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Monthly Archives: June 2018

The Warning

We’ve been in the Gospel of Mark, looking at Jesus teaching His disciples about the end-times.  Having warned them of what they were about to face, the Lord now answers their original question that started it all.

He tells them the signs that signal the approach of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.  Because we live on this side of the historical event, it’s easier to look back and interpret the Lord’s words.

“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong — let the reader understand — then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
Mark 13:14

Jesus quotes the book of Daniel.  He makes mention of the abomination that causes desolation.  Literally, it reads the detestable thing that causes destruction.  Then Mark himself adds his admonition to the reader of this gospel to “use your mind, think and consider” what Jesus has said.

I know a lot of Bible teachers who say that this is a future event and have a variety of teachings and beliefs on this subject.  I ask you to please read the Scripture without preconceived ideas about what’s being said.  Put yourself in the place of the disciples who are hearing this for the first time.

The reaction of the disciples must have been one of surprise.  Every God-fearing Jew knew that the quote Jesus gave them from the book of Daniel had ALREADY BEEN FULFILLED.

Around 170 BC there was a Syrian ruler named Antiochus IV.  He was so full of himself that he gave himself the title “Epiphanes,” which means “the manifest god”.  As many emperors did, he forced those around him to worship him.

Antiochus Epiphanes led his army to successfully conquer Israel.  On December 15, 168 BC, he set up the image of Zeus on an altar in the Temple of Jerusalem.  Ten days later, he dedicated it by sacrificing a pig in the Temple.

Heathen altars were then erected throughout Israel, their celebrations being compulsory.  Any Jew would receive the death penalty if found in possession of the Torah.  Observing the Sabbath and circumcision were forbidden.  Because of their faithfulness to the Law of God, many Jews were killed in those days.

As the disciples heard Jesus speak about Daniel’s prophecy, they must have also thought about the reign of Antiochus.  Now they’re hearing from the Lord that it will be fulfilled again.  This was a new concept for them to grasp – the fact that a prophetic Scripture could have two fulfillments.

“Let no one on the roof of his house go down or enter the house to take anything out.  Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.  How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!  Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now — and never to be equaled again.  If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive.  But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.”
Mark 13:15-20

This sounds all too familiar to the disciples.  Throughout history, the Jews had been conquered again and again.  Now one of the worst chapters in their history was going to repeat itself.  All they could do was listen and be prepared.

This should encourage us.  I believe that this is how the Holy Spirit operates.  If we’re listening, the Spirit will always prepare us for what’s ahead in our future.  We need to continue developing our spiritual sensitivity to hear His voice.

Question: Why does the Holy Spirit want to reveal the future to us?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on June 29, 2018 in Encouragement, Return of Christ

 

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The Name is the Target

We’re continuing in the Gospel of Mark.  We’ve been looking at Jesus’ discussion of the Last Days with His disciples.  The Lord begins explaining to them how the world will turn against them.

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child.  Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.  All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Mark 13:12-13

What a commentary on life in the end-times.  There will be a total breakdown of the family.  In most of history, the family bond was sacred.  The members of a family would do whatever it took to keep each other safe.

Here we see the exact opposite.  Family members turning on one another.  Even to the point of seeing them put to death.

It’s unfortunate that we’re beginning to see the decay of the family taking place right now.  Relatively few families ever eat meals together.  Many times, when they are together, each one is on their devices, lost in their own world of virtual friends.

But it’s the Lord’s last statement that we really need to take to heart.  The first part of that sentence literally reads; all will hate you because of My Name.

The name of Jesus Christ is becoming more and more hated throughout society.  You can talk about anything else, but not the Lord.

We need to come to the realization that it’s not us that the hatred is aimed at.  It’s the name of Jesus that’s the target.  We just happen to be the bearers of that precious name.

There’s a reason why this is the case.  The ruler of this present age hates that name.  He knows that his time is short and that soon the King will come to take His rightful place.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11

This is the reason that society hates that name.  They may not know why this is so.  There’s just an underlying move to do away with its impact on the lives of individuals.  This even includes using this name as a swear word to try and water down its power.

