RSS

Monthly Archives: April 2018

Receiving the Blessing

Have you ever thought about what it takes to receive God’s blessing?  Many go forward in meetings wanting to be prayed over for a blessing.  Do you know that how you receive it is the most important part?

Jesus understood this and it was a part of His ministry.

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.
Mark 10:13-14a

To understand this principle we’ll look at an incident in the life of Christ.  There were some parents who wanted Jesus to bless their children by laying His hands on them.

The disciples were going to have none of that.  After all, no one wants a group of rowdy children running around the Messiah.  It’s not dignified!

When He saw what His disciples were doing, the Lord got angry.  The Greek words of this verse imply that He was bent out of shape.  Jesus loved having children around Him.

He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Mark 10:14b-15

The Lord then says some interesting things.  He tells us that there’s something that everyone needs to do like a child.  That is to receive the kingdom of God.  As a matter of fact, Jesus said that if you don’t receive it first, you can’t enter the kingdom.

That’s because, to a child, the word of an adult is absolute truth.  If you tell them that you’re going to take them for Ice cream at 6:00, then they’re waiting by the door at 5:50.  It’s their ability to accept as truth whatever is spoken to them that Christ is commending.

It’s also the basis for receiving anything in God’s kingdom.  It’s the assumption that God’s Word is total truth before we even hear it.

I think this is where we get in trouble sometimes.  We hear God’s Word.  We wonder if it sounds possible or not.  Then we try to work up the faith to believe the Word.  That’s not how it should be.

Paul understood this principle.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

When God’s power is being demonstrated in the church, I begin to see just how powerful He is.  The understanding of that power gives me the assumption that whatever God says, He can perform.  After that, walking in faith isn’t a problem.

These children were ready to receive whatever the Lord had for them.

And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
Mark 10:16

When the Scripture says that Jesus blessed them, it literally means that He spoke a blessing over each one.  I believe that the Lord spoke a personal Word of prophecy over each child.  He was looking forward to what each one was called to accomplish in his or her life.

As children, each one was able to believe the Word spoken to them and they received it in perfect faith.  That’s what we need to do if we want to see the blessing of God active in our lives and ministries.

Question: What blessings have been spoken over your life in the past?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 30, 2018 in Faith, Power of God, Prayer, Word of God

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

God’s Will vs. Permission

Jesus had to deal with some very controversial subjects sometimes.  This was one of them.  Even today, the subject of divorce and remarriage can cause arguments among believers.

It’s a very complicated issue, and I’m not going to fully deal with it in this post.  I’m merely going to explain what Jesus is saying to those who asked Him a question.  There are plenty of books and articles you can obtain if you want to get deeper into this subject.

Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan.  Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.
Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
Mark 10:1-2

Clearly, the Pharisees were trying to cause trouble for Jesus.  The question they asked was; is it right for a man to divorce his wife?  So Jesus is about to answer a question in terms of right and wrong.

As He frequently did with people who should know better, the Lord answered their question with another question.

“What did Moses command you?” he replied.
They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
Mark 10:3-4

These two statements really explain everything that characterized the Pharisees.  Jesus asked what Moses commanded.  They answered with what he permitted.

That’s actually what many Christians ask about in our generation.  Many times I’ve been asked, “Pastor, can I still be a Christian and go to Heaven if I … ?”  You can fill in the blank with anything you want.  What they were really asking is; how far into the world can I get and still go to Heaven?

The problem with that thinking is that it misses the point of salvation.  It’s not about making it to Heaven.  My life in Christ is about becoming who God created me to be.

So Jesus answered His question for them by quoting Moses’ commands from the book of Genesis.

“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied.  “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’  ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this.  He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.  And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
Mark 10:5-12

Jesus takes the Pharisees back to Moses’ original commands before the law was given.  We see the will of God in this matter.  Throughout the Bible, God shows that He hates divorce.

