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Monthly Archives: May 2015

Hiking and Praying

BackpackAs I said in my last post, I’m about to leave for two weeks of hiking and praying. I always find these times refreshing. I get to be alone with the Lord for hours praying and listening for His voice.

The Lord spent 40 days alone in the wilderness. This helped to prepare Him for ministry. I’m looking forward to what Holy Spirit will work in me during this time.

Actually this type of praying in the outdoors was a large part of Jesus’ ministry. Over and over again we read of the Lord having this “alone time” with the Father.

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.
Matthew 14:23

I think that every believer should experience this blessing. No, you don’t have to go off into the woods for a week. You can find a quiet place near your home where you can spend even an hour or two outdoors with the Lord.

I can tell you this; it’s a totally different experience than praying in your house or office. Be prepared to hear from God in a way that you never have before.

As I’m preparing to leave, I feel the Lord impressing me to do something a bit different for the posts while I’m away. My hope is that it will be a blessing to you.

I realize that this blog is not very far reaching at this point. But there have been a few of my posts that seemed to touch a lot of people. So for the two weeks that I’m away, I’m going to repost the 6 most read posts of mine since I’ve started.

Many of those following this blog were not here for those early days. They’ll probably be new to most of those now following me. The Apostle Peter put it this way.

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body…
2 Peter 1:12-13

It’s good to be reminded of the truths that we’ve heard in the past. Who knows, even if you read them the first time they were posted, you might get something new from them in your present walk with the Lord.

One more thing; please keep me in your prayers as I take this time to seek God. And please be patient with me if I take a while in responding to comments. Sometimes the cell phone reception is spotty on the trails.

Question: Do you have any interesting experiences you’ve had outdoors with the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

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Spiritual Sensitivity

TrailHow sensitive are you to the things of the spirit? Do you take the time to hear what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you? God’s people should be in tune to what the Lord is accomplishing on the earth.

This is how Paul described it.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14

I know that I’ve mentioned my hiking from time to time in this blog. As a matter of fact, in a few days I’m leaving on a two week long “hiking and prayer” trip. I’m looking forward to a good time in the Spirit.

I find it enjoyable talking to non-hikers about my backpacking trips. I love their reactions to some of my statements.

“How can you sleep all night in a shelter with only three sides?” “What do you eat?” “Where do you find a bathroom?”

I think that it shocks some people to learn that it’s possible to live without all the trappings of society. The thought of spending one night without TV or the internet is frightening. They don’t even want to think about the fact that running water isn’t necessary to survival.

Unless you’ve experienced the freedom of the wild, the ecstasy of a mountaintop, or the tranquility of a hidden lake there’s no understanding what I find.

It’s the same in the spirit. Unless you’ve experienced the wisdom, peace, and power of a relationship with the Holy Spirit, you have no clue how important it is. The thought of spending time in prayer is foolishness to those who ignore it.

That’s what Paul is talking about in the verse above. The phrase man without the spirit is actually the soulish man in the Greek. He’s not talking about an unsaved person. Rather, it’s the Christian who lives by what sounds logical to him. He gives no thought to the Spirit.

Unfortunately there are many believers who live this way. They read the Bible, go to church, and then do their best to figure out what they should be doing for the Lord. What they don’t realize is there are some things in their Christian walk that they can never figure out on their own.

They need to be hearing from the Holy Spirit. There are some things God has for us that can only be received by the spirit. But in order for that to happen there needs to be some quiet, alone time with the Holy Spirit.

There are some who can’t imagine spending time in the presence of God. But until you experience it for yourself, you’ll never fully understand the blessing. All of my descriptions fall short of the reality of time spent in the Spirit.

Walk in that blessed experience today. Spend time in the presence of the Lord. Let His Spirit minister to yours. Come away refreshed and revived. Let your soul be reminded why it’s so important to obtain what can only come from the Spirit.

Question: How has your life been touched and changed by time spent with the Holy Spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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Your Wedding Clothes

DinnerIn my last post I talked about being immersed into Christ as the putting on of the new man. The church would look totally different if this were the case in most believers.

