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The Power of the Solitary Place

In my last post, we saw how Jesus ministered to the crowds no matter when or where the Holy Spirit was leading.  How was He able to operate on this level?  Is it something that I can tap into?

I believe that Jesus is the example of how we should approach the ministry.  We need to see how He prepared Himself for the days ahead of Him.

The Lord Jesus was God in the flesh; yes, but He limited Himself to operating as a man led by the Holy Spirit.  Christ didn’t operate in a vacuum.  He didn’t do anything that the Holy Spirit hadn’t shown Him.  The next question that arises in my heart is this; how did He hear from the Spirit?

Obviously, the Lord didn’t just decide “on the fly” what He was going to do.  He had to go to the Father first, and then see what was coming up in His ministry.

Only then was the Lord prepared for the work He was about to do that day or that week.  If I can get a handle on this aspect of His ministry, then it can revolutionize mine.  The fact is, the Scripture is clear as to how He saw the Holy Spirit working.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also.  That is why I have come.”  So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Mark 1:35-39

Many times Jesus would leave a house to find a solitary place to pray.  Most of the time, He would leave while it was still dark.  I’m sure that He didn’t even tell anyone He was leaving.  It must have been much later when the disciples started their search.

He was there alone in the presence of the Father – away from the crowds and the demands of the ministry.  This is what Jesus felt He needed to do to clearly hear the voice of the Spirit.

How do I know this?  It’s clear from the passage.  When the disciples arrived, they were upset that they had to go looking for Him.

Notice that He ignored their statements.  Instead, He simply said, “I know where we’re going next and what we’re going to do when we get there.”  How did He suddenly know this?  He heard from the Spirit.

So clear was the knowledge of the Father that many miracles were performed on the ministry trip they took.  Even a leper with little faith was healed.

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”  Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
Mark 1:40-42

There are ministers today who would handle this situation very differently.  If someone were to state, “If God wills,” they’d send him back to his seat until he could “believe God for his healing”.  Instead, Christ healed the man regardless of his small faith.  What made the difference?  Jesus had, by the Spirit, seen the Father accomplish it already.

Do you need to know the next step in your life?  If Jesus needed to seek God in that way, I assume that the same has to be true for us.  We desperately need a Word from the Father to complete our task.

Find that solitary place today.  Go before the Lord in the stillness that surrounds you and open up your soul to Him.  Spend some time just listening for His still, small voice to your heart.  Then answer the call in obedience to His will.

Question: Where is your solitary place?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on December 15, 2017 in Revival, Prayer, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Gospel and Convenience

We live in an age of convenience.  A few taps on my smart-phone and a pizza shows up at my door with the exact toppings I wanted.  A few more taps and my order is waiting, ready and paid for, at the local coffee shop.

The question is; how does this translate over into my spiritual life?  There are many in our generation who are looking for a convenient faith.  They show up for church Sunday morning, fast food breakfast in hand.  They stay for the hour and a half service – in and out – the rest of the day to themselves.

The problem is that a life like that is devoid of power.  I can’t reconcile convenience with the life of Christ.

We say that we want to live and minister as Jesus did.  Do we really?  Do we actually want our life to look like His?

As we continue to look at Mark’s Gospel, we’ll see what it should be like.  A day in the life of the Lord.  It’s a Sabbath day.  He had just preached at the local synagogue.  In the middle of His ministry, a demon-possessed man disrupted the meeting.  (We looked at that in my last post)

After His ministry there, I’m sure He was tired.  At least I am after I preach.  Most people look forward to a nice restful day after the morning service.

As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew.  Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her.  So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up.  The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
Mark 1:29-31

When they back to the house, there was no dinner waiting.  Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was sick and in bed.  The Lord’s ministry wasn’t over for the day.  He graciously prayed with her and her healing manifested.

After she got up, she served them.  No problem.  Dinner was only delayed a little.  We could handle that.  But it’s what happened next that we need to take to heart.

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed.  The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases.  He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
Mark 1:32-34

As soon as the sun started to set, people began to gather.  Please realize that this wasn’t a planned meeting.  What the Lord was actually looking forward to was a restful night at home with His disciples.

