is all about knowing the Triune. The Father is the invisible God who wants us to know him; and the Son is the Word of God making him known.
          John began his gospel, carried along by the Holy Spirit, telling us that Jesus is the Word of God. He ends his gospel with this beautiful conclusion, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”[15]
          How delightful that the world could not contain the books full of words that would tell us about Jesus, and yet God has made the whole of his infinite and eternal glory made known to us in one Word. His Son. No wonder God would call out from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”[16]

© 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] John 1:1-5
[2] Galatians 4:4-5
[3] Ephesians 2:1
[4] Genesis 2:7
[5] Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16
[6] John 1:14
[7] Colossians 1:15
[8] Hebrews 1:3
[9] Revelation 19:13
[10] Hebrews 1:1-2
[11] Hebrews 4:12
[12] John 14:6-7
[13] John 14:9
[14] John 17:3
[15] John 21:25
[16] Matthew 17:5

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Grace Through Faith that Heals the Anxious Soul

          The last few days I have spent considerable time renewing my mind with the wonderful realities of God’s gift of salvation “by grace through faith."[1] This grace operating through faith does not only apply to the justification side of salvation, but also to the dimensions of sanctification and glorification. Everything to do with our “beloved children” standing with God[1] is by grace through faith.
          Just this morning someone posted a quote by George Muller which read, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety." This resulted in some concerns and questions regarding how faith relates to the level of anxiety that is often labeled as a disorder. This would include what is commonly called a “panic attack," or other mood disorders.
          The question is a good, helpful, and practical one. To what extent does faith, the outworking of the grace of God in his children, bring us into a life where we experience freedom, deliverance, and victory, over anxiety?
          An important component of this question revolves around our beliefs about the physical element of anxiety. To what extent can the unhealthy functioning of our brains nullify the promises of God regarding faith? And, from the positive side, to what extent can the poor in spirit hunger and thirst after the righteousness of faith[2] so that God will graciously enable these people to overcome anxiety?
          Because God created us as body, soul, and spirit, and because the world's fall into sin has ruined us in all three, we must be sensitive to those things in our lives the world labels as disorders, or mental illness. At the same time, we must look to the grace of God that ministers to our souls and spirits in ways that can radically change how our bodies (brains) operate. If someone falls under a label, and has some evidence of physical complications hindering their experience of faith, they still need the body of Christ surrounding them with the faith that cures anxiety.
          For a long time, I have tried to process passages like Philippians 4:4-8 through the mindset of the body of Christ, rather than only thinking of the individual Christian. When I think of the body of Christ coming together, I see the leadership and mature members of the congregation leading the church in giving no room for promoting anxiety in its gatherings. Instead, they lead the way in taking everything to God in prayer and petition, saturated with thanksgiving. Those believers among us with weak faith, or such intense problems with anxiety that it has been labeled as a disorder, will be carried along with the rest of the body, being immersed in a church-life that experiences the peace of God guarding their hearts and minds. Not every member will necessarily feel the same peace, but the body’s experience of peace will benefit every member of the body.
          When this church adds to the mix the way God has gifted the members of the body of Christ to minister to one another for the building up of the body, the faith of those who use their gifts to serve the anxiety-disordered in love is sure to see God’s grace do something to build one another up in our Lord. When we live as the body of Christ that is devoted to faith instead of anxiety, the life of the body of Christ will help everyone who is involved, strongest and weakest alike.
          On a personal note, I have walked with people in this way. I have seen members of the body of Christ minister to others with unwavering faith, resulting in those who would be labeled with disorders experiencing the transformation that comes through the renewal of the mind,[3] able to mature in the faith that overcomes anxiety.
          Again, I believe that when the church body[1] bands together to translate every anxiety into prayers and petitions presented to God with thanksgiving, and a corresponding obedience to use our spiritual gifts to minister to the deepest and most prolonged soul-conditions of our fellow believers, we will see faith grow up among us.
          Ephesians 4:1-16 describes the church working together in such ways that “makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."[1] If we are convinced this will work for the people who gather in Jesus’ name, we will minister to one another’s needs, no matter how confusing or troubling, with faith that God can do this for us. Faith can take hold of this as a promise of God, leaving it in his hands how it works for each member of the body, and how long it will take to realize this for any one person. It is the church that grows up, and when a church does so, all the members will benefit in some way that will glorify faith above anxiety, and God’s power above physical symptoms of disorder.
          I think that this Scripture, read with the mindset that it is talking about the body of Christ together, not only what individual believers must do, summarizes what I have been trying to say.
”But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”[4]
          I agree with our beloved brother George Muller that anxiety must be seen as a deterrent to faith, and faith must be seen as the cure to anxiety. Scripture says, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (I John 5:4). If faith can overcome the world, the church of faith can overcome anxiety in whatever form it harasses the body of Christ.         
          No matter how strongly any of us is influenced by issues of body, soul, and/or spirit that fits the world’s description of a disorder, let’s spend the rest of our lifetimes putting our anxieties, fears, worthlessness, hopelessness, and whatever other heartbreaking feelings or qualities get us down, into the hands of the living God. Let us do this in fellowship with the body of Christ, and see how much glory God will give himself through the riches of his grace working through our grace-filled experience of faith.
          After all, if he made us alive together with Christ without any help from us,[5] and seated us with Christ in the heavenly places, even while we were sinners,[6] and even while we carry struggles with mental and emotional disorders, can we not expect that his work of transforming us “into the same image from one degree of glory to another”[7] will change anxious hearts into faith-filled homes to the glory of God? After all, our transformation “comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” That is enough to have faith that faith will overcome anxiety wherever two or three people gather  in Jesus’ name. This is because it is really Jesus who does the overcoming.[8] Our faith simply joins him in his work.[9]

