Author: Mark Johnson

I Am The Alpha And Omega

I AM THE ALPHA AND OMEGA

The divine title “the Alpha and the Omega” occur as self-designations by God and by Christ in Revelation:

God: I am the Alpha and the Omega – 1:8

Christ: I am the first and the last – 1:17

God: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end – 21:6

Christ: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end – 22:13

Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. The “Alpha and Omega” designation is the equivalent in meaning to “the first and the last” and “the beginning and the end.”

God precedes all things and He will bring all things to fulfillment. He is the origin and goal of all history. He has the first word, in creation, and the last word, in new creation. As the Alpha, God is the Creator, the beginning of all things (4:11); as the Omega, He brings all things to completion in the new creation (21:1). His first word is spoken when the book begins (1:8), and His last word signals the fulfillment of His purposes: “All is done.”

“I am” recalls the name of God, like the expression “the one who is” (Exod. 3:14). This recalls texts from the Old Testament that stress the singular lordship of Israel’s God:

Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”

Deuteronomy 32:39 See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand

Isaiah 41:4 Who has performed and accomplished it, Calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last. I am He

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me

Isaiah 45:22 Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other

Isaiah 46:9 Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me

Isaiah 48:12 Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I am also the last

The Lord God Almighty Reigns – Rev. 19:1-6

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

 

  1. What do you think about the statement that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”?

 

  1. What is necessary for power to not corrupt someone?

 

  1. Why is it important to understand that God is the “Almighty”? How does this fact translate into your life?

 

  1. What things claim to be “Almighty” in our time and place?

 

  1. How has and can the idea of God’s rule and judgment been misused and abused?

The One Who Is And Was And Is To Come

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

 

  1. Why do you think John “brackets” the prologue of Revelation (1:4-8) with identifying God this way (what is John’s purpose in beginning the document this way)?

 

  1. How does one’s understanding of God impact one’s spirituality?

 

  1. How is God described (including phrases and titles) in Revelation and what is the significance of those descriptions?

 

  1. What significance does God being always in the past, being constantly in the present, and coming in the future have for you?

 

  1. What is the difference between being “in control” and “in charge”?

 

  1. Why is it important that the text of Revelation ties the reader back to Exodus and the God of Exodus?

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HEAR AND HEED

THE BIBLICAL MEANING OF BEING BLESSED

The Popular Concept Is That “Blessed” Means “

“Blessed” Has The Idea Of Having (Being The  Of) God’s Favor Or Approval – Mt. 5:4; Jam. 1:12; Pss. 1:1-2; 32:1-2; 34:8

Biblical blessedness                         our circumstances

“Blessed” In Revelation

In Revelation μακάριος is used in similar fashion to the beatitudes of Mt. 5 and Lk. 6

The blessing texts are linked to the  purpose of the book

The blessing texts summarize the  and rewards of overcoming

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO FAITHFULLY HEAR AND DO

A  Blessing – 1:3

The first blessing  the reason readers should take the message seriously

A blessing on the one who       it aloud (in the assemblies) – Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27; 1 Tim. 4:13; Rom. 10:17

A blessing on those who gather to  and            the message they hear – Rom. 10:17; Deut. 6:4; Ezek. 40:4; Mt. 13:9, 13-16

Blessed Are The  – 22:7; 2:26; 3:10; 14:12; Acts 8:30-31; Dan. 7:15-17; Rev. 7:13-14

Jesus                 this prophecy to be obeyed

The message of Revelation is not                          to provide fodder for intellectual speculation about the end times but is rather a series of commands addressed to the present-day lives of all who read it

The message of Revelation is a call to                         and                        in light of past, present, and future realities

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

Why is the public reading of Scripture important?

Why is hard to be attentive listeners (what hinders listening)?

What can help us be attentive listeners? (get us into the world imagined in Scripture)

What does the phrase “being a people under the Word” communicate to you?

What should our motivations for engaging God’s Word be? (why do we read the Bible?)

Why is Revelation so neglected when it is the one New Testament document that pronounces a blessing on those who read, hear, and keep what is written in it?

