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Category Archives: Faith

Fruit When You Need It

In the last few posts, we went through some of the parables of Jesus concerning the Word of God in us.  We saw how to plant it, cultivate it, and eventually see the manifestation of God’s Kingdom as a result.  As soon as He explains these parables, the Lord gives His disciples a vivid demonstration.

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.  There were also other boats with him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.  The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”  Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
Mark 4:35-39

This is a perfect illustration of hearing and obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit (the Word of God).  Jesus was asleep when the storm came up.  The boat was full of water.  They were all minutes from drowning.

There was no time for Jesus to fast and pray about the problem.  There were no friends He could call to pray for Him.  It was a “hear from God or die” situation.

Through His intimacy with the Father, Christ had sensitized Himself to hear the voice of the Spirit.  This was true even in a stress-filled moment.

He talked to the wind and the waves.  The fact is that you don’t speak to inanimate objects unless you’ve heard from God.  He had the assurance, before He spoke, that it would have an effect.

That’s why we need to plant the Word in our lives.  We need to keep the good soil of our hearts free from rocks and weeds.  Then we have the fruit of the Word when we need it.

Even a fool knows that you don’t wait until you want a salad to plant a garden.  You always plant with the expectation of a future harvest.  In this case, Jesus needed the harvest of the Word at that moment.  Because the Lord spent time in the Father’s presence, the power was there when needed.

This should be an example to us.  Without spending quality time with the Holy Spirit, we won’t have a sensitivity to the Spirit’s voice.  A relationship is only matured over time.

Too often I’ve seen disappointed Christians try to do what Jesus did.  They spoke to a situation, and nothing changed.  They get frustrated, angry, and disillusioned with the Lord.

The problem is that you can’t walk out in this type of faith without hearing from God.  You have to get to know how He speaks to you.  Then you need a track record of obedience to what you hear.  The disciples found that out the hard way.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Mark 4:40-41

They missed the whole point, just like us sometimes.  Jesus clearly was saying that they could have handled the storm just like He did.  They came to the conclusion that Jesus was somehow different than they were.

Yes, He is the Son of God.  But He limited Himself to operating as a man under the Holy Spirit’s direction.  If we’re hearing and obedient, we should be doing the same works that the Lord did.

I believe that this is where the Lord is taking His church in our generation.  If we’re willing to spend the time learning to listen for His voice.

Question: How often do you spend in the spirit, listening for the Lord to speak to you?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on February 9, 2018 in Faith, Power of God, Prayer, Word of God

 

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Waiting for the Harvest

As we continue to look at Mark’s Gospel, we come to another parable of Christ.  This one is about a sower and his seed.  The earlier parable about a sower zeroed in on the different types of soil.  This one talks specifically about how the seed works.

This illustration explains our relationship to the Word of God.  Specifically, how it works as seed in our lives.  While I’m responsible to accept God’s Word into my life, there’s another aspect that I have no control over.

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like.  A man scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.  All by itself the soil produces grain – first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.  As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
Mark 4:26-29

One of the most important concepts for us to understand is that the Kingdom of God is all about the Word being planted.  This is a part of all that we do as believers.

As a pastor, my greatest assignment is to receive the Word in order to plant it again in the lives of those who hear me.  Along with that, every Christian needs to be planting the Word into the lives of those around them.

With this comes the realization that nothing I do will bring about the growth of that seed, once it’s been planted.  From then on it’s out of my control.  Once you plant the Word into the lives of your friends and family, it’s time to wait – and that can be the hardest part.

Sometimes we want to force them to produce fruit.  We try to convince and coerce.  That’s usually when we start to push them further away.  We need to learn to plant, then step back and let God provide the increase.

The Word, by its very nature, begins to grow below the surface.  It cannot be stopped, but neither can it be hurried along.  It goes at the pace God has set for it.  One thing is certain; it will produce the harvest that God intended it to bring forth.  This thought was echoed by the apostle Paul.