© 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] Ephesians 5:1-2
[2] Matthew 5:1-12 is the context for how the poor in spirit hunger and thirst for righteousness, a righteousness that can only be experienced by faith.
[3] Romans 12:2
[4] Jude 1:20-23
[5] Ephesians 2:5
[6] Ephesians 2:6; Romans 5:6-8
[7] I Corinthians 3:18
[8] John 16:33
[9] John 15:1-11

Friday, July 25, 2014

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ The Mary and Martha Ministry of Jesus

          Today, my light bulb/Aha! moment revolved around the realization that, when Jesus was in the home of Martha and Mary, his ministry to Martha's anxious and troubled heart was just as significant as his ministry to Mary as she sat at Jesus' feet listening to his teaching. Here is the Bible’s account of this experience.
          Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”[1]
          I have only thought of this passage as a contrast between Mary's choice to be quiet in Jesus' presence, and Martha's choice to be preoccupied with service. I had never considered that Jesus' presence in that home was exactly what both women needed. They both got from Jesus the very best thing they could have received for where they were starting.
          Jesus said that he was always doing what the Father was doing.[2] He was able to see what work God was doing in both these women, and he knew what his Father was doing in all the disciples who had gathered in that place at that time. Jesus was in fellowship with the Father, joining his work, accomplishing all that the Father had sent him to do,[3] and that involved taking care of two sisters with diverse thoughts about how to relate to him when he visited in their home.
          It is not difficult to see Jesus’ ministry to Mary. Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.” What a wonderful experience that would have been. There was no need to go to a commentary, look up word-meanings, or sift through interpretations. Mary just sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to him. She received his teaching. The benefit to her was indisputable. The experience of Jesus doing something in her life was remarkable. The grace of God had grabbed her attention, and she rested in the presence of her Savior, receiving what he was giving her.
          On the other hand, we learn from Jesus’ words to Martha what ministry Martha needed from him that was just as important as the ministry Mary had received. Martha needed to know Jesus’ view of what was going on with her. Martha’s view was that Mary had left her to do all the serving alone. Martha saw the problem as too much serving and a selfish little sister who wouldn’t help out. She saw the solution as Jesus telling Mary to help her.
          Jesus tells Martha that his view of what is wrong was quite different. The problem was not that there was so much work to do, and that Mary was distracted from the work by sitting at Jesus’ feet. Not at all!
          Rather, the problem was that Martha was “anxious and troubled about many things.” Martha saw the external situation as the problem, and Jesus could fix that by making Mary behave and do what was required of her. Jesus saw the internal problem, that Martha could not see how Jesus could feed people himself, that she thought everything rested on her, and so she was “anxious” and she was “troubled”.
          The point today is that this identification of Martha’s need is just as important as Jesus’ work in Mary. The exact thing that Martha needed was to hear Jesus tell her that she was anxious and troubled about many things. She needed to hear that Jesus was not affirming her focus on Mary and all the work to do. She needed to hear Jesus turn things around from her complaining about the externals to knowing the condition of her own soul.
          Martha also needed to hear Jesus clarify that the thing Mary had chosen to do was the better thing. However, this was not merely Jesus speaking to Martha about a better way she could do things another time; this was also Martha’s experience of Jesus’ speaking to her right then, clarifying what was wrong, addressing what was right, and encouraging Martha to let her life be transformed through this renewal of her mind. In the end, Martha had the same, personal, sit-at-Jesus’-feet experience of listening to his teaching, with the precise words that she needed.
          The thing that settles into my soul is that it is just as much a work of God to help someone who is anxious and troubled over many things as it is to minister to those who want to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to his teaching. Both are the work of God. If both kinds of people are in a church, both need to hear Jesus’ voice guiding them into his truth, and into his rest.
          I wonder if there is some encouragement in this for all of us that, as some have a testimony of how Jesus ministered to you while you sat at his feet listening to his teaching, others may need to hear Jesus speaking to your anxious hearts that are troubled by many things. Even Jesus telling us that our problem is with our hearts, not with the people and problems making us feel anxious and troubled, is as much a "word from the Lord" as what others received sitting at Jesus' feet. 
          Clearly Jesus doesn't want any of us remaining in an anxious and troubled condition. However, the way he speaks to us when we are there is just as important as the way he speaks to us when we are sitting at his feet in the quietness and peace of his love. In both cases, listen to Jesus voice, and follow him where he leads.[4]

