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Monthly Archives: March 2018

Understanding – The Key to Unlocking Faith

In my last post, the Pharisees angered Jesus by asking Him for a sign.  They wanted the Lord to prove Himself as if what He had been doing so far was not enough.  He decided to leave the area, so He got into a boat with His disciples.

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat.  “Be careful,” Jesus warned them.  “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”
They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”
Mark 8:14-16

The Pharisees wanted to be in control.  Herod wanted to see a miracle to be entertained.  Neither wanted to follow Christ as the Messiah.  Jesus was warning His disciples not to pick up these attitudes.

It’s clear that the disciples didn’t know what the Lord was talking about.  They discussed it.  In the course of their debate, it was decided that He was upset that they only had one loaf of bread between them.

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread?  Do you still not see or understand?  Are your hearts hardened?  Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?  And don’t you remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
“Twelve,” they replied.
“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
They answered, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
Mark 8:17-21

The word used to describe their discussion is dialogue.  Even today we like having dialogues about what it means to be a Christian.  It’s time to stop dialoguing and get back to what the Bible teaches.

Usually, a dialogue will lead us to the lowest common denominator.  More often than not, it’s a compromise with the flesh.  Some of the disciples were probably hungry, so they focused on not having enough bread for their satisfaction.

Jesus clearly rebukes them for discussing His words.  Instead, He tells them three things that they needed.  The important words are: See, remember, and understand.

The word, see, means to ponder or to think about.  Had they really thought about what Jesus said, they would have realized that the Pharisees and Herod had nothing to do with how much bread was in the boat.

The next thing is remembering.  They needed to remember what Christ had already done right in front of their eyes.  One loaf of bread was more than enough to feed them all.  There’s no lack when you’re walking with Jesus.

But the key is understanding.  That word literally means to put together.  You need to see what the Lord is saying right now and put that together with what you remember that He’s already accomplished in your life.  When we do this, we’re opening the door of faith.

Anybody can say, “Yes, I’m trusting Jesus.”  I’m sure the disciples would have said the same thing sitting in the boat talking about not having enough bread.

We need to take what we know from Scripture and apply it to our lives.  Then, remember what God has already done in and through us.  Now, putting it all together, we can move forward with the assurance that Christ has already supplied all we need for life and godliness.

Question: What are some things that Christ has already completed in you?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on March 30, 2018 in Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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There’s No Convincing a Hard Heart

As we continue our study of the Gospel of Mark, we come to a point where Jesus is met by some Pharisees.  They start to discuss theology with Him.  But they have an ulterior purpose.

The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus.  To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.
Mark 8:11-12

The Pharisees were the spiritual authorities in Israel.  They were the ones who the people looked up to for guidance and counsel.

In the natural, you could say that there was a lot riding on this meeting.  If the Pharisees accepted Jesus as their Messiah, then the people would follow.  If they rejected Him, it would be harder for the people to be convinced.

On the surface, it seemed pretty innocent.  A group of spiritual leaders looking for more information upon which to base their decision.  That’s not what’s happening here.

We’re dealing with a group of self-righteous leaders, who don’t want to lose their power base.  The appearance of the Messiah would make them step down a rung on the ladder of authority.  It was in their best interest to find a reason to reject Christ.

Of course, that’s always the reasoning of the self-righteous.  They put up a smoke-screen of seeming to want to accept you.

“Show us a sign from Heaven, so that we can follow you.”

This isn’t how self-righteousness works.  In my experience, self-righteous people are looking for signs that you’re not truly a believer.

“You can’t possibly be a strong Christian.  I saw you dance and drink the champagne toast at the wedding.”

These Pharisees had already concluded that Jesus wasn’t on their level.  After all, He heals on the Sabbath.  He doesn’t even make His disciples perform the religious rituals, like fasting and hour-long ceremonial hand washings.

How do you convince someone whose mind is already made up?  It requires supernatural wisdom.