In reality, the world doesn’t need to look for Christ in us. What they truly long for is to see us in Christ. Christ in you is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). But if you’re immersed in Christ, then the world can see His glory.

Jesus told a parable about a banquet. To understand it thoroughly you need to read both the way He set it up and His summary at the end. The reason for this is that many of the Lord’s parables sound similar, but have different purposes.

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.”
Matthew 22:1-2

This parable is about the kingdom of heaven. It centers on how the blessings of the kingdom are bestowed upon those who would enter into it. The riches of God’s kingdom include blessings, provision, healing, fulfillment, and much more.

In the parable, we see the king inviting all of his friends. They agreed to come when they originally heard about the plans. When the day of the wedding arrived, however, they changed their minds and refused to show up. I believe that this refers to the nation of Israel who refused to acknowledge Christ as Messiah.

The king became angry over this and made a decision to fill up his banquet hall by any means necessary. He sent his servants out into the streets and highways to get anyone they could to come in and enjoy the feast. In short order the wedding hall was full of guests. Then something very strange occurs.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.”
Matthew 22:11-12

From our perspective this sounds strange. Why even ask this question? Isn’t it obvious? “I had no notice. I came in right off the street.”

That’s not the case. The customs of the day dictated that the person throwing the party was to provide the clothes for the guests. This man was given his party clothes the moment he agreed to come to the wedding. That’s why he was speechless. There was no reason for him to not be dressed appropriately.

“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
Matthew 22:13

We need to understand the application. In many of Jesus’ parables, people get “thrown out” of places. Sometimes it’s to jail other times it’s into a fiery furnace, or in this case, outer darkness.

I don’t believe that this is referring to someone who is unsaved. He’s not thrown into hell, but merely the dark world outside the kingdom. I base this on the closing statement that Jesus makes to summarize what He’s trying to get across.

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Matthew 22:14

The issue is not saved versus unsaved, as would be the case if the man was thrown into the fire. Instead, it’s called versus chosen. I think this is an accurate picture of the church today. Many believers are walking around in spiritual darkness, weeping and gnashing their teeth, because they refuse to put on the clothes that the King has provided.

Question: How does walking in the new man bring a life of blessing?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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Our New Clothes

ClothesIn my last post I started talking about the new man that God created us to be. We saw that it’s something that we must choose to do. But it’s a path that few believers seem to want to take.

I think it’s because of the ramifications of the action.

It’s a total transformation of our lifestyle. It will radically change what we do and how we look to the world. Paul puts it this way…

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Romans 13:14

The new man is Christ, Himself. He’s the One we’re to put on. It’s His nature and character that will be seen manifesting in us. This means that we want Christ to be the only thing that the world sees in us.

Therein lies the problem. Is this true of the church in general? Is it what the average church member wants?

It doesn’t seem to be the case in practice. A look at how the church lives out its faith today proves my point that putting on Christ doesn’t just happen because we receive Christ as our Savior. There’s more to it.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Galatians 3:26-27

If you’ve placed your faith in Christ Jesus, then you’re part of the family of God. In this series of posts, I’m not talking about whether you’re saved or not. If you’ve trusted Christ then you’re saved and going to Heaven. That’s beyond question.

What I am talking about, is the outward manifestation of that salvation. I want the world to see Christ in us. In the book of Acts we’re told that the Jewish religious leaders took note that the Apostles had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). They saw the same lifestyle and ministry that Jesus had when He walked the earth.

Look closely at what Paul says in the above verse. He starts with the group of all believers, those with faith in Christ. Then he moves on to a smaller group. He talks about those who were baptized into Christ. This group, according to Paul as inspired by the Holy Spirit, has clothed themselves with Christ.

We already know from previous verses that this doesn’t happen by accident. So we have to ask ourselves; what’s this baptism that Paul is referring to in this passage? The Bible talks about many baptisms. We can’t just assume that we know which is meant in this verse.

All of the people who I’ve heard preaching on this verse say that it refers to water baptism. Now that the Holy Spirit has had me study it deeper, I no longer see it that way. Whenever water baptism is mentioned, it says that the believer is baptized into the name of Christ. That’s a baptism into the family.

