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Monthly Archives: January 2018

Are You in the Family?

At one point in the Lord’s ministry, His family thought that He was pushing Himself too far.  They decided to have an intervention.

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.  When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
Mark 3:20-21

They obviously had no understanding of the Holy Spirit’s leading.  Sometimes there are assignments that go beyond your normal abilities.  It’s during those times that you receive supernatural strength for the moment.

Look at the Lord’s response.

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived.  Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.  A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 3:31-35

There is a truth here that not a lot of people want to hear.  We’d like to assume that as long as you prayed the sinner’s prayer, all believers are equal.  But that’s not what the Bible teaches.  We achieve certain levels based on the criteria laid out in Scripture.

One of those titles is sons and daughters of God.  We want to believe that this applies to everyone.  It doesn’t.  Jesus makes it clear that whoever does God’s will is family.

This implies something.  It means, first of all, that you seek God’s will for your life.  Then, you spend the time it takes in God’s presence to hear and know the Lord’s will.  Finally, you walk in obedience to what you’ve heard.

Maybe you think that I’m just taking this verse out of context.  On the contrary, this truth is taught throughout the Scripture.  Paul understood this very thing.

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
Romans 8:13-14

You have to be pursuing this in the spirit.  It’s not a work you can do by simply deciding that it’s true.  It requires us to remain in Christ.  In that way we allow the Holy Spirit to complete His work in us.

Our problem is that we don’t want to remain.  We want the freedom to live for Christ some of the time, and for ourselves at others.  We want to go in and out as we please.

Jesus talked about this in another place.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.
John 8:34-35

The original language of this verse reads, the servant does not remain in the house forever.  You can’t serve two masters.  When you try to serve both yourself and the Lord, you end up going in and out of the house.  You miss out on God’s best – the blessings of sonship.

Make it your goal to seek, hear, and obey God’s will for your life.

Question: What’s the next step in God’s plan for you right now?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on January 15, 2018 in Prayer, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Denying the Holy Spirit

In my last post, we saw that Jesus’ family was concerned that He was overworking Himself, while the Pharisees were accusing Him of being demon-possessed.  Being led by the Holy Spirit doesn’t always follow the logical path.  How did the Lord respond?

So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.  And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.”
Mark 3:23-26

The first thing that Jesus does is to point out how utterly illogical the Pharisee’s accusation is.  What possible reason would Satan have to drive out his own kingdom?

This is especially true since it was Jesus who would be getting the credit for it.  Their argument made no sense; it just exposed how jealous they were of Christ’s ministry.

The Lord goes on to explain exactly what He was doing through these miracles.

In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.
Mark 3:27

The fact is that Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work.  Israel had been downtrodden, conquered, and oppressed for so many years that most of the Jews had lost hope.  Through His miracles, the Lord was showing them that God still loved them.

Christ was single-handedly pushing back the darkness of the enemy.  He was taking back what rightfully belonged to the kingdom of God.  He was proof that the enemy can never stop the Spirit of God.

But the next statement the Lord makes has caused quite a bit of confusion.

“I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.  But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”
He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.”
Mark 3:28-30

One problem is that we lose sight of His first statement.  It is clearly spoken.  All the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven.  By the way, the word blasphemy simply means a hurtful statement made against someone.

According to Jesus, there’s nothing that can’t be forgiven.  However, His second statement reveals some very dangerous ground.  The literal Greek reads that the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit does not hold forgiveness, but is ensnared in perpetual sin.

The first thing I see is that to speak hurtfully against the Holy Spirit, you must already know that it’s the Holy Spirit you’re speaking against.  The Pharisees were not just making a mistake about what was happening.

They knew that the Spirit of God was at work.  They knew that it was the Holy Spirit who was setting free those who were being oppressed by the devil.  They were trying to exalt themselves by discrediting Jesus by means of theology.

Jesus is telling them that the trap of this behavior is that you’re denying the only One through whom you can receive forgiveness.  It’s not that they couldn’t be forgiven, as much as it was that they didn’t want forgiveness.

