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Category Archives: Encouragement

I Can’t Believe It!

Why do we find it so hard to believe God’s Word sometimes?  We trust Him for our salvation.  But what about other things like healing, provision, and protection?  Why do some obstacles look bigger than others?

When Jesus rose from the dead, we find that the disciples struggled with the same issues that we do.  You may want to read Mark 16:1-14 before continuing with this post.

The morning that Jesus rose from the dead, some women went to the tomb to finish the embalming process.  When they arrived, they found that the stone was rolled away from the entrance.  Even more astounding was the angel that was sitting inside the tomb, apparently waiting for them.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said.  “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'”
Mark 16:6-7

They received one of the most glorious messages in history.  But instead of the joy it should have brought them, it only made them afraid.  As a matter of fact, the next 6 verses tell of the most doubt-filled, unbelieving time in the lives of the Lord’s followers.

The women, themselves, were too afraid to tell anybody about what the angels had told them.  Mary Magdalene actually saw and talked to the risen Lord.  Yet no one would believe her.  Others saw and spoke to the risen Christ, but nobody believed them either.

Why is it so hard to believe that God can do the impossible?  It’s probably because we look at things through the eyes of our experiences.  That’s why we find it easy to believe God to heal our headache, but cancer seems too big an issue.

The Lord had something to say about it to the disciples.

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
Mark 16:14

Jesus rebuked them for two things.  The first was unbelief.  That’s normal for us as humans.  There will always be a level of unbelief that resides in our flesh – even when we’re trusting God.

The key is in the next word that Jesus used.  The phrase, stubborn refusal is literally hard-hearted in the Greek.  They had closed their hearts to the truth.

We know that faith comes by hearing God’s Word.  The problem was that when they heard the Word of testimony from those who saw Christ, they refused to let that truth enter their heart.  If they had, it would have produced the faith that could overcome their unbelief.

We need to learn this lesson.  Open your heart to God’s Word.  Even if it sounds impossible.  Even if your experience tells you that there’s no way for God to accomplish it.  Put that Word into your heart and let it grow and produce the fruit of faith in your life.

Our God can do the impossible – we simply have to trust Him for it.

Question: What have you seen God do for you that you originally thought was impossible?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on September 12, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Setup

We’re continuing to look at the crucifixion of Christ as recorded in Mark’s Gospel.  In my last post, Jesus breathed His last and the curtain in the Temple was torn in two.  Now we see the witnesses around the cross.

And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Some women were watching from a distance.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.  In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs.  Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
Mark 15:39-41

This was not something that was done in secret.  There were many people surrounding the cross.  They watched as He gave His life.

Many of these people had placed their hopes in Christ.  Now that dream was gone.

Maybe they were all praying for a miracle as they watched everything taking place.  They could have hoped that at the last moment, angels would swoop down and take Jesus off the cross.  They watched and waited, but the Messiah stayed on the cross.

Now it was over.  There was nothing left to do but to take care of the body.  A member of the Sanhedrin stepped up and came out of the shadows.

It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath).  So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.  Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead.  Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died.  When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.
Mark 15:42-45

Joseph was a man who was highly respected.  He could have remained as a secret follower of Christ.  Instead, he summoned his inner strength and received the body of Jesus.

So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock.  Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
Mark 15:46-47

Joseph did what he could to prepare the body for burial.  He even gave the Lord his own tomb that had never been used.  Once the body was laid to rest, the tomb was sealed.  It was finished.

At least that’s what everybody thought.  What went through their minds as they tried to sleep that night?  It seemed like God had failed them.

It’s like us sometimes.  We give God a time limit.  We think He needs to answer us by this time.  Then, when nothing happens, we get upset with God.

“Lord, I trusted You.  Why didn’t You answer my prayer?”

What we miss sometimes, is that God isn’t bound by our limits and weaknesses.  He can bring about His plan even after we think it’s too late.

The people of Scripture thought the same way as us.  Jesus is dead and buried in the ground.  There’s no way that He can save Israel now.

Understand this.  God always has a bigger plan than we can see.  It’s never too late for the Lord to turn things around.  Put your trust in Him and never waver in your faith.

We know how the story will finish!

Question: When has God answered your prayer even when you thought it was too late?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God

 

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The Pain of the Cross

Before He ever went to His cross, Jesus told us that we each need to carry our own cross.  What does that mean to us?  I believe that the events surrounding His crucifixion, give us some insights.

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.
Mark 15:21

The first thing we see is that in His weakened state, the Lord was physically unable to carry the full weight of His cross.  So a man named Simon was made to carry it.

Nobody volunteers to carry a cross.  He had to be forced to do it, and it wasn’t even Simon’s cross.

We may not want to do it, but carrying our cross is a choice every believer has to make.  It’s a daily decision.  It’s not some situation that we find ourselves in.

I’ve heard some women say about their husband, “You’re my cross that I have to bear.”  That’s absolutely not what’s meant by carrying the cross.  It’s all about a daily choice to deny the flesh and follow the leading of the Spirit.

