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One thing that jumped out at me from today’s Bible reading in Mark 16 is “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there just as he told you.’” Mark 16:7 (CSB)

After the disastrous events of Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ Crucifixion, the Disciples may be planning to flee Jerusalem in fear that they might suffer the same fate as Jesus: death by crucifixion. Evidently, they are still in town on Sunday Morning because the angel tells the women to tell the Disciples and Peter that Jesus was going ahead of them and He would meet them in Galilee.

While dealing with the initial shock of hearing that Jesus had been raised from the dead, I’m sure Peter didn’t know what to make of this. When he gets back to Galilee, is Jesus going to “call him to the Principal’s Office” because of his triple denial? What will Jesus say? And how will he respond?

Assuming that they were to go to Nazareth (Jesus’ hometown in the region of Galilee), it would take them about three days to make the 65-mile trip.

That’s a lot of time to attempt to sort out the events and conversations of the previous week. And for Peter, that’s a long time to grieve over his words and behavior on Thursday Night. But Jesus says He will meet them there.

Peter and the other Disciples had a choice: go to Galilee and meet Jesus… or run away somewhere else.

Application

Regardless of the choices you’ve made and how you’ve behaved, know that Jesus will meet you … if you will simply go to Him.

Spend some time talking with Him today. He’s already there, waiting to meet you. When Jesus met Peter there on the beach (John 21:15-19), He didn’t scold him. He simply asked, “Peter, do you love me?” and then Jesus restored Peter.

If you’ll spend some time to meet with Jesus today, you’ll find that He won’t scold you. Like Peter, He’ll restore you, too! But you must go to Him.

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Today’s Bible reading is Mark 15. It’s good to read chapters like this and compare what we read with what we believe.

If you’ve been around church very long, you may have seen a Passion play that chronicles the last week of Jesus’ life. Normally the play portrays the masses of people welcoming Jesus on Palm Sunday, waving their palm branches. A few minutes later, the same masses call out for Jesus’ crucifixion.

Is that how it happened? Well, sort of.

In Mark 15:6-8, the people approach Pontius Pilate, requesting that he release one of the Roman prisoners as was his custom for the Passover. Pilate expected them to ask for Jesus to be released; he would gladly release Him because he felt that Jesus was not deserving of death.

However, the Chief Priests whipped up the crowd into a frenzy and the masses actually demanded that a prisoner named Barabbas be released. Barabbas had been convicted of what the Jewish leaders were accusing Jesus of: insurrection.

It’s important to note that when the people came to Pilate, they were hoping that he would release Jesus. But as is too frequently the case, the religious leaders exercised their toxic authority over the very people that God had entrusted to them. A mob mentality resulted and people behaved very differently than they would have otherwise.

Unfortunately, there are still religious leaders today who spiritually abuse the very people that God has entrusted to them. James tells us that God holds leaders to a higher standard (James 3:1). Jesus says that those who have been given more will be held more accountable. (Luke 12:48b)

This higher accountability is just limited to the “ordained”. There are many other “ordinary” people in leadership positions who will have to give an account for their toxic leadership. And there are still others who exercise toxic leadership who don’t have a leadership title.

Application

Now, while God will hold the leaders accountable, isn’t there some accountability to the ordinary people to be careful who they “hitch their wagon to”?

Matthew 7 begins with the famous, “Don’t judge” (Matthew 7:1), but just a few verses later, Jesus cautions his followers to discern (ie, to judge) false teachers in order to avoid them. (Matthew 7:15-16)

Be careful who you “hitch your wagon to”. We all need healthy leaders who can lead us into a healthy relationship with God and other believers. And just because a particular religious leader is very popular doesn’t necessarily mean that they are godly or correct in what they’re teaching.

Be careful of the mob and the mob mentaility. Don’t let them influence you to hitch your wagon to someone you might otherwise know better to avoid.

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In today’s Bible reading, we came across Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seeds (Mark 4:3-9). It’s a familiar story for those of us who grew up going to church. We’ve heard it at least a million times, right?

According to the parable, as the sower scattered the seed, some of the seed fell along the path and was scooped up by birds. Some of the seed fell in rocky soil and when seeds began to grow, the plants withered because they didn’t have enough soil to take root. Some of the seed fell in thorns, which choked out the plants as they began to grow. Finally, some of the seeds fell into good soil where it produced a great harvest.

As I said yesterday, we need to guard our hearts. As God’s Word is sown into our lives, we must have receptive hearts, or the Word won’t be able to take root and grow to produce the Kingdom Life that God intends. Yes, God’s Word will accomplish everything that God intends for it; His Word is never ineffective. (Isaiah 55:11)

But if you want to make the most of what God has for you in His Word, you absolutely have to keep your heart prepared to receive the Word.