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
1 Corinthians 3:6-7

We all have our part to play in the Kingdom of God.  Some of us plant the seed and some water it.  None of us can make it grow; that’s God’s department.  The only help we can give it, once it’s planted, is in the watering process.

In the natural, no farmer would think to dig up the seed, just to check if it started growing yet.  But there are many who are guilty of this – spiritually speaking.  How many spiritual crops have we missed because we didn’t simply leave the seed alone?

Once the Word is planted, it’s time to step back and leave it in the Lord’s hands.  Let Him do what only He can do.  Then we’ll see the harvest come by the power of God.

Question: When have you caused bigger problems by trying to force the Word of God to grow in someone?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2018 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Seeds in a Rocky Place

I’m posting about the different “heart soils” in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 4.  Today I’ll deal with the rocky soil.  This is about rocks with only a thin layer of dirt to cover them.  The seed germinates and springs up quickly.  But just as quickly, the sun comes out, scorches the plant, and it withers and dies.

Jesus explained the spiritual application this way.

Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time.  When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
Mark 4:16-17

This verse literally says that these people receive the Word in the middle of joy.  It sounds like a camp meeting to me.  There’s excitement in the air.  The whole atmosphere of the meeting is charged with a heavenly joy.  It’s easy to believe in a place like that.

We’re not talking about people who don’t believe what they hear.  They believe it’s for them.  The problem is, that what has sprung up so quickly, also withers just as quick.  What is it that withers?

For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”  And this is the word that was preached to you.
1 Peter 1:24-25

What withers is the glory of man.  This type of person hears the Word and believes that it’s “all about me.”  That’s why there’s all the joy and excitement.

They think that the Word is for my blessing, health, and prosperity.  Forget about what God’s ultimate purpose is.  It’s me that’s important.

The Lord says that in this rocky heart there is some faith exhibited for a while, but it doesn’t last long.  Eventually, trials and testings will come.  When this happens, Jesus literally says that they will become offended.  Why does Christ use this word?

When I go through a time of testing, I realize that it’s not all about me.  I get offended that I’m not the center of all the attention.  I don’t want the spotlight on Christ and what He’s trying to accomplish in me.  I want the priority to be my comfort and happiness.  The result is that I get offended and walk away from the Lord and His plan for my life.

If I want my heart prepared for an abundant harvest, I must assume that the Word of God spotlights Jesus Christ.  I must desire to know His heart.  There are many who read the Bible and pursue God only for what they can get from Him.  The big question on their minds is, “What’s in it for me?”

Instead, we should be focusing on God’s eternal purpose – to draw all humanity into His kingdom.  The blessings of God are great, but they’re not an end in and of themselves.

God has promised us prosperity, but it’s to finance the spread of the Gospel.  God has promised us health and healing, but it’s so that we can minister the Good News of His love to the best of our ability.

All the promises of God should be viewed through the filter of God’s will and God’s plans.  That’s what’s missing in the shallow faith of rocky soil.  We need to keep our hearts clear of the rocks of self-centeredness.

Question: How is God working through you to bring about His purpose?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2018 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Thanksgiving Leftovers

Today is the eve of the Thanksgiving Holiday.  So I’ve been reading and meditating on giving thanks to God.  Then I came across a verse that really struck me.

When you sacrifice a thank offering to the Lord, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on your behalf.  It must be eaten that same day; leave none of it till morning. I am the Lord.
Leviticus 22:29-30

In the Old Testament, the thanksgiving offering was to be eaten in one day.  There was to be nothing leftover.  I thought that was funny.  That’s because, in our generation, Thanksgiving is known for having the most leftovers.

This spoke to me of how we should thank God.

We thank God for His daily provision.  Think about the Israelites in the desert.  God provided manna for them.  He told them to only gather enough for the day.

Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”  However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.  So Moses was angry with them.
Exodus 16:19-20

It’s amazing how much things stay the same.  God tells us to trust Him.  “Give us this day our daily bread.”  We want all of our provision – today.  God wants to provide step by step – so we must look to Him in faith.

