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Courage Under Fire

How bold are you when you see trouble coming in your future?  Are you willing to stand your ground and face it head-on?  Or, like so many, do you simply ignore it and hope that it goes away?

As we look at the life of Christ in the Gospel of Mark, we see His time with the disciples at the Last Supper.  Keep in mind that because this is the first of the gospels to be written, the Holy Spirit only inspired Mark to give the “bare bones” of what happened at this meal.

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.  While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me — one who is eating with me.”
They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”
Mark 14:17-19

Mark shows us the disciples’ reaction to the revelation that one of their own would betray Christ.  The word, betray, in this verse means to surrender over.  Somebody was going to turn the Lord in to the authorities.

The effect was that they were distressed by this knowledge.  It hurt them.  In one sense, most of them felt that they would never do such a thing.  On the other hand, Jesus had never been wrong in any of His predictions.  The reality of the situation was overwhelming.

The men with Jesus must have felt a great grief come over them.  But in spite of this emotional upheaval, it’s not the disciples that I want to concentrate on.  It’s the attitude of Christ that we need to examine.

“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.  But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
Mark 14:20-21

The Lord reveals that it is indeed one of His twelve closest friends who will do this deed.  It would be someone who is in fellowship, eating at the same table.  In that culture, sharing a meal was one of the most intimate things that friends did.

Jesus makes it clear that this would not turn out well for the betrayer.  There will come a time when he will wish he had never been born.  His guilt will eventually destroy his life.

But it’s the statement Christ makes about Himself that really gets my attention.  He said that He would go just as it was written about Him.

That word, go, in the Greek, means to lead oneself.  He was stating that He was more than willing to walk the road that was laid out for Him in the Scripture.

Jesus knew what was ahead.  The cross was not taking Him by surprise.  He saw it and was progressing toward it with boldness and conviction.  That had always been the goal of Christ’s ministry on earth and nothing would prevent Him from accomplishing it.

We need to walk in that same conviction when it comes to following the will of God for our lives.  Too often we let the problems, challenges, and distraction of life sidetrack us from the straight and narrow path.

We must realize that the spiritual struggle can only be won with the Lord’s strength operating through us.  Time spent in His presence will assure us the victory.  So we won’t need to fret over the challenges we see coming down the road toward us.  Stand strong in the Lord!

Question: How has time in the Lord’s presence helped you to overcome the obstacles of life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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The Voice of the Spirit

As we continue through Mark’s Gospel, it’s now the day of the Last Supper.  The disciples have no idea what’s about to take place during this feast.  All they know is that the Passover needs to be celebrated.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you.  Follow him.  Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’  He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready.  Make preparations for us there.”
Mark 14:12-15

To understand the importance of this passage, you must first understand the relationship between Christ and His disciples.  At that time, the role of Jesus to His disciples was the same as the Holy Spirit is to us today.

Remember that Jesus told His followers that He would send another Counsellor to lead and guide them.  The Holy Spirit wants to lead us in the same way that the Lord led His disciples.  That’s why it’s so important for us to develop sensitivity to the voice of the Spirit.

It’s sad that so many Christians think that God no longer works in this way.  I personally believe that the Holy Spirit still desires to operate through the church.  It’s the manifestation of the Gifts of the Spirit that will draw unbelievers to a saving knowledge of Christ.

In this instance, Jesus is functioning in the gifts of Prophecy and the Word of Knowledge.  Notice how specific His instructions are.  I believe that the Holy Spirit will be just that detailed with us if we’ll place ourselves in a position to hear Him.

What was the response of the disciples to this astounding instruction?

The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them.  So they prepared the Passover.
Mark 14:16

This simple statement shows the trust that had developed between Christ and His followers.  There was no question or hesitation.  They just went and did exactly as they were told.

So often we find two different extremes in the body of Christ these days.  The first is that some Christians come up with elaborate stories of what the Holy Spirit “told” them.  Then, a few days later the “spirit” tells them something that sounds just the opposite.

