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Birth Pains Ahead

I’m continuing to look at Jesus’ discussion of the Last Days with His disciples.  He’s giving them a general outline of future events.

When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
Mark 13:7

The Lord warns us that peace will not occur in this age.  Wars and rumors of wars will be going on around the world.  In Luke 21:9, the Lord is recorded as adding revolutions, or literally unrest to the list.

As Christians, we’re not to be alarmed.  That word alarmed in the above verse means to cry out in fright.  We should not be afraid or surprised at these events.

The Lord doesn’t give us the illusion of a world getting better and better.  Instead, He shows us the reality of what living on this earth will be like.

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.  These are the beginning of birth pains.
Mark 13:8

The Lord goes on to list more signs that He calls birth pangs.  He mentions famines.  This is a lack of food usually caused by greed.  In many places around the world, people starve while ships full of food are docked in the harbor and cannot be unloaded because the repressive government won’t allow it.

The number of earthquakes has been rising steadily over the last hundred years.  They cause a lot of devastation.   Many times they’re accompanied by volcanic eruptions or tsunamis.  It seems like every week we hear of new disasters.

When I was a child, we heard of natural disasters happening very infrequently.  Now it seems like every day we’re hearing about a new “worst”.  They are always reporting the worst flood, worst tornado outbreak, worst drought, or other such calamities in the news.

Jesus calls all these things the beginnings of birth pangs.  I believe the Lord is referring to the time at the end of this age where He will begin to make a distinction between the church and the world.

We’re told in the Word what our attitude should be.  We’re expecting our Lord to appear.

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”
1 Peter 3:14

The Lord doesn’t warn us of these events so that we’ll fear the future.  As we see these things happening, our faith in the Lord and in His Word should grow.  It should give us a greater urgency for winning souls into His kingdom.  We must let this knowledge transform us into the end-time church Christ will be looking for when He returns.

Question: How should believers keep from fearing the future?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on June 22, 2018 in Encouragement, Return of Christ

 

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Deception in the Last Days

In my last post, we began looking at the passage in Mark where Jesus talks about the end-times with His disciples.  He had told them that the Temple would be destroyed someday.  So they asked Him how they would know it was about to happen.

Jesus starts by giving the disciples a general overview of future history.

Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you.  Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.
Mark 13:5-6

The initial warning that Jesus gives us is about deceivers.  The word deceiver in the Greek literally means those who cause others to leave the path.  There will be those who make it their goal to remove you from the path of following Christ wholeheartedly.  Their methods may vary from time to time and from place to place, but the outcome is the same.

These imitations claim to be the Anointed One, which is what Christ means in Greek.  They want to convince you that they have the lock on God’s power or His anointing.  Many Christians are all too willing to follow these signs from revival to camp meeting to healing service.  They never seem to want to settle down under godly teaching.

Please realize that I’m not knocking the revival meeting.  I love being a part of the move of God.  What I’m saying is that every believer must be plugged-in to a local church body where they’re constantly being fed from God’s Word.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
Ephesians 4:14

We should make it our goal not to end up remaining a baby Christian our whole life.  Staying in that baby stage opens you up to deception.

Of course, some prefer it that way since they never have to take on the responsibility of ministry.  Then, they can just go from place to place getting fed their spiritual bottle.

If deception is a big part of living in the Last Days, then how do we guard ourselves?

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Hebrews 3:13

It’s through the mutual encouragement of the body of believers that we keep from being deceived.  That’s one of the benefits of being connected to a local church.

But wait!  The writer of Hebrews also said…

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:25

This verse explains why there’s such deception in the Last Days.  Believers will be attending church less and less frequently.  One of the reasons I feel we’re close to Christ’s Return is because this is an epidemic in the body of Christ right now.

Don’t open yourself to the deceptions of this age. Be an active part of a local body of believers.

Question: Why is church attendance by Christians in such decline in our generation?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2018 in Return of Christ, Revival, The Church

 

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Prepared for the Return

During the week before He went to the cross, the Lord explained to His disciples some of the things that would take place in the future.  It was sparked by the disciples as they became impressed by the elaborate buildings in Jerusalem.

