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Category Archives: Faith

Prayer and Fasting – A Foundation for Faith

Did you know that waiting for a problem to arise before you strengthen your faith is a bad idea?  Too many people only press into God and His Word when their back is against the wall.  Jesus teaches that the time to prepare is well before you need a breakthrough.

In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 9 and verses 14-29, we see what happened as Jesus and His three closest disciples were coming down from the mountain of transfiguration.  You may want to read that passage in the Bible before continuing in this post.

It seems that they walked into a storm of controversy.  A crowd had formed around the other disciples.  Bedlam had broken out.

There was a demon possessed boy whose father had brought him to them for deliverance.  They tried everything they knew, yet the demon would not leave.  Jesus’ response to all of this is important for us to see.

“O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you?  How long shall I put up with you?  Bring the boy to me.”
Mark 9:19

The implication of what the Lord is saying here is, “How long will I have to be in this nation trying to turn you around?”  It sounds like Jesus is swimming against the flow, in a river of humanity.

The only way for Israel to get back on track is to trust in the Messiah.  Unfortunately, they want to continue in their unbelief.  Their “faith” is based on what they think is possible.

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered.  “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.  But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:21-24

Mark makes it clear that the main issue is about faith and unbelief.  It’s not about spiritual authority or how loud you can yell at the demon.  How deeply you trust the Lord is at the heart of the matter.

The Gospel writer wants us to see, through this event in the life of Christ, how to grow in our faith.  The point of this story is to understand how to overcome my unbelief.  That’s where the disciples are headed as the Lord continues His work with them.

Immediately, the Lord rebukes the demon and commands it to leave the boy.  The young man was delivered and set free from the demon from that day forward.  It seemed to be no problem for Jesus.

But the disciples still had some questions.

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”
Mark 9:28-29

Please understand that the demon doesn’t care whether or not you fast and pray.  Also, notice that Jesus didn’t tell the man, “Bring the boy to me in a week.  I need to fast and pray before I can deliver him.”

Jesus is answering the question of unbelief.  Fasting and prayer should be the lifestyle of a mature believer.  Fasting and prayer are what drives out the unbelief of our fleshly nature.  It opens us up to the manifestation of God’s supernatural power.

Follow the example of Jesus.  Walk before God by regularly setting times of fasting and prayer.  Then you’ll see your unbelief start to fade and a greater capacity for the miraculous.

Question: How have you seen the effects of fasting and prayer in your spiritual life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Unbelief is Transferable

Are you careful about whom you spend a lot of time with?  Who are your close friends?  Are they enhancing or hindering your spiritual walk?  Jesus makes it clear that those around you affect your ability to receive from God.

They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.  He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.  When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
Mark 8:22-23

This is a very important Scripture, yet many read it without ever seeing the key issues.  The townspeople wanted to see this blind man healed, so they brought him to Jesus.  Look at Jesus’ response.

The Lord took his hand and brought him outside the city before He would minister healing.  Why would He do something like that?  By this simple act, the Lord was testifying against their refusal to trust Him as their Messiah.

How do I know this?  By Jesus’ own testimony.  At one point He denounced some of the cities that He visited.

“Woe to you, Korazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”
Matthew 11:21

They were looking for the Lord to heal this man.  What they didn’t want was for Christ to change their lives.  They didn’t want to accept Him as their Lord and Savior.

This attitude even had an effect on the blind man’s ability to receive his healing.  Jesus laid His hands on the man then asked if he could see.

He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes.  Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.  Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village.”
Mark 8:24-26

The first time Jesus touched him, the man only received a partial healing.  It took another touch for him to be completely healed.  Then, once healed, the man was told not to go back into the village.  He didn’t need to be around that kind of unbelief.  It would only hinder his future trust in Christ.

We need to take this to heart.  If that’s how it worked under Jesus’ ministry, then it’s the same today.  Who you spend most of your time with determines who you’re going to become like.  It’s very easy to pick up attitudes, whether good or bad.

Just like with the blind man, you can still receive from the Lord if you pick up the unbelief of others.  It just takes longer for the Holy Spirit to get you to the point where you’re in a position to receive.

If you want to progress spiritually, then spend more time with those who are walking in the truth of the Word.

Question: How have you experienced the attitudes of others affecting you?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2018 in Faith, Fellowship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Understanding – The Key to Unlocking Faith

In my last post, the Pharisees angered Jesus by asking Him for a sign.  They wanted the Lord to prove Himself as if what He had been doing so far was not enough.  He decided to leave the area, so He got into a boat with His disciples.

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat.  “Be careful,” Jesus warned them.  “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”
They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”
Mark 8:14-16

The Pharisees wanted to be in control.  Herod wanted to see a miracle to be entertained.  Neither wanted to follow Christ as the Messiah.  Jesus was warning His disciples not to pick up these attitudes.

It’s clear that the disciples didn’t know what the Lord was talking about.  They discussed it.  In the course of their debate, it was decided that He was upset that they only had one loaf of bread between them.

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread?  Do you still not see or understand?  Are your hearts hardened?  Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?  And don’t you remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
“Twelve,” they replied.
“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
They answered, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
Mark 8:17-21

The word used to describe their discussion is dialogue.  Even today we like having dialogues about what it means to be a Christian.  It’s time to stop dialoguing and get back to what the Bible teaches.

Usually, a dialogue will lead us to the lowest common denominator.  More often than not, it’s a compromise with the flesh.  Some of the disciples were probably hungry, so they focused on not having enough bread for their satisfaction.

Jesus clearly rebukes them for discussing His words.  Instead, He tells them three things that they needed.  The important words are: See, remember, and understand.