He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign?  I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.”  Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
Mark 8:12-13

This is the key to walking in the wisdom of God.  The original Greek version of this verse specifically says that the Lord groaned deeply in His spirit.  Most people don’t realize that Jesus had a rich prayer life in the spirit.  For a more detailed look at this, click here.

This is why we need to cultivate our spiritual prayer language.  It’s how we tap into the mind of Christ.  It’s the channel for the wisdom of God to flow through us.

We think that we always need to defend ourselves.  We get into arguments trying to convince people that we’re right.  The truth is, even though we’re right, God’s wisdom might be to simply not answer them and walk away.

That’s what the Holy Spirit led Jesus to do in this instance.  The Pharisees had already made up their minds about Him.  Nothing He did would change them.

This is a reason we need to pray regularly in the spirit.  We must be prepared to face the challenges ahead.  It doesn’t matter if it’s people who are challenging us or the enemy’s kingdom.  It’s the wisdom of God that will ultimately bring the victory.

Question: When have you received supernatural wisdom as a result of your prayers?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Will We Ever Learn?

Every once in a while someone will ask me, “Why do I keep facing the same problem over and over?”  We know that the problems we face are trials or tests.  When we get the same test again and again, it’s a signal for us to take a spiritual inventory.

The disciples of Christ had a similar experience.  A remote place, no resources, and a hungry crowd of people.

During those days another large crowd gathered.  Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied.
Mark 8:1-5

History repeats itself.  This is the same scenario that we saw in Mark chapter 6, verses 35-44.  Jesus had been teaching the crowd.  It was getting late.  They were all hungry.

There is one noticeable difference.  In chapter 6, the disciples had to search the crowd to know how much bread they had.  At this time they came to Jesus already knowing the answer.

My first thought is to rebuke the disciples for not learning the lesson when Jesus fed the five thousand.  But then my next thought is, how long it takes me to learn the lessons God is trying to get across to me.  It seems like, at least in my case, I don’t learn them the first time around.

Jesus had to show them, once again, the supernatural provision of God.

He told the crowd to sit down on the ground.  When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so.  They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them.  The people ate and were satisfied.  Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  About four thousand men were present.  And having sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.
Mark 8:6-10

The trials that we face are testing us.  They come along to see if we’ve learned the lessons God is showing us.  He’s teaching us to trust Him.  When we manifest that faith, we pass the test.

James explains the procedure to us.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
James 1:2-3

That means if we face the same test over and over, then we’re not learning the lesson correctly.  It’s time to pray for wisdom to see what we’re missing.

Our goal should be to know the Lord more intimately.  The more we know Him and His desires for us, the better prepared we’ll be for the upcoming tests.  Instead of being frustrated by the repeated testing, let it drive you into the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Let our great Teacher mentor you for the challenges ahead.

Question: What was a lesson that took you a few times to get right?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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One Witness Can Change a Community

We are continuing in our study of the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus is going from place to place sharing the Good News and the power of God.

Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.  There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.
Mark 7:31-32

On the surface, this seems like something that happened wherever Jesus went.  People were always asking Him to heal their sick.  But if you’ve been following this blog, you know that this is a special case.

This is not the first time the Lord has been to the region of the Decapolis.  The first time was recorded in Mark chapter 5, verses 1-20.

It seems that the people of this region do a lot of begging.  They begged Jesus to heal this deaf man.  During their first encounter with Christ, it was a different story.

In chapter 5, the Lord and His disciples met a demon-possessed man in a graveyard.  He was taken over by a legion of demons.  Jesus cast the demons out and they entered a herd of pigs.  Immediately, the pigs ran into the lake and drowned themselves.

When the people of the area saw what happened, they begged Jesus to leave.  As He was going, the delivered man begged Jesus to take him with the disciples.  Instead, the Lord told the man to stay and tell what had happened to him.

Now, some time has passed.  On the basis of one man’s testimony, the spiritual climate of the area had changed.  Instead of asking Jesus to leave, they wanted Him to minister there.