They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).  Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.
Mark 15:22-23

The next thing I see is that the cross involves pain.  Besides its other uses, myrrh was a painkiller.  Condemned criminals were given it to take the edge off of the pain they were about to endure.  Jesus refused it, taking the full pain of punishment for us.

The fact is that when we deny the flesh, there’s pain involved.  Maybe not physical pain, but there is a great discomfort in refusing the way of the “old man”.  A large part of that is the knowledge that at any point we could choose to stop the discomfort and give in to the temptation of sin.

To my knowledge, there’s no painkiller available to stop the discomfort of denying the flesh.  I wish that there was.  I believe that Christ refused the myrrh to identify with our suffering.

And they crucified him.  Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
Mark 15:24

Finally, the cross involves loss.  Jesus had to watch while others took things that belonged to Him.  That’s also a part of what happens when we deny the flesh.

Our present generation has recently coined a new term – FOMO.  It stands for a Fear Of Missing Out.  In our age of everyone being connected to each other – we constantly know what all our friends are doing.  We know where they are, what they’re eating, and what they’re feeling.

When we decide to deny the flesh and follow the Spirit, it always comes with the fear that we’re going to miss out on the enjoyment of the world.  If I follow Jesus, then I’m not going to have as much fun as my friends.

That’s a choice you have to make.  It depends on whether you want fun or fulfillment.  Do you want a life you can look back on and say, “That was worth living!”?

Please understand; I’m not saying that there’s no fun as a believer.  My life is full of good times.  But the good times in Christ come without the baggage of regret.  Sometimes the hardest choices bring the greatest rewards.

Carrying your cross – it goes against human nature – but you’ll find that it’s worth the pain.

Question: What does carrying your cross mean to you?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2018 in Encouragement, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Focused on the Cross

In today’s post, I’ll continue looking at the Gospel of Mark.  A few weeks ago we left off as Christ was on trial.  Now He’s brought before Pontius Pilate for the Roman decision on His case..  You may want to read Mark 15:1-20 before proceeding with this post.

As we saw when Jesus was before the elders of Israel, He was not led by the Holy Spirit to answer the charges being brought against Him.  They were brought by false witnesses who didn’t even agree with each other.

These leaders decided that the Lord was worthy of death.  Actually, they simply wanted Him dead whether He was worthy of it or not.  So they bring Jesus before Pilate, who was the only person who could legally pronounce a death penalty.

Of all the things the Pharisees accused Jesus of; one, in particular, caught Pilate’s attention.

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
Mark 15:2

The Lord was willing to testify concerning the truth about who He was.  But why didn’t He elaborate?  I would have probably gone on to say, “Not only am I the king of the Jews but Lord of Heaven and earth as well.  I am the Creator of the universe. “

Of course, that’s the human reaction.  We have to remember; the Lord’s goal was not to be worshipped but to die on the cross for the sins of the world.  In that respect, He simply answered the question as it had been asked.

The rest of the accusations were of no consequence to Him.

The chief priests accused him of many things.  So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer?  See how many things they are accusing you of.”
But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
Mark 15:3-5

Pilate was not used to this.  Usually, a person in Jesus’ position would be vigorously claiming their innocence.  The Lord saw no need for it.  And neither did Pilate, as he later testified when the crowd was crying for crucifixion.

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Mark 15:14

I praise God that Jesus was single-minded in His determination to complete the work set before Him.  At many points, the Lord could have done something or said something that would have secured His release.  But His focus was unbreakable.  His mind was fixed upon winning our salvation.

We need the Holy Spirit to work that same attitude in us.  Too often we get distracted by side issues.  We feel the need to justify ourselves or to prove our right to do what we want.

We need to be seeking the Father for His will for our lives.  Then, with the strength of the Spirit, we move forward with unstoppable passion.  This should be our prayer for the church in our generation.

Question: Why are the distractions so tempting to us?

© Nick Zaccardi 2018

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2018 in Encouragement, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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Our Excellent God (Repost)

I’m taking a couple of weeks to do some hiking and praying off in the woods.  While I’m gone I’ve felt that I should repost my Top 10 most read articles.  Some of you have been following me long enough to have read them already.  If so, my prayer is that they will again be a blessing to you.

I believe that the word excellent is overused in our society.  Excellence doesn’t just mean good, or even great.  It means that what’s described is far ahead of everything else.  It’s not a word that should be used lightly.

It’s a descriptive word that should probably be reserved for God alone, and the things associated with Him.  We serve a God of excellence.  I just want to take a post to show the excellent God that we serve.

The very names that God uses about Himself point to the fact of His Excellency.  Here are some examples from the Old Testament:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1

In this verse, God is called the Most High.  This is a term of comparison.  There are many things in the universe that could be considered “high.”  But of all the high things and people that exist, God is the Most High.  This fits perfectly into the definition of excellence.

Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
Psalm 148:13

Exalted and above are also words of comparison.  They relate the Lord to His surroundings.  They show that He alone is in a position of supreme excellence.  There’s no other god that can even compare to our God.