As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher!  What massive stones!  What magnificent buildings!”
“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen?  And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
Mark 13:1-4

There are many in the body of Christ who love to study the end-times, and I’m one of them.  Unfortunately, there’s a tendency to stick with our pet Scriptures and never look at them in the greater context of the Bible.

The end result is a skewed idea of what is being taught.  This causes many to have a wrong view of what the Bible teaches about the Last Days.

Over the next few posts, we’ll be looking specifically at Mark’s record of how Jesus taught it to His disciples.  It’s important to keep this in mind because we are still in one of the foundational books of the New Testament.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while then you know the rationale behind this teaching.  I’m systematically going through the New Testament in the order that the Holy Spirit revealed it to the church.  Let me review what we’ve learned about the end-times so far.

We started in the book of James.  In James chapter 5 and verses 7 through 12, we saw the first mention of the return of Christ.  The emphasis was on developing the patience needed to stand until His return.  To see those posts, click here.

The next letter we studied was First Thessalonians.  In chapter 4, verse 13, through chapter 5, verse 11, was the next teaching on the return.  In that section, Paul dealt with the fact of the Resurrection Day.

On that day, the body of Christ – both the living and the dead – will be caught up to be with the Lord.  He went on to warn us how we should be living in the light of that knowledge.  He said that if we were spiritually awake, then that day would not take us by surprise.  To see those posts, click here.

The next book we looked at was Galatians.  There was no mention of the Last Days in that letter.

Finally, we arrived at Mark’s Gospel.  Other than a brief discussion with the Sadducees concerning the resurrection, this is the first mention of Christ teaching His disciples about the end-times.  Knowing the Scriptural context will equip us to better understand what’s being said.

Please be aware.  Mark is not going to give us everything Christ taught about His return.  Notice that he only records the disciples’ questions about the destruction of the temple.

We know from the other Gospels that they asked more than this.  But at this point in the growth of the church, that’s as far as the Holy Spirit wanted Mark to write about.

Now that we have this foundation firmly in place, we can move on.  Over the next few posts, I’ll be going through the teaching of Christ as recorded in this section of Scripture.  Hopefully, it will give us some new insight into the coming of the Lord.

To read my entire teaching on the Second Coming of Christ, check out my book.  The ad for it is to the right of this post.

Question: Why is the Second Coming of Christ such a popular topic among believers?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2018 in Return of Christ

 

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The Heart of Giving

What’s your attitude toward offerings at church?  Do you consider it a necessary evil?  Do you look forward to the chance of investing in God’s kingdom?  It turns out that the Lord takes an interest in how we give.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.  Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.
Mark 12:41-42

There are some things about Jesus that you need to know, especially in regards to your giving.  As the pastor of a church, I know that where people choose to sit tells a lot about them.  Jesus chose to sit right in line with the offering boxes so that He could watch people as they gave.

It’s interesting that the literal Greek of this verse says that the Lord watched how the people put their money in the box.  Whether you know it or not, how you give is as important to God as what you give.

That’s because true giving is an act of the heart.  Jesus explained the underlying principle.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:21

This statement brings it all into focus.  At offering time, do you feel like you’re giving your treasure to God?  Or do you feel like you’re giving money to the One that you treasure?  In other words, is Christ your treasure, or is money your treasure?

As Jesus watched the rich give money, they weren’t affected by it.  They gave out of their overflow.  What they put in the treasury wouldn’t change their standard of living.

The widow, on the other hand, gave everything.  Money that could have been used for food or other necessities was now gone.  That made an impression on Jesus and He called it to the disciples’ attention.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.”
Mark 12:43-44

The Lord’s commentary is important for us to hear.  There’s a “break-even point” in our finances where our expenses equal our income.  He explained that the rich gave from above that point.  The widow gave all that she had, even though she had less than breaking even.

