Saturday, August 31, 2019

Remaining Relational Like God

For the past while, I've been reading a book entitled, RARE Leadership.[1] It is discipling me in these four central qualities:

Remain Relational
Act Like Yourself
Return to Joy
Endure Hardship

I can see that Father has been working these things into my life for a long time, but now I see his concentrated work to make these central to what I do in life, particularly at those times I am seeking to lead anyone in the things of the kingdom.

This morning I focused on what it looks like to remain relational, and the first thing that stood out is what Father is like. What we have in his word is a relational being constantly calling his people to walk with him in intimate love-relationship. As I have been focusing on Jeremiah for a couple of weeks, it makes clear to me that all the prophets are telling a sinful and disobedient people that God wants relationship with them even though they have turned away to commit adultery with their false gods.

In other words, no matter how gross and abhorrent the people are in their sin, the prophets announced Yahweh’s desire for them to return to relationship with him. He remained relational unlike any remaining-relational we can imagine!

This brought to mind a Scripture that blessed me a lot way back in the days of my ministry in the institutional church.

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.[2]

We know that our Father has no difficulty assessing when his people come to him with their lips while their hearts are far away from him.[3] In fact, as I look up that verse, the meaning of the word for “far” from Yahweh, means, “to be disassociated be far v. — to be unconnected relationally with another, conceived of as being far away from another.”[4] Father knows our dissociation! He knows our disconnectedness!

The above verse from Deuteronomy has encouraged me for such a long time that, to consider it from the standpoint of Father’s characteristics of remaining relational, just makes it stand out more beautifully.

The context[5] is that God has reminded his people through Moses of what he had done for them in giving them the law on Mt Sinai. His point is that there is no other nation in the world that has ever had their gods give them such a righteous and holy standard of living as the Ten Commandments. No other god has revealed its glory in deliverance as Yahweh did to bring his people out of Egypt.

However, since God knows the depravity of our hearts, he wants his people to know what to think of him if they ever turn away from the law and find themselves in some foreign land under judgment because of their sin (as per the later prophets dealing with this very thing). What will God be like when the people have rebelled, turned to adultery with false gods, and lost everything to go into captivity in foreign lands?

Answer: they will find him reminding them that, right there amid their much-deserved judgment, if they would only once again seek Yahweh with all their heart and soul, they would find him. They would not need to first return to the land. They would not need to first get their lives in order. They could call on him right there in the midst of their captivity, right in the worst of it, letting their hearts and souls open up to him as their one and only, and they would find him right there waiting for them.

So, what about the whole issue of searching for God with all our heart and soul?

The heart is the center of our mind, will, emotions and conscience. The soul is our inner self. The connection between the heart and the inner self is not a new concept in the New Testament. The thing that is new in the New Testament is that we no longer express our hearts and souls by keeping the law, but by attaching to God by faith. Jesus has fulfilled the law on our behalf so that we can now have heart-and-soul fellowship with the Triune God by faith.

Which brings me back to Paul’s prayer of Ephesians 3.[6] Look at the central issues of our heart and soul (inner being).

Paul prayed, “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being”.[7] We know our inner beings are dissociated from God; here is what we ask him to do by faith that we could never do by keeping the law.

Paul continued, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”.[8] We are to remain relational with God because he seeks constant relationship with us in our hearts. Again, that remaining relational happens by faith, not by works.

Paul then prays that we would both comprehend and know the agapè-love[9] of Christ in the real and personal way that saturates Scripture,[10] but with this clarification of result: “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”[11]

This is our Father’s initiation! The Scriptures come first, calling us into something because it is what God is already doing. We enter this wonder of the Spirit filling our inner beings, Christ dwelling in our hearts, the fullness of God filling us, by faith that attaches to the love already pouring into our hearts.

The point of all this is to show why everything in the church must focus on how we are doing in our heart-focused relationships with God and his people. No one benefits from pretense. Our role-playing isn’t helping anyone. Only searching for God from where we are, calling on him from our hearts and inner beings, will give us the attachment to the Triune God to the core of our selves so that we can remain relational with him and each other.

Now, our sarks (flesh) will likely tell us how impossible this is (because it can only interpret everything through the filter of independently trying to be good), and so God adds this glorious benediction:

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, 
according to the power at work within us, 
to him be glory in the church 
and in Christ Jesus 
throughout all generations, 
forever and ever. 

And, even in that, Father is initiating “remaining relational” in order to give us the greatest experience in all of life, that we could remain relational with him and his children in the greatest love-relationships anyone could ever know.

