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Monthly Archives: July 2018

The Calling to Pray

As believers, we’re all called to pray.  However, the question often arises; are we all called to a warfare or intercessory type of ministry?

It’s clear from Scripture that we need to be a praying people.  We should be praying daily for ourselves and our family.  Also, we need to pray for others in the body of Christ.  Then, we should be praying for our friends, neighbors, community, and nation.

In order to fulfill this, Jesus gave His disciples a teaching on prayer.  As a part of this lesson, the Lord showed them an outline of what a prayer to God should include.  (Mark 6:9-13)  We call this the Lord’s Prayer.

We all should be praying – that’s beyond question.  But there’s a deeper level of prayer that needs to be addressed.  This is a powerful type of prayer that involves our whole being – body, soul, and spirit.  It could express itself in warfare, intercession, or a combination of both.

I believe that this is the kind of prayer that Jesus entered into, while in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Look at how the Gospel of Mark describes it.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”
Mark 14:32

I think it’s interesting that this place of prayer Jesus chose was called Gethsemane.  That was an Aramaic word that meant olive-press.  It was going to be a place of great pressure for Christ.

What I want you to notice is that most of the disciples simply got the instruction to sit here.  Jesus told them that He was going to pray.  But He didn’t ask them to do anything in particular during that time.

There were, however, three disciples who got a different set of instructions.

He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them.  “Stay here and keep watch.”
Mark 14:33-34

Peter, James, and John – the three leaders of the group – were told to go with the Lord.  As they approached the place, Jesus began to be overwhelmed by the weight of what He was about to endure.  He expressed this to the three and told them to remain with Him and watch.

The Lord obviously wanted these particular disciples to watch and learn from what was happening in that garden of prayer.  They needed to learn the deeper issues of intense, Spirit-led prayer.

Most of the disciples would have had no understanding of what was going on in that garden.  It was these three that had a grasp of some of the things that take place in the spiritual realm.  After all, they were with Him when the Lord raised a dead girl back to life (Mark 5:37-43) and they witnessed His transfiguration (Mark 9:2).

We need to see that intense, intercessory prayer is not for everyone.  It’s only for those who have obtained to a mature level of spiritual understanding.  Even then, this kind of prayer is only learned by watching those who are already walking in it.

Are you called to this type of prayer?  The only way of knowing is for you to continue to pursue Christ.  Make it your goal to walk in everything that the Lord has for you.

Question: Why is intercessory prayer so important in the body of Christ?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Striking the Shepherd

We’re looking at the events leading up to the crucifixion of Christ as recorded by Mark’s Gospel.  Jesus and His disciples have just finished the Last Supper and were heading out to the Mount of Olives.

As they walked along, Jesus had some sobering words for them.

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’  But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today — yes, tonight — before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”
But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”  And all the others said the same.
Mark 14:26-31

The Lord predicts that none will stand with Him in His final hours.  That thought shocked them, especially Peter.  He couldn’t imagine that he would ever deny knowing Christ.  But very soon he would find out how far off his self-assessment was.

I think that we focus on Peter too much when we read this passage.  After all, we would know better than to deny knowing the Lord.  Or, would we?  Let’s think about what’s happening here.

Jesus quotes a Scriptural truth to His disciples.  He tells them that when the Shepherd it struck, the sheep are scattered.  He was referring to the disciples as the sheep.

However, Jesus was using this verse to prove His first statement that they would all fall away.  That literally means that they would all be offended, or tripped up.  It was being offended that caused the sheep to leave the side of the Shepherd.

This didn’t mean that they stopped loving or following Christ, they just didn’t want to stand too close to Him.  They didn’t want the hatred of the leaders to be against themselves.

In our society, right now, there’s a definite hatred against the name of Jesus Christ.  Any mention of Christ or the teaching of Scripture and they begin to shut down and stop listening.  So, what’s our response?

I’ve found that in many cases we start to distance ourselves from Christ.  For instance, there are many singers and entertainers who profess Christ – privately.  I’m frequently told of one or another who are Christians.