By denying the Holy Spirit’s work, they’re speaking against the very One who could save them.  That’s a condition that can entrap you into an everlasting sin.

Question: How grateful are you for the Lord’s forgiveness?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2018 in Legalism, Ministry, Power of God, The Gospel

 

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Against the Current

As we continue to look at the Gospel of Mark, we see that Jesus’ ministry is increasing.  More and more crowds are being attracted to Him.  The healing and deliverance of the Lord are flowing in abundance.  You would think that everyone would be happy about it.

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.  When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
Mark 3:20-22

I can’t imagine what this was like.  Jesus is invited to someone’s house.  Immediately a crowd shows up.  They were people hungry to hear a Word from God.  There were sick and demonically oppressed people as well.

The Lord and His disciples began ministering to those who came.  As they lost track of time, those who were watching started to get concerned.

The first response came from those who were closest to Jesus.  His family didn’t understand the calling of God.  They felt the need to have an intervention.  Obviously, Jesus was out of his mind.  The notoriety that He was experiencing was too much for Him to handle.

It never even occurred to them that Jesus was operating according to the Father’s plan.  He spent a large amount of time in God’s presence, hearing what He was to do.  Then, Jesus would step out and accomplish the will of the Father.

Scripture is clear that those who don’t listen to the instruction of the Holy Spirit have no understanding of those who do.

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

The same was true with the teachers of the law.  Of course, they had different motivations.  They were teachers.  They saw Jesus as a rival.  After all, if the crowds are listening to Him, then they weren’t listening to the Pharisees.

Jealousy can blind you to the truth.  Instead of judging Christ based on His teaching and spiritual power, they looked at their own loss of esteem.  They decided that only way to feel good about themselves was to discredit Jesus.

These types of attitudes are always around when you’re trying to walk by the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit usually leads you against the current of “normal” opinion.  People tend to attack whatever they don’t understand.

We see this in the body of Christ right now.  There are well-known ministries that are bringing huge numbers of people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Yet in spite of this, they’re treated as if they’re false teachers or even demons in disguise.

Jealousy in the ministry is not very becoming.  I’ve learned that even if I have questions about how a ministry operates, I keep it to myself and praise God for those being won into the kingdom of God.

In my next post, we’ll see Jesus’ response to those who were putting down His ministry.

Question: How have you been questioned about something the Lord instructed you to do?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2018 in Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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Routines – Behind the Scenes

Have you ever been discouraged by the routines of life?  Every day seems to be the same.  Go to work, come home, eat, sleep, etc.  Some people find it hard to keep going when nothing new seems to be happening.

As believers, we need to realize how God works.  Many times He moves behind the scenes in unexpected ways.  Look at the life of Christ for an example.

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.  He appointed twelve — designating them apostles — that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.  These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Mark 3:13-19

There were many times that Jesus needed to be alone.  He had to make the allowance to spend quality time with the Father.  Throughout His ministry, we see how the Lord would find a quiet place to pray.

That’s how Jesus was able to do all that He did.  He said that He saw it first in the Father’s presence.  Then He went out and did what He knew that the Father was already accomplishing.

Choosing His twelve disciples was no different.  When it came time to call the Twelve to a higher walk with Him, Jesus went up on a mountainside.  He had to get away from the city with all of its distractions.

He did this in order to distance Himself from the crowds.  His desire was that there be no politics or favoritism, only the Father’s will.

I’m sure, to the casual observer and maybe even to the disciples, it looked like any other ordinary day.  Jesus went up on the side of a mountain to pray.  They were used to seeing this in His ministry.  Little did they know that this prayer time was going to be life-changing.

All they could see was that they were walking with the Lord – day after day and week after week.  I’m sure that even the ministry of Jesus got into a daily rhythm.  The crowds, the miracles, teaching, eating and sleeping.  To the disciples, this might have started out being a day just like any other.

Then the disciples received the call to climb the mountain that day.  They probably didn’t even realize that with each step they were heading to new heights in the Lord.  They were now rising above their old lives.  This calling was bringing them to a new level.

