Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Approach of Faith

What stands out in God’s word this morning is that everything the psalmist was able to pray about in Psalm 25 (as would be true for all the other psalms), was based on approaching God with faith, not with works. Even though the writer was living under the law of the Mosaic covenant, he did not describe coming to God on the basis of what he himself had done, but on a relationship with God that can only be described as faith.

Here are the expressions he uses, all of which indicate coming as one in need, not as one who impresses God by being better than others.

·         “I lift up my soul” (vs 1)
·         “in you I trust” (2)
·         Those “who wait for you” (vs 3)
·         “for you I wait all the day long” (5)
·         “the man who fears the Lord” (12)
·         “those who fear him” (14)
·         “my eyes are ever toward the Lord” (15)
·         “I take refuge in you” (20)
·         “I wait for you” (21)

Seeing so many synonymous expressions of faith, as many facets of the one diamond, impacted me with… (drum roll please)… MORE FAITH!!!!

Or, stronger faith, or more determined faith, or richer faith, or something of that sort.

The point is that, churches, with all our problems, and all the implicit memories on the edge of revealing themselves, and all the strongholds of Satan about to be exposed (hence all the hindrances to spending time with God), and all our sins and worldliness about to be confessed before the Father, the only thing we need to have God hear and answer our prayers is that we lift up our souls to him in faith.

In practical terms, one of the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil (I can’t always discern which one is the strongest in convincing any of us to neglect our relationship with God), is that we need to have something happen to us, or in our lives, before we can really lift up our souls to God. We think we need to stop being so tired, or stop being so busy, or stop something, so that we can then lift up a much better Soul-Condition to God.

What the psalmist is bringing out, which I believe is the message of the whole Bible, is that we lift up our souls to God in whatever condition they are in because HE is the one who fixes them.

In other words, all we need to do is lift up our souls the way they are, however broken they are, however many pieces and fragments they are in, and just lift them up to him. Bring your dissociative soul-fragments into God’s presence and lift them up to him, no matter how unwilling some of those soul-fragments may be!

One of the passages of Scripture that has impacted me the most in this regard is what God called his people to do if they ever found themselves suffering the ill-effects of their sinful choices. Even if they found themselves in captivity in a foreign land because of their sin, and their refusal to repent when confronted, he promised them this:

“But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29).

No matter what the people were going through because of their sin and rebellion against God, all God required of them for reconciliation was that they would seek him with all their heart and soul. Or, as the psalmist said, if they would lift up their soul to God and trust in him.

Jesus’ invitation stands. If we are those who are weary and burdened because we are carrying responsibility for the condition of our souls, both what our sins have done to them, as well as the sins of others, his call is, “Come to me!” What is his promise if we come to him in whatever weary and burdened condition we find ourselves? He will give us rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30).

It does not matter whether we are more drawn to the imagery of coming to Jesus, or trusting in him, or any of the other synonymous ways of saying this, Jesus will always hear and answer the prayers of those who lift up their souls to him in faith.

© 2016 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.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Soul That Comes to God

Yesterday morning, I was drawn to some verses in Psalm 25 that refreshed my soul, so today I decided to spend the week praying through the whole Psalm. As I skimmed it through to format it for prayer journaling, I could already see how timely each phrase will be to me. It felt good to see how God had prepared words for my soul that transcend the ages and speak to our hearts as though they had just been written for our edification that morning.

Here is the food for my soul from the first verse:

“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.”[1]

“To you”

This is super personal. What destination is my soul seeking? God. As I live a life of toil in this foreign land of the world, what does my soul desire? To go to God.

In the midst of all the things the world, the flesh, and the devil have done to me, and the wounds, and self-protection, and sarkiness, and failures that abound, what does my inner being desire more than anything? To turn to God with everything I am, and have, and desire. No matter the corruption of my own heart, and soul, and mind, there is no one else, and my soul longs to go “to” my Father.

Whatever we are dealing with today, the destination is the same, to go “to” the Father “in” Jesus Christ “by” the presence, power, and provision of the Holy Spirit. We ought to do this first thing in the morning, and then our hearts are prepared to turn “to” the Triune in everything we face during the course of the day.