The problem is that by watching the movies they’re in or hearing the songs they record, I would never have known.  Even in their interviews, they may only make a slight reference to God.

Of course, it’s not just those in the media.  What about “regular” Christians?  What happens when people ask us about our views on evolution, homosexuality, abortion, or other controversial topics?  Do we simply shrug our shoulders and stay silent?

Please understand that I’m not talking about being offensive and attacking others with Scripture.  The world has a very good idea of what Christ and the Bible teaches.  As believers, we need to be willing to stand with Christ and take any heat the world may bring on account of this.

We need to pray for boldness in our generation.  In that way, when the world strikes at our Shepherd, we will stand with Him.

Question: How have you been hurt for standing with Christ and His Word?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Blood of Covenant

In this post, I’m going to continue looking at the Last Supper as recorded in Mark’s Gospel.  Last time I talked about the bread, in this article we’ll see the cup of the covenant.

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.  “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”
Mark 14:23-25

It should be clear from this verse that the communion cup causes us to remember the covenant.  We’re in covenant with God.  Unfortunately, many Christians don’t understand what that means.

In our society, we understand contracts.  There’s a big difference between contracts and covenants.  Contracts have an ending date, covenants are in effect forever.  A contract will usually cover a specific item or job.  A covenant covers every area of our lives.

But the biggest difference is that a contract simply requires a signature for it to be valid.  A covenant requires the shedding of blood from both parties.

Communion remembers the blood of the covenant between God and us.  Hebrews, chapter 12, talks about where we’ve come by faith.

…to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Hebrews 12:24

Jesus is the Mediator, or literally the go-between of this covenant.  On the cross, the blood of God and man was shed by one person – Jesus Christ.  He offered it for us so that we could have a part in the New Covenant.

But, more than that, we need to understand that the blood SPEAKS.  Jesus was killed just like Abel.  But Abel’s blood spoke of revenge and justice.  Jesus’ blood speaks of forgiveness.

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Matthew 26:28

Now that we’re in covenant with God, there’s a responsibility upon us to remember it and keep it.  In a covenant, everything that either person has is available to all parties.  In the natural, it would usually be two powerful people who would covenant together.

But, in our case, an all-powerful, holy God cut a covenant with us.  For our part, we were unrighteous, sinful, imperfect, weak, and poor.  I can’t list everything He provides for us.  On His part, He simply asks for 10% of our wealth, some time, fellowship, and some of our strength.

This is the part of the covenant we fail to think about sometimes.

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant– not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
2 Corinthians 3:6

In our churchy way of speaking, minister means to have authority over something.  In Scripture, it actually means to be a servant to something.  This verse really means that God has qualified us to serve the covenant.  The good news is that we don’t serve by the letter, but by the spirit.

When we come to the Lord’s Table we’re remembering this covenant.

“I’m in covenant with God.  It’s my whole life I’m giving over for Him.”

Question: What should our attitudes be when receiving the Communion elements?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Body and the Flesh

Do you know the difference between your body and your flesh?  Scripturally speaking, they’re not the same thing.  Knowing what those two Biblical words mean will help you in living for Christ.

We’re looking at the Last Supper as recorded in the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus is revealing a new concept to the disciples as they celebrate the Passover meal.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
Mark 14:22

This is the foundation for the Communion observances in our churches.  It was a small but important part of the Passover meal.  The bread, which was a hard, dry, matzo cracker, was broken and passed to each one around the table.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to know what the Lord was speaking about.  In the Greek language, there are two different words that we sometimes take for granted.  In English, they’re translated flesh and body.

In the natural seem to be speaking about the same thing – our physical body.  But when you look at how they’re used in Scripture, you get a new perspective.

The word, body, refers to our outward, physical vessel that holds who we are.  It can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell.  The body is what we use to interact in the natural world.

The flesh, on the other hand, speaks of the old sin nature that’s been passed down to us from our ancestor, Adam.  It’s the desire within us to make the experience of our body the center of our life.  It wants our body to have everything it needs to feel good.

So usually, when we see the body spoken of in Scripture, we’re referring to the deeds that are being done and the outward appearance.  In this verse, Christ is speaking of imparting His body to us.  Paul talked about the importance of this.

