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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Are You Setting Yourself Up for Offense? #wordofGod

RockyI’m posting about the different “heart soils” in Luke 8.  Today I’ll deal with the rocky soil.  This is about rocks with only a thin layer of dirt to cover them.  The seed germinates and springs up quickly.  But just as quick, the sun comes out, scorches the plant, and it withers and dies.

Jesus explained the spiritual application this way.

“Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.”
Luke 8:13

This verse literally says is that these people receive the Word in the middle of joy.  It sounds like camp meeting to me.  There’s excitement in the air.  The whole atmosphere of the meeting is charged with a heavenly joy.  It’s easy to believe in a place like that.

We’re not talking about people who don’t believe what they hear.  They believe it’s for them.  The problem is that what has sprung up so quickly, also withers just as quick.  What is it that withers?

For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.
1 Peter 1:24-25

What withers is the glory of man.  This type of person hears the Word and believes that it’s “all about me.”  That’s why there’s all the joy and excitement.  They think that the Word is for my blessing, health, and prosperity.  Forget about what God’s ultimate purpose is.  It’s me that’s important.

The Lord says that in this rocky heart there is some faith exhibited for a while, but it doesn’t last long.  Eventually trials and testings will come.  When this happens, Jesus literally says that they will become offended.  Why does Christ use this word?

When I go through a time of testing, I realize that it’s not all about me.  I get offended that I’m not the center of all the attention.  I don’t want the spotlight on Christ and what He’s trying to accomplish in me.  I want the priority to be my comfort and happiness.  The result is that I get offended and walk away from the Lord and His plan for my life.

If I want my heart prepared for an abundant harvest, I must assume that the Word of God spotlights Jesus Christ.  I must desire to know His heart.  There are many who read the Bible and pursue God only for what they can get from Him.  The big question on their minds is, “What’s in it for me?”

Instead, we should be focusing on God’s eternal purpose – to draw all humanity into His kingdom.  The blessings of God are great, but they’re not an end in and of themselves.

God has promised us prosperity, but it’s to finance the spread of the Gospel.  God has promised us health and healing, but it’s so that we can minister the Good News of His love to the best of our ability.

All the promises of God should be viewed through the filter of God’s will and plans.  That’s what’s missing in the shallow faith of rocky soil.  We need to keep our hearts clear of the rocks of self-centeredness.

Question: How is God working through you to bring about His purpose?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

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Posted by on October 15, 2013 in Word of God

 

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Do You Really Understand the Word of God? #wordofGod

Dry1The Gospel message hinges upon the giving and receiving of the Word.  How this takes place is of great importance.  We must understand the mechanics involved in the use of the seed of the Word.  If you want to be a successful farmer, then you must study the most excellent techniques.

The Lord told a parable about four different soil types.  He was talking about the human heart.  We must examine our hearts to see if they are conducive to an abundant harvest of the Word.

The first type of ground that Jesus talks about is the soil right by the road.  It’s the worst place to try and grow anything, whether you’re talking about the spiritual or physical garden.

“When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.  This is the seed sown along the path.”
Matthew 13:19

You will notice that this ground is by the road.  This is the busiest place.  All of the dirt and debris from the road is blown onto this soil.  It’s hard and lifeless.  The way Jesus puts it in the original is that these people hear the Word of the kingdom and do not put it together.  It doesn’t mean to understand in the traditional sense.

These are not people who don’t know the meaning of what’s being said.  On the contrary, they understand what the Word is saying; they just don’t want to see how it applies to their lives.  They don’t want to put it all together.

Then, because there is no root of application, it’s very easy for the enemy to come and remove the Word permanently from the person’s life.  It’s as if they had never heard it.

This means that if I want an abundant harvest, I need to do just the opposite.  Whenever I hear a Word from God, I need to assume that it applies to me.  I need to guard the Word that’s placed within my heart.  It must be precious to me.

It also tells me that I can’t live too close to the road.  The more I look at the world, and how it operates, the more I disagree with how the Word functions in me.  I must let the Word work on me and change me as the Lord wills.

That’s why Jesus told us of the importance of knowing our audience.  We have to be careful where we’re planting.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”
Matthew 7:6

There will always be those who have no regard for the Word of God.  They will hear, yet never apply it to their lives.  They allow the devil to steal it and it will never bear fruit in them.

