Category: Mark’s Blog

Questions For Reflection for Sunday, April 7, 2019

  1. What is the purpose (function) of the vision of the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21:1-22:5)?

 

  1. Where else in Scripture is a similar river described to the river described in Rev. 22:1?

 

  1. Should “tree of life” (22:2) be understood as a single tree or as several trees? Support your answer.

 

  1. What is the significance of having access to the tree of life?

 

  1. How does John’s vision of the tree leaves (Rev. 22:2) differ from Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek. 47:12)?

 

  1. What curse (or curses) are removed in the New Jerusalem (22:3)?

 

  1. Based on Revelation, how do envision the relationship between God (the Father) and the Lamb (the Son)?

 

  1. Why is it important to identify those in the New Jerusalem as “priests”?

 

  1. What is the significance of seeing God’s face?

 

  1. What prevents us from desiring to see God?

 

  1. What does it mean to have “His name on” your “forehead” (22:4)?

 

  1. What do you envision people doing in the New Creation?

 

  1. What else needs to be discussed concerning the new heaven and new earth?

CHURCH REVITALIZATION 3

In almost every congregation, there is some need for revitalization. However, in the majority of congregations, there is an urgent and widespread need for revitalization. Columbine is a congregation that needs revitalization. That is the first step, recognizing and admitting that revitalizing change needs to take place among us.

The second step is to pray about this congregation being revitalized. If the public prayers that are given here were analyzed, what would someone conclude that the greatest need (problem) at Columbine is? If the private prayers of the Columbine members were studied, how much of an emphasis on the spiritual health and vitality of this congregation is included?

My suspicion is that the emphasis in our prayers needs to change.

The apostle Paul is a good model for our prayers. As one reads Paul’s letters to the various congregations, a prayer for that congregation is normally included.

What one finds in Paul’s prayers is an emphasis on the spiritual health of those congregations (for example: 1 Cor. 1:4-8; Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-14; 1 Thess. 1:2-3; 3:9-13). His focus is on what they have and what they need to continue to grow in. Both of those things are important.

If the focus is only on what we do not have in the congregation, we will fail to appreciate what we do have. When we focus on members who leave and perceived lack of resources, we will not appreciate what we have. Yet, we do not want to be blind to the areas we need to grow in.

Let’s pray for God to work through Columbine for His glory. Let us pray that God sends families to us. Let us pray that God sends seekers to us. Let us pray that we can ways to effectively reach the community around us.

 

The answer to that prayer may end up looking very different than you and I imagine that it will. But, if we allow God to work through us, that is what is important (even if what I envision is wrong).

CHURCH REVITALIZATION (part 2)

We believe that the Columbine congregation still has a purpose in the Southwest part of the Denver metropolitan area. We are not blind to the difficulties around us, but we remain certain God is still working in this congregation. God has provided everything this congregation needs to move forward.

So, how do we move forward? Let’s begin with prayer. Prayer at home. Prayer in the assemblies. Prayer when we are together.

Pray about the spiritual health and vitality of Columbine more than people’s physical health. Take the church directory and pray for a few families each day. Pray that we have the strength and courage to spiritually “bloom where planted.”

Pray about God sending seekers our way.

Pray about our imaginations being stirred up to find ways to impact our community so that they know we are here.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer

Ephesians 3:14-21 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith- that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 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, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray without ceasing

1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Mark Johnson

Questions for “LIFE IN THE CITY OF GOD” (Rev. 21:22-27) for Sunday, March 31, 2019

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

 

  1. Track God’s presence living with people throughout the Bible (provide names, places, or events and Biblical text)

 

  1. Track the temple theme throughout Revelation. Note the relationship between God and worshippers, what the worshippers do, and what God does (provide Biblical references).

 

  1. What associations does the idea of “light” and “lamp” have throughout the Bible?

 

  1. What are gates for (what is the function of a gate) and why is it significant that the gates for the New Jerusalem are never closed? Identify other “gates” in the Bible that deal with access to God.

