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Monthly Archives: December 2017

Fasting and Preparation

In my last post, I talked about Jesus’ view of fasting.  There was a change from the Old to the New Testament fast.  The Lord explained it in parable form.

Last time, we looked at the parable of the patches.  Christ also gave another parable concerning the difference between the Old and New Covenant fast.

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins.  If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined.  No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”
Mark 2:22

The Old Covenant is the old wineskins that the Lord is referring to.  It’s empty, used up, dry, and unyielding.  It has nothing on the inside to give life.

New wine is unfermented grape juice.  During the fermentation process, it produces gasses that pressurize the skins.  A dry and unyielding wineskin will burst under the pressure of this reaction.  You can’t live for God like that.

A new wineskin; unstretched, oiled, soft, and pliable, is ready to receive the new wine.  We get that new wine of the Holy Spirit in us when we’re saved.

As we spend time in the Lord’s presence, it starts to ferment; it creates a pressure on the inside, and we start to grow.  That’s the second part of this process.

Fasting increases the inner man.  There’s a spiritual pressure that builds up.  Because you’re quieting your flesh, you begin hearing from God.  Then, as you spend time with the Holy Spirit, something is being poured into you.

The pressure is building.  Now you have something to give that will cause God’s grace to flow through you.  Now you can pour out into someone else.

When you walk in your calling, the pressure released – for a little while.  Now you have something on the inside that stretches the outside.  I don’t know what God wants to do in the months and years ahead, but I want to be prepared to hear His voice.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Matthew 4:1-2

We find that just before Jesus started His public ministry He went through a time of tempting and testing.  What did He do to prepare for it?  He fasted.

Do you think you’ll be tested in the coming year?  What are you going to do?  How will you enter the test?  Prepared or unprepared?  How will you answer the enemy?

The fact is, fasting prepares us for the battle.  We don’t know what’s coming.  But I know this; the enemy is good at predicting it based upon what he sees lining up in the spirit world.

We don’t see it.  We have to rely on what we hear from God.  Are we going to have a Word from God for our generation?  That’s what’s needed.  I want to be prepared to face whatever lies ahead.  The blessings, the callings, the tests – everything.  So I’ll fast in order to hear from God more clearly.  I hope you will too.

Question: What are the things that God’s preparing you for in 2018?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on December 29, 2017 in Fasting, Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Disciples and Fasting

As we continue to look at the ministry of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, one thing we have to realize is that the Lord lived under the Old Covenant.  So there were times He had to make it clear that something new was coming.

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting.  Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
Mark 2:18

That was an interesting question for the Lord.  It’s clear from Scripture that Jesus fasted.  In Jesus’ ministry, He taught what to do “when you fast.”  Jesus assumed that fasting would be a normal part of our lives.  Why didn’t He make His disciples practice this discipline?

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?  They cannot, so long as they have him with them.  But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.”
Mark 2:19-20

The Lord was basically telling them that fasting would change from Old Testament to New Testament.  He wanted them to start the New Covenant fast after the resurrection.

Under the Old Covenant, fasting was a way to humble yourself in repentance.  Now, in Christ, we fast in order to put down the flesh so that we can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit more clearly.  For a more detailed teaching on this subject…click here.

At this point, Jesus gives a description of the differences in parable form.  Those listening to His explanation probably didn’t understand what the Lord was talking about, but looking back, we can.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment.  If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.”
Mark 2:21

The first thing He talks about is the outside – a garment.  In the ancient world, the way to repair your clothing was to take an old piece of cloth and use it to patch an old garment.

Under the Old Covenant, fasting was only a patch.  It was all about doing something to get God to listen to me.  I needed to patch things up.  So I humbled myself by fasting, wearing sackcloth, and covering my head with ashes.  I had to show how sorrowful I was for my sin.

There were times that people fasted just for show.  They wanted to look “holy”.  That’s when God would say things like, “Will I listen to you if you fast like that?”

According to Jesus, we don’t fast like the Pharisees or other Old Testament people.  Much of what they did was to impress people with their outward displays of religion.

If I try to patch things up with God under the New Covenant, I only make things worse.  It’s all about me being able to hear God’s voice clearly.

How, then, do I get God to hear me?  The truth is that I don’t.  In Christ, we have 24/7 access to the throne room of God.  There’s no condemnation; we can enter boldly into His presence.

Now, under grace, we’re a new garment and don’t need a patch.  But a new garment (back then) would always shrink with use.  Fasting under the New Covenant shrinks the outer garment.

That’s what we look for – the flesh to decrease.  As I fast, the voice of my flesh gets quieter.  So fasting forcefully puts down the flesh.