This is ultra personal! “LORD” in uppercase always refers to the personal name of God. It is likely pronounced “Yahweh,” or close to that. “Jehovah” is a very poor transliteration, but is understood as referring to this name.

While the Jews chose not to pronounce the name out of reverence for its glory, and English translations continue this tradition,[2] the fact that God inspired the Old Testament writers to use his personal name tells us to come to him personally, calling on his name.

Also, since this is the ultimate, quintessential, name for God (yes, God has many names), it invites our souls to come to God with every name that distinguishes him, however those names relate to whatever we are going through right now. It is as though “Yahweh” is the sum and substance of all that is God, while his other names are like a magnificent spectrum of colors that make up the Light of his glory.

If nothing else, when we pray, “Our Father who is in heaven,”[3] we are to think of how personally we are able to approach God. He is a person who has revealed himself in his names, and we are to come to him with a sense of his all-sufficiency, and honor him with the expectations that are worthy of the Most Holy One.

“I lift up”

We do not call God down to us (why would we want him with us in our cesspools of misery?), but we lift up ourselves to him. We do not want a God who comes down to us and commiserates with us in our misery, and bondage, and fear, and guilt, and shame. That he is with us where we are is indisputable. However, the Scriptures continually call us to see that God is in heaven, and we are on earth, and the direction of our approach is always upward.

This is why God tells us to lift up our eyes to the heavens, or to look up to the hills from whence our help comes. The New Testament writers tell us to fix our eyes on spiritual things, to fix our eyes above, to set our minds on the things of the Spirit, to keep our minds set on the fact that there is a heavenly city whose builder and maker is God, and Jesus is soon coming to take us there.

This is truly a life-changer for me. All my introspective, self-examination that simply affirms the miserable condition of my soul does nothing to help me. However, I can come to God with the true condition of my soul and lift it up to him. A completely different perspective.

“my soul”

We cannot escape this. What is so clearly revealed throughout Scripture is that we must repent of our self-protection, and sarkiness, and prideful efforts to keep God out of our inner beings, and turn to God with our souls. Even if we do not know how to access our souls, we still lift them up to God. Even if our souls feel like a dark mass of seething pain, or a mass of numbness that feels nothing at all, we can still express to God that we are lifting our souls to him as our only hope.

Of course, Ephesians 3 gives us a prayer to help us with this. It goes something like, “I pray that, according to the riches of your glory, you would grant us to be strengthened with power, through your Holy Spirit, in our inner beings, so that Jesus Christ would dwell in our hearts through faith.”[4] That is the way to pray in such a way that lifts up our very souls to Yahweh, the Only True God.

The rest of Psalm 25 identifies a host of situations and needs the writer presents to Yahweh. It encourages me to begin with the conscious approach to God in which I bring my soul, my inner being, to him in faith that he will hear my prayers about everything else, and answer in such a way as causes his good pleasure to fill me with the fullness of joy.

With  a soul raised up into God’s presence, I can now consider how the rest of the Psalm encourages me to pray about whatever is going on in my life, and in the church, right now.

© 2016 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] Psalm 25:1
[2] Here is a brief explanation of why English translations of the Old Testament translate “LORD” instead of “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”:
[3] As Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:9-13
[4] The full prayer is found in Ephesians 3:14-21

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Holy Spirit as Our Certainty

While I absolutely affirm the necessity of being true to what any and every verse of Scripture says, and keeping everything in every layer of context, I also believe that the Holy Spirit’s work is to apply specific truths of Scripture to our hearts each day, expressing whatever the Father has set out to do in our lives for our good and his glory.[1]

Today’s portion, if you will, revolves around my continued meditation on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our spiritual gifts. I was reminded of the necessity of keeping our focus on the assurance of our salvation, not the experience of our spiritual gifts.

