RSS

Category Archives: Encouragement

Have a Happy Fourth of July

I’m going to take a break from my Gospel of Mark series today.  In the USA, today is Independence Day – the day we declared ourselves an independent nation.

I love the Fourth of July.  It’s one of my favorite holidays.  Picnics with family, outdoor fun, not to mention fireworks at night.  Even more than that, I thank God for a nation where I’m granted the freedom to do all these things without fear.

You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Galatians 5:13

We’re called to be free.  Freedom is something that God wants for all humanity.  Unfortunately, what most people consider freedom isn’t the real thing.

Society thinks that freedom is the ability to do what I want, whenever I want.  Their opinion is that freedom means that I can feel good all of the time.

That’s a very selfish definition.  Freedom is not all about me.  Our founding fathers gave selflessly in the cause of freedom.  It was definitely not about their personal good, but for the betterment of everyone that drove them to resist the most powerful nation on earth at that time.  Many lost their lives to win this precious gift for us.

There are still those in the armed forces and public safety positions that lay their lives on the line each day so that we can continue to live free.  Freedom is more of a responsibility than a pleasure.  I have to put as much into it as I receive from it.

That’s what Paul was trying to tell us in the verse above.  Freedom is not all about indulging my every desire, but the ability to serve one another unhindered.  We need to listen to his exhortation.  As believers, we’ve not only been blessed with our spiritual freedom in Christ, but our physical freedom in the USA.

Let’s live out that freedom responsibly.  Not in the granting of our every desire, but in seeking the blessing of all through a life of service.

Live free.  Be a blessing to all those around you.  And thank God for the freedom we share.

Question: How do you use your freedom to benefit others?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 4, 2018 in Encouragement, Ministry

 

Tags: , , , , ,

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

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , ,

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

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Importance of the Unseen

Over the last few posts, we can see that the disciples following Jesus seemed to be pretty slow in their trust of the Lord.  They have a hard time applying what He did in the past, to their present challenges.  Of course, that’s our problem sometimes as well.

I’ve found that the questions Jesus asks are just as important as His teachings.  It draws out what’s really going on inside of us.  He wants to activate the faith that may be lying dormant within us.

For this reason, He asks the disciples some questions.

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi.  On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
Mark 8:27-28

This is an interesting conversation between the Lord and His followers.  Jesus asks them who the crowds think He is.  In reading the original Greek, it sounds like their initial answer is, “John the Baptist.”  Then they added that some say Elijah or another lesser known prophet.

That’s funny when you think about it because Jesus was baptized by John.  They were seen together on a few occasions.

This actually shows us how society works.  When someone becomes famous, and people start to recognize their name, it’s as if they had never existed before that moment.

When Jesus was baptized by John, He probably stood in line like everyone else.  Even though John recognized who the Lord was, to the casual observer, Jesus was simply one of many being baptized that day.

They didn’t see Jesus studying and meditating on the Scripture for His first 30 years.  They didn’t see the hours of fasting and prayer over His future ministry to Israel.  They never knew about the 40 days He spent in the wilderness being tested.

The foundation of the house is the most important part, yet it’s the part rarely seen in the completed structure.  That’s why there can be no shortcuts in the preparation seasons of our ministry.  It’s frustrating to realize it, but most will never know the hard work that went into what people eventually see in public.

The disciples knew the reality.

“But what about you?” he asked.  “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
Mark 8:29-30

They were finally able to voice what they had been thinking inside.  It was no longer a question; could this be the Messiah?  Now it was a definitive statement.

We need to follow the example of Christ.  Are you believing for God to accomplish something extraordinary through you?  Then don’t look for the shortcuts.

Don’t become so frustrated that you drop out during your season of preparation.  Continue to do what you know to do.  Allow the Lord to bring you to the place you need to be in Him.  Then, at the appointed time, you’ll see the manifestation of God’s Word to you.

Question: What are you believing God to bring about in your life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Will We Ever Learn?