Our walk with God is step by step.  We want to know the whole plan.  I need to thank God for what I know and trust Him for what I don’t know yet.  That’s a lesson of faith.

We may know where He’s bringing us to, but not the exact path.

When it comes to our blessings from God, we like to keep the leftovers.  Think about all of the things we’ve prayed for.  Then think about all the answers to those prayers.  My first thought is, “They belong to me!”

No – they belong to God.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10

We want to keep everything God gives us for ourselves.  But that’s pretty selfish.

God’s grace to us is for others as well.  We want to keep it all for ourselves.  God wants to bless us AND make us a blessing.  We want to store it all up for our own usage.

That’s the difference between a river and a swamp.  The Israelites learned it when their extra manna got smelly and full of maggots.

Finally, our thankfulness prompts others to thank God.  God desires our thankfulness to overflow into the lives of others.  It’s like a river of blessing flowing into those around us.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 4:15

This is God’s will for us.  To overflow by the spirit.  We may still have leftovers this year.  But as we thank God remember not to hang on to the blessings that He wants you to move along.

Question: What are some blessings you can pass on to others?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Advice for the Journey

It’s so easy to give up when times are tough.  That’s the difference between surface Christians and overcomers.  Which kind are you?  Only you can make the choice to keep going forward.  This is what it takes to make it to your destiny in God.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

There are times that I’ve felt like giving up.  Problems started closing in and it seemed like there was no way out.  But what I came to find out is that God never took His hand off of my life.  He was with me through the problems and brought me through them victoriously.  Here are some things I learned along the way.  I hope they’ll be a blessing to you.

Realize that God has a good plan for your life.  Whether we know it or not, God has us walking a good path.  He wants the best for us.  He knows what will fulfill us better than we do.  But we must continue to the end if we’re going to enter our destiny.

Know that everything worth having requires effort to obtain.  Sometimes the road we’re on seems rough and steep.  That shouldn’t stop us, however.  Struggles are a part of life.  If it were easy, everyone would be walking in the blessings of God.  It takes an attitude of perseverance to make it over the hills of life.

Keep your eyes on the finish line.  Don’t let your present hardship become the focus of your attention.  Keep your vision upon Christ and His plan for your life.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:2-3

That’s what can sustain you during the difficulties that you encounter.  If you can see the goal, then you know that it’s not over yet.  God will have the final word in your life.

Keep moving forward, no matter what happens.  I love to go out hiking.  But it doesn’t always turn out well.  There have been times that I’ve been injured on a hike.  It would have been very easy for me to let weariness and despair take over.  I felt very much like lying down on the ground and giving up.  I had to keep telling myself, “Keep putting one foot in front of the other – you’ll eventually come to the end.”

Understand that moving slowly is better than standing still.  This is probably the best advice I could give you.  No matter how slow you think you’re going, don’t give up.  You will make it!  Never look at your life in terms of a sprint to the finish.  You need to see yourself as being in it for the long haul.  The victorious finish of your race depends on it.

Maybe you’re going through a seemingly impossible situation right now.  Give it over to God in prayer, if you haven’t already done so.  It could be that you’ve taken the responsibility for the problem back to yourself.  Let go of it and allow God give you the strength you need to see it through.

Questions: Have you ever felt like giving up?  How have you found the strength to continue on?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2017 in Encouragement, Faith, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Faith

As we continue our look at the Fruit of the Spirit, the next that we’ll talk about is faith.  I know that in many translations of the Bible, they call it faithfulness.  But the actual Greek word used in Galatians 5:22 is faith.

Before we continue, there’s something that we need to understand.  There are two types of faith.  The first is a mental assent.  That’s where I hear a statement and decide to believe it.  That kind of faith is resident in my mind.

This mind-faith is not the fruit of faith talked about in Galatians.  That faith-fruit is produced in us by the Holy Spirit.  It’s cultivated by time spent in the presence of the Lord.  This is what I’m posting about today.