So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
Romans 7:4

This is an incredible truth.  By taking on Christ’s body, our physical bodies are now counted as dead to the Law.  Not only is that true, but now the resurrection of Christ is credited to my account.

This means that my body is no longer bound to do what my flesh (my sin nature) wants it to do.  The control of the flesh is broken.  This is the foundation of our freedom in Christ.

Look at what Paul goes on to say.

But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
Romans 7:6

Not only have we been released from slavery to our flesh and the Law; now our bodies can come under the direct influence of our spirit.  We don’t have to serve God by obeying a list of do’s and don’ts.  I can follow the lead of the Holy Spirit who’s taken up residence in me.

In the future, when you receive the Communion elements, meditate on this truth.  Because you’re receiving His body, you’re receiving the whole work that was done on the cross.  All the power that was released for your life and godliness is available to you right now.

Question: How does your knowing that we died and rose with Christ affect your daily walk with God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Courage Under Fire

How bold are you when you see trouble coming in your future?  Are you willing to stand your ground and face it head-on?  Or, like so many, do you simply ignore it and hope that it goes away?

As we look at the life of Christ in the Gospel of Mark, we see His time with the disciples at the Last Supper.  Keep in mind that because this is the first of the gospels to be written, the Holy Spirit only inspired Mark to give the “bare bones” of what happened at this meal.

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.  While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me — one who is eating with me.”
They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”
Mark 14:17-19

Mark shows us the disciples’ reaction to the revelation that one of their own would betray Christ.  The word, betray, in this verse means to surrender over.  Somebody was going to turn the Lord in to the authorities.

The effect was that they were distressed by this knowledge.  It hurt them.  In one sense, most of them felt that they would never do such a thing.  On the other hand, Jesus had never been wrong in any of His predictions.  The reality of the situation was overwhelming.

The men with Jesus must have felt a great grief come over them.  But in spite of this emotional upheaval, it’s not the disciples that I want to concentrate on.  It’s the attitude of Christ that we need to examine.

“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.  But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
Mark 14:20-21

The Lord reveals that it is indeed one of His twelve closest friends who will do this deed.  It would be someone who is in fellowship, eating at the same table.  In that culture, sharing a meal was one of the most intimate things that friends did.

Jesus makes it clear that this would not turn out well for the betrayer.  There will come a time when he will wish he had never been born.  His guilt will eventually destroy his life.

But it’s the statement Christ makes about Himself that really gets my attention.  He said that He would go just as it was written about Him.

That word, go, in the Greek, means to lead oneself.  He was stating that He was more than willing to walk the road that was laid out for Him in the Scripture.

Jesus knew what was ahead.  The cross was not taking Him by surprise.  He saw it and was progressing toward it with boldness and conviction.  That had always been the goal of Christ’s ministry on earth and nothing would prevent Him from accomplishing it.

We need to walk in that same conviction when it comes to following the will of God for our lives.  Too often we let the problems, challenges, and distraction of life sidetrack us from the straight and narrow path.

We must realize that the spiritual struggle can only be won with the Lord’s strength operating through us.  Time spent in His presence will assure us the victory.  So we won’t need to fret over the challenges we see coming down the road toward us.  Stand strong in the Lord!

Question: How has time in the Lord’s presence helped you to overcome the obstacles of life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Voice of the Spirit

As we continue through Mark’s Gospel, it’s now the day of the Last Supper.  The disciples have no idea what’s about to take place during this feast.  All they know is that the Passover needs to be celebrated.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you.  Follow him.  Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’  He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready.  Make preparations for us there.”
Mark 14:12-15

To understand the importance of this passage, you must first understand the relationship between Christ and His disciples.  At that time, the role of Jesus to His disciples was the same as the Holy Spirit is to us today.

Remember that Jesus told His followers that He would send another Counsellor to lead and guide them.  The Holy Spirit wants to lead us in the same way that the Lord led His disciples.  That’s why it’s so important for us to develop sensitivity to the voice of the Spirit.