 

  1. What does the absence of evil, uncleanness, etc. in the New Creation mean to you?

 

  1. Who does “the kings” and “the nations” (21:24, 26) refer to?

 

  1. Some people think that Rev. 21:24, 26 indicate “universalism” (everyone is saved). Do you agree, why or why not?

 

  1. What does it mean that nations bring “glory and honor” to God (Rev. 21:24, 26)?

 

 

  1. What biblical texts that God desires all the families of the earth to experience His blessings?

 

  1. What biblical texts indicate hope that people from all ethnic groups will come to learn God’s ways?

 

  1. Look up unreached people groups (you can use a website like joshuaproject.org). Over the next week, commit to praying for a new unreached people group at least once each day. (I know this is not a question!)

 

  1. What does it mean to walk in God’s light (21:24)?

 

  1. Where else in Revelation is the book of life mentioned?

CHURCH REVITALIZATION

According to Thom Rainer, “At least two-thirds of churches are declining, maybe more. We estimate that about 100 to 150 churches are closing every week. The sighs of despair are justified.” Please note that this statement is made in reference to “churches” in general in the United States and not specifically concerning the churches of Christ. However, it is pretty clear that our brotherhood closely reflects this same trend.

Rainer goes on to write:

Even among those churches that are hanging on, a number of their leaders feel a sense of futility. Though smaller churches vastly outnumber larger churchesmore people are attending the larger churches every week. The migration from smaller to larger is clear and evident.

Church leaders and church members sense the shadow of the larger churches over them. They see their young families move to the churches that have ministries and programs for their children and teenagers. They see the newer, even cooler, buildings of the larger churches.

They see it. They sense it. They know it. Is there hope? Do these smaller churches have any path forward? Can the smaller and mid-sized church survive in the world seemingly dominated by larger churches and megachurches?

The answer to the question is an absolute “yes.” I make that declaration not by sentiment nor false hopes, but by clear evidence of God’s work. Though the number of scrappy churches is still relatively small, they are growing in number. I am convinced scrappy churches are a growing trend of the reality we will soon see.

The Columbine congregation needs to be what Rainer refers to as a “scrappy church.” We refuse to give up. Let’s be feisty, tenacious, determined, persistent.

We believe that the Columbine congregation still has a purpose in the Southwest part of the Denver metropolitan area. We are not blind to the difficulties around us, but we remain certain God is still working in this congregation.

Church revitalization is slow. It typically takes congregations five to seven years to successfully turn-around. More about church revitalization next week.

The City Of God Questions for Reflection for 03/24/19

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

 

  1. List Scriptures that describe the people of God (both OT and NT) as the wife (married to) either God or Jesus.

 

  1. John is taken to a “great, high mountain” to see the descent of the New Jerusalem (21:10). Identify some of the mountains that have played an important role in the history of God’s people. Provide the name of the mountain, the event (or events), and the biblical text.

 

  1. What traits of the people of God from many periods are attributed to the bride in Revelation 21?

 

  1. What is meant by “having the glory of God” (21:11)?

 

  1. What else is compared to a jasper stone (21:11) in Revelation?

 

  1. How does the New Jerusalem represent a place, the people of God, and God’s presence?

 

  1. List the contrast between the two women/cities runs throughout Revelation 17:1–19:5 and 21:9–22:5.

 

  1. What is alluring about Babylon (Rev. 17:1-19:5)?

 

  1. How does the vision of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:1-22:5) provide an alternative vision of life?

 

  1. Are the numbers describing the size of the city (21:16-17) literal or symbolic? If it is symbolic, what are some possible symbolic meanings?

 

  1. Does the measurement of the wall (21:17) indicate the height or the thickness of the wall?

 

  1. If the gemstones used to build the city (Rev. 21:19-20) are taken symbolically, what do they represent?

Questions For Reflection for Sunday, March 17, 2019

  1. What is the contemporary depiction of the final state? Describe it? Does this depiction inspire your hope? Is there anything about this depiction that bothers you?

2. What does it mean that “heaven and earth departed” (Rev. 21:1)?

 

  1. What does it mean that the “sea was no more” (Rev. 21:1)?

 

  1. Why is “a new heaven and a new earth” in Revelation 21:1 followed by the description of a Garden-like city in the shape of a temple (21:2, 10-21)?