It was later on that the law gave permission and requirements for divorce.  The reason was not that divorce was acceptable to God, but that people were going to do it with or without His permission.  Paul explained it this way…

What, then, was the purpose of the law?  It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.
Galatians 3:19a

Like I said, this post is not about fully investigating divorce in Scripture.  Instead, it’s about the lesson Jesus was trying to get across to the Pharisees.

As in all areas of life, my goal should never be to see how much I can get away with and still be a Christian.  I should be trying to please God with every fiber of my being.

Question: How does this truth apply to areas other than divorce?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 27, 2018 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Salt and Fire

We have been looking at the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus is teaching His disciples how we need to treat each other in the body of Christ.  As the leadership of the church, they needed to understand these principles.

The Lord continues in this context.

“Everyone will be salted with fire.  Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?  Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
Mark 9:49-50

As a part of the Jewish people, there were some things that the disciples understood about this.  First of all, salt was representative of their covenant with God.  Even today in cultures where covenants are used, close friends will say, “We have salt between us.”

This is what God says about the share of the offerings belonging to the Levites.

“Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the Lord I give to you and your sons and daughters as your regular share.  It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring.”
Numbers 18:19

But a question that many have is; how can salt lose its saltiness?  It doesn’t in our culture because of the purity.  Back in ancient Israel there was always a small amount of sand that couldn’t be removed.  So if the salt got wet, the real salt would melt out with the water, leaving only sand.

Nobody wants to put sand on their food.  Of course, that’s why we leave a bad taste in the mouth of the world if we water down the Gospel.

There is, however, a deeper truth here than salt merely being used as a spice or a preservative.  We’re talking about covenant and how we treat each other.

Jesus was not just talking about salt.  He spoke of salt and fire.  This was something else that a devout Jew would understand.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices — gum resin, onycha and galbanum — and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer.  It is to be salted and pure and sacred.
Exodus 30:34-35

Salt was a part of the fragrant incense that was used in the worship of God.  The incense represents our prayers rising up to the Father (Revelation 5:8).  The salt is a reminder of how those prayers can enter His presence – because of the covenant we have through the shed blood of Christ.

As the smoke of our prayers rises up to the throne of Heaven, it’s all one cloud.  There’s no differentiating where the individual wisps came from.  We are all one in Christ.

Salt and fire speak of the unity of the spirit as we pray in God’s presence.  That’s why we’re told again and again to walk in unity and agreement with our brothers and sisters in the faith.

That’s what Jesus’ final statement is all about.  He is summing up everything He just taught them.

Have salt in yourselves.  Understand that you’re in covenant with God and therefore with each other.

Then He commands us to be at peace with each other.  There should be no hint of factions or discord between the Lord’s people.  As far as it depends on me, I have to keep my relationships on solid ground.

Question: How does our treatment of others affect our covenant with God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 25, 2018 in Fellowship, Prayer, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Caring for the Young

In my last few posts, Jesus was preparing His disciples for their future roles as leaders in the body of Christ.  He wants them to understand that leadership in God’s kingdom is handled very differently than in the world.

The Lord now uses a little child as an object lesson for them to understand.

“And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”
Mark 9:42

Using a child as an example, Jesus begins to talk about how to handle new believers.  There are some important issues that I think we usually miss in this section of Scripture.

The Lord is talking about young believers here.  Not necessarily physical children, but spiritual children as well.  The key is that they believe in Christ.  They’re young in the things of God.

Care has to be taken in our dealings with new believers.  The actual word that Jesus used in this verse is, entrap.  He doesn’t want new believers entrapped or tripped up in their walk with God.

Too often I’ve seen young believers given an impossibly long list of do’s and don’ts.  After a short while, they fall away in frustration, believing that they can never measure up to what Christ expects of them.

I actually had one self-righteous member explain it to me this way…”Well, you realize that it’s a lot harder to stay saved than to get saved.”