A baptism into Christ, Himself is a different thing. This baptism literally clothes you with Christ. The original Greek text of this verse reads, “For all of you who were immersed in Christ have sunk into Christ as into a garment.

When I was young, there was an iced tea commercial on TV. A man came home from a long tiring day at work. His wife hands him a nice tall glass of iced tea. As he tips his head back to drink it, the camera pulls away for a wider shot. As he continues to drink, he falls straight backward into a swimming pool.

That’s the kind of thing that Paul is talking about here. We must let everything else go and fall backward (by faith) into Christ. We need to be immersed in Christ. This is what the modern church needs to attain to.

Question: How would the church look if we were truly immersed in Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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The New Man

 

MirrorI’ve been posting about the teachings that Paul referred to in his letter to the Ephesian church.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:22-24

I’ve talked about the putting off of the old self and the renewal of the mind. The final piece that these early believers were taught was how to put on the new man that was created to be like God.

This process can take place slowly or quickly, depending upon our obedience and understanding. In looking at the modern church, it seems like this is the step that we know the least about. We definitely have very little experience with it.

But, before I get into the “how” of putting on the new man, I need to warn you. What I found in Scripture, as I studied it, totally changed my perception of how God works in us. As I got deeper and deeper into the Word, I found that my definition of the words I was reading was inadequate and, in some cases, inaccurate.

As we go along, I will have to redefine some words that the church has watered down over time. It wasn’t done maliciously, but it’s had a negative effect on us none the less. Please keep an open mind as you prayerfully take in what the Word of God teaches us.

Keep in mind that this is what the early believers were taught, at least under Paul’s ministry. Through prayer in the spirit, they overcame and put off the old man. They won the war against the flesh and its misdeeds.

Also through prayer in the spirit they were able to grasp and retain the mind of the Lord. It caused their minds to be renewed in the process. They no longer thought the way they used to.

Now there’s a need to put on the new man. The old is gone, but we must replace it with something better. God wants to give a new nature that’s been manufactured, fabricated, to be like God.

What’s the sign of this transformation? According to the Scripture, it’s true righteousness and holiness in the lives of those who accept it. I’m not talking about positional righteousness and holiness. As important as these are, they don’t always manifest in the lives of believers. They must be laid hold of by faith.

I’m talking about the actual, physical walk of righteousness. It’s living out the holiness that God has for us. When this happens, the world sees something different in us.

Unfortunately, based upon this definition of the new man, much of modern Christianity has missed it. What we have is a church that can’t get out of its own way. God’s people are too busy chasing after the world and its pleasures. All the while we’re confessing Scripture and believing for the blessing of God. Any talk of commitment or devotion to God is seen as condemnation and we avoid it.

The simple truth is that we’ll never be like Jesus until we put on this new man. The phrase put on literally means to sink into like a robe. We must be immersed in it.

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Romans 13:12

It’s clear from this verse, and many others, that putting on the new man is a matter of our choice. It’s not automatic. Why would we be exhorted over and over again to do it if it would just happen by itself? It’s another step in our Christian growth.

For the next few posts I’m going to share what I learned as I looked deeply into the Scripture concerning this truth.

Question: How does the modern church compare to the life that Jesus Christ exemplified for us?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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Directing Your Thoughts

 

cross 2I’ve been posting about how our minds are renewed by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. This was also evident in the life of Christ.

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
Luke 24:45

The word understand in this verse literally means to put together. The Lord opened up the minds of these disciples to put together all that was happening. This included the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Christ, as well as the Scripture that foretold it. They had to walk in a supernatural understanding in order to grasp what was happening.

We need this ability of the Holy Spirit in us to put together – understand and apply – all that’s in the Scripture. If I don’t cultivate my spiritual prayer life, then where will all of this understanding come from? We can receive these blessing nowhere else but from the spirit.

Paul understood this and tried to make it clear to his readers. In the following verse, the apostle is taking an Old Testament verse and revamping it for a spiritual people.

“For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:16

What this verse actually says in the Greek is, “Who has known the mind of the Lord well enough to be knit together with Him.” But we hold, possess the mind of Christ.