© 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] Luke 10:38-42
[2] John 5:17-20
[3] John 4:34
[4] John 10:27

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ The Left and the Right of Spirit-led Problem Solving

          It used to be that, when I was involved in a gathering of Christians trying to solve problems within whatever group had come together, I would want to know one thing more than any other. Were these people beginning in their sarks (flesh), or in the Holy Spirit.
          I have known for a long time that anything done through dependence on the sark is incapable of coming to a God-honoring and Church-edifying conclusion,[1] so there’s virtually no value in letting a group of sarky-people tackle problems among them. If the fruit of the flesh[2] is evident as soon as conflict arises, it would be better for everyone to stop and pray until everyone is filled with the Holy Spirit.[3] Continuing in the flesh is certain to cause greater hurts, and bigger problems.
          When conflicts and disagreements are handled in the Spirit, and people come together in the qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control that are the fruit of the Spirit’s activity in our lives,[4] there is every reason to feel hopeful about what God can do to build up his church.
          While this contrast between sark and Spirit is still a primary consideration in aiming for unity in conflict, I have now added another assessment to the top of the list. As I see people come together to handle differences, I watch for signs of whether people are relating only out of the left side of their brain, only out of the right side of their brain, or out of both sides of their brain.
          I say this because God designed us as body, soul, and spirit. When we are born again by the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, our spirits are made alive. We now have a body that is alive, and a spirit that is alive.
          The soul is the “us” part of our being. The soul relates to the material world through our bodies, and the spiritual world through our spirits. When we are dead in our trespasses and sins,[5] our soul can relate to life through our bodies, but not through our spirits. When God makes us “alive together with Christ,”[6] and he has, “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,”[7]our spirits have been raised from the dead to now experience life as God intended in the beginning.
          When Christians come together to settle disagreements, we are now both physically and spiritually alive. Our soul, the life in us (our mind, emotions, and will), is able to fully relate to the material world through our brains, and the spiritual world through our spirits. The emphasis is on “able to”. Many church fights, and church splits, give evidence to the belief that too many professing Christians are not attaining what they are able to experience in Christ.
          The reason it is important to consider how people’s souls are relating to God and his people through their spirits, and through their brains, is because left-brain/right-brain experiences have a profound effect on how people communicate, and how they receive the communication of others.
          When people live primarily out of their left brain (a broken condition for both men and women), they speak and hear with a focus on facts and information. They will argue about who did what, or said what, until their left-brain can feel satisfied that all the facts and information line up just as they need them to.
          When people live primarily out of their right-brain (also a broken condition for both men and women), they speak and hear with a focus on what things feel like. They argue about what someone’s tone meant, or what they read into a look on someone’s face. Their concern is that everything end with good feelings, usually with a much greater consideration of their own feelings than anyone else in the gathering.
          People are designed to be spiritually alive, and physically whole. The sark messes with our spiritual growth, and life-experiences mess with brain development. In the middle is a soul that quite often does not have a clue what is going on, and why it has so much trouble getting along with people, or why it finds it so easy to get along with just a certain kind of person, while not having a clue how to relate to a certain other kind of person.
          It should be added that many marriage problems in the church are caused because couples have not learned to be filled with the Spirit together, and so there is usually a double-dose of sarkiness added to every conflict; and many marriage problems are exacerbated by the fact that one spouse is likely primarily left-brain, while the other is primarily right-brain. Both are equally broken, but the way they are broken makes it look to them like it is only the other one who needs fixing.
          A healthy soul, fed by the nurture of a Spirit-filled spirit, is able to improve the health of brains that have been beaten up and traumatized by life-experiences. Of course, it requires a healthy, Spirit-filled church to do this for each other, but it can happen.
          Our aim is to help people experience problem solving that is characterized by Spirit-filled living, souls that are being transformed through the renewal of the mind, with brains that grow healthier in relating to the material world as our souls and spirits cooperate to feed them good, joyful, hope-filled thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
          So, if anyone is wondering, I’m not sliding into the psychology camp that some Christians fear so much (usually showing they are stuck on one side of their brain or another). Rather, I am suggesting that the greater our health in body, soul, and spirit, and the greater percentage of believers who are healthy in body, soul, and spirit, the greater the likelihood of body-building adventures in church problem-solving.
          At the very least, this Scripture encourages me to seek the very best health of body, soul, and spirit, both in whatever problem-solving gatherings we are part of, and in the life of the Church no matter what we are going through together. Paul wrote, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[8] Please consider this as an attempt to encourage such things along.

© 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] Galatians 5:16-17
[2] Galatians 5:19-21
[3] Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:18
[4] Galatians 5:22-23
[5] Ephesians 2:1-3
[6] Ephesians 2:5
[7] Ephesians 2:6
[8] I Thessalonians 5:23