Category: Mark’s Blog

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?

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).

Is The Church A Restaurant?

There are numerous biblical images for the church: the bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the elect, the family of God, God’s temple, the flock of God, to name a few. An ancient, post-first century symbol that was used for the church was a boat (rooted in Mark 4:35-41; 1 Peter 3:20-21), and there are many others.

As a young Christian, I heard the image of “cafeteria” used numerous times to describe the way some people approach Christianity. The idea was, “I will take a little of this (grace, etc.) and some of that (love, etc.), but I do not want any of the other (obedience, etc.).” The lesson being that we can not pick and choose what Scriptures we decide to obey.

I recently read an article by Trevin Wax entitled, “The Church Is Not A Restaurant.” It is a well written and thought stimulating image. Wax deals with what is happening when a congregation does not stand out in a consumer-oriented society (people will naturally gravitate toward a view of the church that is influenced by a consumerist imagination). The article is about why one might attend a variety of churches without ever committing to any of them, and the reason is “when you see the church as a restaurant.” The following is from Wax’s article (with editing and addition material from MRJ).

What happens is that church members migrate from one congregation to another, enjoying for a season the preaching and music here, sometimes coming back to their go-to congregation when they’re in the mood for something more familiar, or heading over to a third church for a mission trip. The result is sporadic attendance at any particular congregation.

When leaders notice that their church members have been absent for a while and they check up on them, they’re puzzled to discover that there isn’t a particular reason why these members have been more absent than present. The attenders are not mad, and they’ve not had a bad experience; they just see church attendance much like someone might think of the choice between Texas Roadhouse or Red Lobster for lunch. It’s whatever they’re in the mood for that Sunday, or during that season of life.

The problem with viewing the church as a restaurant is that it amplifies the consumer mentality in that the service is all directed one-way. There’s not enough commitment for people to attend week after week; which makes it extremely difficult for the consumerist mindset to be challenged, discipled, or ministering to for the upbuilding of the church.

The church is not a restaurant; please do not treat it like one.

Negative Advertising

I am past ready for the elections to be over. This is not because I am eager to have a candidate win (I am much more concerned about the initiatives then I am the candidates). I am eager for the elections to be finished so that all the election advertising will discontinue.

When we lived in Olympia, we were not bombarded with all the advertising that we are here. It is incredible how many pieces of campaign literature we get in our mailbox every day.

Most of the election advertising is negative (which could be too mild a word). Most of the campaign rhetoric is designed to make people dislike someone or something, instead of being sold on someone or something.

Negative advertising only goes so far, and it gets very wearisome. The reason the political campaigns use this method is that it is more effective than other methods.

There was a time when the Lord’s church seemed to be known for what it was against (faith only salvation, sinner’s prayer, sprinkling for baptism, instrumental music with spiritual songs, etc.). Many in the church concluded that “negative advertising” was not the best thing for the church to be known by.

The past couple of decades have been a time when a large segment of the Lord’s church has attempted to be known for what we are for (loving God, loving neighbor, grace, etc.).

I am for the being known for the “positives.” Mainly being known for what you are against is not the best way to be known. However, this move away from “negative advertising” seems to have resulted in the church blending into the larger religious/spiritual surroundings.

Let us be the people of God who are known for the right (positive) things. Let us also be recognized for opposing the things that are out of line with the right (positive) things. If there one thing to learn from all of the negative political advertising, it is that people are not currently swayed by only a “positive” message.

HANGING OUT WITH FRIENDS IS NOT THE CHURCH

Who doesn’t like getting together with friends and sharing about life? What’s not to love about having deep conversations about spiritual truths with those close to you? Those things are great, and we should do more of them, but they are not the church. People seem to be increasingly thinking that their spiritual hangouts with friends a congregation. They are exploring the question: What is the church? Great question.

It seems like some of those who are asking this question are not driven by a desire to be a part of a biblical church of any model. They just want an excuse to claim their discussions over dinner as church. There are several ways these gatherings of friends fail short of what it means to be the church.

First, they raise questions of self-centeredness. When someone desires to break away from being an active part of a local church and instead wants to substitute a gathering of friends in its place, the question to consider is not “Can we?” but rather “Why would we?” It’s a matter of motivation.

Second, they prevent us from growing as we should. You and I need other people to be the church. We need other people who aren’t like us to be the church. We need other people who are not like us to help us become more like Christ. Other people who are in different life stages than us, have different personalities than us, come from different backgrounds than us, not only protect us from heresy, they help chip away and sand off our self-centered traits. When we just gather with friends and those like us, we remove much of the way God uses others in the body to refine us. The desire to be only with those like yourself assumes that only they can teach you and help you grow. It dismisses the contributions others can (and would) make in your sanctification.

Third, they rob us of places of service. There are so many avenues for growth and service that can never be yours if you exchange being a part of a church with hanging out with friends. The church comes together to serve one another using the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit has given us and goes out to help others using the equipping of the saints the church provides for us.

Will you be hurt within the church? Absolutely, but who is to say Christ will not use that to conform you to His image? Jesus has promised to be in the midst of even two or three gathered in His name, but He has not called that the church. If you are gathering with a group of friends to talk about life and the Scriptures, don’t stop. But don’t confuse it with church either. Seek to build up the bride of Christ, not try to replace her.

Edited by Mark Johnson

Reasons We Should Sing Passionately

From the beginning of the church, singing has been an integral part of corporate worship. The first hymns are as old as the early books of the Bible. Here are just five of the many reasons we should all sing passionately as the church this Sunday:

1) We are commanded to sing! We are called to sing; indeed, the Scriptures command us – more than 250 times – that we are to sing. It’s hardly one of those “controversial” issues that are hard to ascertain precisely what scripture is saying. It’s not a choice; it’s not dependent on “feeling like it;” it’s not our prerogative.

Throughout Biblical history, in every place and circumstance; in victory, in defeat; in celebrations and festivals; in death and mourning; singing was second nature for people of faith. Indeed, the largest book of the Bible is itself a songbook, exploring the range of human experience and interaction with God through singing.

2) Singing together completes our joy. Celebrating with each other is as natural as breathing. At your kid’s soccer game or when we watch football or March Madness, it’s not enough for our team to win, we want to revel in the moment and share it with other people. C. S. Lewis believed singing completes our faith, explaining in his book Reflections on the Psalms, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise does not merely express but completes the enjoyment; it is appointed consumption.”

3) Singing is an expression of brotherhood and unites generations. Singing together is a picture here on earth of the hope of heaven where every tribe, tongue, and nation will sing to God. Throughout history, God’s people have both discovered and affirmed their solidarity in times of celebration and in times of tragedy through singing.

4) We are what we sing. Singing affects how we pray, think, feel; it influences our memory banks and even the deepest parts of our subconscious. If the songs we sing to ourselves and to each other are just about the moment, detached from Scripture and lacking in history or perspective, we’ve little to keep us moored to Truth. But, when we are intentional about singing and about the songs we sing, we build up a testimony that will travel with us through life.

As you worship God today – as overworked dads, stressed out mums, grandparents struggling with health and young people looking for wealth – each of us can, with integrity and with relief, go with repentance and thanksgiving to the One who has created us, forgiven us and lives within us. How can we not sing?

Keith Getty (edited and adapted by Mark Johnson)