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Is a Clean Heart Enough?

We’re continuing our look at Mark’s Gospel.  Specifically, the last week before the cross.  Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Passover feast.

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there.  He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.
Mark 11:15-16

Obviously, Jesus was upset by what He saw going on in the Temple.  The courts were like a city marketplace.

The Law of Moses said that if you lived far away from Jerusalem, you could sell your offering animals at home.  Then, when you journey to Jerusalem for the feast, you could use that money to buy the animals on site.  God was making it easier for the Israelites to serve Him.

Then man gets involved.  The priests determined that you can’t use regular money to buy animals for sacrifice.  You have to use special Temple coins – hence the money changers.  But they sold these coins at a premium.

So if you wanted to give your full offering of animals for the sacrifice, it would cost you double what they were worth.  That’s the thievery that Jesus was talking about.  The Temple had become a place where greed and self-interest was the driving force.

Jesus showed the passion He had for the true worship of God.  There was no place for these attitudes in the courts of the Lord.  He tried to teach them the lessons that they should have already known.

And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?  But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”
Mark 11:17

It’s sad that many religious Christians only apply this by saying that they’ll never have a flea market or fair on church property.  That’s not the point.

In spite of our religious language, local churches are no longer God’s house.  We, as God’s people, are now the temple of the living God.  The question isn’t, “What are we allowing on church property?”  It’s about what I’m allowing into my life.

Please understand that my heart – the sanctuary – may be clean.  But what about the outer courts?  That’s what my body is involved in.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalms 100:4

The courts are where you prepare to worship.  It’s the outer part of our lives that we let the thieves do their work.

Sometimes we get so distracted by too many things in our schedule.  Then we have no time for worship.  We miss out on the blessings of fellowship with the Father.

Thanksgiving and praise are things that I have to make my flesh do.  I have to actually make the time for these pursuits.  Once I’ve entered into the place of praise, the courts, then I’m ready to pour my heart out to God.

Christ is passionate about you becoming a “house of prayer.”  Don’t let it get to the point where your “distracting tables” need to be overturned.   Spend the time needed in thanksgiving and praise so that you’re truly prepared to enter His presence with no distractions.

You’ll be glad that you did.

Question: How do outward distractions affect your inner peace with God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on May 21, 2018 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk, Worship

 

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What’s Your Season?

We are now looking at the week before Christ’s death on the cross as recorded by Mark.  Jesus is in the area of Jerusalem and a lot is going on.  He spends the evenings in Bethany where some friends live.

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple.  He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
Mark 11:11

Right after His triumphal entry into the city, the Lord goes to the Temple area and looks around.  I don’t think it was just a casual observing.  He was listening to the Father’s voice instructing Him what He was to do next.

Jesus must have been grieved by what He saw going on in the Temple.  As the feast of Passover was approaching, Jerusalem was the center of all the activity in Israel.  People were coming in from all over the world to worship here.

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.  Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit.  When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.  Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”  And his disciples heard him say it.
Mark 11:12-14

This is one of those events in the life of Christ that many people ask about.  They don’t understand what’s happening or why Jesus cursed the tree.

Let’s work our way through it.  Jesus was in Jerusalem, watching the outward, lifeless trappings of religious people.  They were going through the motions, not because they were worshipping God, but because they were following the rules.

Jesus probably spent the next morning in prayer, as was His custom.  He heard the Father’s heart, breaking over the condition of His people.

As He and His disciple start heading back to the city, they’re hungry and ready for some breakfast.  Seeing a fig tree off in the distance, they’re checking to see if it has any fruit.  After all, it has plenty of leaves.

There’s one slight problem.  The Bible tells us that it’s not the season for figs.  Why would Jesus be upset at the tree if that’s the case?

This whole incident was a life-lesson for the disciples.  In many places in Scripture, Israel is likened to a fig tree.  Messiah had arrived on the scene.  It was the time for them to be producing fruit for the kingdom of God.

Instead, all Jesus saw was empty religion.  Everything was just for show.  A lot of leaves, but no fruit.

Many in Israel were starving, spiritually.  Yet those who were in leadership did nothing to fill the longing of their souls.  The priests of Israel were mostly just feeding their own egos.

What about us?  How do we apply this to our lives?  We need to hear the exhortation the Paul gave to Timothy.

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.
2 Timothy 4:2

It doesn’t matter what season you’re in.  The time to produce fruit is when there’s a need.  That’s why we must always prepare.

Prayer, meditation on the Word, and intimate times with the Lord make us ready to produce kingdom fruit.  Don’t follow empty religion – all leaves and no fruit.  Time in the Lord’s presence prepares us for blessing others, whether we feel like it or not.

Question: When was a time that you produced fruit “out of season”?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2018 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Do You Know What You’re Asking?

So often we go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him for things.  Many times, in our asking, we don’t really think about what it will take for God to answer us.  There are even some times when we don’t want God to answer it in His way.

The people of Jerusalem are a good example of this.  They were very excited when Jesus entered their city in triumph the week before His crucifixion.