The next thing they knew, the entire town had shown up at their doorstep.  They weren’t there simply to get a look at the new prophet that had come to town.  They were there to be ministered to.

What was Jesus’ response?  Did He tell them to go home and He’d plan another meeting for tomorrow after a good night’s rest?  Absolutely not!  He flowed with the leading of the Holy Spirit and shared the power of God with those waiting.

My question for this generation is; do we want the inconvenience of a truly Spirit-led walk?  Are we prepared to give up some of our precious “me time”?  Are we willing to minister to the hurting people around us, no matter when we’re called into action?

This is what we’re destined for – a ministry like Jesus.  But in order to walk in it, we need to change some of our attitudes toward our time.  We have to realize that our schedules don’t belong to us; they belong to God the Father.  We must be willing to let Him set the agenda and the course of our lives.

Question: How do “spiritual interruptions” affect your attitudes?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2017 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Gospel of Power

As we continue our look at the Gospel of Mark, I want to pick up on the theme that Jesus traveled throughout Israel proclaiming the Gospel, the Good News, of the kingdom of God.  The first place we’re specifically told about is a village called Capernaum.

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.  The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.  Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are — the Holy One of God!”

“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly.  “Come out of him!”  The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this?  A new teaching — and with authority!  He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.”  News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Mark 1:21-28

The first thing I see is the amazement of the people.  There was something about how Jesus taught that was different from everyone else.

The other teachers they listened to were mostly scribes, who had no teaching authority of their own.  They would refer back to the writings of famous Rabbis of the past.  They would give long quotes adding no insight of their own.

That’s a far cry from hearing a teaching from the living Word of God.  The Lord didn’t need to fall back on what somebody else said.  He knew exactly what the desired result was when He inspired the Scripture.

Consequently, when they listened to Christ, their hearts were changed.  They understood that they were hearing from the mind of God Himself.

There was, however, an even greater demonstration of the authority in His words.  A man who was under demonic possession was delivered simply by the words that Jesus spoke.  No hype, no theatrics, just, “Be quiet and come out of him!”

It was visibly confirmed that the Gospel that Jesus preached was the true Word of God.  Please don’t get the idea that this was just something for the Lord to do.  This is what the Holy Spirit wants for all who preach and teach.  Listen to how Paul describes it.

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.  So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.
Romans 15:18-19

I don’t believe that the Gospel – the Good News of Christ – can be fully proclaimed without the confirmation of signs, miracles, and healings.  This is how the early church grew.  It’s what the world around us needs to see.

But that requires us to spend time with the Holy Spirit; hearing His voice.  Then, we may walk in the authority that only comes from being in the presence of God.  This is where the Father is leading us in this generation.

Question: Why does a demonstration of power increase the effectiveness of the Gospel?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2017 in Ministry, Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

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Called to Become

The next encounter we have in Mark’s gospel is the calling of the four fishermen.  I’m referring to Andrew, Peter, James, and John.

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.  Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Mark 1:16-20

In this narrative, we’re only given the outline of what happened.  It should be obvious from human nature and the accounts in the other gospels that this was not the first time these men had met Jesus.  No one will leave their family business because an unknown man walks by and asks them to follow Him.

On the contrary, there was already a relationship that had formed between these five men.  Jesus had been preaching and healing the sick throughout the area.  At one point, Peter even let Jesus use his boat as a pulpit.  They knew the Lord’s ministry.

We know from John’s gospel, that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist.  He had heard John’s testimony of Jesus being the Messiah.  He had met with Christ in private, and then Andrew introduced his brother Peter to Him.

This was not just a “cold call” on the part of the Lord.  It was the culmination of an ongoing relationship.  They knew who it was that was calling them.  They wanted what Christ was offering.

But what was the Lord promising them?  It’s a very interesting way to invite someone.  There are two important phrases that Jesus says to them.  The first is; I will make you.

He told them that if they’d fall in behind Him, He’d do a work in their lives.  I think that’s the key, even for us.  It’s our job to follow – that’s all.  Too often we get the idea that we need to work on changing ourselves.  Then we get frustrated with the results.