My lover is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand.
Song of Songs 5:10

In the Song of Songs, written by Solomon, an allegory of the marriage between Christ and His church is put forward.  Christ is referred to here as outstanding among ten thousand.  This is an obvious comparison showing the excellence of Christ.

In the beginning God…
Genesis 1:1a

Before everything, there was God.  All of creation sprang from His Word.  He’s at the head of all He created.  That’s a perfect description of excellence.

When we use the word excellent, we should be careful to understand it.  We mustn’t water it down to simply describe something that pleases us.  We should always be aware that we serve a God who is the very definition of excellence.

Christ truly is the Excellent One.

Question: How would you describe the Excellency of our Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2018

 

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Three Main Functions of the Mind (Repost)

I’m taking a couple of weeks to do some hiking and praying off in the woods.  While I’m gone I’ve felt that I should repost my Top 10 most read articles.  Some of you have been following me long enough to have read them already.  If so, my prayer is that they will again be a blessing to you.

I enjoy studying teachings about the subject of Creation vs. Evolution.  I believe there’s a very important issue involved that no one seems to talk about.

We’ll start by looking at a passage from the book of Hebrews.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
Hebrews 11:3

Actually, it all boils down to one key phrase – we understand.  What does it mean to understand?

The Bible talks about three basic concepts that deal with how the mind functions.

The first is knowledge.  Knowledge is the accumulation of facts and it’s the easiest to acquire.  We go to school or read books and get knowledge.

The next is wisdom, and that’s a little bit tougher to get.  Wisdom is the application of knowledge to solve problems.  The only way to get wisdom is through experience or time spent in God’s presence.

The third and most important function is understanding.   Understanding involves direction.  It looks for the eventual outcome of a line of thinking.  It tries to put together all the facts, and asks, “Where does the path I’m on take me?”  This process exercises the mind to its greatest potential.  It’s hard work and sometimes brings unexpected results.

Because of this, most people will not seek understanding.  Yet seeking is the only way to obtain it.  You must choose to understand.

Understanding, then, is exercising the mind to see the entire picture of life.  It looks at how everything fits together.  This is what our society desperately needs.

Unfortunately, most school systems teach us NOT to understand.  Everything is about the present.  Does it feel good right now?  Instead of understanding, they seek explanations – as long as these explanations fit into their worldviews.

There’s an unfortunate outcome to this kind of living.

Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.
Psalm 32:9

Our modern society displays the truth of this verse.  The less understanding you possess, the more you need to be controlled.

We frequently hear people complain, “There are so many new and complicated laws now.”  What does that tell you?  I believe that we’re training a generation how not to understand.

The ability to seek understanding is the basis for a clear direction in life.  It’s got to be the starting point.  Without direction, there’s no reason for self-control.

This is why the creation-evolution debate is so emotional.  It involves issues that affect the very core of who we are and how we view our existence.

Question: How is a lack of direction displayed by our present society?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2018 in Encouragement, Spiritual Walk

 

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Quick Repentance

I’ve been posting about the events surrounding the arrest of Jesus.  The focus now turns to Peter, who has been watching from a safe distance.  You may want to read Mark 14:66-72 before continuing in this article.

We find Peter in the courtyard, watching the Jews question the Lord.  Then, one of the servant girls notices him.

When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.  “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.
But he denied it.  “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.
Mark 14:67-68

What a response!  This is the same man who vehemently said that he would die before denying Christ.  Why would he do this?

I believe that Peter is no different than any of us.  As he sat there watching the proceedings, he began to go over all of the possible outcomes in his mind.  He saw that it was the Pharisees’ intention to put the Lord to death.

His whole focus now became; how to save himself.  That was what his mind was dwelling on.  What makes me say this?

If you look at Peter’s answer to the girl, you see what I’m talking about.  What he gave as a response was actually a legal phrase.  It was what a witness would say in a trial if they hadn’t seen what they were being asked about.  He gave a well-thought-out answer.

Later on, the servant girl asked Peter a second and a third time if he was one of the disciples of Jesus.

He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
Mark 14:71

Peter actually goes to the point of calling down a curse upon himself if he were lying.  Notice that he never mentions Jesus by name, but calls Him “this man”.  He had definitely been rehearsing what he was going to say.

Then, suddenly, the truth of what he had done hits him.

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time.  Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.”  And he broke down and wept.
Mark 14:72

I don’t know why this happens.  When it comes to sin, we don’t realize the weight of it until after we’ve fallen.  Then we feel upset and guilty about it.  That’s the time to take care of it.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
2 Corinthians 7:10

Don’t wallow in guilt and regret.  As soon as you realize your sin, repent and be free of it.  God doesn’t need time to “cool off”.  The Holy Spirit is with you to bring forgiveness and restoration.  The quicker you repent, the quicker you can get back on your spiritual feet again.

Question: What has the Lord taught you about quick repentance?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2018 in Encouragement, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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