The word, see, means to ponder or to think about.  Had they really thought about what Jesus said, they would have realized that the Pharisees and Herod had nothing to do with how much bread was in the boat.

The next thing is remembering.  They needed to remember what Christ had already done right in front of their eyes.  One loaf of bread was more than enough to feed them all.  There’s no lack when you’re walking with Jesus.

But the key is understanding.  That word literally means to put together.  You need to see what the Lord is saying right now and put that together with what you remember that He’s already accomplished in your life.  When we do this, we’re opening the door of faith.

Anybody can say, “Yes, I’m trusting Jesus.”  I’m sure the disciples would have said the same thing sitting in the boat talking about not having enough bread.

We need to take what we know from Scripture and apply it to our lives.  Then, remember what God has already done in and through us.  Now, putting it all together, we can move forward with the assurance that Christ has already supplied all we need for life and godliness.

Question: What are some things that Christ has already completed in you?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2018 in Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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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

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

 

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Healing Priority

There are those who don’t believe that Jesus paid the price for all to be healed.  That goes against everything that the Lord and His disciples taught in the New Testament.  This incident in the life of Christ is an example of how Jesus viewed it.

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.  He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.  In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet.  The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia.  She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
Mark 7:24-26

Here we see that a Gentile woman had a daughter with a demon, manifesting itself through a serious sickness.  When she heard that Jesus was in her area, she went to Him.  The woman was desperate for her daughter to be healed and she begged Jesus to do something about it.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
Mark 7:27

In Jesus’ response, the Bible literally says that it’s not proper etiquette, not right in appearance to give her the children’s bread.  Of course, God never worried about surface appearances.  Jesus had no problem eating with tax-collectors and prostitutes.

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Mark 7:28-30

Some of the other Gospel writers say that the little girl was healed from that moment.  Many people use this for an example of supernatural healing, but there’s more going on than meets the eye.  Some teachers look at this and say that the daughter was healed because the woman had great faith.  So, therefore, it takes great faith for healing.  NO!!!!  We sometimes miss the whole point.

According to Jesus, healing is the children’s bread.  In this response, we can see God’s priority.

Did you hear what the Lord said in verse 27, above?  First, fill up the children with all they want to eat.  In other words; first heal the church, then the world.  So in this statement of Christ, we see two kinds of healing.

The first is a covenant healing which is by right.  I’m not trying to be arrogant when I say this.  He calls us His children.  Parents obligate themselves to feed their children.  God decided to do it this way.  It’s all a part of a normal faith relationship.

The other healing is for those outside the covenant, by special faith.  This is because it originally takes faith to enter the covenant.  A majority of Jesus’ ministry was covenant healing.

The sick person came to the Lord, He laid hands on them, and they left healed.  There was no stirring up of their faith required – He just did it.

That’s because healing was a part of the covenant that God’s people had entered into.  A quick search of the words heal and healing will show the many places that God promises to heal His people in the Old Covenant.

At this point, we’ve entered a Better Covenant.  Through the blood of Christ, we have the fulfillment and not just the shadow.  How much more does the Lord desire to bring healing to those who are in Christ?

As I’ve said before, the church needs a greater understanding of Jesus Christ the Healer.  For a fuller explanation of divine healing, click here.

Question: How do you see the New Covenant as being better than the Old?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2018 in Faith, Healing, Power of God

 

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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

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

 

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What Does Your Ministry Need?

What are the priorities of ministry?  What can we learn from the way Jesus handled the day to day logistical challenges?

In my last post, we saw Jesus teaching the crowds in a very remote location.  Now it’s getting late and there are some needs that must be addressed.

By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late.  Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
Mark 6:35-36

The first thing that happens is that the disciples see and recognize the need.  That’s the easy part.  Ask anyone what’s wrong with the church and they’ll tell you what it needs.

Notice the response.  It wasn’t the disciples’ problem.  The people needed to fix it.  If they were hungry, then the crowd needed to go out and find something to eat.

That’s the attitude of many people today.  “If they would do what they were supposed to do, the church would be better.”

Notice how Jesus turns that whole attitude around.

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
Mark 6:37a

That’s the response of a good leader.  Turn the responsibility over to the ones who are sensitive to the need.

“Pastor, this church needs a Men’s Ministry.”

“I totally agree.  When do you plan on starting it?”

I don’t think the disciples were prepared for that type of answer from the Lord.  It caught them off guard.

They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages!  Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
Mark 6:37b

Here’s where most ministries lose sight of the true vision.  The disciples immediately make it a resource problem.  Their first reaction was to throw money at it to make it go away.

But first – here’s an aside for those who think ministers of the Gospel should live in poverty.  The disciples DID NOT say, “We don’t have the money to feed them.”  They asked if Jesus wanted them to spend that much cash on the crowd.

In our economy, think about how much it would cost to buy 5000 fast food value meals.  Jesus had that much money on Him at the time.  But I digress.

According to Christ, it wasn’t a money problem, but a Word problem.  How did the Father want this need met?  Too often we ask for money before we seek the Holy Spirit to provide a miraculous solution.

Verses 38 through 44 of Mark chapter 6 tell us of the way Jesus heard from heaven and met the needs of over 5000 hungry people.  This is how we should be ministering to those around us.  We must spend time in the Spirit, and then walk out what we’ve heard from the Father.

Too many times I hear, “If we don’t get the donations, then we can’t do what God has called us to do.”  Personally, I serve a God who’s bigger than the donations.  He can make a way with or without the money.

We need to learn to be listening for His voice.  That way we keep in step with not only what the Lord is leading us to do, but how exactly He wants it accomplished.

Questions: Has God ever worked His plans through you without money?  How did He bring it about?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2018 in Faith, God's Provision, Ministry, Prayer

 

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