One thing I had to examine was the whole area that God gives grace to each person for whatever he decides is their spiritual gifts. Paul said that we are to, “think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”[2] Instead of measuring ourselves by whatever God is doing in others, we are to look to “the measure of faith” God has given us for our specific area of service in the church. Are we doing the good works God has prepared beforehand for us to do according to the measure of faith he has given us to do those good works?[3]

Paul then added, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them”,[4] and then gives examples of what that looks like.[5] The gifts, and the grace to use the gifts, come from God, and we use those gifts as those who “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”[6]

I cannot compare or contrast my ministry to another man’s ministry because I cannot discern whether others are being faithful to their grace and gifting, only whether I am being faithful to my gift of grace and my spiritual gifts.

In other words, there is no way to discern that one person is better than another based on the perceived fruitfulness of their ministry. Whether a pastor of worldwide renown is more faithful than myself cannot be measured by the numbers of people he influences for the kingdom contrasted with the few that I influence for the kingdom. Only God knows if that man is keeping in step with what the Spirit is doing in him, and whether I am keeping in step with what the Spirit is doing in me. Externals (like numbers), do not tell the story (although the Spirit’s work may at times be evident by the numbers that respond, as in 3,000 people added to the church on the Day of Pentecost).[7]

Two pictures then stood side-by-side in horrifying contrast. The first picture was those Jesus referred to in this way:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7)

In relation to our home church’s present study regarding spiritual gifts, the message seems clear, that we cannot look at any effectiveness, or experience, of spiritual gifts, as proof that we are saved. We must avoid the temptation to settle our worth to God by how effective we appear to be in using spiritual gifts.

The second picture was this:

9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7)

In this case, a great numberless multitude stands before the throne of God in full appropriation of their salvation. What stands out is that they do not cry out with a list of things they did in Jesus’ name, but with a joyful expression of praise to God for the salvation that belongs to God and to the Lamb, not to any of the redeemed.

In other words, our assurance of salvation is in our experience of salvation that is by grace through faith, not of any works whatsoever, including anything that fits the profile of spiritual gifts.[8]

Here is what stood out as a reminder of the Holy Spirit’s role in assuring us of our salvation, leading to our freedom to engage with him in the use and experience of our spiritual gifts:

15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8)

Our hope is in the Holy Spirit, not in our spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit leads us to Christ, and Christ leads us to the Father, and the Father applies all the spiritual blessings that were ordained for all believers from before the foundation of the world.[9]

As I considered this glorious hope that is applied and assured through the Holy Spirit, one other thing stood out in this passage:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (I Peter 1)

What stood out was the expression, “are being guarded THROUGH FAITH for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” The work of the Holy Spirit is to guard us by keeping us living by faith in Jesus Christ. We have already looked at this as a significant component of our divinely powered spiritual weapons.[10] We must welcome the ministry of the Spirit to guard us through keeping faith alive, so to speak, which will also keep us expressing our faith in the use of spiritual gifts in ministry.

I hope the weaving together of these truths of Scripture help each of us feel the assurance of our salvation that comes through the Holy Spirit bearing witness with our spirits that we are the children of God now and forever. If that is our assurance, we can also set out with confidence to express whatever gifts of grace the Spirit has administered to us, according to the measure of faith that matches the calling placed on us through our gifts.

© 2016 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] This is why we often hear believers say that they suddenly saw something new in a Scripture they had read many times. That “something new” is the Spirit’s ministry to us, drawing our attention to a specific color of the spectrum in that particular expression of light from God’s word. Or, more simply put, it is the Spirit choosing the lesson for that day that applies to whatever God is doing in our lives that day.
[2] Romans 12:3
[3] Ephesians 2:10
[4] Romans 12:6
[5] Romans 12:6-8
[6] Philippians 2:12-13
[7] One of my role models in this is Charles Spurgeon who was visibly prominent in the growth of the kingdom of God during the 1800’s. He has often been hailed as “the prince of preachers” based on the effectiveness of his ministry. However, when asked about his exceptional fruitfulness, he directed attention to a room in the basement of the church-building were a couple of hundred people would be in prayer while he was doing his ministry. He also had a distinctive ministry to a host of nameless men who were the “village preachers” in the small communities that dotted the countryside. He would print out the outlines to his sermons and distribute them to these men who had to work long and hard hours at some occupation to earn a living for their families, but also ministered to their small congregations of people wherever they were located. As I understand it, Spurgeon saw no difference between himself and them even though the world continues to read his resources, while not knowing any of the men he considered his brothers in ministry (this is the way I understood what I was reading about these things wherever I was reading them!).
[8] Ephesians 2:8-9
[9] Ephesians 1:3-14
[10] II Corinthians 10:4