If I’m willing to spend time in the Lord’s presence, through the Holy Spirit, He’ll bring about the changes needed in my life.  That’s where the power is.  It’s clear from Scripture that only the spirit can control the flesh.

The second phrase is not apparent in this English translation.  It’s the phrase; to become.  The original Greek reads; I will make you to become fishers of men.  I believe this means it’s a process, not an instant change.

God has a calling on your life and mine.  He wants us to become something for His glory.  I wish that the transformation was instant, the day I bowed my knee to Him as Lord.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way.

There’s a growing process involved.  I follow behind Christ.  I spend time in the spirit.  Over time, the work of God’s grace becomes evident in my life.  Eventually, I become what I was created to be.

It was like that with these disciples.  They had their rough spots.  Sometimes it looked like they’d never get there.  But after the day of Pentecost, they turned their world upside-down for the glory of Christ.

Let this speak to you.  Follow behind Christ.  Be patient.  Don’t get frustrated that the changes in your life aren’t happening as quickly as you’d like them to.  Become a disciple of Christ through the work of His Holy Spirit in you.

Question: What are some changes that are already evident in your life since you started following Christ?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Jesus and the Gospel

As we continue our look at the Gospel of Mark, we’ll now see how the ministry of Jesus relates to the Gospel message.  You probably already know that the word, Gospel, literally means the Good News.

But what exactly is that Good News?   I think you’ll be surprised at how the modern church has turned the message around, making it empty of its power.

If I were to ask people “What is the Gospel?” I’d probably receive many answers.  There’s a host of believers who are actively trying to “win the lost.”  They would most likely give me very Biblical answers.

What I want to know, are the perceptions of those who hear the Gospel.  From talking with unbelievers who have been “witnessed to” I could boil it down to the following: “You’re an evil sinner going to hell, but if you repeat a special prayer you can go to Heaven.”

If that’s what they got out of an encounter with a Christian, then something’s wrong with our approach.  There’s no way to demonstrate a statement like that.  That’s why so many unbelievers are bitter toward those who have tried and failed to convert them.

We need to return to a true understanding of what the Good News is all about.  That’s why Jesus, Himself, is a great example.

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.  “The time has come,” he said.  “The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!”
Mark 1:14-15

Jesus made two statements.  The kingdom of God is near was the Good News.  God was showing up on the scene to change their lives for the better.  Freedom, healing, and deliverance were about to be demonstrated to the people of Israel.

The Lord then told those listening to Him how to respond to this Good News.  Repent and believe is not the Good News, it’s the response that’s needed.  We must learn that the power is in the Good News, not in the response to the Good News.

In many cases, we’ve started calling the response, the Gospel.  You can’t go out preaching “repent and believe” and assume you’re bringing the Gospel to the world.

When it comes to the Good News, one size doesn’t fit all.  There are gang members and single moms, Wall St. executives and the homeless.  Is the Good News the same for all of them?

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that the response to the Good News must be the same for all people.  But the message itself will be different depending on who you’re talking to.  This is how God established it in His Word.

God, Himself, gave us four Gospels.  Matthew was written for the Jews and Mark for the Romans.  Luke was for the Greeks and John contained Good News for the Christian.

It’s a fact that religious people need to hear something different than the unchurched.  The Bible itself describes the Good News in many ways.  It’s called the Gospel of the Kingdom, of God, of Christ, of God’s grace, of your salvation, and the Gospel of peace.

Of course, no matter how the Gospel message is tailored to an audience, Jesus Christ is central.  Furthermore, it all must be demonstrated by the power of the Holy Spirit in order for the world to see the full picture.

Question: How can you bring the Good News to those in your sphere of influence?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2017 in Ministry, The Gospel

 

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Perfect Submission

When we think about Jesus, what words come to mind?  Savior, Lord, God Almighty, and many more.  But do we immediately think of “obedient”?  That’s the first picture we get in the Gospel of Mark.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark 1:9-11

Many people wonder why Jesus felt He needed to be baptized in the Jordan River.  After all, He had no sin that needed to be confessed.  The Lord was perfect in all of His ways.