What an incredible truth! In the spirit we have access to the mind of the eternal God. The big question is; will we lay claim to this gift by the spirit?

It’s clear that the Holy Spirit is needed in order to renew our minds. But this renewal is more than just accessing God’s knowledge. It’s much deeper than that.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…
Philippians 2:5

This means that the direction of our minds should be the same as Christ. This is evident in our current church experience. So many of our prayers seem to go unanswered. We think we’re praying “in the will of God.” But we don’t see anything happening.

Many times we don’t receive when we pray because we’re headed in a different direction than Christ. We want the blessings of God. We just want them for a different reason than He does.

We need to direct our mind like Christ. When the Lord walked the earth, His mind was directed by the Spirit. That’s what renewal is all about. It’s not just changing what we think about, but how we think.

This is a difficult thing to do in the natural. Actually it’s pretty close to impossible. Trying to get the mind to renew itself is a losing proposition. Instead, the best way is to activate our spirit in order to keep our mind Christ-centered.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:2

This would be quite a challenge for us to do in our own power. I know I can accomplish this temporarily. I wanted to see how long during the day I could make myself think about the things of God. I found it to be a lost cause. The littlest things would distract me and refocus my attention on the things of earth.

Prayer in the spirit, however, allows you to zero in on things above for an increasingly longer time. Your mind will begin to follow the lead of your spirit. You will begin to understand the things of the spirit like never before.

In this way your mind will start to become reset and refreshed. When this is taking place it goes a long way to changing how the outward man reacts to life. If we’re going to win the battle of the mind, then we must pray in the spirit regularly.

Question: How have you noticed your prayer life affecting your thought life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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Daily Renewal

ButterflyIn my last post I began talking about the renewing of our minds. We saw from the Ephesians 4:23 that it’s a work that’s accomplished in the spirit.

…to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
Ephesians 4:23

Even the phrase be made new is full of meaning. It’s the Greek word ana-neoo. Neoo means brand, spanking new, right out of the box. Ana is a prefix that adds an intensive repetition. This renewal is to be done over and over again.

This is the only place in the Bible that this word is used. Every other place the word renew means to freshen or renovate. In this verse we’re talking about resetting everything back to the original factory settings. This is the ultimate do-over. But it can only be done in the spirit.

That’s why I place such a high emphasis on prayer in the spirit. Without it we have no chance of overcoming the sin nature, or walking in the renewed life. I feel that renewal of the mind is the most important part of the process. Without setting our mind correctly, it will never fully cooperate with God’s plan.

This is reiterated throughout Paul’s ministry. At one point he felt the need to remind Titus, a young pastor, about these things. He reminded Titus what they were like when they first came to God. They were just like everyone else in the world. They thought and acted like everyone around them.

…he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…
Titus 3:5

The salvation process is described here in two parts. First, the washing of rebirth – the removal of the old man and the putting on of Christ. Then came the renewal by the Holy Spirit. We have to give up the idea that it’s just about reading the Bible.

As important as Scripture is to us, I know many people who aren’t even saved, who read the Bible every day. Their lives show no improvement because of this practice. The Bible will only bring change if it’s activated by the Holy Spirit.

That’s why this is not a one-shot deal. The word renewal contains the thought of repetition. We must continue in it day after day. Prayer in the spirit is not a holy “toy” that we take out of the box merely to play with on Sunday mornings. It’s a vital agent of change that needs to be cultivated day after day. We must continue to refresh and reset our minds.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 4:16

In the context of this verse, Paul is not talking about the entire church. We read this and think that every Christian is being renewed daily. That is absolutely not the case. In all of 2 Corinthians, chapter 4, Paul is talking about himself and his ministry team. Paul, who prayed in the spirit more than most believers of his day, was allowing himself to be renewed daily in the spirit.

This is why our daily time with the Lord is so important. We must take the time to read the Bible and pray in the spirit. Reading gets the written word into you. Prayer in the spirit activates that word and brings it to life within your heart.

That’s how you live in daily renewal, just like Paul. Not doing this is one of the biggest hindrances to serving Christ in His ability.

Question: How do you spend your daily with the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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