On the other hand, I’ve heard people who feel impressed to do or say something.  They don’t follow through on it.  Then, when it’s too late, they realize that they’d heard from the Holy Spirit and missed the opportunity for a blessing.  (I’ve been guilty of this more than once.)

We need to spend quality time in the spirit.  That’s where trust and sensitivity are developed.  I believe that’s why the disciples had an easier time hearing from the Spirit once Christ had ascended.  They simply transferred their focus to the voice of the Spirit.

Spend the time necessary to learn to hear and obey the Spirit.  I believe that’s where the Lord is leading His church in this generation.  It’s through hearing and obeying that we’ll see the end-time harvest of souls before the return of Christ.

Question: What can you do to develop a listening ear in the spirit?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2018 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Attitudes are Contagious

As we continue in the Gospel of Mark, we’re now a few days before the cross.  The Lord was invited to a party in His honor.  Many people came to see Him.

I suggest that you read Mark chapter 14, verses 1 through 11 before proceeding in this post.

During this meal, a woman shows up and makes her way to the feet of Jesus.  She opens a bottle of expensive perfume (approximately $40,000 in our economy) and pours it on the Lord’s feet.  This caused quite a stir among the crowd.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume?  It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.”  And they rebuked her harshly.
Mark 14:4-5

But wait a minute!  How did it get to this stage?  I think that the answer may surprise you.

According to John 12:4-5, Judas was the first person to mention the price of the perfume.  He objected to its being poured out on Jesus’ feet.  Then, in Matthew 26:8-9, we see the rest of the disciples picking up this attitude.

I believe that it wasn’t until Judas and the disciples started their fuss, that the crowd heard it and ran with it.  I’m sure that it took some time for this attitude to build up.  Then the crowd got angry and eventually said something to the woman.

This should be a lesson to us.  We need to watch what we say and the attitude that comes across.  Too often we’re guilty of giving the world ammunition to aim at the church.

I find it interesting that people who’ve never set foot inside a church will say that all the church wants is your money.  Where did they hear that from?  Was it from a believer who was upset that the pastor actually taught about tithing?  We need to be careful.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus.  “Why are you bothering her?  She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.  But you will not always have me.  She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.”
Mark 14:6-8

Jesus makes some interesting statements to the crowd.  If you put it into modern terms, He said, “Let it go!” and “Get off her back!”  The Lord made it clear that they had placed a heavy burden on her.

When the woman heard the crowd, she probably started to second-guess herself.  She might have thought, “I’ll never do something like that again.”  Many times, because they’re misunderstood, people are hurt and then they don’t do anything else for God.

It’s clear that she had done something prompted by the Holy Spirit.  She was anointing Christ to prepare Him for burial.  This was something she had no way of knowing in the natural.  This woman was operating in the wisdom of God.

“I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”  Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them.
Mark 14:9-10

This story has a sad ending.  In the original Greek, these two sentences are connected by the word “and”.  I believe that Judas was upset at being called out for his bad attitude.  It was the final act that made him seek to betray Jesus for money.

Don’t let your attitude mess up your walk with God.  Keep it in check by the Holy Spirit and don’t let it affect others around you.

Question: How has the attitude of others caused your attitude to change?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2018 in Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Prepared to Wait

As we continue our study of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is closing His End-Times teaching with His disciples.  These are His concluding statements.  They’re important for us to hear and understand.

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Be on guard!  Be alert!  You do not know when that time will come.  It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.”
Mark 13:32-34

He starts by saying that the exact day and hour will be a mystery.  Even Christ, when He took on our humanity, did not retain that knowledge of when that day would be.  Of course, now in His glorified state, Jesus knows when He will return.

His first command to the disciples and us is to watch.  The word literally means to be sleepless.  I don’t believe that the Lord means physical sleep in this verse.  It’s our spiritual eyes that we must keep open.

Too many of God’s people seem to be blind to what’s happening in the spirit.  They go to church for an hour or two a week and expect that this will provide them with everything they need to know.  I wish that were true.