Question: What is something that you have recently heard and applied from the Word of God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2013 in Word of God

 

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Praising God in the Storm #praiseHiminthestorm

StormThen the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm…
Job 40:6

From time to time I try to get away to the wilderness and get alone with God.  A couple of weeks ago I felt a prompting of the Spirit, so I spent three days hiking on the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire.  I’m glad that I did.

The presence of the Lord was very real during that trip.  I had some great prayer times with Him.  But there is one thing that happened that I want to share in this post.

My plan was to start out early and park my car at the ending point of the hike.  I had made arrangements with a taxi company to meet me there and take me to where I was to start.  As I sat in my car, waiting for the cab to arrive, it started to lightly drizzle.

According to the weather, it was only a 20% chance of rain first thing in the morning, then clear skies later.  Since there was no cell phone reception to call off the taxi, and I figured it would clear up soon, I decided to go forward with my hiking plans.

I put on my rain gear and took the taxi to the start of my hike.  It started off fine.  Under the cover of the forest, the slight rain didn’t even make it down to where I was walking.

However, the further I hiked up the mountain, the less cover there was.  Then it happened – the sky opened up and I found myself in a torrential downpour.  I had to scramble across slippery rocks, on the edge of a cliff, in the rain.

At one point the trees cleared for a bit giving me an incredible view.  (That’s the picture I took at the top of this post.)  It was at that moment that the Spirit of the Lord became wonderfully real to me.  I had no choice but to stop, right where I was and worship God.

As I looked around, standing on the rocks on the side of a mountain, dripping wet in a rainstorm, I had the funniest thought.  I told the Lord, “God, You even make rainstorms magnificent!”

It was an experience to remember.  The sound of the rain and wind in the mountains.  The sight of the clouds racing past me as I stood level with them.  The expanse of the mountains and trees around me.

It all combined to inspire awe toward my Creator.  I realized in that moment that I was experiencing something that few people ever will.  Actually, few people would ever choose to be there!

In our Christian walk, if you desire to do great things for God then you will go through a spiritual storm.  But in the middle of that challenge, know that the Holy Spirit is with you.  If you turn the downpour into a chance to praise God, you’ll know the wonder of His presence with you.

Questions: Are you going through a spiritual battle at this time?  Will you choose to give God praise during the tough times?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 

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The Practical Side of Fasting #spiritualfast

FlyingI want to wrap up my posts on fasting with some practical advice for those who are just starting out.

Fasting has a cumulative effect over time.  Don’t just try fasting once and expect to become “Faith Man.”  Step by step it decreases the pull your flesh has over your life.  It allows the faith that you have to exert a greater influence.

You need to know your body’s limitations.  There are some people who need to take a cautious approach.  These are people who are on certain medications or have medical conditions (such as diabetes) that require you to have food at regular intervals.  If you are one such person, then you need to consult with your doctor before starting a fast.  Tell them that you desire to fast for spiritual reasons and ask if there is a way to do so safely.

Remember that fasting is not a religious exercise, but a spiritual encounter.  God, who knows your heart, will release His power in you.  If you have to eat something with your medication, then look at the food as a part of your medicine.  It will not detract from your fast because your faith is in Christ.

There are side effects from caffeine.  If you are addicted to caffeine (which means that you regularly drink coffee, tea, or soda with caffeine in it) it’s possible that you will get moderate to severe headaches during your fast.  These headaches are the symptom of withdrawal from caffeine.  This can be avoided if you continue to drink something with caffeine in it on your fasting day.

There are side effects from sugar.  If sugar is a regular part of your diet, then you will experience hunger pains.  That’s your body’s normal reaction to a withdrawal from sugar.  Just be aware of that and let it run its course.

Drink large amounts of water while you’re fasting.  In this way you will get some health benefits as well as the spiritual.

Just make the decision and start fasting.  I believe that every Christian should be fasting at least one day a week with some kind of extended fast once a year.  You might ask, “Can’t I just use more self-control over the flesh to keep it down?”  Sure you can; it is possible.  It’s also possible to build a house without the use of any power tools, but there are not many people who would want to do it that way.

God has given us some supernatural “power tools” to strengthen us spiritually.  We’re being foolish if we ignore them.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 13:2-3

Here is a good example of fasting at work.  The church leaders were in the midst of a time of fasting and prayer.  They were able to hear the voice of the Lord and obey quickly.  I believe that this is one of the secrets to the power that the early church possessed, and that we need in our generation.