When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.  Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields.  Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”
Mark 11:7-10

This is a perfect example of people coming to God in prayer with their own thoughts on how they should be answered.  How often do we come before God in this way?

It all sounds very holy and good.  Hosanna!  It’s a cry for help to God.  It literally means “Save us now!!!”

What they wanted to be saved from and God’s desire were worlds apart.

They wanted to be freed from the oppression of the Roman Empire.  God wanted to set them free from the power of sin.  They wanted God to change their environment while God wanted to change them.

Then there’s the word blessed.  That’s a real churchy word.  It means to be worthy of praise.  In our society, we use the word Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!

In other words, they were saying, “Yaaaaay!  He’s coming in the name of the Lord!”  That should have been a clue to them.  Coming in the name of the Lord means that He’s not going to do what I want, but what God wants.

The next line shows us that they were expecting God to fulfill what they wanted to be done.  “Yaaaay!  The kingdom of David is coming!”  In their minds, it meant, “Down with Rome and up with Israel.”

They were not looking for the Messiah to change them the way God wanted to.  They were expecting Him to make their lives easier.  It’s sort of the same things that we like to pray.

“Lord, give me a better life without actually changing me.”

Of course, we would never use those exact words, but it’s what we mean sometimes.  Fortunately, the Lord knows what we need better than we do.

That last phrase they were chanting is the most telling.  Hosanna – save us now – in the highest.  What would it take for God to bring this about?  What were they really asking for?  They had no idea what would be needed for this to be accomplished.

In order for this salvation to take place, Christ had to go to the cross and shed His blood.  Then it had to be offered before God the Father.

For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.
Hebrews 9:24

I’m so glad that God doesn’t always give us what we ask for, but what we need.  That’s a great reason why we not only pray in our native language, but also in our heavenly language.  In that way, the deepest needs of our lives can be met.

Question: What are the greatest needs of your life that God has provided for you?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Needs of the Lord

As we continue to go through the Gospel of Mark, we’re coming to the culmination of the earthly ministry of Christ.  He is approaching Jerusalem, knowing that the cross awaits Him there.  As the Lord is about to enter the city, Mark records an interesting event that takes place.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden.  Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.'”
They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?”  They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.
Mark 11:1-6

We need to understand what’s happening here.  It has a lot to do with attitudes and faithfulness in the kingdom of God.

The first thing I see is that something is needed to fulfill the ministry of Christ.  It was foretold in the Old Testament that Jesus would enter Jerusalem on the back of a colt.  It was time for this to be accomplished.  In every ministry, there are needs that must be met in order for God’s will to be done.

Next, I see a supernatural revelation as to how this need was going to be filled.  Notice that Jesus didn’t say to His disciples, “Guys, I’m going to need to ride in on a colt.  You have to go out and find me one quickly.”

That tells me that to accomplish my calling, it will always require faith.  After all, there were other ways this could have been done.  Jesus could have purchased a colt in Jericho, the last town He visited.  Then He would have had it ready to go upon His arrival.

But that’s not how the Father wanted this to happen.  He desired the disciples to act in faith toward the instructions of Jesus.

Finally, it comes down to attitudes.  The disciples know what the ministry needs and how God intends to provide it.  The problem is that it all depends upon another party – those who own the colt.  All they heard was, “The Lord needs your colt to accomplish God’s will.”

Think about it.  How many times have we been in a meeting listening to a missionary share their excitement over the people-group that God has called them to reach?

“The Lord needs your money to accomplish His will.”

I know what you’re thinking.  The disciples told the owners that the colt would be sent back when the Lord was through with it.

“Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Luke 6:38

Why do we get the attitude sometimes, “Oh, no!  Another special offering.”  We need to understand that God looks at these gifts as loans to His kingdom.  He always repays with blessings we couldn’t ever get on our own.  But it all comes down to attitude.

Get your money or resources involved in kingdom work as the Lord leads you.  You won’t regret it.

Question: How have you been blessed by giving something to the Lord’s work?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2018 in Faith, God's Provision, Ministry

 

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Mercy for Healing

There are certain words that we use in the church that have become watered down.  We use them a lot without really understanding their Biblical significance.

As we continue through the Gospel of Mark, we will talk about one of these words – mercy.

Then they came to Jericho.  As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Mark 10:46-48

The first thing I see in this passage is that this man believed something about Jesus.  His faith was so strong that a crowd of people couldn’t turn him from his course.

We need to know the whole story.  There’s a reason why we’re told that he was the son of Timaeus.  The Hebrew word, timaeus, means to be spiritually unclean or defiled.  He had carried the stigma of this his entire life.

The crowd looked at him and saw the son of a defiled, worthless father.  They couldn’t see any reason that Jesus would bother with someone like him.

What made the difference was that Bart knew the truth about the Lord.  It’s manifest in the words that he shouted.

“Jesus, Son of David.”  That was the title he used in calling the Lord.  That was a Messianic title.  It means that Bart was trusting Christ as the Messiah and Savior of Israel.  He was coming to Jesus because of who He was, and not just because he wanted a healing.