Do you agree or disagree with the statement, “There is a correlation between understanding the ‘words of this prophecy,’ ‘keeping the words of this prophecy’ and the blessings that are given”? Why do you agree or disagree with the statement?

 

  1. A blessing on those who gather to  and            the message they hear – Rom. 10:17; Deut. 6:4; Ezek. 40:4; Mt. 13:9, 13-16

 

 

  1. Blessed Are The  – 22:7; 2:26; 3:10; 14:12; Acts 8:30-31; Dan. 7:15-17; Rev. 7:13-14

 

Jesus                 this prophecy to be obeyed

 

The message of Revelation is not                          to provide fodder for intellectual speculation about the end times but is rather a series of commands addressed to the present-day lives of all who read it

 

The message of Revelation is a call to                         and                        in light of past, present, and future realities

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

 

  1. Why is the public reading of Scripture important?

 

  1. Why is hard to be attentive listeners (what hinders listening)?

 

  1. What can help us be attentive listeners? (get us into the world imagined in Scripture)

 

  1. What does the phrase “being a people under the Word” communicate to you?

 

  1. What should our motivations for engaging God’s Word be? (why do we read the Bible?)

 

  1. Why is Revelation so neglected when it is the one New Testament document that pronounces a blessing on those who read, hear, and keep what is written in it?

 

  1. Do you agree or disagree with the statement, “There is a correlation between understanding the ‘words of this prophecy,’ ‘keeping the words of this prophecy’ and the blessings that are given”? Why do you agree or disagree with the statement?

FAITH IDENTITY AND POLITICS

I found the following article to be insightful and I hope you will also. One of the standards has been “you do not mix faith and religion,” yet that has been going on. I am not advocation a political party, nor do I believe the article below endorses a political party. What the article is pointing toward is that seemingly politics is displacing religion in many (most) Americans. In other words, the current trends make politics a threat to one’s faith. Much like the syncretism that took place in Israel’s history and the faith threats to several of the congregations that are addressed in Revelation.

Mark Johnson

There certainly has always been partisanship, deep disagreement, and name-calling in politics. But I do think there are some things that are intensifying this trend toward affective polarization. One of those trends is that, unfortunately, our identities are becoming increasingly political. You can see this in various ways. It used to be that people would marry across party lines – people with very different political views – but would almost always marry someone who shared their faith. Now, almost 40 percent of marriages are to someone of a different faith tradition, but only around 23 percent of people who are getting married, or even cohabiting with someone, are doing so with someone of a different political party. In many ways, political affiliation is now seen as somehow more intrinsic to our identities thank our faith commitments.

Our faith identities are also becoming more tribal in a sense. It’s been reported that around 80 percent of self-reported evangelicals are very strong supporters of President Trump. But if you look at the religious practice, church attendance, [and] adherence to particular doctrines of that group, the idea that they are “evangelical” in a doctrinal sense falls apart. In some ways, “evangelical” is becoming more of a tribal term than a creedal one.

At the same time, our politics are becoming increasingly apocalyptic… Pew found that two-thirds of those who are highly politically involved say they fear the other side. That sense of fear is growing. There’s more fear and, with it, loathing than there used to be… Now there’s a sense that both one’s identity and the future of the republic hinge on [your vote]. That makes it far more difficult to engage in any kind of compromise. It intensifies the idea that someone who disagrees with you is the enemy who needs to be vanquished rather than engaged.

Source: Cherie Harder, in “The New Morality Dilemma,” Council for Christian Colleges and Universities Advance magazine. Fall 2018, p. 44-49.

Death By Inches

The attention-getting phrase that came out of the introduction of Vic Fangio as the new head coach of the Denver Broncos was “death by inches.” When asked to explain what the phrase means, Fangio used the example of a player being late to a meeting by 30 seconds. That tardiness alone is insignificant. However, if it is not corrected it grows and spreads. That is what Fangio means by “death by inches.”

“Death by inches” is like: “sweat the small stuff,” “pay attention to the details,” and “death by a thousand cuts.”