But there’s more Jesus said that we miss because of the translation.  In the original, the Lord said that the widow put in all that she had and her whole life.

She wasn’t just giving her money to God.  She was placing her very life in His hands.  That’s the attitude that’s needed in our giving.

It’s not just my money that belongs to God.  It’s everything that I have, even my very life.  All that I am – my time, goals, dreams, possessions – I must place it all in His hands.

Offerings are not simply a tradition of the church that we have to do each week.  It’s not something I do to get God off my back for another week.  It’s an opportunity to once again confirm to myself and the Lord that all of my life is His.

This widow may have thought that her giving had gone unnoticed.  But the truth is that God saw it, and it moved His heart.  I know without a doubt that God met her need and sustained her because of her faith.  That’s the true attitude of giving.

Question: What goes through your mind as you give your offerings?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Who are You Really Serving?

There are posts that I really enjoy writing.  There are others that I wrestle with God about publishing them.  I don’t want to be the one who rocks the boat.  Unfortunately, today’s post is one of those that I didn’t want to write.

Jesus was nearing the cross and the battle lines were being drawn between Him and the religious leaders of His day.

As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law.  They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.  They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.  Such men will be punished most severely.”
Mark 12:38-40

In Jesus’ day, there were those who taught the Scripture, while at the same time having an element of self-indulgence.  There were times that they taught the truth of God’s Word, drawing people closer to the Lord.  At the same time, they were feeding their own egos and lining their pockets.

These religious leaders liked the fact that they were highly esteemed among the people.  They were able to dress well and were readily recognized.  People wanted to be at the meetings when these leaders were present.

According to Jesus, for all of their training and knowledge, they weren’t scoring any points with God.  As a matter of fact, the Lord warned the crowds that they needed to do what these leaders taught, while at the same time rejecting their self-absorbed lifestyle (Matthew 23:1-4).

Jesus also condemns the religious system itself.  He points out the fact that their extravagant way of life is paid for by those who could least afford it.

That was the easy part of this post.  Now on to the difficult section…

Lately, I’ve been becoming more and more disheartened by the direction of our modern system of Christianity.  It seems like in many areas we’re taking on the attitude of corporate America.

What do I mean by this?  In most large corporations, the senior executives make more money than they could spend in ten lifetimes.  In that same company, the employees who do the bulk of the work can’t make ends meet with the one salary they earn from doing that job.

Now we have huge churches where the pastors have big homes, garages full of cars, private jets and a continual desire for more.  Many of their members have to work two or sometimes three jobs to make ends meet.  Granted, they’re preaching Jesus Christ and many are getting saved under their ministry.  But at what point is enough, enough?

I’m told that their luxurious lifestyle is the reward for their faithfulness in the ministry.  As a pastor who has been serving the same church for 30 years, I find that kind of thinking offensive.  I gave up a career where I was on track for a six-figure engineering salary when God called me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not jealous of these preachers.  If I had it to do all over again I would gladly make the same choices for the honor of serving my Lord.  I just don’t like being told that the car I drive or the house I rent is the indication of how faithful I’ve been to the calling of God.

It’s nothing new.  The church has been dealing with this throughout history.  I like Paul’s attitude.

But what does it matter?  The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.  And because of this I rejoice.
Philippians 1:18

That’s the attitude I want to portray.  I apologize if I seemed to be ranting.  I hold no ill will against any of my brothers or sisters in the ministry.  I simply want Christ to be exalted in His church.

Question: What is the true indication of faithfulness to God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2018 in Faith, God's Provision, Ministry, The Church

 

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Who is Christ?

As we continue to look at the Gospel of Mark, we’re at the point where Jesus is in Jerusalem, during the last weeks before the cross.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David?  David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:
“‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ‘
David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”
The large crowd listened to him with delight.
Mark 12:35-37

Jesus is giving the crowd something to think about.  It’s also a testimony as to who He really is.  Any teacher of the Law would know exactly what He was saying.

First, the Lord asks a question.  Why do the teachers of the Law use the term Son of David for the Messiah?