The good news is that the name of Jesus Christ will never be defeated.  It is the name that’s above all other names.  For us, it’s all that we need.

The second part of Jesus statement to His disciples was for us to stand firm to the end.  That’s the result of staying true to the name of Jesus.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
Proverbs 18:10

The same name that’s so hated in society is our greatest victory.  If we will hold fast to that name, we’ll have the power we need to stand strong in the faith.

I don’t have to fear what’s ahead.  The future may be uncertain, but I know the One who has already been there.  If I put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, then I have nothing to fear, and everything to gain.

Question: How has the name of Jesus changed your life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2018 in Power of God, Return of Christ

 

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Our Last Days Witness

We’re continuing our study of the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus is now preparing His disciples for the events that are coming in the future.

“You must be on your guard.  You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues.  On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.  And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”
Mark 13:9-10

The first command that the Lord gives in this passage is that we open our eyes and watch ourselves.  When it comes to being prepared for the Last Days, it’s our own responsibility.  I’m not responsible for anybody else’s walk.  I need to make sure that I’m on the right path.

How do I need to prepare?  That’s the important question.  Jesus talks about three different areas that will require us to be willing to show our witness for Christ.

The first is councils and synagogues; or specifically, organized religion.  It seems that whenever you decide to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, there will be a point when “religion” will disagree with you.  So you must be prepared for them to take action against you.

That’s because most major denominations have a set of rules that they’ve put in place to maintain order.  In most cases, that’s not a bad thing.  I’m currently a part of a large denomination that’s very encouraging.

But that’s not always the case.  There are sometimes when you have to choose between following God and serving your denomination.  That will require the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

The next area deals with those who influence society – governors, and kings.  I believe that this also includes leaders of industry.  That’s because in many cases, those with huge resources have influence over those in government.

We’re told that we’ll be made to stand before them.  This is God’s doing so that we can be a witness to them.  Again, this will require the wisdom of God to be active in us.

That phrase is interesting in the original Greek.  It implies that our witness will be a wind that blows in a different direction than they want to go.  Some leaders will receive our testimony and be saved while others will reject both it and us.

The final area He talks about is the nations.  Jesus tells us that the Good News of Christ must be proclaimed among all nations.  The word for nations in that verse really means people groups.  There are some countries where many tribes are represented in them.  These groups of people must all be reached with the message of Christ.

But that brings us back to our big question.  How can I possibly prepare for such a complex assignment?

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say.  Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
Mark 13:11

The literal Greek of this verse says when you are led or surrendered.  I believe that the Lord’s telling us that our place of testimony may be either voluntary or involuntary.  But no matter which we find ourselves in, the preparation is the same.

We need to have an intimate knowledge of how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.  How can I receive the word to speak, if I’ve never taken the time to hear Him in the past?  The time is now to develop listening spiritual ears.

I believe that this is the next thing on God’s agenda for His church in these Last Days.  He wants us to take the time to learn to hear from the Spirit in His presence.

Question: How did the ability to hear from the Spirit affect evangelism in the early church?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Birth Pains Ahead

I’m continuing to look at Jesus’ discussion of the Last Days with His disciples.  He’s giving them a general outline of future events.

When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
Mark 13:7

The Lord warns us that peace will not occur in this age.  Wars and rumors of wars will be going on around the world.  In Luke 21:9, the Lord is recorded as adding revolutions, or literally unrest to the list.

As Christians, we’re not to be alarmed.  That word alarmed in the above verse means to cry out in fright.  We should not be afraid or surprised at these events.

The Lord doesn’t give us the illusion of a world getting better and better.  Instead, He shows us the reality of what living on this earth will be like.

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.  These are the beginning of birth pains.
Mark 13:8

The Lord goes on to list more signs that He calls birth pangs.  He mentions famines.  This is a lack of food usually caused by greed.  In many places around the world, people starve while ships full of food are docked in the harbor and cannot be unloaded because the repressive government won’t allow it.

