Above All, Follow Christ

Scripture Focus: 
Acts 22.14-15
Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 

Reflection: Above All, Follow Christ
By Karen Yarnell

Paul understood the mindset of the rioting Jews. As Paul spoke to the angry crowd from the fortress steps in Jerusalem, he emphasized his Jewish upbringing, and that he was a Pharisee trained by the leading Rabbi, Gamaliel. He said, “I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.” (v. 3) In fact, he was so against those practicing the Way, that he hunted them to arrest them. He even stood by and watched as Stephen was stoned for following Jesus. So, what changed? 

Paul met Jesus! Gifted, highly trained, zealous, determined Paul came face to face with Jesus, and when he did, Paul met the One greater than himself. He met the Son of God. Musician Phil Keaggy sang it this way: “Like waking up from the longest dream. How real it seemed, until your love broke through.” Paul’s face-to-face encounter with Christ, though it made him temporarily blind, caused him to see the scope of God’s kingdom. Paul’s spiritual blindness was replaced with the ability to see God’s Spirit transforming lives. 
Now Paul, entrusted with the good news, would go wherever and to whomever he was sent, even if it meant persecution or death. He said, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13) Paul focused on a singular task: sharing the gospel entrusted to him. Persecution did not matter, if the gospel could be shared (Phil 1:12). The words of those who opposed Paul did not matter if Jesus was being preached. (Phil. 1:18) 
I am often overcome with the depth of Paul’s love for Jesus and with the strength of his determination to share the good news. Nothing else mattered to Paul. I look at myself and question, what matters most to me? What occupies space in my heart and, at times, takes precedence over sharing the gospel? How would my view of life be different if the lens through which I filtered all things was an urgency to love and share Christ? May He give all of us grace to walk worthy of the calling we have received from the One who is worthy, Jesus Christ.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Blessed be the Lord, God of Israel, for he has visited his people, he has set them free, and he has established for us a saving power in the house of his servant David, just as he proclaimed, by the mouth of his holy prophets from ancient times. — Luke 1.68-70

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 64 (Listen -2:01)
Acts 22 (Listen – 4:26)

Read more about Gospel Faith or Garbage Faith
Once he met Christ, Paul realized everything prior was waste, rubbish, by comparison.

A Trinity of Neglect :: Readers’ Choice

From John: I am thrilled to begin Readers’ Choice this year with a selection from a ministry mentor of mine. Bruce is in my prayers regularly for his health, but I regularly get group texts that he is praying for me, among many other friends. Bruce is certainly one who puts love and faith into action. It is a privilege to know him and be prayed for by him, and by other Park Forum readers as well. Thank you all.

Selected by reader, Bruce, from Louisiana
I love this. It certainly reminds us that loving others requires action not staying in our comfort zone, investing time not hiding our gifts, and doing the right thing not just thinking about it.

Matthew 25.37-40
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

1 Timothy 4.13-15
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.

Reflection: A Trinity of Neglect :: Readers’ Choice
Originally posted, January 25, 2019
By John Tillman

Matthew 25 is famous for the sheep and the goats parable. But really, the entire chapter is about people who shirked their responsibilities to themselves, to their master, and to others. The foolish virgins, the wicked servant, and the goats are a trinity of spiritual neglect.

Pray this weekend through the three stories. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you warning signs if you are following the path of one of these neglectful souls.

May we avoid the neglect of The Foolish Virgins…
We need not stumble into extravagant sin to endanger our relationship with you, Lord.

The virgins excluded from the banquet were not lascivious, or lustful. They were not greedy or cruel. They simply were irresponsible and unthoughtful.

May we never fall into the dim thoughtlessness of complacency, and may we regularly refresh ourselves with the oil of your Holy Spirit to brighten our lamps when called on.

May we avoid the lazy apathy of The Wicked Servant…
We need not squander your blessings to use them unworthily, oh Lord.

The servant given one bag of gold didn’t lose it, or gamble it away. He didn’t try to steal it. He just didn’t try to use it. The servant failed to understand, and so do we, that the king wasn’t investing his money with people. He was investing in people with his money. The king expected growth in the servant. Growth of the gold would only be a side effect. He would have found more mercy in the master had he tried and failed, than in failing to even try.

May we dare to step out with whatever seemingly insignificant gift he has given us. You, oh Lord, do not despise small beginnings or small gifts well and truly used in faith.

May we avoid the careless denial of responsibility of the goats…
We need not be ignorant of you, Lord, to miss Heaven. We need only be uninvolved and unconcerned for others.

The goats didn’t actively cause hunger, or thirst, or homelessness, or refugees. They didn’t cause nakedness, or crime, or unjust punishment, or oppression, or sickness. They just didn’t do anything about it. This was enough to show that Christ had no place in their lives and they had no place with Christ in his eternal life.

Dwell with the Holy Spirit this weekend, asking him to enlighten you about areas in which you may be prone to following in the missteps of the virgins, the servant, or the goats.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Our iniquities you have set before you, and our secret sins in the light of your countenance… — Psalm 90.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Judges 16 (Listen – 5:59) 
Acts 20 (Listen – 5:22)

This Weekend’s Readings
Judges 17 (Listen – 1:50), Acts 21 (Listen – 5:55)
Judges 18 (Listen – 4:39), Acts 22 (Listen – 4:26)

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