© 2019 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8


Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)

[1] RARE Leadership: © 2016 Moody Publishers. Authors: Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder.
[2] Deuteronomy 4:29
[3] Isaiah 29:13
[4] Bible Sense Lexicon
[5] Deuteronomy 4:1-49
[6] Ephesians 3:14-21
[7] Ephesians 3:16
[8] Ephesians 3:17
[9] Agapè love is that distinctive love of the kingdom of God that seeks God’s best for others instead of selfishly seeking our own interests.
[10] Ephesians 3:17-19
[11] Ephesians 3:19
[12] Ephesians 3:20-21

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Our Adulteries; Father's Redemptive Affection

Father’s message is very clear: although we have turned away from him, he is doing everything it takes to bring us home. Even when he pictures us as a wife who has turned to other lovers, his message is that he is seeking us, calling us home, paying the ransom price of our captivity, all so that he can have us sinful creatures back as his beloved and adopted children.

However, his present work is very clearly taking things I/we already know in our heads and addressing the WoLVeS that keep these things from invading our hearts.[1]

And so, he got me up early this morning to spend more time in his word and has been ministering Scriptures to me that I know require more than meditation; they also require praying from the new heart Jesus gave me.[2]

Here are the wonders of his gift of grace today, all communicating the same message: Our sin does not cause him to turn off his love for us, but engages his grace that will do whatever it takes to have us back, even if we are the only ones who come home.

Return, O faithless children,
declares the LORD;
    for I am your master;
I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,
    and I will bring you to Zion.[3]

We are “faithless children”; he will bring us home to Zion.

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, 
so be zealous and repent. 
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. 
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, 
I will come in to him and eat with him, 
and he with me.[4]

The Laodicean church is so lukewarm that Jesus is about to spew it out of his mouth. However, while calling the whole church to be “zealous and repent”, he makes his invitation in the singular so that, even if only one person comes home, that person is assured of intimate and personal fellowship with their Savior no matter what anyone else does with the offer.

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”[5]

First, we have a clear picture that God is, once again, dealing with his faithless people who have turned from love-relationship with him to an adulterous friendship with the world. The point is, look again at what God is telling his people is his response to such sinful disdain from his own people.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. 
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. 
Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 
Be wretched and mourn and weep. 
Let your laughter be turned to mourning 
and your joy to gloom. 
Humble yourselves before the Lord, 
and he will exalt you.[6]

God’s message to his adulterous bride is, “Come home!” Why he would want his adulterous people to come home is obviously beyond us. But there it is. If we will resist the devil’s advances and draw near to our God instead, what will we find God doing in response to our sinful wanderings? We will find him drawing near to us to be with us.

What is God’s intention in getting his adulterous people to humbly confess their poverty of spirit, to mourn the sinfulness of their adulterous hearts, to meekly admit they cannot fix what is wrong with them, and to once again hunger and thirst for the righteousness of love-relationship with him?[7] It is to bring our hearts home so he can exalt us, or lift us up, or restore us to our gracious place as his treasured possession, his chosen people, his holy nation, his beloved children.

And one more picture: when the prodigal son returns home, will he find his Father hiding away somewhere in grudging reluctance to see his child’s face? Or will he find this unthinkable thing of his Father running down the road to welcome him home?[8]

Which brought me to this:

All we like sheep have gone astray; 
we have turned—every one—to his own way; 
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.[9]

This is why God can relentlessly seek out his adulterous-hearted children. It is because, although every one of us has gone astray, the ransom price of our iniquity has been laid on Jesus. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”[10]

And so, because Jesus has fully paid the ransom price for all our idolatries and adulteries, God can keep calling us home, healing our wounds, replacing our lies with his truth, renewing our vows, and utterly demolishing our strongholds, all so that he can have our faithless little lives back for his very own in order that he may, “rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”[11]

As I was looking up the references for these verses that were pouring into my mind, I found this one that was like an added gem to the treasure I was seeking:

“I have gone astray like a lost sheep; 
seek your servant, 
for I do not forget your commandments.”[12]

God says that, when his beloved children go astray like lost sheep, his response is to seek and to save the lost.[13] This cry from the Psalms is our humble acknowledgement of need where we know that we have no hope unless he seeks for us and brings us home.

Obviously, Father is still graciously seeking his faithless children to bring us home to himself in a way that fills our hearts with the good news of great joy that is our right in the gospel.[14] Confessing to God that we know we have gone astray, and asking him to seek us and find us because we have not forgotten his words and want them to dwell in us richly, will attach our hearts to his grace that is already attached to us in wonders beyond our wildest imaginings.

And it is that grace that will lead us home.