It’s sad that so many Christians think that God no longer works in this way.  I personally believe that the Holy Spirit still desires to operate through the church.  It’s the manifestation of the Gifts of the Spirit that will draw unbelievers to a saving knowledge of Christ.

In this instance, Jesus is functioning in the gifts of Prophecy and the Word of Knowledge.  Notice how specific His instructions are.  I believe that the Holy Spirit will be just that detailed with us if we’ll place ourselves in a position to hear Him.

What was the response of the disciples to this astounding instruction?

The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them.  So they prepared the Passover.
Mark 14:16

This simple statement shows the trust that had developed between Christ and His followers.  There was no question or hesitation.  They just went and did exactly as they were told.

So often we find two different extremes in the body of Christ these days.  The first is that some Christians come up with elaborate stories of what the Holy Spirit “told” them.  Then, a few days later the “spirit” tells them something that sounds just the opposite.

On the other hand, I’ve heard people who feel impressed to do or say something.  They don’t follow through on it.  Then, when it’s too late, they realize that they’d heard from the Holy Spirit and missed the opportunity for a blessing.  (I’ve been guilty of this more than once.)

We need to spend quality time in the spirit.  That’s where trust and sensitivity are developed.  I believe that’s why the disciples had an easier time hearing from the Spirit once Christ had ascended.  They simply transferred their focus to the voice of the Spirit.

Spend the time necessary to learn to hear and obey the Spirit.  I believe that’s where the Lord is leading His church in this generation.  It’s through hearing and obeying that we’ll see the end-time harvest of souls before the return of Christ.

Question: What can you do to develop a listening ear in the spirit?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2018 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Attitudes are Contagious

As we continue in the Gospel of Mark, we’re now a few days before the cross.  The Lord was invited to a party in His honor.  Many people came to see Him.

I suggest that you read Mark chapter 14, verses 1 through 11 before proceeding in this post.

During this meal, a woman shows up and makes her way to the feet of Jesus.  She opens a bottle of expensive perfume (approximately $40,000 in our economy) and pours it on the Lord’s feet.  This caused quite a stir among the crowd.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume?  It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.”  And they rebuked her harshly.
Mark 14:4-5

But wait a minute!  How did it get to this stage?  I think that the answer may surprise you.

According to John 12:4-5, Judas was the first person to mention the price of the perfume.  He objected to its being poured out on Jesus’ feet.  Then, in Matthew 26:8-9, we see the rest of the disciples picking up this attitude.

I believe that it wasn’t until Judas and the disciples started their fuss, that the crowd heard it and ran with it.  I’m sure that it took some time for this attitude to build up.  Then the crowd got angry and eventually said something to the woman.

This should be a lesson to us.  We need to watch what we say and the attitude that comes across.  Too often we’re guilty of giving the world ammunition to aim at the church.

I find it interesting that people who’ve never set foot inside a church will say that all the church wants is your money.  Where did they hear that from?  Was it from a believer who was upset that the pastor actually taught about tithing?  We need to be careful.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus.  “Why are you bothering her?  She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.  But you will not always have me.  She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.”
Mark 14:6-8

Jesus makes some interesting statements to the crowd.  If you put it into modern terms, He said, “Let it go!” and “Get off her back!”  The Lord made it clear that they had placed a heavy burden on her.

When the woman heard the crowd, she probably started to second-guess herself.  She might have thought, “I’ll never do something like that again.”  Many times, because they’re misunderstood, people are hurt and then they don’t do anything else for God.

It’s clear that she had done something prompted by the Holy Spirit.  She was anointing Christ to prepare Him for burial.  This was something she had no way of knowing in the natural.  This woman was operating in the wisdom of God.

“I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”  Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them.
Mark 14:9-10

This story has a sad ending.  In the original Greek, these two sentences are connected by the word “and”.  I believe that Judas was upset at being called out for his bad attitude.  It was the final act that made him seek to betray Jesus for money.

Don’t let your attitude mess up your walk with God.  Keep it in check by the Holy Spirit and don’t let it affect others around you.

Question: How has the attitude of others caused your attitude to change?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2018 in Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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