Really!  Is that the God we serve?  Does He let you into His family by a simple act of faith only to kick you out at your first sign of weakness?  Absolutely not!  We have a loving and faithful God who works with us to bring us into our destiny in Him.

It’s man that wants to make it hard to serve God.  We have to prove how great we are at by putting others down and pointing out their failures.

We need to learn to treat new believers just as we would a newborn infant, spiritually speaking.  The Lord has some very strong words to say concerning His attitude toward those who offend new believers.

But it doesn’t end there.

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.  And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”
Mark 9:43-48

In this context, do you really think Jesus is literally talking about cutting off your hand?  I’ve committed many sins in my life using my hands, feet, and eyes.  But never once was it my hand, foot or eye that caused me to sin.  The desire for sin always started in my heart.

Then what is the Lord talking about?  Simply put, He’s speaking about His body on earth…the church.  Each of us is a member of the body; an eye, a hand or a foot.  Jesus is saying that no one member of the body is so indispensable that it can’t be removed for offenses against the body.  This was a teaching that the disciples probably didn’t understand until long after the resurrection.

But we need to bear this in mind.  How we treat one another is important to Christ.  I believe that there are many who have died before their time because of offending the body of Christ.  We need to major on our love walk in order to be pleasing to Christ.

Question: How have you been a blessing to those who are young in the Lord?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Which Denomination is the Best?

In my last post, I talked about the path to leadership in the kingdom of God.  It requires a servant’s heart.  Today, Jesus will continue teaching along those lines with His disciples.

He took a little child and had him stand among them.  Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Mark 9:36-37

We need to understand what the Lord is talking about in this passage.  In the past, I’ve heard it misapplied all over the place.

Jesus is talking to His disciples.  These are the people He has set apart for the leadership of the church.  They were also specifically chosen to minister to Israel – God’s covenant people (Matthew 10:5-6).  So the Lord is talking about receiving a covenant child in His name.

As the disciples are listening to Him, they have an “Aha! moment”.  They realize that Jesus is not just talking about physical children.  They’re beginning to understand His teaching style.  They apply what He says to an incident that recently happened to them.

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
Mark 9:38

They remember telling someone to stop driving out demons in the name of Jesus.  But their reasoning is important to us.  The Greek verse literally says that the disciples told him to stop because he did not follow us.

Notice that it wasn’t because he didn’t follow Christ, but that he didn’t follow the disciples.  We know from the last post that they had a high opinion of themselves.  After all, they gave up everything to follow Christ.  This man, who was driving out demons, didn’t.

On the other hand, even though he didn’t give up everything to follow Jesus, he had the evidence of the power of God operating in his ministry.  He also must have understood a lot of the Lord’s teachings.  People were being delivered as he preached Christ.

This is where we are at our point in history.  Many Christian denominations are a part of the spiritual landscape before us.  What did the Lord say about this?

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said.  “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.  I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”
Mark 9:39-41

By saying this, Jesus has settled the matter of denominations.  Do all of them follow Christ to the same degree?  Obviously not.  But that’s not the issue.  The question is; are they operating in the name of Jesus?

Jesus is telling His disciples that you don’t have to be a super-apostle, trained by Jesus Christ, Himself, in order to get a reward.  If you’ve trusted Christ for your salvation, and your calling is as simple as giving water to someone, you’ll have a reward for fulfilling that calling.

We may not all be in the same denomination, but we must all receive each other in the name of Jesus Christ.

Question: How have you learned to respect other believers who don’t worship as you do?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 20, 2018 in Fellowship, Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Servants First

What do you think is the best path to leadership in the kingdom of God?  There was a principle of leadership that Jesus had to get across to His disciples.  After all, they were going to be leading the church after His ascension.

They left that place and passed through Galilee.  Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples.  He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.  They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”  But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
Mark 9:30-32

As Jesus approaches the time of the cross, He spends more alone time with His disciples.  He needs to prepare them for the challenges ahead.  Part of this was to instruct them about the cross.  He was going to suffer, die, and then rise from the dead three days later.