Questions: If you fast regularly, how often do you fast?  If not, has this series encouraged you to try it?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Fasting, Spirit of Excellence

 

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Fasting and Victory over the Flesh #spiritualfast

TrophyI’m posting about how fasting will revolutionize your spiritual walk.  The disciples had tried, and failed, to cast a demon out of a young man.  After Jesus was able to do it, the disciples asked Him privately why they were unable to.

So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.  However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Matthew 17:20-21, NKJV

The disciples’ problem was unbelief.  Jesus explains to them that faith as small as a mustard seed, working all by itself, can move a mountain.  Nothing would be impossible for us if faith was the only issue.

If it were only about faith, then America should have the most miracles of any country on earth.  We know that faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  In America we have access to more of the Word than in any other country.

The problem is that we have unbelief alongside of that faith.  The U.S. is also one of the most flesh-driven countries on earth.  Just driving down the street I can see a billboard that feeds my flesh.  Standing in a checkout counter, listening to the news on the radio, almost everything I do causes me to access food for my flesh.  Even though I try to filter it by “taking every thought captive,” some of this trash still gets through.

So the stronger my spirit is built up on the Word of God, the more my flesh is built up just by living in this society.  It’s the presence of these two powerful forces in my life, faith and unbelief, side-by-side, that’s watering down my spiritual strength.  What can I do about it?

Again, the key is the statement made by the boy’s father.  We have plenty of faith, but how do we overcome our unbelief?  There is a solution.  Jesus tells the disciples, “This kind only goes out by prayer and fasting.”

The question is, this kind of what?  Most people say He was talking about the demon.  I don’t believe it.  A demon couldn’t care less whether you’ve fasted or not.  Look at the emphasis of the verse.  It’s the disciples who were talking about the demon.

Jesus never once mentioned the demon.  He spent the whole time talking about the problem – unbelief.  What Jesus wants you to get rid of is unbelief.  It’s this kind of unbelief that blocks the working of your faith to the point where nothing happens, even though you believe the Word of God.

Where does fasting come into the picture?  Fasting is a way to forcefully and supernaturally put down your flesh.  You’re telling it, “I don’t care what you say – I’m not listening to you today.”

When you fast, it’s as if you’re turning down the volume control to the voice of your flesh.  This allows the faith that you have to effectively become stronger.  Without the voice of your flesh talking so loud, you will be better able to hear the voice of the Lord speaking to your spirit.

Question: How well do you hear from God presently?  Would you like to increase your spiritual sensitivity?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Fasting, Spirit of Excellence

 

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Our Problem – The Flesh #spiritualfast

Give UpI’ve been posting about the New Testament fast.  There’s an event in Jesus’ ministry that sheds some light on it.

As Jesus was returning to the city form the mount of transfiguration, He was met by a crowd of people.  While He was away, the disciples tried to cast a demon out of a young man, but were unable to.  This is important, because they had been personally trained by the Lord and should have had an easy time with it.

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered.   “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.  But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus.  “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:21-24

Knowing the three parts of our being helps us to understand the man’s statement in Mark 9:21-24.  He didn’t understand how he could both believe and not believe at the same time.  It’s important for us to see that both faith and unbelief or “unfaith” can exist at the same time in the same person.

My spirit is always full of faith.  My flesh is always full of doubt and unbelief.  It was this realization that caused the man to cry out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  This is the key issue involved in our desire for the miraculous to be evident in our ministries.

Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
Matthew 17:18-19

Everyone who wants a walk of excellence needs to know the answer to this.  We all read the Word of God.  We know that it’s God’s will to heal and deliver.  Why is it so hard, sometimes, to see the manifestation of the Spirit of the Lord?  Listen very intently to Jesus’ answer.  It will help us to move up into the excellence of ministry that He has for us.

Obviously, the disciples didn’t ask in public in case the answer was in the form of a rebuke.  They would rather take it in private.  But their question was valid.  Why couldn’t they do what Jesus did, even though they had the faith to try it?

They had been trained by Jesus Himself to go out two by two.  They had prayed for the sick and saw them healed.  They had rebuked demons and saw them bow to the Name of Jesus.  Why, all of a sudden, did it seem to stop working?

We need to open our heart to what Jesus says.  This could explain our lack of results.  We have faith.  We step out.  But many times we experience nothing.  Why?

In my next post we’ll see how the Lord answered this question.

Question: How has your flesh hindered your walk with the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Fasting, Spirit of Excellence

 

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