This is because under the New Covenant it’s about me hearing from God.  God hears me in Christ.  But I need to hear Him with my spirit when He speaks.

I don’t think it’s as much God not speaking, as me not listening.  Fasting helps drown out the noise of my flesh.  That’s why I believe that fasting should be a regular part of a Christian’s life.

Questions:  Do you fast?  How often?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2017 in Fasting, Spiritual Walk

 

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Christmas Promise

Today is Christmas, so I decided to post some thoughts about the day.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:18

The verse tells us that this is how, or literally, this is the manner in which it happened.  There’s a pattern that the Lord uses in bringing about His will.  It’s important that we see it.

First, there was an unexpected pregnancy.  This is interesting.  The pregnancy wasn’t expected.  Yet the Messiah was foretold hundreds of years before.

Just like today. God promises things, and then we forget it…or write it off.  Israel was captured and conquered many times.  Would the fulfillment ever take place?

And yet, in the fullness of time…Mary was found to be with child.

There is a supernatural announcement.  Angels appeared to both Mary and Joseph on separate occasions.

God usually doesn’t do things in the dark.  He always announces His plans.  That’s why we need to be a people who not only pray – but listen.

When the birth was imminent, it was announced to shepherds and wise men.

Then it came to pass.  What God promises, will happen.  Even though we don’t always know the how or why.

Finally, when Christ was born, there was a reception of joy.  “Joy to the world…”  He who is born must be received and with that receiving comes great joy.

God wants to do the same in us right now.

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…
Galatians 4:19

God’s work in us is a birthing process.  There’s a promise.  But then – an unexpected pregnancy.

I wonder sometimes; with all the prophecies about the Messiah in the Old Testament, did they think He would just appear out of thin air?

There are many great and precious promises God has for us.  We think the same thing sometimes…that they’ll just happen.  No, there’s a process.

It involves birth pangs.  There’s breathing, pushing, work, and sweat.  They come in waves, right up until the time they’re birthed in or through us.

When you think about Christ being born in a manger…think about the same process for His will being born in us.  Wait patiently for the fullness of time – then the rejoicing.

Have a very blessed Christmas as you celebrate what Christ has done!

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2017 in Encouragement, The Gospel

 

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Attitudes of Pharisees

In my last post, we saw that Jesus proved, in a very powerful way, that He could remove sin in all of its forms.  As we continue in the Gospel of Mark, this ministry of Christ becomes clearer.

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake.  A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them.  As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth.  “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
Mark 2:13-14

In this passage, we see the Lord calling a new disciple – Levi.  I believe that this was his given name.  Later on, he’s called Matthew.  That’s probably the name Jesus gave to him.  It means the gift of God.

Remember, Jesus did this with a few of His disciples.  The Lord called Simon, Peter.  James and John became the sons of thunder.

But there’s an interesting point to this.  Both the name Levi and Matthew were strongly Levitical names.  That probably means that Levi was from the tribe of Levi.  He should have been training for the priesthood.  Instead, he was collecting taxes for the Roman conquerors.

Jesus had been teaching in the area.  Undoubtedly, Levi listened to Him and it spoke to his heart.  There’s no other reason why he would leave his lucrative position immediately when the Lord called.

Levi threw a dinner party to introduce Jesus to his friends and co-workers.  The Pharisees who were watching weren’t too happy about it.

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.  When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
Mark 2:15-16

You have to understand the thinking of that day.  Levi was seen as a Jew, taking money from his own people, and giving it to Caesar.  They viewed him much the same way as we would view a drug dealer today.

Not only that, but he has the same type of friends that a drug dealer would have.  Prostitutes, loan sharks, and the like.  All the people that the upstanding Pharisees would look down on as the dregs of their society.

Why would Jesus, a prophet who obviously operated in the power of God, ever associate with such rabble?

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:17

Jesus has just proven Himself to be a remover of sin.  If your ministry is to remove sin, then your place is in the middle of great sin.  Jesus knew that He was sent to save these people.  The Pharisees may have written them off, but Jesus saw them as loved by God.

I always find it offensive when I hear a Christian remark that someone deserves hell.

“When they die, they’re gonna get what they have coming.”

That must break the Lord’s heart.  He died for everyone.  Not just the people we like.

We need to watch our attitudes about those without Christ.  The fact is that we all deserve hell – but I don’t want anyone to go there.

Even the most perverted, murderous, evil person on earth should be given the chance to hear about the life-changing work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  We should be representing Christ and His attitudes in our generation.

Question: Why is it so easy to pick up the same attitudes as the Pharisees?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2017 in Legalism, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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Sickness and the Sin Package

As we continue to look at the life and ministry of Jesus through the Gospel of Mark, we get a lot of insight into divine healing.  In today’s post, we’ll see specifically where sickness comes from.  To get the whole story, you may want to first read Mark 2:1-12.