Don’t ever get stuck in the hopelessness of the daily grind.  The Lord has greater plans for you than simply spinning your wheels.  Whether you know it or not, the Holy Spirit is at work in the background; preparing you for what’s to come.

In our walk with Christ, we should be open and ready to climb each new mountain of faith.  We must be found waiting on the Lord to hear a higher call to a new level in Him.  Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly when or where it will arrive.  It usually happens when we least expect it.

That’s why we should never fall into the trap of complacency.  God is always at work to do something new in us.  Keep the fire of your spirit burning and ready for each new calling.

Always start each new day in the Lord’s presence.  Approach His throne with eagerness and expectancy.  In that way, you will be ready to walk up that mountain to see a new work of grace performed in your life when the time is right.

Open your heart to the Lord today.  Come before Him with an earnest desire to hear His Word to you.   After all, today might be the day that you see His hand at work in a new way.

Question: What were the events surrounding the last great work the Lord did in your life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2018 in Encouragement, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Holy Spirit Marketing

Church growth is a popular seller these days.  There are experts who can tell you what your church needs to do to make it to the next level.  Is this how God intended to grow His kingdom?

As we continue looking at the Gospel of Mark, we’ll see how Jesus grew the ministry.  It’s something that we need to take to heart.

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed.  When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.  Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him.  For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.  Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”  But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was.
Mark 3:7-12

What was the Lord’s plan?  It seems counter-intuitive to how things are done in our generation.  He withdrew to a place that was a distance from the city.  Yet in spite of that, the crowds came to where He was.

There are two things that I see happening in this passage that are directly applicable to the church of our generation.  They deal with the attitudes in the whole church growth movement.

You may think that I’m preaching against church growth consultants – I’m not.  There is a place for them.  Churches need to know the trends that are taking place in our society.

If my church isn’t speaking the same social language as the society around me, then they’ll never hear or understand the message of Christ.  Jesus told His disciples to have a boat ready so that the people wouldn’t crowd Him.  He knew that in order for the message to be communicated, there had to be order.

So a consultant’s job is to coach a church in how to effectively speak to the society around them.  What needs to be in place for the message of Christ to be clearly understood by the community?

The problem is when a church uses a consultant to show them how to attract people.  When we think that our look, sound, or childcare services will bring people in; now we’ve missed the whole point.  They didn’t come to Jesus because He had the boat ready, or that He used a great ad campaign.

This passage clearly tells us that people came from all over because they heard what the Lord was doing.  The sick were being healed.  Those oppressed by the enemy were being delivered.  The Good News was being preached.

Unfortunately, it’s a harder road to see a manifestation of the Spirit.  Healings, signs, wonders, and miracles only come from time spent in the Spirit.  It’s easier to build a new nursery than to spend a month in prayer and fasting.

Jesus pressed in to hear the Father’s voice.  He then obeyed what He heard.  The results were a supernatural ministry with a Holy Spirit marketing campaign.

Yes, He had to train His disciples in crowd control.  He had to make sure the boat was ready so He could preach unhindered.  But it was the power of the Holy Spirit that drew the crowds.

Our generation needs more churches that do both.  We need a polished look that speaks to our society.  But we also need to do what it takes to walk in the manifestation of the power of God.

Question: How have you seen church growth through the power of God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2018 in Ministry, Power of God, Revival, The Church

 

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Religion on the Attack

In my last post, we looked at how Jesus confronted the attack of religion against His ministry.  Today we’ll see another aspect of that battle.

Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there.  Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.
Mark 3:1-2

I always read this account with amazement.  I can’t fathom the thinking process of the Pharisees.

I understand that they were starting to be annoyed by Jesus’ ministry.  I even understand how they were looking for a way to discredit Him.  But to use healing as the vehicle, doesn’t make sense to me.

In my last post, I talked about the traditions that the Pharisees had to bring more detail to the definition of work.  They had a lot of man-made rules concerning healing.  It’s the work of a doctor to heal so no work of healing could be performed on the Sabbath.

For instance, it was illegal to drink wine on the Sabbath, if you had a toothache.  That’s because if the alcohol in the wine deadened the pain in your tooth, it would be considered healing.