The number of earthquakes has been rising steadily over the last hundred years.  They cause a lot of devastation.   Many times they’re accompanied by volcanic eruptions or tsunamis.  It seems like every week we hear of new disasters.

When I was a child, we heard of natural disasters happening very infrequently.  Now it seems like every day we’re hearing about a new “worst”.  They are always reporting the worst flood, worst tornado outbreak, worst drought, or other such calamities in the news.

Jesus calls all these things the beginnings of birth pangs.  I believe the Lord is referring to the time at the end of this age where He will begin to make a distinction between the church and the world.

We’re told in the Word what our attitude should be.  We’re expecting our Lord to appear.

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”
1 Peter 3:14

The Lord doesn’t warn us of these events so that we’ll fear the future.  As we see these things happening, our faith in the Lord and in His Word should grow.  It should give us a greater urgency for winning souls into His kingdom.  We must let this knowledge transform us into the end-time church Christ will be looking for when He returns.

Question: How should believers keep from fearing the future?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2018 in Encouragement, Return of Christ

 

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Deception in the Last Days

In my last post, we began looking at the passage in Mark where Jesus talks about the end-times with His disciples.  He had told them that the Temple would be destroyed someday.  So they asked Him how they would know it was about to happen.

Jesus starts by giving the disciples a general overview of future history.

Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you.  Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.
Mark 13:5-6

The initial warning that Jesus gives us is about deceivers.  The word deceiver in the Greek literally means those who cause others to leave the path.  There will be those who make it their goal to remove you from the path of following Christ wholeheartedly.  Their methods may vary from time to time and from place to place, but the outcome is the same.

These imitations claim to be the Anointed One, which is what Christ means in Greek.  They want to convince you that they have the lock on God’s power or His anointing.  Many Christians are all too willing to follow these signs from revival to camp meeting to healing service.  They never seem to want to settle down under godly teaching.

Please realize that I’m not knocking the revival meeting.  I love being a part of the move of God.  What I’m saying is that every believer must be plugged-in to a local church body where they’re constantly being fed from God’s Word.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
Ephesians 4:14

We should make it our goal not to end up remaining a baby Christian our whole life.  Staying in that baby stage opens you up to deception.

Of course, some prefer it that way since they never have to take on the responsibility of ministry.  Then, they can just go from place to place getting fed their spiritual bottle.

If deception is a big part of living in the Last Days, then how do we guard ourselves?

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Hebrews 3:13

It’s through the mutual encouragement of the body of believers that we keep from being deceived.  That’s one of the benefits of being connected to a local church.

But wait!  The writer of Hebrews also said…

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:25

This verse explains why there’s such deception in the Last Days.  Believers will be attending church less and less frequently.  One of the reasons I feel we’re close to Christ’s Return is because this is an epidemic in the body of Christ right now.

Don’t open yourself to the deceptions of this age. Be an active part of a local body of believers.

Question: Why is church attendance by Christians in such decline in our generation?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2018 in Return of Christ, Revival, The Church

 

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Prepared for the Return

During the week before He went to the cross, the Lord explained to His disciples some of the things that would take place in the future.  It was sparked by the disciples as they became impressed by the elaborate buildings in Jerusalem.

As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher!  What massive stones!  What magnificent buildings!”
“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen?  And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
Mark 13:1-4

There are many in the body of Christ who love to study the end-times, and I’m one of them.  Unfortunately, there’s a tendency to stick with our pet Scriptures and never look at them in the greater context of the Bible.

The end result is a skewed idea of what is being taught.  This causes many to have a wrong view of what the Bible teaches about the Last Days.

Over the next few posts, we’ll be looking specifically at Mark’s record of how Jesus taught it to His disciples.  It’s important to keep this in mind because we are still in one of the foundational books of the New Testament.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while then you know the rationale behind this teaching.  I’m systematically going through the New Testament in the order that the Holy Spirit revealed it to the church.  Let me review what we’ve learned about the end-times so far.