After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears.  Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue.  He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”).  At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
Mark 7:33-35

The Lord graciously brought healing to this man.  It doesn’t talk about it in the passage, but I’m sure that the Good News of the Messiah was proclaimed throughout that whole region.

Then, as He’s leaving, the Lord gives different instructions.

Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.  But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.  People were overwhelmed with amazement.  “He has done everything well,” they said.  “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Mark 7:36-37

What a turnaround.  Instead of hostility to Christ, they are now amazed at who He is.  Now they all have the testimony that the Lord does all things well.

This all happened because one man did what the Lord called him to do.  He gave testimony to God’s work in his life.

Never get discouraged about the darkness around you.  Remember that one person’s testimony for Christ can change everything.

Heed the words that the Lord originally told this man in chapter 5.  “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

Question: How has Christ shown His love to you?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2018 in Healing, Power of God, The Gospel

 

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Healing Priority

There are those who don’t believe that Jesus paid the price for all to be healed.  That goes against everything that the Lord and His disciples taught in the New Testament.  This incident in the life of Christ is an example of how Jesus viewed it.

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.  He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.  In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet.  The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia.  She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
Mark 7:24-26

Here we see that a Gentile woman had a daughter with a demon, manifesting itself through a serious sickness.  When she heard that Jesus was in her area, she went to Him.  The woman was desperate for her daughter to be healed and she begged Jesus to do something about it.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
Mark 7:27

In Jesus’ response, the Bible literally says that it’s not proper etiquette, not right in appearance to give her the children’s bread.  Of course, God never worried about surface appearances.  Jesus had no problem eating with tax-collectors and prostitutes.

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Mark 7:28-30

Some of the other Gospel writers say that the little girl was healed from that moment.  Many people use this for an example of supernatural healing, but there’s more going on than meets the eye.  Some teachers look at this and say that the daughter was healed because the woman had great faith.  So, therefore, it takes great faith for healing.  NO!!!!  We sometimes miss the whole point.

According to Jesus, healing is the children’s bread.  In this response, we can see God’s priority.

Did you hear what the Lord said in verse 27, above?  First, fill up the children with all they want to eat.  In other words; first heal the church, then the world.  So in this statement of Christ, we see two kinds of healing.

The first is a covenant healing which is by right.  I’m not trying to be arrogant when I say this.  He calls us His children.  Parents obligate themselves to feed their children.  God decided to do it this way.  It’s all a part of a normal faith relationship.

The other healing is for those outside the covenant, by special faith.  This is because it originally takes faith to enter the covenant.  A majority of Jesus’ ministry was covenant healing.

The sick person came to the Lord, He laid hands on them, and they left healed.  There was no stirring up of their faith required – He just did it.

That’s because healing was a part of the covenant that God’s people had entered into.  A quick search of the words heal and healing will show the many places that God promises to heal His people in the Old Covenant.

At this point, we’ve entered a Better Covenant.  Through the blood of Christ, we have the fulfillment and not just the shadow.  How much more does the Lord desire to bring healing to those who are in Christ?

As I’ve said before, the church needs a greater understanding of Jesus Christ the Healer.  For a fuller explanation of divine healing, click here.

Question: How do you see the New Covenant as being better than the Old?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2018 in Faith, Healing, Power of God

 

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The Heart of the Matter

Many people worry about how others see them.  They want to make sure that they’re doing and saying the right things.  They want to be acceptable in their particular circle of friends.

In my last post, we saw that you can’t just go through the motions of worship if you want to please God.  It has to come from the inside.  The Lord explained it to the crowd that had gathered around Him.

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.  Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him.  Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.'”
Mark 7:14-15

That concept was totally foreign to the Jewish people.  They were taught that there were things that could make you unclean simply by touching them.

But that gives you a false sense of security.  If you haven’t touched any unclean things, you were okay.  Along with that, if you’ve observed all the prescribed ceremonies, then you were spiritually strong.

Jesus saw things from a different perspective.