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Differences That Are Not Divisive

It is impossible to read/watch the news without seeing the divisiveness in our world. We are divided by religions, preferences, ideologies, worldviews, and even skin color. The world’s love affair with self-centeredness has everyone wanting to be heard, everyone wanting to be respected, no matter how contrary their viewpoint is from another, or from God for that matter.

As I watch these things, I grow in my admiration for my heavenly Father who reaches into the cesspool of human selfishness, redeems a people for his very own, people eager to do the good works he prepared in advance for us to do,[1] and works through the personal presence of his own Holy Spirit to unite his adopted children into a brotherhood of faith in Jesus Christ.[2]

However, a distinctive quality of what is called, “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”,[3] is that it includes a whole variety of differences that are just as essential as the unity itself. Without the differences, the unity cannot be maintained, and without the unity, the differences would divide and destroy.

The relationship between the differences and the unity is pictured in the metaphor of the human body. It is written in God’s manual for the church, “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”[4]

With this imagery of the church as the body of Christ,[5] we can see how each member of the body is different and distinct from the others, and yet its differences are essential to bring about the good of the one body. Each organ functions differently, but in order to maintain the same health in the whole body.

The relationship between differences and unity in the church comes out very clearly in this passage from God’s word:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.[6]

On one hand, “there are varieties of gifts,” “varieties of service,” and “varieties of activities,” in the church. Just as there must be variety in the parts of our bodies, the church must have this kind of variety.

On the other hand, all this variety in the church comes from, “the same Spirit,” “the same Lord,” and “the same God”. Just as God originally created us in the image and likeness of his Son, it is the same God who created the church as the body of Christ. As Jesus breathed into Adam the breath of life, and he became a living being,[7] so the Holy Spirit is as the breath of God giving life to the body of Christ.

This means that, all the varieties of the gifts are from the same Triune God, and for the same uniting purpose. That purpose is stated here as, “the common good.” As no parts of our bodies can work for their own good separate from the rest of the body, no one in the church is given something to do for their own good alone (although the common good is always for their good).

One of the reasons that churches have so much difficulty honoring God in both their variety and their sameness is that people tend to be too prideful to surrender to doing things God’s way. Pride can tell one person with exceptional talents that they are better than others, while the same pride tells someone else that they deserve to do nothing in the church because they are nothing more than a victim of life circumstances. In both cases, and the entire spectrum between, it is pride that says we have figured out a better way of doing things than what God has ordained.

While we may have hurts and heartaches, sin-problems and sarkiness, bad experiences with churches that emphasis too much variety or too much sameness, and even just a general nervousness about anything that revolves around the Holy Spirit, every believer in Jesus Christ ought to consider what it means to live worthy of our high calling in Jesus Christ as a member of his body.

This will require us to be as different as God has made us as a distinctive member of the body of Christ, and as equally devoted to the health of the whole body of Christ as is Jesus himself. After all, he is our head, and every unique way we are gifted to do ministry is aimed at the same common good. And, if we don’t know our part, we just pray these Scriptures would be fulfilled in us according to God’s will, and follow him as he leads.

© 2016 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] Titus 2:1; Ephesians 2:8-10
[2] Ephesians 4:3; I Peter 2:17, 5:9
[3] Ephesians 4:3
[4] I Corinthians 12:20
[5] Romans 12:3-8; I Corinthians 12:27
[6] I Corinthians 12:4-7
[7] Genesis 2:7

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Words of Faith, Words of Insecurity

Does anyone else out there ever feel like this when God’s children come together to agree on sensitive matters?

