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Author Archives: Revzacc

About Revzacc

I pastor a church in Watertown, Massachusetts. I also enjoy traveling, hiking, and enjoying new places and experiences.

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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Who are You Really Serving?

There are posts that I really enjoy writing.  There are others that I wrestle with God about publishing them.  I don’t want to be the one who rocks the boat.  Unfortunately, today’s post is one of those that I didn’t want to write.

Jesus was nearing the cross and the battle lines were being drawn between Him and the religious leaders of His day.

As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law.  They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.  They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.  Such men will be punished most severely.”
Mark 12:38-40

In Jesus’ day, there were those who taught the Scripture, while at the same time having an element of self-indulgence.  There were times that they taught the truth of God’s Word, drawing people closer to the Lord.  At the same time, they were feeding their own egos and lining their pockets.

These religious leaders liked the fact that they were highly esteemed among the people.  They were able to dress well and were readily recognized.  People wanted to be at the meetings when these leaders were present.

According to Jesus, for all of their training and knowledge, they weren’t scoring any points with God.  As a matter of fact, the Lord warned the crowds that they needed to do what these leaders taught, while at the same time rejecting their self-absorbed lifestyle (Matthew 23:1-4).

Jesus also condemns the religious system itself.  He points out the fact that their extravagant way of life is paid for by those who could least afford it.

That was the easy part of this post.  Now on to the difficult section…

Lately, I’ve been becoming more and more disheartened by the direction of our modern system of Christianity.  It seems like in many areas we’re taking on the attitude of corporate America.

What do I mean by this?  In most large corporations, the senior executives make more money than they could spend in ten lifetimes.  In that same company, the employees who do the bulk of the work can’t make ends meet with the one salary they earn from doing that job.

Now we have huge churches where the pastors have big homes, garages full of cars, private jets and a continual desire for more.  Many of their members have to work two or sometimes three jobs to make ends meet.  Granted, they’re preaching Jesus Christ and many are getting saved under their ministry.  But at what point is enough, enough?

I’m told that their luxurious lifestyle is the reward for their faithfulness in the ministry.  As a pastor who has been serving the same church for 30 years, I find that kind of thinking offensive.  I gave up a career where I was on track for a six-figure engineering salary when God called me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not jealous of these preachers.  If I had it to do all over again I would gladly make the same choices for the honor of serving my Lord.  I just don’t like being told that the car I drive or the house I rent is the indication of how faithful I’ve been to the calling of God.

It’s nothing new.  The church has been dealing with this throughout history.  I like Paul’s attitude.

But what does it matter?  The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.  And because of this I rejoice.
Philippians 1:18

That’s the attitude I want to portray.  I apologize if I seemed to be ranting.  I hold no ill will against any of my brothers or sisters in the ministry.  I simply want Christ to be exalted in His church.

Question: What is the true indication of faithfulness to God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2018 in Faith, God's Provision, Ministry, The Church

 

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Who is Christ?

As we continue to look at the Gospel of Mark, we’re at the point where Jesus is in Jerusalem, during the last weeks before the cross.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David?  David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:
“‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ‘
David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”
The large crowd listened to him with delight.
Mark 12:35-37

Jesus is giving the crowd something to think about.  It’s also a testimony as to who He really is.  Any teacher of the Law would know exactly what He was saying.

First, the Lord asks a question.  Why do the teachers of the Law use the term Son of David for the Messiah?

That’s important because the phrase Son of David is never used in the Old Testament in relation to the Christ.  It does teach that Messiah would be a king from the line of Judah.

So they were right in assuming the connection to David.  But the title, Son of David, was coined by the Rabbis.  So in answering the question – they call Messiah the Son of David because their careful study of the Scripture pointed them in that direction.

The next question is harder to answer without a willingness to have your heart changed.  If David calls Him Lord, how can the Messiah be his son?  Jesus is quoting the prophecy of Psalm 110.

In the Hebrew, David gives a prophecy that “Yahweh will say to my Adonai…”.  But in Scripture, both Yahweh and Adonai are names of the one, true God.

It’s through this teaching that Jesus declares to all the religious leaders who He is.  By their own study, the teachers of that day should realize that the only way for the Son of David to be Adonai is for God Himself to take on flesh.

That’s what sets Christianity apart from all the seemingly Christian based cults.  Jesus Christ declared Himself, on more than one occasion, to be God in the flesh.  That’s the test of what is the true church versus the false.

Even in Paul’s day, there were those who would try to deny the deity of Christ.  He condemned the church at Corinth for not being careful with their teaching.

For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
2 Corinthians 11:4

That’s also what separates Christianity from all other religions.  They all teach that man has to strive to reach acceptance with a god or struggle for perfection.  The true God tells us that it’s impossible for us to do it on our own.  So He took the initiative to take on flesh and provide the way of salvation for us through the work of Christ on the cross.