There are those who mistakenly believe that sickness was a part of the curse when Adam and Eve fell.  But a careful reading of that section of Genesis will show that no mention of sickness was ever a part of the curse.

By studying the Scripture, it’s clear that sin is a package deal.  It has a lot of parts to it.  It’s the grouping of everything that misses the mark of the glory God created us for.

Sickness misses the mark of the perfect health God created Adam to enjoy.  So sin is a part of the total sin package.  For a more detailed teaching on this, click here.

But I believe that the greatest testimony is from Jesus Christ Himself.

We’ll now look at Mark’s account of the paralyzed man who was lowered down to Jesus through the roof.  There was no room for his friends to take him through the front door, so they got creative and cut a hole in the roof.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that?  He’s blaspheming!  Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?  Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .”  He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.  This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Mark 2:5-12

In looking at this event in the life of Jesus, it’s important to note that the Greek word that we translate as forgive literally means to remove.  Therefore, according to Jesus’ own testimony, in order to prove that He could remove sin – He removed sickness.

Jesus would not have made such an amazing statement unless it was true.

This is one of the most important concepts we need to hear.  When a person is healed, a manifestation of the sin nature is removed from their life.  I think that it’s beyond question the God hates sin.  If that’s true, then God views sickness the same way.

In God’s mind, sickness is a blight on His perfect creation.  It’s like the first scratch on a brand new car.  It’s utterly offensive to Him.  He hates sickness and disease more than we do.  Remember – it’s not the sick person that God hates, but rather the sickness that has taken hold of him or her.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

This verse tells us how Christ was going to pay for each specific form of sin that manifests itself in our lives.  Transgressions occur when I knowingly break God’s law.  Iniquities are sinful tendencies that are passed down parent to child through the generations.  Bringing peace speaks to the sins that we commit against one another.

This brings us to healing.  This verse shows that sickness is just one more manifestation of the sin nature that needs to be removed.  Christ suffered and died – then rose again – to totally break the effects of sin in all of its forms.

Question: How does healing the sick bring glory to God?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2017 in Healing, Ministry, Power of God

 

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Don’t Tell Anyone?

In my last post, I talked about how Jesus would go off to pray in solitary places.  Then He would hear from the Holy Spirit as to what his assignment was for the near future.

We also saw that as a result of this time in prayer, a leper was miraculously healed from his condition.  The Lord gave him some interesting instructions when the leper was healed.

Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning:  “See that you don’t tell this to anyone.  But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”
Mark 1:43-44

This aspect of Christ’s ministry always fascinates me.  Why didn’t He want those who were healed to go out and spread the news to everyone they met?  I think that there are some important truths that we need to understand about this.

I’ve always felt uncomfortable around believers who think it’s their mission to evangelize everyone who comes within earshot of them.  They try and force others to do the same.  They teach that all Christians should tell everyone they meet about Jesus.

You would think that the Lord would want everyone to know that this man was healed.  After all, leprosy was one of those diseases that Israel believed you only got if you lived a particularly sinful life.

To be healed of leprosy meant that you had repented and were forgiven of the sins that had caused it.  At least that’s what the normal Israelite of that day believed.  This would prove that the Messiah was sent to forgive sin.

You would think that everyone should hear this news.  Wouldn’t that bring the crowds to Jesus?  Isn’t that what’s needed to grow a ministry?  Apparently not according to how Christ thought about it.

The fact is, that we all have a certain group of people that we are called to reach.  Those who will listen to your testimony won’t necessarily listen to mine.  We all have a different field to work in.

This man originally had to go to the priests for his diagnosis.  The priests were the ones who pronounced him a leper in the first place.  They recorded his name and condition for future reference.

Now, when he shows up at the Temple a healed man, he’d have to explain the healing to them.  In the priests’ minds, to be healed of leprosy was to be forgiven of sin.  They, of all people, would understand the importance of this man’s testimony.

This is how people should be won to the Lord.  Each of us must go to those we’re called to reach.  That’s the best way to grow the Kingdom of God.

The outcome was the same for the Lord.

Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news.  As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places.  Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
Mark 1:45

For obvious reasons, the former leper didn’t follow Jesus’ instructions to the letter.  On his way to the priests, he told everyone about his healing.

Jesus didn’t need a huge advertising budget.  He didn’t need social media or a cable TV program.  He did what He was called to do and the ministry increased.

We need to learn this lesson.  I can’t do what you’re called to do.  Neither can I strong arm you into ministering the way that I do.  We’re called to be ourselves and live for Christ in our own circles.

Question: Who do you find it easiest to share the Gospel with?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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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 Ministry, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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