  • I believe that the whole Bible is the breathed-out words of God; 
  • that God said what he meant and means what he said; 
  • that the old covenant is so fulfilled in the new covenant in Jesus’ blood that we no longer live by the law of the old covenant, but live by faith in every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God in the new covenant; 
  • that sound doctrine is absolutely essential to know how to live in the righteousness that is by faith in the fullness of the Spirit; 
  • that I thoroughly want the life of the church described in the New Testament, living as the body of Christ, maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and speaking all the truth, in fullness of love, for the building up of the whole body; 
  • but when we get together to discuss doctrine, I feel confident to look at what Scripture says, but cannot necessarily keep up to the definitions, descriptions, doctrinal distinctions, and personal positions, that are outside. 

Now, I know this is me saying things that are summaries and descriptions that are outside the immediate quoting of God’s words, and so it may cause the same effect in others as what I am trying to describe in my personal sharing (sigh).

However, I hope the gist of it is plain enough to get the point across and see if we can build stronger fellowship in living by the whole counsel of God, along with greater compassion, mercy, and grace, when people are trying to put into words what they think they believe at the moment in the large conclusions required of God’s words.

When Paul tells pastors, “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1), the “sound doctrine” part may be plain enough, but teaching “what accords” with the sound doctrine may require a larger dose of love, and joy, and peace, and patience, and kindness, and goodness, and gentleness, and faithfulness, and self-control (kinda like the sound doctrine describes ~ Galatians 5:22-24), than what is often experienced when God’s children tread into that land of “beyond what is written” Paul warned about (I Corinthians 4:6).

© 2016 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.)

Friday, July 1, 2016

When Fear-based Children Live in the Spirit

When I read this phrase this morning, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” (Romans 8:15), I suddenly found myself asking God how to minister this wonderful truth to the hearts of his many fear-based children.

His answer (simple as it may be): by the Spirit!!!

Every congregation of the church Jesus is building must be filled with the Spirit so that we can all grow up from where we are. Both the imagery of the church as the body of Christ, and the church as a holy temple in which God lives by his Spirit, call us to what Paul exhorts as being “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

The “bond of peace” is the cross that brings all believers in Jesus Christ to the same peace with God. If we have received Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are bound together in the peace of God (no matter how poorly we experience it).

The “unity of the Spirit” is the unity created and directed by the Holy Spirit. His work in the church includes immersing us in the same unity that is shared within the Triune. He is always working to unite everyone who has peace with God.

If you do not already do this, try considering each day these three questions: what is God saying (through his word and Spirit), what is God going, and how do I join him in his work?

In relation to the above, my answers today would be something like this:

What is God saying?

God is saying that he has given us everything we need in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit for us to be free of fear on one side, and growing in the righteousness, peace, and joy of the Holy Spirit on the other.

What is God doing?

He is confronting all the sarky (fleshly) things in our inner beings that are taking up the room that is to be given over to the filling of the Spirit, and he is magnifying his Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds so we will prefer him to our sarks (flesh). His spring-cleaning, if you will, is to first remove what is in the way, empty our hearts of sarky propensities, and fill our emptiness up with the fullness of his own presence (see Paul’s prayer of Ephesians 3:14-21 for how to ask God for these things).

How do we join God in his work?

Every sarky thing God brings to mind must immediately be presented to him for deliverance, freedom, healing, transformation, forgiveness, or whatever other wonderfully hope-filled synonyms we find in God’s Book, all with a willingness to present these things to God in private, in corporate gatherings, or whatever customized relationships will get this done as thoroughly as needed (repentance and renouncing will likely be profusely required).

Every Spirit-exalting revelation must be immediately received by faith (feelings will catch up as faith leads the way), thanking God for each thing he says is true about the Spirit’s work in us, and our experience of this work, and asking him that we could experience relationship with the Spirit in whatever way is revealed as fully as is possible this side of heaven.

© 2016 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.)