© 2019 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8


Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Recently we discovered (or it found us) Dr Marcus Warner’s resources aimed at “Understanding the Wounded Heart”. In his book by that name, and a series of video messages on the topic, he explains things in a model that makes so much sense of what heart-wounds do to us. He identifies that our enemies are the world, the devil, our flesh, and the combined work of the three. And then he shows how the world Wounds us, the devil Lies to us, our flesh makes Vows to handle these lies, and the combined work creates Strongholds we can’t break on our own. To abbreviate the fourfold description of wounds, lies, vows and strongholds (WLVS), we now think of them as WoLVeS that are out to destroy us sheep. We are beginning to see the necessity of gaining our freedom from these WoLVeS in order to follow Jesus from the new hearts he has given us.
[2] I am indebted to Jim Wilder and his resource, “The Life Model: Living From the Heart Jesus Gave you”, for the emphasis on what it means that God has given us a new heart and put a new Spirit within us (Ezekiel 36:26; Ephesians 4:20-24). Scripture is clear that God has done this; God works relentlessly to lead us into our new hearts where we can seek him and find him as promised throughout his word.
[3] Jeremiah 3:14
[4] Revelation 3:19-20
[5] James 4:4
[6] James 4:7-10
[7] The Beatitudinal Journey of Matthew 5:1-12 is often woven into whatever new things I am learning.
[8] Luke 15:11-32 (the context includes two similar parables in Luke 15:1-10).
[9] Isaiah 53:6
[10] II Corinthians 5:21
[11] Zephaniah 3:17
[12] Psalm 119:176
[13] Luke 19:10
[14] Luke 2:10-11; Romans 1:16-17

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

When “Rescued” Replaces “Rejected”

Since 1992 I have been captivated by the work of God to set prisoners free.[1] It was the first time anyone suggested the concept to me, and within months I was so engrossed in fellowship with imprisoned souls that I have been praising God ever since that he attaches to his children before we go through such things. This week, I entered another installment of God’s gracious gift.

For a very long time, I have seen my worth through the collection of rejection-experiences that have followed me all through life. In my 30’s, I discovered I had something wrong with me I now call “orphan-mindedness”. Rejection by so many people had made my inner self feel like an abandoned child.

At that point in my life, I had not yet known the transforming power of my adoption in Christ to offset that pain. However, Father only introduces us to these inner-self-problems for us to get to know him better than we have ever known him before, so things were about to change.

Ever since that time, God has regularly shown me a way I do not yet know him at the same time as he invites me to know him in the way I lack. This week was no exception.

The words Father spoke into my soul were these: “I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.”[2]

It was amazing what happened as those words pierced all my layers of self-protection and touched the needy places of my heart. Father was reversing my story.

Although using photo-film illustrations is rapidly losing its benefit, I will share this simply because it is such a good picture for me. Old fashioned photography involved using a film that would give us a negative from which a positive could be imprinted on photo paper. Both the negative and the positive contain the same details. In a sense, the story information is identical.

However, what distinguishes them is exactly what the names suggest. The negative shows a negative image of the event, while the positive (the photograph) shows a positive, or accurate, image of the occasion.

The imagery of God taking a person out of a city of people who do not want him, or even out of a family that does not want him, is the photograph that counters the negative. The negative told me that all these people rejected me, leaving me as nothing more than an orphan-minded abandoned child.

On the other hand, Father’s family album showed a photograph of him rescuing me from a sinking ship, so to speak.

Just in a few days, Father has put the negative into his enlarger, shone the light of truth through the negative onto the photo paper of my heart, and secured a photograph of a rescued child. No longer am I an abandoned child drifting further away from people who threw me overboard, so to speak. Now I am a rescued orphan climbing into the life-boat of God and finding a fresh understanding of my adoption in Jesus Christ my Lord.

I know what it is like to constantly fight the negative messages that I am a worthless orphan nobody has wanted. Father has watched over me the whole time, and has, in a sense, constantly opened my mind to understand the Scriptures.[3]

Today I am reveling in the difference I feel with this fresh replacement of “rejected” with “rescued”. And it isn’t that I didn’t already know the doctrines of such things in my head. It’s just that Father’s gift this week has been to pour such loving truth deeper into my heart.

And for that I am exceedingly thankful.

© 2019 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8


Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)

[1] This aspect of Jesus’ ministry is explained so beautifully in the parallel passages of Isaiah 61:11 and Luke 4:16-30.
[2] Jeremiah 3:14
[3] Luke 24:45

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Victims or Victors, That is the Question

We cannot help it that we are too often at the mercy of other people’s choices.

Perhaps it is the stench of pot smoke wafting into the yard from an inconsiderate neighbor. Or maybe our travel plans are restricted by the constant parade of stories that someone’s bad judgment has once again shut down the Coquihalla Highway.[1] For some, it is the tragic experience of a loved one gone forever because someone thought they could drive while intoxicated.  

Whatever the case, there is ample proof of this, that a big part of life is adjusting to what is going on with others. Sometimes we are simply one of the dominoes that fall as the result of what someone decided to do,[2] while other times those choices are deliberately aimed at ruining our lives.[3] 

While everyone could come up with their own stories of how they have been affected by the choices of others, there is a very significant way in which all of us are affected by the choices of two opposing groups. Jesus described it like this: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”[4] 

We cannot change this. There is an evil spirit-being whose purpose in our lives is to steal what was given to us by God, kill the life God made for us, and destroy anything in our lives that would lead us to know God and enjoy him forever.  