That’s important because the phrase Son of David is never used in the Old Testament in relation to the Christ.  It does teach that Messiah would be a king from the line of Judah.

So they were right in assuming the connection to David.  But the title, Son of David, was coined by the Rabbis.  So in answering the question – they call Messiah the Son of David because their careful study of the Scripture pointed them in that direction.

The next question is harder to answer without a willingness to have your heart changed.  If David calls Him Lord, how can the Messiah be his son?  Jesus is quoting the prophecy of Psalm 110.

In the Hebrew, David gives a prophecy that “Yahweh will say to my Adonai…”.  But in Scripture, both Yahweh and Adonai are names of the one, true God.

It’s through this teaching that Jesus declares to all the religious leaders who He is.  By their own study, the teachers of that day should realize that the only way for the Son of David to be Adonai is for God Himself to take on flesh.

That’s what sets Christianity apart from all the seemingly Christian based cults.  Jesus Christ declared Himself, on more than one occasion, to be God in the flesh.  That’s the test of what is the true church versus the false.

Even in Paul’s day, there were those who would try to deny the deity of Christ.  He condemned the church at Corinth for not being careful with their teaching.

For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
2 Corinthians 11:4

That’s also what separates Christianity from all other religions.  They all teach that man has to strive to reach acceptance with a god or struggle for perfection.  The true God tells us that it’s impossible for us to do it on our own.  So He took the initiative to take on flesh and provide the way of salvation for us through the work of Christ on the cross.

I am so grateful for the gift given to us by Jesus Christ.  There truly is no other name under heaven that provides such a rich reward for those who choose to follow Him.

Question: What events brought you to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2018 in The Church, The Gospel

 

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Showing True Love

When Jesus was asked about the greatest command of Scripture, He explained how to truly show your love for God.  In today’s post, we’ll look at what the Lord describes as the second greatest command.

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:31

In order to understand this verse, you need to know what a neighbor is.  In another of the Gospels, Jesus is actually asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

It’s pretty simple.  The Greek word used in this verse literally means someone who is physically near you.  Even in the English word, neighbor, the “nei” part means “near”.

So we’re not talking about the community you live in, even though that could be included.  When Jesus talks about neighbors, He’s speaking about anybody you happen to be around during the day.  It doesn’t matter whether you know them or not.

Once we know who we’re supposed to show our love to, the next obvious question is; what is love?  This word has been so overused in our society, that when we read Scripture many people have no clue what it really means.

The first thing I see is that the Lord commands us to love whoever we find in our vicinity.  If it’s a command, then it has nothing to do with our emotions.  The Greek word, agape, used in this verse is a choice to love.

Because there is no emotion involved in this love, it’s simply a choice I have to make when I’m near someone.  It doesn’t matter whether or not I know them.  More importantly, it doesn’t even matter whether I like them or not.  The command stands for enemies as well as friends.

Then there are the excuses we like to make for ourselves.  I’ve heard people say, “I love everybody.”  They say this to justify themselves.  Usually, this statement is untrue.

Jesus tells us that we’re to love others in the same way that we love ourselves.  How do I love myself?  Healthy self-love is an active pursuit to make my life better.  This includes my position with my family, my job, my attitudes, my influence, my finances, my spirituality, and so much more.

So when you talk about loving someone else, it’s an action word.  It means that you are actively participating in their lives.  You want their life to be better because they met you.  That’s showing love to your neighbor.

It could be as simple as greeting someone with a smile in the check-out line.  It could be giving money to a person in need.  There are literally thousands of ways of positively impacting the lives of those around you.

I do realize that this is harder to do when it involves those that we don’t like.  But, with the help of the Holy Spirit, it’s not impossible.

We need to respond to God’s commands as the person in Scripture.

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.  To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Mark 12:32-34

We should make it our goal to let our lives show a true love for God and for others around us.  That will play a large role in attracting people to the Gospel of Christ.

Question: How has the love of others affected your life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2018 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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