We started in the book of James.  In James chapter 5 and verses 7 through 12, we saw the first mention of the return of Christ.  The emphasis was on developing the patience needed to stand until His return.  To see those posts, click here.

The next letter we studied was First Thessalonians.  In chapter 4, verse 13, through chapter 5, verse 11, was the next teaching on the return.  In that section, Paul dealt with the fact of the Resurrection Day.

On that day, the body of Christ – both the living and the dead – will be caught up to be with the Lord.  He went on to warn us how we should be living in the light of that knowledge.  He said that if we were spiritually awake, then that day would not take us by surprise.  To see those posts, click here.

The next book we looked at was Galatians.  There was no mention of the Last Days in that letter.

Finally, we arrived at Mark’s Gospel.  Other than a brief discussion with the Sadducees concerning the resurrection, this is the first mention of Christ teaching His disciples about the end-times.  Knowing the Scriptural context will equip us to better understand what’s being said.

Please be aware.  Mark is not going to give us everything Christ taught about His return.  Notice that he only records the disciples’ questions about the destruction of the temple.

We know from the other Gospels that they asked more than this.  But at this point in the growth of the church, that’s as far as the Holy Spirit wanted Mark to write about.

Now that we have this foundation firmly in place, we can move on.  Over the next few posts, I’ll be going through the teaching of Christ as recorded in this section of Scripture.  Hopefully, it will give us some new insight into the coming of the Lord.

To read my entire teaching on the Second Coming of Christ, check out my book.  The ad for it is to the right of this post.

Question: Why is the Second Coming of Christ such a popular topic among believers?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2018 in Return of Christ

 

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The Heart of Giving

What’s your attitude toward offerings at church?  Do you consider it a necessary evil?  Do you look forward to the chance of investing in God’s kingdom?  It turns out that the Lord takes an interest in how we give.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.  Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.
Mark 12:41-42

There are some things about Jesus that you need to know, especially in regards to your giving.  As the pastor of a church, I know that where people choose to sit tells a lot about them.  Jesus chose to sit right in line with the offering boxes so that He could watch people as they gave.

It’s interesting that the literal Greek of this verse says that the Lord watched how the people put their money in the box.  Whether you know it or not, how you give is as important to God as what you give.

That’s because true giving is an act of the heart.  Jesus explained the underlying principle.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:21

This statement brings it all into focus.  At offering time, do you feel like you’re giving your treasure to God?  Or do you feel like you’re giving money to the One that you treasure?  In other words, is Christ your treasure, or is money your treasure?

As Jesus watched the rich give money, they weren’t affected by it.  They gave out of their overflow.  What they put in the treasury wouldn’t change their standard of living.

The widow, on the other hand, gave everything.  Money that could have been used for food or other necessities was now gone.  That made an impression on Jesus and He called it to the disciples’ attention.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.”
Mark 12:43-44

The Lord’s commentary is important for us to hear.  There’s a “break-even point” in our finances where our expenses equal our income.  He explained that the rich gave from above that point.  The widow gave all that she had, even though she had less than breaking even.

But there’s more Jesus said that we miss because of the translation.  In the original, the Lord said that the widow put in all that she had and her whole life.

She wasn’t just giving her money to God.  She was placing her very life in His hands.  That’s the attitude that’s needed in our giving.

It’s not just my money that belongs to God.  It’s everything that I have, even my very life.  All that I am – my time, goals, dreams, possessions – I must place it all in His hands.

Offerings are not simply a tradition of the church that we have to do each week.  It’s not something I do to get God off my back for another week.  It’s an opportunity to once again confirm to myself and the Lord that all of my life is His.

This widow may have thought that her giving had gone unnoticed.  But the truth is that God saw it, and it moved His heart.  I know without a doubt that God met her need and sustained her because of her faith.  That’s the true attitude of giving.

Question: What goes through your mind as you give your offerings?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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