This kind of faith goes beyond my understanding.  That’s because it didn’t start with me.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2

If Christ is the Author, then I can’t take can’t credit for it.  That’s especially true if this is perfect faith.  I only know half the story, so my mind can only believe what I see and understand.  I need a faith that doesn’t rest on what’s visible.  That’s the perfect faith given by the Spirit.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17

This verse tells us exactly how we receive this faith.  Unfortunately, our modern “Christianese” church language veils the truth.  This verse is NOT talking about simply reading the Bible and getting faith from it.

According to the Greek text of this verse, faith comes through the hearing of rhema.  The word, rhema, is used in Scripture to describe the spoken word of God.  It’s a Word that we hear directly from the Holy Spirit.  (For a detailed teaching on this, click here.)

The only way to receive the fruit of faith is through the spirit.  I need to spend time with Him, listening to the voice of the Spirit speaking to my spirit.  That’s how this faith is transferred from Christ to me.

Unfortunately, many of the Bible translators don’t understand this either.  They have a hard time handing verses where this process is described.

Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Galatians 3:5

In this verse, the phrase because you believed what you heard; is literally because of the hearing of faith.  The fruit of faith is heard in the spirit.  It’s also the faith needed to see a manifestation of the miraculous.

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit…
Jude 20, NKJV

The Apostle Jude understood this fact.  He knew that our most holy faith – the faith resident in our spirit – was only built up by prayer in the spirit.  That time spent in God’s presence is where perfect faith resides.  Through prayer in the spirit, we can make the transfer of faith from the Lord to us.

Don’t rely merely on your own, imperfect, human understanding.  Let the Spirit of Faith impart His fruit into your life.  It will change how you look at the world.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s faith operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Patience

The next stop in our study of the Fruit of the Spirit is patience.  As with the other fruit, I need to explain how God looks at this characteristic.  Contrary to what society thinks, it’s not merely the ability to stand in a long check-out line without complaining.

I think that part of the reason we have a mistaken view of patience is that the KJV translated the word as long-suffering.  We get the idea, from that word, that patience requires us to suffer for a long time.  I’ve got good news for you.  There’s no suffering involved in the original Greek word.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
Hebrews 6:12

The actual Greek word in Scripture is a compound word.  It means long passioned.  According to this verse, faith and patience go hand in hand.  There’s a reason for that.

When we hear from the Lord and His Word, faith is birthed in us.  We then start to pursue what we’re trusting God for.  Then something happens.  Day follows day, and week follows week.

As time goes on we sometimes lose sight of God’s promise.  That’s when we need patience – the long passioned work of the spirit.  I have to have the same passion about what I heard from God weeks, or even years after I initially heard it.

That’s what the fruit of patience is all about.  I like the way James described it in his book.

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.  See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.
James 5:7

James uses the example of a farmer waiting for his crops to appear.  He’s not just waiting in line for his turn at life.

He prepared the ground and planted the seed.  He continued to work by weeding and fertilizing the field.  He did all that was required of him, and now he’s patiently waiting for God’s part to be accomplished.

That’s the key to understanding God’s view of patience.  The fruit of patience must always be based upon God’s Word.  There’s an outcome that I’m trusting God for.  So I want the Holy Spirit to cultivate a passion in me that won’t fade away over time.

This is the kind of patience that’s a part of God’s character.  We can see this through Paul’s testimony of how the Lord worked in his life – bringing him to a knowledge of Christ.

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
1 Timothy 1:16

The fruit of patience in us is a manifestation of God’s patience at work.  Christ didn’t just wait idly for Paul to become a Christian.  The Lord saw the outcome before it was ever manifested.

That’s the patience I want the Holy Spirit to grow in my life.  I want to see the outcome of my faith with the eyes of my spirit.  Then it will produce a passion that doesn’t fade away over time.

Spend time in the spirit.  Allow Him to work His patience in you.  Then you can be long-passioned toward your destiny in Christ.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s patience operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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