On the other hand, there is someone greater than that evil being who came for the purpose of giving us life, and of the kind that must be described as, “abundantly”. 

In the early days of our daycare we had our families bring the snacks and lunches for their children. It wasn’t too long into this adventure that we noticed something that was hurting one of our little ones. She would sit at her spot at the table with a very simple collection of food items that often did not vary from one day to the next. Across the table from her a little boy opened his lunchbox to a smorgasbord of selections that were always greater than he could eat in one day.  

Because the little girl could not possibly understand the discrepancy between the meal options, we made the decision to begin offering the snacks and meals ourselves so that all the children would receive the same opportunities. However, it was clear that, even at an early age, children can tell the difference between merely getting by and having an abundance. 

Jesus did not leave us with a choice of whether we wanted to just get by or have a life of plenty. Rather, he contrasted our enemy’s aim to steal, kill and destroy, with his own activity to give us an abundance of life.  

I write this as a pastor who has witnessed a great majority of church-folk who live fairly superficial lives of self-protective role-playing rather than anything resembling the abundance of life Jesus promised to those who follow him.  

On one side, Jesus warned us about such things. Not only does the thief come to steal, kill and destroy, but he constantly schemes against God’s children to make their lives a testimony of defeat instead of victory.[5] He is pictured as an “adversary” that, “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”[6] He can even lure followers of Jesus into his traps where they find themselves doing his will instead of that of their Lord and Savior.[7] 

On the other side, Jesus came for the direct purpose of giving us the abundance of life and the devil cannot stop him from doing this. He provides a whole suit of spiritual armor that local churches can wear to protect themselves in times of attack. [8] He enables his disciples to stand firm against the roaring lion’s threats.[9] He provides pastors who do not get caught up in the devil’s divisive activities but are eager to show the love of God even to their opponents in the hope that they will find their freedom in Christ.[10] 

The point is that Jesus, “came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” He laid down his own life in death to destroy the works of the devil.”[11] He came to “destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”[12]

The question is, who are we going to trust? The emissaries of one whose unceasing purpose is to steal, kill and destroy, or the Son of the living God who came into the world to save sinners?[13] 

How do we receive Jesus’ gift of abundant life? 

The answer is, faith.  

Not faith as its own object, but faith as a direct response to Jesus and his offer of abundant life. If you have never received the life Jesus has offered, it is received by faith.[14] 

If you have received Jesus’ gift of life but you know your experience of this life does not qualify as “abundantly,” you come into that abundance by faith. As it is written: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”[15] 

I encourage you to take the Bible verses God has breathed-out for us about our victory in Jesus Christ and pray them back to him in some expression of faith. Even if the faith can only come out as a desperate longing for what is offered, God promises that, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”[16] 

If you want your hunger for the righteousness of abundant life to be satisfied, call on God as your heavenly Father and ask him to give you everything he has promised in his Son. And let people who have already found this abundant life walk with you as you seek this life together. 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.[17]

© 2019 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8


Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)

[1] The Coquihalla Highway of southwestern British Columbia, Canada, is notorious for being shut down due to mostly preventable accidents.
[2] On my only return trip to the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1997 I was disappointed to find out that, not long before my arrival, some disgruntled person cut down a golden spruce tree that had attracted visitors from around the world and was the focus of scientific studies to continue propagating that particular species of trees.
[3] All around the world, people’s lives are ruined by terrorist groups that target their faith and way of life, or governments that side with corrupt people, or lobbyist groups that demand everything be done their way.
[4] John 10:10
[5] Ephesians 6:10-13 describes this battle, and the whole passage of Ephesians 6:10-20 expands the description to show how Jesus’ disciples can experience victory through the corporate experience of the whole armor of God.
[6] I Peter 5:8
[7] II Timothy 2:24-26 describes believers who need help to, “come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
[8] After describing the reality of the devil’s schemes against the church in Ephesians 6:10-13, the whole passage of Ephesians 6:10-20 expands the description to show how Jesus’ disciples can experience victory through the corporate experience of the whole armor of God.  
[9] I Peter 5:8 calls us to stand firm because we are able to do so in Christ.
[10] The passage in II Timothy 2:24-26 instructs pastors to “not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” This gift of grace invites the opposers to surrender to God’s kindness that is leading them towards repentance (Romans 2:4) and freedom in Jesus Christ (II Cor 3:17-18).
[11] I John 3:8
[12] Hebrews 2:14-15
[13] I Timothy 1:15
[14] John 1:12-13
[15] I John 5:4-5
[16] Matthew 5:6
[17] Romans 8:37-39