We need intimacy with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis.  That’s the only way to remain spiritually alert and vigilant in these Last Days.

 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back — whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.  If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
Mark 13:35-37

Jesus is explaining to us a little bit of His time frame here.  Even though He never tells us exactly when He’ll return, He gives us some hints to help us be ready.  He doesn’t want us to be taken by surprise.

Jesus tells us the most important hint as we wait for His return.  He says that He will come when you don’t expect it.  Please be careful when reading the words of Jesus here.  Many miss the whole point of what He says.

Notice that it will not be a surprise because He comes before you expect Him.  What’s going to throw people off is that He’ll arrive later than they thought it would be.  That’s what He’s emphasizing in this verse.  The Lord said that it could be as late as midnight, the early hours of the morning, or even dawn.

What if I said to you, “Can I come over to your house tonight?”?

“Sure,” you reply and you wait for me to show up.  7 o’clock, 8 o’clock and 9 o’clock go by.  At that point, you’ll probably shut the porch light off.  At 10 o’clock you might be in bed.  At 11 o’clock you’ll definitely be in bed.  If I then bang on your door at 3 o’clock in the morning, I’m sure you wouldn’t even get out of bed to answer the door, even though I told you I was coming.

That’s what Jesus is saying.  He’s telling us that He’s coming later than we think.  There will be a time when people think that Jesus should be here by now, but He’s not.  We could call that “prophetic midnight”.

If you’re one of the people who believe that He’s going to be here at this prophetic midnight, you might be disappointed.  We’ve got to be careful.  Most of Christianity is expecting Him to come before certain prophetic events occur.  Jesus said, “I’m going to come later than you think.”

As a matter of fact, what you’re going to find, is that whenever Christ warns us about being ready, He always qualifies it by saying that He’ll come later than we’re expecting.  Jesus said that if the servant knew when the owner was coming he’d be ready.  We need to be spiritually awake and alert no matter what the future holds.

Question: What do you do to remain spiritually alert?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Fig Tree

I’m continuing to look at the Gospel of Mark.  In this section, Jesus is teaching His disciples about His Second Coming.  It seems that what Jesus taught is different than what many are teaching in our generation.

As He brings this teaching to a close, the Lord begins to summarize for His followers.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.  Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door.  I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
Mark 13:28-31

Before He finishes this section of His teaching, Jesus emphasizes the certainty of His words.  It will take place as He said.  We will see it approaching just as we see the changes of the seasons.  If we are believers who are prepared to meet Christ, then this day will not take us unawares.

Let me add a note here.  Some teachers use this section to fix a date for the return.  They reason that the budding fig tree is when Israel became a nation again in 1948 or perhaps when the United Nations recognized them in 1965.  This line of thinking continues as they explain that a generation is 40-50 years.  That would have made the year of the return 1988, 1998, 2005, or 2015!

Jesus said that we wouldn’t know the day or the hour.  In reality, the word generation in the above verse could also be translated race.  Jesus could have merely been saying that, as a sign to prove the truth of His statement, the Jews would never be totally exterminated.  Considering the persecutions and the atrocities that have been committed against them, this is a miracle in itself.

The Lord then seals the certainty of what He says.  He contrasts the Word that He speaks to the natural heavens and the earth.

The earth and the sky that we see now are only temporary.  There will come a day when they’re changed by the Lord.

Right now, because of sin, everything is subject to decay – which, in terms of Physics, is the Third Law of Thermodynamics.  When Christ returns, He will make all things new – with no more decay.  I’m looking forward to that day with great anticipation.

His Word, however, will never change.  It is forever settled in Heaven.  I can put my trust in Christ, knowing that He will always bring about His revealed plan to completion.  That’s true whether we’re talking about world events or my personal life.

So, as we continue living in these last days before Christ’s return, let’s focus our hearts and minds on Him.  That’s how we’ll receive the strength and wisdom needed to be victorious until the end of this age.

Maranatha!  Even so, come quickly, Lord!