The disciples just couldn’t grasp what the Lord was trying to get across to them.  But now, after Peter’s rebuke, they were afraid to ask the Lord to explain it.

As they walked along, the disciples started to debate something among themselves.  I’m sure that it got pretty heated.

They came to Capernaum.  When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?”  But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Mark 9:33-34

This argument probably started with, “What if Jesus were to die?  Who would be in charge of this group?”  I’m sure that Peter, James, and John all thought that they were eminently qualified.  That is until Jesus shared His views with them.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Mark 9:35

The Lord explains that the true path to leadership is through servanthood.  That’s something that we have a hard time grasping in the church these days.

Jesus is our prime example.  The disciples were arguing over who was greatest, right after Jesus told them His plan.  He became Lord of all creation.  But the path He took involved laying down His life – serving – all of humanity.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:5-8

I think that it’s funny the way we get into leadership in our generation.  If someone wants to be a pastor or teacher, they go to a Bible college for years.  Then they graduate and send their resumes to churches.  A lot of them will get voted in and installed as pastors having never served in ministry.

I think that’s why there’s such a high burn-out rate in the ministry.  We haven’t learned that the path to knowing your calling is service in the kingdom.  Without being a true servant, there’s no way of understanding the needs of those you’re leading.

That was the path that Christ took.  It hasn’t changed.  The Father is looking for qualified servants to lead His people.  Don’t ever look down on that season of your life.  Enjoy your call to servanthood.

Question: How are you called to serve in God’s kingdom?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 18, 2018 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Prayer and Fasting – A Foundation for Faith

Did you know that waiting for a problem to arise before you strengthen your faith is a bad idea?  Too many people only press into God and His Word when their back is against the wall.  Jesus teaches that the time to prepare is well before you need a breakthrough.

In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 9 and verses 14-29, we see what happened as Jesus and His three closest disciples were coming down from the mountain of transfiguration.  You may want to read that passage in the Bible before continuing in this post.

It seems that they walked into a storm of controversy.  A crowd had formed around the other disciples.  Bedlam had broken out.

There was a demon possessed boy whose father had brought him to them for deliverance.  They tried everything they knew, yet the demon would not leave.  Jesus’ response to all of this is important for us to see.

“O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you?  How long shall I put up with you?  Bring the boy to me.”
Mark 9:19

The implication of what the Lord is saying here is, “How long will I have to be in this nation trying to turn you around?”  It sounds like Jesus is swimming against the flow, in a river of humanity.

The only way for Israel to get back on track is to trust in the Messiah.  Unfortunately, they want to continue in their unbelief.  Their “faith” is based on what they think is possible.

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

Mark makes it clear that the main issue is about faith and unbelief.  It’s not about spiritual authority or how loud you can yell at the demon.  How deeply you trust the Lord is at the heart of the matter.

The Gospel writer wants us to see, through this event in the life of Christ, how to grow in our faith.  The point of this story is to understand how to overcome my unbelief.  That’s where the disciples are headed as the Lord continues His work with them.

Immediately, the Lord rebukes the demon and commands it to leave the boy.  The young man was delivered and set free from the demon from that day forward.  It seemed to be no problem for Jesus.

But the disciples still had some questions.

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”
Mark 9:28-29

Please understand that the demon doesn’t care whether or not you fast and pray.  Also, notice that Jesus didn’t tell the man, “Bring the boy to me in a week.  I need to fast and pray before I can deliver him.”

Jesus is answering the question of unbelief.  Fasting and prayer should be the lifestyle of a mature believer.  Fasting and prayer are what drives out the unbelief of our fleshly nature.  It opens us up to the manifestation of God’s supernatural power.

Follow the example of Jesus.  Walk before God by regularly setting times of fasting and prayer.  Then you’ll see your unbelief start to fade and a greater capacity for the miraculous.

Question: How have you seen the effects of fasting and prayer in your spiritual life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,