That’s all well and good for a doctor.  But there’s a huge flaw in their argument when they apply it to the Messiah.

Jesus didn’t work to bring about a cure in the natural sense.  He was able to flow in the power of the Holy Spirit.  In Jesus’ ministry, it was God who healed the sick.

Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”  But they remained silent.
He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.  Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
Mark 3:3-6

It’s obvious from the above details that the healing was supernatural.  Jesus did absolutely no work to accomplish it.

That tells me that religion is blind to everything but its own ends.  It claims that it’s trying to serve God.  The actual truth is that religion is bent on proving its own superiority over anyone else.

They claim that by keeping the Sabbath pure from work, they’re following God’s will.  God, on the other hand, healed this man; proving that He had no problem with healing on the Sabbath.  Religion actually has the audacity to say that they’re more holy than God!

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking even creeps into the church.  Paul describes it this way…

…having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.
2 Timothy 3:5

Religion couldn’t care less about the power of God in operation.  It’s the form that’s more important.  How you look and what others think about you.  Powerlessness is okay, as long as people think that we have a more superior walk of “righteousness”.

Unfortunately, it’s merely a form of self-righteousness.  It doesn’t impress God, and it doesn’t help those around us.

Our goal should be a spiritual walk.  Spending time in the spirit, listening for the voice of the Father, then, obeying what we hear.  That’s the example that Jesus leaves us with.

Question: Why do so many choose form over power?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2018 in Healing, Legalism, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Religion – Keeping Up Appearances

I’ve come to the conclusion that God hates religion.  What do I mean by that?  To most people, when they think about the word religion, they mean a set of rules by which you live your spiritual life.

Christianity was never meant to be a religion.  God wants a personal relationship with His people through Jesus Christ.  We see a great example of this in the life of Christ as recorded by Mark.

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain.  The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
Mark 2:23-24

In order to understand what’s happening in this verse, I first have to explain some Old Testament facts.  The Law of Moses provided for the needs of travelers as they were going from place to place.  It allowed them to pick grain from any nearby field and eat it as they walked along.

So Jesus and the disciples weren’t stealing anybody’s grain.  God’s Word made it clear that the edges of a field were for the travelers, widows, and orphans.  It was a part of God’s provision for those in need.

Then why did the Pharisees have such a problem with what they were doing?  It all revolved around their religious interpretation of the Law.  According to the Ten Commandments, no work was to be done on the Sabbath Day.  It was to be a day of rest and worship.

Here’s where religion becomes an evil tyrant.  The Law of Moses said to not work on the Sabbath, but it never defined what exactly constituted work.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law took it upon themselves to help God out.  Since the Lord obviously forgot to explain it, they went ahead and detailed out what exactly was forbidden on the Sabbath.

The Pharisees had lists of “illegal activities” for the Sabbath.  For instance: you could pick up a chair and move it across the room.  But you couldn’t drag it because that would make a line in the dirt (furrowing) which was work.

The fact that the disciples were picking grain – harvesting – was not allowed on the Sabbath.  That wasn’t God’s law, but man’s religious interpretation of it.

It’s interesting that the word they use, unlawful, is a word that means not right.  However, this word implies that what they were doing was not right by appearance.  It didn’t look right.  With religion, it’s all about appearance.  It’s how you look on the outside.

Jesus had an answer for them.

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need?  In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat.  And he also gave some to his companions.”
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:25-28

The Lord uses the example of David.  The Law said that the bread in the Holy Place belonged to the priest.  He could do what he wanted with it.  It just didn’t look right for David and his men to eat it.  But the priest was ministering to someone in need.

The underlying principle is that the Sabbath was created for us to enjoy.  It was to give us a time of rest and refreshment in the presence of God.  It wasn’t made so that we could have one more religious rule.

Our God is a God of relationship.  A good relationship can never be based on a list of do’s and don’ts.  Religion is a form of slavery.  A relationship with Jesus Christ brings freedom and abundant life.

Question: How have you experienced the tyranny of religion?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2018 in Encouragement, Legalism, The Gospel

 

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