I am so grateful for the gift given to us by Jesus Christ.  There truly is no other name under heaven that provides such a rich reward for those who choose to follow Him.

Question: What events brought you to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2018 in The Church, The Gospel

 

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Showing True Love

When Jesus was asked about the greatest command of Scripture, He explained how to truly show your love for God.  In today’s post, we’ll look at what the Lord describes as the second greatest command.

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:31

In order to understand this verse, you need to know what a neighbor is.  In another of the Gospels, Jesus is actually asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

It’s pretty simple.  The Greek word used in this verse literally means someone who is physically near you.  Even in the English word, neighbor, the “nei” part means “near”.

So we’re not talking about the community you live in, even though that could be included.  When Jesus talks about neighbors, He’s speaking about anybody you happen to be around during the day.  It doesn’t matter whether you know them or not.

Once we know who we’re supposed to show our love to, the next obvious question is; what is love?  This word has been so overused in our society, that when we read Scripture many people have no clue what it really means.

The first thing I see is that the Lord commands us to love whoever we find in our vicinity.  If it’s a command, then it has nothing to do with our emotions.  The Greek word, agape, used in this verse is a choice to love.

Because there is no emotion involved in this love, it’s simply a choice I have to make when I’m near someone.  It doesn’t matter whether or not I know them.  More importantly, it doesn’t even matter whether I like them or not.  The command stands for enemies as well as friends.

Then there are the excuses we like to make for ourselves.  I’ve heard people say, “I love everybody.”  They say this to justify themselves.  Usually, this statement is untrue.

Jesus tells us that we’re to love others in the same way that we love ourselves.  How do I love myself?  Healthy self-love is an active pursuit to make my life better.  This includes my position with my family, my job, my attitudes, my influence, my finances, my spirituality, and so much more.

So when you talk about loving someone else, it’s an action word.  It means that you are actively participating in their lives.  You want their life to be better because they met you.  That’s showing love to your neighbor.

It could be as simple as greeting someone with a smile in the check-out line.  It could be giving money to a person in need.  There are literally thousands of ways of positively impacting the lives of those around you.

I do realize that this is harder to do when it involves those that we don’t like.  But, with the help of the Holy Spirit, it’s not impossible.

We need to respond to God’s commands as the person in Scripture.

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.  To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Mark 12:32-34

We should make it our goal to let our lives show a true love for God and for others around us.  That will play a large role in attracting people to the Gospel of Christ.

Question: How has the love of others affected your life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2018 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Loving God

As Jesus was nearing the time of the cross, He was questioned by various religious leaders.  Some with good motives and others who were trying to trap Him in what He said.  There was one who seemed to want a real answer.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating.  Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Mark 12:28

Jesus was always willing to answer those who asked a serious question.

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”
Mark 12:29-30

The Lord gives this man the most important command of the Law.  It turns out that Jesus didn’t give him a rule to follow, such as sacrificing, tithing, or reading Scripture.  Instead, it was a command to know who God is and then knowing how to respond to Him correctly.

This is still a valid command for us today.  As Christians, we need to understand who it is that we serve and what it takes to show our love for Him.

Love God with all of your heart.  Your heart is the garden of your life.  It’s where you put things that you want to grow.

It’s the good soil that you should be planting the Word into.  Loving God with all your heart means that you will only plant things that will please God.

If I were a servant tending to a garden for my master, this would be simple to understand.  If my master hated green beans, then there would never be any green beans in my garden.  We should only be planting the things that please God in our hearts.

Love God with all of your soul.  That’s the seat of your decision making.  We show our love for God each day by the decisions we make.  Do we take God’s will into account when we decide what direction our lives will take?

Love God with all of your mind.  Your mind is the storehouse of your life.  Whether you remember it or not, everything that you see and hear is stored forever in your mind.  That’s why it’s so important to be careful gatekeepers of what we watch and listen to.

When the Lord walks through your storehouse, what does He see?  Are there things that are offensive to Him?  If so, then you can clean it up through repentance and faith in the cleansing power of the blood of Christ.

Love God with all of your strength.  I think that this is the one command that seals all of the others.  Without it, our love falls short.

That’s because your strength speaks of actually doing something.  You can’t say that you love without putting it into action.

I’ve heard people say, “I love God in my heart even though you don’t see it in my actions.”  Actually, that’s not real love.  Whether you’re talking about a human relationship or walking with God, love has to be shown by what we do.

It takes all of these together to make a complete love package.  Our heart, soul, mind, and strength must be working in unison.  It’s through these that we fulfill our greatest calling.