“Death by inches” is an accurate proverb for the world of professional football and it is accurate for most areas of life. The employee who is late and whose work is sloppy. The student who does not study until test time. Relationships that gradually grow apart (how many songs have been written about this?).

“Death by inches” can also take place in the spiritual realm.  A congregation gradually grows sloppier in their worship assemblies. Failure to stay fresh in our relationship with God and each other. Giving God our “leftovers.” Unholy habits develop this way. Apostacy normally takes place this way, one’s spiritual life shrivels up little by little.

“Death by inches” goes well with our “Wisdom and the Road to Character” Seminar. Character formation and deformation often occur by “inches” (slow and progressive). The biblical wisdom literature addresses this concept. For instance:

Eccl. 9:10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might

Prov. 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life

Prov. 10:4 Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich

Prov. 12:11 He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who pursues worthless things lacks sense

Prov. 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty

What other wisdom texts would you add to this list?

Take Time To Pray

Set aside 15 minutes to pray today, and you might find these things happen:

  1. You’ll be more focused on God. Even if only for a few minutes, looking toward the throne of God can move your heart.
  2. You’ll be more convicted over your sin. That happens when you spend time with God, but that’s a good thing. Conviction leads to repentance, which leads to forgiveness and cleansing.
  3. You will be more grateful. Most of us do indeed need to pray more – and our hearts are thankful when God helps us to make and keep that commitment.
  4. You will be a godlier person. I’m assuming, of course, that your time with God leads to genuine change, but you’ll humbly hold your head higher in your home if it does.
  5. You will release some of your burdens. Fifteen minutes may not be long, but it’s time with God. He’s in charge of how much He will change and encourage us in those minutes.
  6. You will express your love for somebody. Few things are as loving as interceding for others and taking them to God’s throne – even if you do it in the quiet of your prayer closet for just a few minutes. Pick up the church directory and pray for one family in the directory each day.
  7. You will want to pray even more. Nobody ever prayed more than 15 minutes without praying the first 15 minutes. Spend a few minutes with God, and you’ll begin wanting more.

Find 15 minutes today . . . and pray.

Edited by Mark Johnson (original article by Chuck Lawless)

Mark’s Remarks

We have had good participation in the ministry meetings so far and have the opportunity to share in two more ministries this morning (beginning approximately 10 minutes following the dismissal of the morning assembly). For those interested in benevolence, you will be meeting in the front of the auditorium. For those interested in Lads to Leaders, we will meet downstairs. If you are interested in both, please go to one of the meetings and then contact the facilitator of the other meeting (Mike Ewing for benevolence and Mark Johnson for L2L).

The L2L meeting will include the following agenda items. First, for those who have participated in L2L events this year (Year-Round Bible Reading, Centurion of Scripture, and Song Leading), please let me know: 1) who completed any of the events and 2) for those who completed events, let me know if you desire to be recognized in the L2L convention program. Second, we will discuss the events that we desire to participate in for 2019. Third, information for the 2019 Convention will be made available. Finally, I will be inquiring about who desires to participate in the 2019 Convention (as a judge, observer, etc.).

The Wisdom and the Road to Character Seminar with Dr. Dave Bland from the Harding School of Theology (Memphis, TN) is January 19-20, 2019. Most of our Seminar postcards have disappeared! There are a few left (so pick some up for yourself and to distribute to others). We also now have fliers available in the foyer. I hope you have already made plans to participate. We have contacted numerous other congregations about the seminar and hope that they will attend the Seminar.

I am super excited about moving the Sunday PM meeting time from 6:00 PM to 1:00 PM, beginning next Sunday (January 6, 2019). I think it will be beneficial for all. We hope this will increase participation in the PM assembly. Some of us are already talking about bringing simple meals (lasagna, baked potatoes, crock pots, etc.) to eat at the building between meetings. The time change for the PM meeting is on a trial basis, for January through March.