My dad grew up on a farm in Eastern North Carolina. A few days before it was time to plant seeds for the upcoming season, my Granddaddy, my dad, and my uncles would have to till up the hard soil so that when the seeds were sown, they would have fertile soil to grow in. Dad once told me that by the time the process was complete, the empty field would clean and smooth, looking like it had never been used before.

The process took several days and involved several passes of the farm equipment to chop up the leftover corn stalks (left in the field from last year’s corn harvest) and work them into the soil where those old, unused, “wasted” parts could decay and be fertilizer for this year’s crop. It was all organic. Truly, nothing was wasted in my Granddaddy’s field.

Application

The same is true in your life: Nothing is wasted in the field of your life. Our Father is taking all of it — the old, decaying, wasted, leftover stuff that you think is what’s weighing you down — and using those things to prepare you for your present and future. Allow God to work. Allow Him to use the (ahem) dung in your life to be the fertile material for your future spiritual growth.

As you continue to read God’s Word with me this year, let God take all of your life — including the “wasted”, painful parts, the “stuff” that happens — with His Word to make a beautiful, bountiful field … for His glory.


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In Mark 3:5 (part of today’s Bible reading) we’re told that Jesus was grieved by the hardness of the hearts of the Pharisees.

You would think that men who had spent their entire lives studying the Bible and teaching the Bible could grow so hardhearted.

But unfortunately, it still happens all the time. It’s so hard to know so much in your mind, but miss so much in your heart. This is especially true of those of us who have spent many years as a Christian, even attending Bible College or Seminary.

Yes, on this side of eternity, each of us continues to deal with a deceptive and sick heart (Jeremiah 17:9). But when someone is saved, God gives them a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), one that is receptive to the things of God. And yet….

Application

As you continue reading with me through the New Testament this year, let’s remember to keep our heart soft. Part of keeping our heart soft is marking time with the Spiritual Disciplines (Bible Reading/Study, Bible Memory/Meditation, Prayer, Sharing your Faith, Giving to Support God’s Work, etc.). But just “doing the deal”, going through the motions of Spiritual Growth is no guarantee of Spiritual Growth, or even Spiritual life (Matthew 7:21-23). We must guard our heart (Proverbs 4:23) because that’s where our life comes from.

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I was privileged to take part in a meeting today that many from my first pastorate will find very good. First, a little background.

 

Like many Baptist Churches, Bethel Baptist Church formed as a split from another church. After meeting at several locations in Weatherford, the church body obtained property just off FM920 northwest of downtown Weatherford in the late 1970s. Several men served as pastor of the church as the attendance numbers ebbed and flowed.

 

In late June/early July 2007, I received a call from the deacon chairman asking if I was available to preach on the following Sunday. The one-week invitation turned into an interim position which turned into my first pastorate which lasted just over six years. We had good days and we had bad days. Although our numbers were shrinking, our depth was growing.

 

In October 2013, we knew that we could no longer to afford to keep the doors open and it was clear that God was leading us to close the doors. Our bylaws stated that the building and property would be given to the Parker Baptist Association, so after removing my library and other personal items, we handed over the keys to my long-time friend and fellow seminary student, John Thielepape, the Director of Missions of Parker Baptist Association. During our last meeting, some members voiced fears that the Association would quickly dispose of the property, putting to death the legacy of our church. But I knew it would be OK. I reiterated that God was leading us to do this and that I trusted John and the members of the Association’s Executive Board.

 

A few months later, God opened doors (literally) for ministry to continue at the property. Among other ministries, MercyHeart, a ministry founded by a friend of mine began ministering to the Parker County families of inmates on Tuesday Nights. A local church had sold its property to developers and the new building wasn’t ready to move into, so they began to meet on Sundays and Wednesdays, bringing their air conditioners to replace Bethel’s broken units.

 

Ministry continued.

 

After serving in several interim pastorates in Parker and Wise Counties, this past July I was called to be the pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, five miles north of Weatherford. Yesterday, John (back from a sabbatical) called to welcome me back to the Association and to tell me of the meeting this morning. The meeting would consider the proposal to enter a lease-to-purchase agreement with a young church. A related proposal would take proceeds from the lease payments to designate for funds for church planting and missions. John said he’d like for me to be there.

 

Today’s special Called Meeting of the Association’s Executive Board required 20 attendees to form the Quorum. I was the last person to walk into the meeting and signed the attendance sheet in the twentieth position. We had a quorum. Both proposals passed unanimously.

 

I must give a big shout-out to the Parker Baptist Association Executive Board and its Director of Missions, my friend John for their wise stewardship of the property and their vision of extending the ministry on the property.

 

Those who feared the worst in closing the doors of our church should feel a great peace because God continues to use our former church building to do ministry and extend His Kingdom. And that’s a really good thing! God is good!

 

Please join me in praying for Pastor Joel Kindberg and Grace Covenant Church as they begin ministering to the people of Weatherford from their new address at 201 Kathey Street in Weatherford. MercyHeart will continue their ministry alongside Grace.

 

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