Question: How are you preparing yourself for the Lord’s return?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2018 in Return of Christ, Word of God

 

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Jesus Teaches About His Return

In my last post, I talked about the Day of the Lord.  That’s the day that when Christ appears to rule over the earth.  Every eye will see Him as He establishes His millennial kingdom.  The Lord explained to His disciples exactly when this would take place.

“But in those days, following that distress, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.  And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.”
Mark 13:24-27

Here’s one of the verses that many Bible teachers seem to ignore.  This is the statement that Christ uses to bring all His other teachings into perspective.  Are you going to ignore it, or are you going to believe what Christ Himself taught?

This day may be called many things: “The Day of the Lord”, “The Day of the Son of Man”, or “The Day of Christ”.  Whatever you want to call it, it’s the day Christ returns to the earth to claim His rightful throne.

He makes it perfectly clear.  Mankind will see this return.  This is the day He comes to establish His kingdom.  His teachings to the disciples referred to it as His day, the day Christ comes to reign on the earth.  But wait!  What else happens on this same day?

The Lord makes that clear as well.  He sends out His angels to gather His elect – the church.  The angels will then gather us from the four winds, meaning those of us who are living on the earth at the time of His appearing.  It also says that they will gather us from the heavens. That means those believers who have already died before this day.

That makes this the Resurrection Day as well – the last day of the age.  According to Christ Himself, the Day of the Lord and the Resurrection Day are one and the same.  Look at how the Gospel of Matthew records it.

“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn.  They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.  And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”
Matthew 24:30-31

All nations will mourn.  They – all nations – will see Him.  There will be a trumpet call.  The Scripture makes it very clear that the elect, those committed to Christ, will be gathered up on that day. This is the same day that Christ appears to all nations to take His rightful place as the Ruler of the earth.

How does that sit with what you’ve been taught?  Jesus teaches that the Resurrection Day and the Day of the Lord are the very same day.  Now the choice is up to you.  Who are you going to believe?  A man who comes saying that there’s a seven-year wait between the two or the Living Word of God Himself?  As for me, I chose to believe what Christ teaches.

Question: Why is the belief in the seven-year wait so popular?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2018 in Return of Christ

 

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Jesus Teaches the Day of the Lord

I’ve been posting about the end-times from Jesus’ perspective.  It’s the section of Scripture found in Mark, chapter 13.

Jesus has just finished telling His disciples how to prepare for future events.  He’s warned them in general of the things they need to watch out for.  He also told them about the destruction of Jerusalem.

At this point in His teaching, the Lord is going to explain the connection between His coming and the end of the age.

“But in those days, following that distress, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’”
Mark 13:24-25

Jesus prefaces this section by telling the disciples that these things will happen in the days following the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem.  Please realize that this is from God’s perspective.

2,000 years is “just following” to an eternal being.  Remember, He warned His disciples that they would not see the events connected with His return (Luke 17:22).

The Lord is making reference to Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4.  He describes a sign dealing with the sun, moon, and stars.  Notice how the prophet Isaiah describes it.

See, the day of the LORD is coming – a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger — to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.  The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light.  The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.
Isaiah 13:9-10

This sign is described throughout both the Old and New Testaments as the “Day of the Lord”.  Whenever the Day of the Lord is prophesied, the same word pictures are always used.  In both the Old and New Testaments, we’re told that the sun and moon would be darkened, as the heavens themselves are shaken.

Notice that this sign is described in such a way as to make it reliable no matter which side of the earth you’re living on.  If your location is in the daytime, you’ll see the sun darken. If it’s night, you’ll see the moon and the stars affected.

The important thing is that we know what to look for.  It’s the sign of the Day of the Lord.  We need to understand its place in the order of end-time events.

In my next post, we’ll see exactly where Christ placed this day in His timeline.  The way I look at it, if His teaching is different than mine, then I’m the one who needs to change my thinking.

Question: Where does the Day of the Lord fit into your last-days’ timeline?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2018 in Return of Christ

 

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