 

  1. What other verse in Revelation refers to “new Jerusalem the city”?

 

  1. What does new Jerusalem symbolize?

 

  1. What is the point of similarity between Jerusalem and a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2)?

 

  1. What is the most precious aspect of the new heaven and new earth (New Jerusalem) to you?

 

  1. Where else in Scripture is the action of “wiping away tears” (Rev. 21:4) also described?

 

  1. What is signified by the verb “to be thirsty” (Rev.21:6)? (support your answer)

 

  1. Where else in Scripture does God come to us?

 

  1. Each verse in this section recalls passages from the writings of the prophets, what are some of those passages?

 

  1. What is the most significant “take away” for you from the text of Revelation 21:1-8 and the sermon (“All Things New”) dealing with it?

WAITING FOR GOD

The sixth chapter of Revelation opens with John seeing four seals being opening which releases the so-called “four horsemen of the apocalypse” (Rev. 6:1-8). Then John sees the fifth seal opened,

Revelation 6:9-11 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also

The “souls” under the altar are in the heavenly temple. They had sacrificed their blood for the testimony of Jesus Christ. Their blood had been poured out at the sacrificial altar. They live in the presence of God, dressed in their white robes. They have moved from earth, with all its hardships and heartaches, to a reality where they are engulfed in the worship, adoration, praise, and joy of God.

The martyred saints recognize both the holiness and justice of God. They appeal to both aspects as they lament the injustice upon the earth. As John Mark Hicks noted:

The saints before the throne share the lament of those who still live upon the earth. . . . The martyred saints share our lament and continue it in the presence of God. They, too, yearn for the fullness of God’s kingdom to manifest itself in a new heaven and new earth. (“Waiting With Us,” JohnMarkHicks.com)

“Wait” is the divine response. Waiting is what the martyrs must do. Waiting is what the saints on earth must all do, “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).

What are we waiting for? The answer from Revelation is that there is more “witnessing” to do (Rev. 6:11; 12:11). God desires more people to come under His rule before Judgment comes.

Nothing To Live Or Die For

I just read an interesting article by Grayson Quay entitled, “The Soft Nihilism of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine.’” Quay’s thesis is that Lennon’s, “’Imagine’ has all but replaced the Nicene Creed as the official statement of faith of the Western world. The great virtue is tolerance, defined not in the classically liberal sense of non-aggression, but as an imperative to confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that all beliefs and lifestyles are equally valid.”

The denial of absolute truth is the only absolute truth. This is “Nihilism,” an extreme form of skepticism: the denial of all real existence or the possibility of an objective basis for truth. Dorothy L. Sayers notes that “is the sin that believes in nothing… hates nothing… lives for nothing, and remains alive only because there is nothing it would die for.”

“Nothing to live or die for” is totally counter to the call of the gospel. Paul noted that for him “live is Christ and death is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Jesus’ call was for those who follow Him to take up their cross (which means death) and follow Him (Mt. 10:38; 16:24; Mk. 8:34; Lk. 9:23).

The prospect of suffering for one’s faith was not just speculation to the original recipients of Revelation (nor the original recipients of 1 Peter). The clarion call of Revelation is for perseverance in faith (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 12:11; 21:7), even if it means suffering and death (Rev. 2:10; 12:11). Faithfulness to God cost Jesus His life (Rev. 1:5; 5:6, 9, 12) and He calls those who follow Him to the same path of nonviolent faithfulness (Rev. 14:4).

From a worldly point of view, the deaths of the martyrs, seem to show that faith in God and the Lamb leads to suffering and loss (it is ludicrous to die out of loyalty to a crucified Messiah). From that perspective, the most prudent course of action would be to abandon one’s allegiance to Jesus in order to obtain a more secure place in society. The vision of the martyrs at the heavenly altar (Rev. 6:9-11) and God’s judgments (Revelation chapters 6-9, eleven, and sixteen) counter this view by insisting that the faithful who have suffered on earth find rest and reward in heaven. Meanwhile, those on the earth will be disturbed by divine judgment (Rev. 6:12–17).

“Nothing to live or die for” may be the philosophy for those outside of Christ. Having everything to live and die for is true concerning faithfulness to the Lord Jesus.

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