Question:  Why is this the most important command of Scripture?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2018 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Biggest Mistake

We’re continuing to look at the Gospel of Mark.  At this point, the Pharisees are trying to trip up Jesus in His words.  They’re not doing very well at it.

In Mark chapter 12, verses 18 through 27, a group of Sadducees come to question the Lord.  You may want to read this section of Scripture before continuing in this post.

As a religious sect of Israel, the Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection of the dead.  They also don’t believe in angels, demons, or miracles.

This group came to Jesus with an insane question about seven brothers who all had the same wife.  This happened because each brother died and the wife was passed down to the next oldest brother.

They asked Jesus who the wife would be married to in the resurrection.  They thought that this proved the resurrection was simply a foolish idea.

The Lord has a way of getting right to the heart of the matter.

Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?  When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.  Now about the dead rising — have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.  You are badly mistaken!”
Mark 12:24-27

This group of Sadducees had found a way to live for themselves and still sleep soundly at night.  They decided that there was no resurrection and, therefore, no judgment, heaven or hell.  They didn’t have to worry about any consequences for their actions.

Jesus didn’t pull any punches with them.  He told them exactly what they needed to hear.

The word, error that Jesus used means to roam around.  They’re not on the right path.  They’ve decided to go off on their own way.

The Lord then shows them the clear teaching of Scripture.  The Bible plainly shows us the fact of the resurrection again and again.  These men had chosen to ignore it for their own selfish purposes.

It’s important that we hear what the Lord is saying. There are many issues where we’re guilty of missing the truth.

Jesus tells us the underlying reasons why we leave the path of God’s truth.  First, we don’t know the Scripture.  That’s the knowledge that comes from experience.  We get in trouble because we don’t want to apply the Scripture to our personal lives.

The second issue is just as important – not knowing the power of God.  We have to understand that God is powerful enough to accomplish anything that He says in His Word.

It’s our humanity that looks at our experience and comes up with all kinds of excuses for our lack of power.

“My cousin prayed and believed God for a healing, but he died.  So healing isn’t for everyone.”

Truly, I’m sorry for those who are not healed when they pray.  But that still doesn’t change what the Scripture says, or God’s power toward those who believe.  Throughout Scripture, we’re told that Jesus paid for our healing on the cross.

“I don’t believe that prayer in tongues or miracles are for today.”

Again, that doesn’t change the Word or God’s power.  Jesus clearly said that His disciples couldn’t bring the Gospel to the world without this experience.  Are you really going to tell me that we don’t need this power in our lives today?

We need to get back to a true understanding of both the Word of God and the power of God.

Question: How has the Scripture and God’s power played an important role in your life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Hung by the Tongue

As we continue to study the Gospel of Mark, it’s getting closer to the time of the cross.  The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus in His words.  They’re sending delegations of teachers to Him for the purpose of tripping Him up.

Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words.  They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity.  You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?  Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
Mark 12:13-15a

This is an interesting group that came to Jesus.  Pharisees and Herodians.  The Pharisees wanted national independence for Israel.  The Herodians were very comfortable under Roman rule.  They expected that no matter what Jesus answered, someone would be offended.

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy.  “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”
Mark 12:15b

The key word here is hypocrisy.  It’s really the Greek word for stage acting.  Jesus knew that these men were simply playing a part; what they said about Him was not meant in reality.  If they really believed what they said about Him, they would have been followers of Christ.

If you think about it, it’s actually something we should take seriously in our generation.  It seems pretty easy for us to say things like, “Jesus is my Lord.”  Every week we sing lyrics that say, “Jesus, you are my whole life.  I give my all to you.”

We need to ask ourselves; do we really mean it, or are we just playing a part – our Sunday morning acting personas?  That’s what it means to be a hypocrite.  It means that under certain, public conditions, we say things that are not true in our daily lives.

“No!  I’m not trying to deceive anyone.  I’m just singing the words that they put on the screen.”

Remember, Jesus said that we would have to give an accounting for every careless word spoken (Matthew 12:36).  I believe that includes the careless words we sing too.

They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this?  And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him.
Mark 12:16-17

This is the truth that we all need to hear.  If we live in the world, then there are obligations that come with it – taxes, jobs, expenses, and other things as well.  The Lord knows about these.

The problem comes in when we voluntarily obligate ourselves to the world.  In our generation, we take on too many things that leave no room in our schedules for the plan of God.

We don’t have time for spiritual things because of that night class, soccer practice, movie night, or the hundred other things clamoring for our attention.  We can binge watch twelve episodes of our favorite TV show but have no time for intimate prayer with the Holy Spirit.

According to Jesus, we need to get our priorities straight.  The time is now for the people of God to live as though Jesus Christ truly is our whole life.  Then we’ll see the hand of God manifesting the power that they had in the early church.

Question: How do you reorder your schedule to make more time for developing your spiritual life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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