Wisdom and the Road to Character Seminar

In just over a month, this congregation is hosting the “Wisdom and Character Formation” Seminar with Dr. Dave Bland who is a professor at the Harding School of Theology (HST) in Memphis, TN. Dave was born and raised west of Fort Collins and is excited to have the opportunity to present this material in Colorado!

You will be wise to make sure that you participate in as much of this seminar as possible.

Applying the wisdom literature to life has captivated Dr. Bland for several decades. He teaches a course on “Wisdom and Character Formation” at HST and has written three books dealing with this material: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Song of Songs (College Press NIV Commentary), College Press, 2002; Proverbs and the Formation of Character, Cascade Books, 2015; and Creation, Character, and Wisdom: Rethinking the Roots of Environmental Ethics, Wipf & Stock, 2016.

Make sure your schedule includes this Seminar on January 19 and 20, 2019, you will be blessed.

The material below is from David Fleer & Dave Bland, Preaching Character: Reclaiming Wisdom’s Paradigmatic Imagination for Transformation (Abilene, TX: Leafwood Publishers, 2010).

Life is an exciting journey, an adventure with unknown challenges stretching before us.  But life often throws unexpected twists and turns along the way. While it presents wonderful opportunities and joys, hidden perils abound. It’s an exciting adventure that involves perilous risks and difficult decisions. In different ways both the novice and the experienced must remain constantly vigilant. Our world does not well prepare individuals for this journey, regardless of the level of experience.

It is at this point that wisdom speaks a profound word into our experience. Wisdom capably negotiates the complexities of life. The wise person is one who develops expertise in living responsibly. Wisdom seeks to discover God’s order in life and then proceeds to successfully fit into that order, always acknowledging human limitations. Divine order demands moral behavior and wisdom’s ultimate goal is the formation of moral character. This quality of character is the thicker, richer meaning of wisdom.

Our culture and churches desperately need wisdom. It is not a spur of the moment decision to try to be a wise person. It is a process of training.

Centering Our Lives

The worship scenes in Revelation (especially chapters 4 and 5) offer an alternative center for our lives than what culture provides us. The vision of all creation centered in worship and obedient waiting upon God and the Lamb invites the reader to reorient his or her life around the throne of God as the pivotal center of our lives.

“John calls us to center ourselves and to remain centered, here. This centering for John does not belong to the fleeting moments of structured times of worship, however. It is the business of God’s creatures “day and night without rest” (4:8), which for human beings must mean bringing every facet of life into orbit around the enthroned God, centered on God, on God’s prompting, on God’s service” (deSilva, Unholy Allegiances).

“The alternative to worship focused on the true center, the true authority for life (symbolized here in the throne), is worship focused on false centers: idols. Babylon is the place of anti-worship” (Gorman, Reading Revelation Responsibly, 103).

“John challenges us to examine whether we stand appropriately focused on God on Sunday mornings but spend most of our time (and, truth be told, some of Sunday morning as well) turning away to move into orbit around other more local centers—our national centers, our commercial centers, the centers of our own selves—serving agendas other than God’s” (deSilva, Unholy Allegiances).

In John’s vision of the cosmos, there is no room for gathering around God’s throne at one time as one’s cosmic center and at another time in the fellowship of idols and their worshipers. “God the creator reigns and is worthy of our complete devotion, and Jesus the faithful, slaughtered Lamb of God reigns with God, equally worthy of our complete devotion” (Gorman, Reading Revelation Responsibly, 103).

John’s vision of a God-centered cosmos “raises disturbing questions about whether or not we are guilty of treating God as if he orbited around us, expecting God to show up to do our bidding, warming our hearts here, healing us there, taking care of this concern or problem over here. John would have disciples in every age understand—and live like they understand—that they exist to do God’s bidding, because God created all things for the doing of God’s will and pleasure (4:11)” (deSilva, Unholy Allegiances).

“The worship of God is the heartbeat of the cosmos, even when we humans on earth do not see it, participate in it, or value it. Only God is worthy to receive what others, especially powerful political figures, may want or demand: our total devotion, our praise, our crowns” (Gorman, Reading Revelation Responsibly, 107).