This blind man had been praying and meditating on the words of Christ.  How do I know this?  Even the disciples of the Lord only knew He was Messiah because of a revelation from God (Matthew 16:15-17).  So, in spite of his blindness, this man was spiritually sensitive.

“Have mercy on me!”  This is the key to the whole passage.  He wanted to be healed, yet asked for mercy.  Our generation has no concept of what this word means in the Bible.

Mercy is the favor God shows to His obedient sons and daughters.  It’s the privilege of sonship.  For a more detailed teaching on mercy, click here.

What this shows me is that Bart did not choose to identify with his earthly, unclean, father.  Instead, he found his place as a son of Abraham.  Thus, he had the right to call upon the Messiah as his Lord and Healer.  The Lord responded to his cry.

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet!  He’s calling you.”  Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.”  Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Mark 10:49-52

This is very applicable to us in our generation.  How do we approach God?  Do we come to Him based upon our need?

We should come to Christ on the basis of who He is.  Lord, Healer, Deliverer, Redeemer, etc.  We should also see ourselves correctly – as a child of God – holy and righteous in His sight.  This makes all the difference.

Question: How does your view of Jesus and yourself affect your ability to receive from God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2018 in Faith, Healing, Sonship

 

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Rank and Privilege

In my last post, we saw two of the disciples, James and John, trying to take leadership over the others.  Jesus explained to them that in the kingdom of God, your positions were prepared for you by the Holy Spirit.

The other disciples heard about it and started to get mad at the brother’s attempt at gaining power.  The Lord handled it by teaching them some kingdom principles.

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.  Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:41-45

There are some good points that Jesus covers in this short statement.  I want to start with the most important one.  It’s the key to the whole passage.

The Lord concludes by using Himself as the example of service.  He came to serve the needs of others and to lay down His life for our freedom.  We miss the importance of this sometimes.

Christ didn’t simply do what He was told.  He didn’t let people push Him around.  He was a leader.  He instructed His disciples and even commanded them to do certain things.  Along with this, Christ served the needs of those around Him.

In explaining it, the Lord uses two levels of leaders.  Then He contrasts the world and the church.  He says that in the world, those who seem to be in charge lord it over them or make people do what they want them to do.

But there’s another level.  The really high officials exercise authority over them.  The word He used means to exercise privilege.  That means it’s all about what pleases me.  So in the world, leadership is communicating what I want done and what pleases me.

That’s not how the kingdom of God should be operating.  The two levels of leadership are completely different from the world’s way of operating.

Jesus starts by explaining how you become a leader.  It starts by serving.  This word literally means to be a waiter or an attendant.  This implies that you are not a slave to the one you’re serving.  Instead, you are serving people as instructed by the owner of the establishment.

Then, the next position is that of the top level of leadership.  Jesus says that to fit in there, you must become a bond-slave of the whole.  This is where we miss it sometimes.

As a leader in the body of Christ, I am not a slave to the Finance Committee, the individual members, the biggest tither, or even my denomination.  I am a bond-slave to the church of Jesus Christ.  My goal is to see the kingdom of God advanced.

That’s how Jesus fulfilled these roles.  It’s how we follow His example.  I’m not pushing my agenda or what makes me happy.  I serve others under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

If you walk in this attitude, then you’re ready for leadership in God’s kingdom.

Question: What are some examples you’ve seen of servant-leadership?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Asking in God’s Will

As we continue to look at the Gospel of Mark, opposition to the ministry of Jesus is growing.  There are many who are trying to take His life.  But in spite of this, the Lord continues His mission.

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.  Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.  “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law.  They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.  Three days later he will rise.”
Mark 10:32-34

The disciples still didn’t understand that the Lord was talking literally at this point.  But they did know that “rising” was a good thing.  They probably thought it meant that He was going to rise, as the King, to the throne of Israel.

This gave a few of them the incentive to move forward.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him.  “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
Mark 10:35-37

That’s an interesting thing to ask.  Even the way they asked it was specifically the way they were taught.

Jesus told them that He would do whatever they asked in prayer (John 14:13-14).  So now they were asking.

But that brings up an important point.  Some people think that just because they can quote a Bible verse in their prayer, it automatically qualifies them to receive whatever they ask God for.  But is that what the Word teaches?

Look at the Lord’s answer to them.

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said.  “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant.  These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
Mark 10:38-40

The first problem was that they really didn’t understand what they were asking.  Of course, that’s why we need to pray in the spirit.  There are many areas that we don’t understand the scope of our need.

But even more than that, they had yet to understand God’s will for their lives.  Before I can pray effectively, I need to know God’s plan intimately.

The more time I spend in the Lord’s presence, the more I understand His will for my life.  Then, as I pray with this understanding, I see a greater amount of answered prayer.  John, himself, understood this later on in his ministry.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
1 John 5:14

John learned the lesson.  Prayer according to His will is answered positively.  Let the understanding of God’s will be your goal in His presence.

Question: What part of God’s plan have you understood recently?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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