The fact is that Jesus knew His purpose right from the start.  He came to earth with the cross in mind.  He was fully aware that in order to save us, He would need to die a cruel death, be buried and then rise three days later.

That’s what this baptism was all about.  The Lord was showing, by a visible sign, that He was in full submission to the Father’s will concerning His life.  Christ’s initiation into public ministry was a confession that it would end in death, burial, and resurrection.

That’s why the Father gave His seal of approval to the Lord’s work.  He was well pleased that Jesus was willingly going forward with the plan of salvation.

But there was more to the Lord’s obedience and submission than this act of faith.  There was a step by step, day by day leading that He had to follow.  From this point on, the Holy Spirit would be His guide and leader, giving Him the plan for each new day.

I’d like to think that following the Holy Spirit is easy.  No problems; just do what He says and it’s a clear road ahead.  That wasn’t the case for Jesus.

At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
Mark 1:12-13

Immediately after a public submission to the Father’s plan, you would think that there’d be a huge boost in His ministry.  Instead, the Holy Spirit sends the Lord off to the wilderness.  You would think that this was opposite of what He should be doing.

“Go to Jerusalem.  Proclaim yourself the Messiah and Savior of the world.”

No.  That’s not the path that the Spirit had for him.  Jesus needed to be able to listen to the voice of the Father.  The wilderness would be His training ground.

Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…
Hebrews 5:8-9

We sometimes think that the only time Jesus suffered was on the cross.  I don’t believe that’s the case.  It doesn’t matter who you are, forty days in the wilderness with no food is uncomfortable for anybody’s flesh.

That’s why the Scripture tells us that Christ had to learn obedience.  It wasn’t easy.  It involved some suffering.

The suffering I’m talking about is that of self-discipline.  Jesus didn’t have to go to the desert.  He didn’t have to fast for forty days.  He was being led by the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes I think that’s the hardest temptation there is.  The knowledge that you’re following God’s plan.  It’s not comfortable.  No one will know if you deviate, or even cut a few corners.  Yet, you stay on the path you’re called to, no matter what.

This is the path of submission and obedience that we see exemplified in the life of Christ.

Question: What was the hardest thing the Holy Spirit asked you to do?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Christ the Baptizer in the Spirit

I believe that America is ripe for revival.  I also believe that prayer in the spirit will play a major role in this move.  John the Baptist preached about this subject in the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel.

John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.  I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Mark 1:6-8

We’ll need an understanding of this if we’re going to flow in revival to the level God desires.  I’m talking about coming face to face with Christ, the Baptizer.  He’s the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

But there’s a question that this brings up.  How can Christ do that if He wasn’t baptized Himself?  I believe that Jesus was baptized in the Spirit and prayed in the spirit.

Of course, Jesus prayed in the spirit without the manifestation of tongues.  The reason for this is that speaking in tongues is the reaction of our sinful flesh to the work of the Spirit.  Our flesh can’t comprehend what’s happening when we pray in the spirit.

In another Gospel, we see John the Baptist witnessing something unique.

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.  I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’”
John 1:32-33

This was unheard of in their day – the Holy Spirit remaining upon a person.  This was the point where Jesus was baptized in the Spirit.  I believe that from this day forward, Jesus prayed in the spirit.

But I think that the key word here is, remained.  The Holy Spirit remained upon the Lord and Jesus remained in the Spirit.

That’s something we need to see the importance of.  Very often we think that what Jesus did was a special case.  He said that the same works He did, we would do.  But in order for that to happen, it will take the same preparation.

We need the same remaining in the Spirit.  You could also call it immersion in the Spirit.

Before He ascended to the Father, Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for this gift.  Don’t preach, don’t make disciples, don’t do anything, just wait.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:8

That was fulfilled in the baptism found in Acts chapter 2.

What about Jesus?  He was baptized by John who testified that the Spirit remained on Him.  Then Jesus went into the wilderness to fast and pray for 40 days.  There, the Lord was tempted by the devil himself, yet…

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.
Luke 4:14

What power did He walk in?  The power of His immersion in the Spirit.   We need this same power to be evident in our lives.  In that case, we must remain in the Holy Spirit just like He did.

Question: How does Christ exemplify the Christian walk?

 

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