Every once in a while someone will ask me, “Why do I keep facing the same problem over and over?”  We know that the problems we face are trials or tests.  When we get the same test again and again, it’s a signal for us to take a spiritual inventory.

The disciples of Christ had a similar experience.  A remote place, no resources, and a hungry crowd of people.

During those days another large crowd gathered.  Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied.
Mark 8:1-5

History repeats itself.  This is the same scenario that we saw in Mark chapter 6, verses 35-44.  Jesus had been teaching the crowd.  It was getting late.  They were all hungry.

There is one noticeable difference.  In chapter 6, the disciples had to search the crowd to know how much bread they had.  At this time they came to Jesus already knowing the answer.

My first thought is to rebuke the disciples for not learning the lesson when Jesus fed the five thousand.  But then my next thought is, how long it takes me to learn the lessons God is trying to get across to me.  It seems like, at least in my case, I don’t learn them the first time around.

Jesus had to show them, once again, the supernatural provision of God.

He told the crowd to sit down on the ground.  When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so.  They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them.  The people ate and were satisfied.  Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  About four thousand men were present.  And having sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.
Mark 8:6-10

The trials that we face are testing us.  They come along to see if we’ve learned the lessons God is showing us.  He’s teaching us to trust Him.  When we manifest that faith, we pass the test.

James explains the procedure to us.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
James 1:2-3

That means if we face the same test over and over, then we’re not learning the lesson correctly.  It’s time to pray for wisdom to see what we’re missing.

Our goal should be to know the Lord more intimately.  The more we know Him and His desires for us, the better prepared we’ll be for the upcoming tests.  Instead of being frustrated by the repeated testing, let it drive you into the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Let our great Teacher mentor you for the challenges ahead.

Question: What was a lesson that took you a few times to get right?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 26, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

God’s Watchfulness

We’re continuing to look at the Gospel of Mark.  In my last post, we saw that after sending the disciples off and dismissing the crowds, Jesus went up on a mountainside to pray and seek the Father.

He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.   About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake.  He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost.  They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.
Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”
Mark 6:48-50

The disciples didn’t know that the Lord could be up on the mountain praying and watching over them at the same time.

We sometimes think that God isn’t watching us.  Or maybe He’s simply ignoring us.  The truth is that the Lord not only knows where you are, but He also knows the quickest route to get to you.

There seemed to be no way for Jesus to be in a position to help the disciples.  That is until He started walking across the water.

He took the quickest path to the boat.  Remember, the things that keep us down don’t bind the Lord.  He knows how to show up in your time of need.

The disciples weren’t looking for Him to appear.  As a matter of fact, it seems that they were more afraid of the Lord walking on the water than they were of the storm.

If you’re going through a storm today, don’t be afraid, Christ is nearby and ready to help you.  Make sure you place yourself in a position to receive His help.  Don’t fear His solution more than your problem.

Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down.  They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.
Mark 6:51-52

The weather is something you and I can’t control.  Every part of the USA has some kind of natural dangers that occur regularly.   Most of what you encounter in these conditions is out of your hands, all you can do is prepare for it, and do your best to survive through it.

Even worse, are the spiritual and emotional storms that we face.  Many times they come upon us with no warning at all.  These upheavals can sometimes ruin the rest of our lives.

The good news is that no matter what you face in life, you’re never alone.  When the disciples struggled to cross the lake they were never out of the Lord’s protection.

It’s good to know that when danger arises, He can walk on water to rescue you.  Only He has the power to still the storm you’re going through and never break a sweat.

The trouble with the disciples was that they had not understood all that they saw in Jesus up until that point.  Scripture says that their hearts were still hard.  They should have been able to expect the Lord to show up when they needed Him.  Instead, they end up completely amazed that they were able to survive the ordeal.

Remember that the Lord can make a way for you when the path seems hopeless.  Never forget to acknowledge His protective care over your life.  Even in your darkest time, expect the Lord to show up and guide you to a safe haven.  Yield to Him today and let Him direct you to your destiny in Him.

Question: How has God rescued you from an “impossible” situation in the past?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 12, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God

 

Tags: , , , , , ,