After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable.  “Are you so dull?” he asked.  “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’?  For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.”  (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)
Mark 7:17-19

Jesus makes it clear.  It’s what we put into our hearts that determines where our life is headed.  When we eat or drink something, the usable parts are digested and distributed in the body.  The waste products are expelled.

The heart, on the other hand, is the storehouse of our being.  What we place in there may last a long time.  Then, when we least expect it, those things in our heart my spill out.

He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’  For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'”
Mark 7:20-23

We need to understand what Christ is teaching us here.  You can’t just decide not to sin anymore.  As someone who grew up in church, I can tell you from first-hand experience that this doesn’t work.  I’ve personally made this decision many times throughout my life.

That’s because sin is not birthed in your mind.  It’s an overflow of what you’ve been storing in your heart.

If you want to stop sinning, then you need to spend time in the Lord’s presence.  That’s where our hearts are purified.  It’s all about the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit in us.  Because in the same way that sin in our hearts will eventually manifest itself, righteousness will do the same thing.

Let the Spirit put God’s desires, direction, and passions on the inside of you.  Then, when your heart starts to spill over, it’s the fruit of the Spirit that people will see.

Question: How have you seen God’s Word overflow from your heart when you didn’t expect it?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2018 in Legalism, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Four Common Worship Mistakes

Every weekend thousands of Christians around the world attend church.  They think that they’re worshipping God.  Unfortunately, in many cases, they’re doing just the opposite and God isn’t pleased with them.  Learn from their mistakes and offer true worship to the Lord.

I invite you to read the Gospel of Mark, chapter 7, verses 1 through 20, which is the basis for this post. Here are the four worship mistakes commonly made by modern Christians.

Making sure the outside is cleaned up, and not the inside (Verse 14-15).  Most people get all washed and looking their best for a church service.  That’s just normal.  You want to look nice when you’re around others.

It’s far easier to hide the dirt that can accumulate on the inside.  As we live in and interact with the world, we can pick up thoughts and attitudes without ever knowing it.  Over the course of time, they can lead us off track in our Christian walk.

We need to continue in the repentance and forgiveness that only comes from time spent in the presence of Christ.  That’s where our true beauty should come from – a life that’s kept clean before God.

Saying all the right words, but not living them (Verse 6).  You may not want to hear this, but in every service, churches are attended by many liars.  How can I say that?  Think about the songs we sing.

“Lord, you are more precious than silver…Nothing I desire compares with you.”

Then, during the rest of the service, we’re thinking about what’s for dinner.  We sing passionately about how we would do anything for God or how deeply we want to know Him.  Yet, once we leave the church, we don’t think twice about it until next week.

In many cases we act like the fact that we’re singing the words, automatically makes it true.  To live a life of worship, our lives need to line up with our “Sunday personas”.

Preferring to follow a set of rules rather than cultivating a relationship with God (Verse 7-8).  Sometimes we get the idea that just because we don’t murder, cheat, steal, or do drugs, then we’re okay.  We read the Bible and pray for our needs every day because that’s what a Christian is supposed to do.

What about simply spending time in God’s presence because He’s God?  The Father wants us to get to know Him personally.  He wants to speak to our hearts and enjoy our fellowship.

Being a Christian isn’t just a choice to do good things.  It’s a living relationship with a holy God.  Worship is not a chore to complete.  We are to become worshippers.

Giving money in the offering rather than giving yourself to the Lord.  This is one of the biggest mistakes that we can make.  Thinking that we own everything except what we willingly give to God.

God is the Creator of Heaven and earth.  It’s all His.  It’s my responsibility to acknowledge that fact.  I am His.  My greatest act of worship is to willingly give myself to Him.  Only Christ is worthy to receive an offering like that.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
John 4:23

Don’t waste your life being a superficial believer.  Enter into a lifestyle of worship.  True worship is not a matter of what you do on Sundays, but who you are all week long.

Questions: What’s your definition of worship?  What worship issues have you had to deal with in your walk with God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2018 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Church, Worship

 

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