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Category Archives: Faith

Courage Under Fire

How bold are you when you see trouble coming in your future?  Are you willing to stand your ground and face it head-on?  Or, like so many, do you simply ignore it and hope that it goes away?

As we look at the life of Christ in the Gospel of Mark, we see His time with the disciples at the Last Supper.  Keep in mind that because this is the first of the gospels to be written, the Holy Spirit only inspired Mark to give the “bare bones” of what happened at this meal.

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.  While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me — one who is eating with me.”
They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”
Mark 14:17-19

Mark shows us the disciples’ reaction to the revelation that one of their own would betray Christ.  The word, betray, in this verse means to surrender over.  Somebody was going to turn the Lord in to the authorities.

The effect was that they were distressed by this knowledge.  It hurt them.  In one sense, most of them felt that they would never do such a thing.  On the other hand, Jesus had never been wrong in any of His predictions.  The reality of the situation was overwhelming.

The men with Jesus must have felt a great grief come over them.  But in spite of this emotional upheaval, it’s not the disciples that I want to concentrate on.  It’s the attitude of Christ that we need to examine.

“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.  But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
Mark 14:20-21

The Lord reveals that it is indeed one of His twelve closest friends who will do this deed.  It would be someone who is in fellowship, eating at the same table.  In that culture, sharing a meal was one of the most intimate things that friends did.

Jesus makes it clear that this would not turn out well for the betrayer.  There will come a time when he will wish he had never been born.  His guilt will eventually destroy his life.

But it’s the statement Christ makes about Himself that really gets my attention.  He said that He would go just as it was written about Him.

That word, go, in the Greek, means to lead oneself.  He was stating that He was more than willing to walk the road that was laid out for Him in the Scripture.

Jesus knew what was ahead.  The cross was not taking Him by surprise.  He saw it and was progressing toward it with boldness and conviction.  That had always been the goal of Christ’s ministry on earth and nothing would prevent Him from accomplishing it.

We need to walk in that same conviction when it comes to following the will of God for our lives.  Too often we let the problems, challenges, and distraction of life sidetrack us from the straight and narrow path.

We must realize that the spiritual struggle can only be won with the Lord’s strength operating through us.  Time spent in His presence will assure us the victory.  So we won’t need to fret over the challenges we see coming down the road toward us.  Stand strong in the Lord!

Question: How has time in the Lord’s presence helped you to overcome the obstacles of life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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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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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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Faith, Prayer, and Forgiveness

In my last post, we saw that true faith is based upon a Word from God, with God as the object of that faith.  As the Lord was explaining this to His disciples, He makes a very interesting statement.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Mark 11:25

This statement confuses a lot of people.  They don’t know what this has to do with believing and receiving from God.  It also causes some people to ask, “If I don’t forgive someone, does that mean that I’ll not be saved?”

There’s a big reason for all this confusion.  It stems from our modern concept of the word, forgive.  Our generation has no idea what the scriptural word means.

When we say that you need to forgive someone, it’s a watered down version.  We mean that you need to tell the person that you’re not mad at them anymore.  Everything’s okay now and our relationship can move on from whatever caused the problem.

The biblical word for forgive has nothing to do with the above.  It literally means to pick up and throw away.  It’s like what you do with your trash.  You throw it out to the curb.  Then it’s removed, never to be seen again…ever.

With that understanding, now we can look at what Jesus is saying to His disciples.  Remember, the Lord is talking about standing in prayer.  This is about believing God for the desires that He’s placed in our hearts.

When you’re in that place of prayer, you’re having an intimate time with the Lord.  At this time, the Holy Spirit brings to your attention that you’ve placed a roadblock between you and another person.  It could be for any reason, but usually, it’s for a perceived hurt against us.

At that point, the Lord simply wants us to remove that wall that we’ve erected.  I realize that this is not an easy thing to do.

“Lord, I remove the issue that I have been holding against him or her right now.  From here on out, with your power, I’ll treat them like it never happened.”

This goes against our human nature.  That’s especially true because it has nothing to do with the other party’s desire (or lack of desire) for forgiveness.  It’s all on my part.

But understand, there’s a blessing that comes from this.  It paves the way for God to remove anything blocking His blessing from getting to me.

The word translated as sin, in the above verse, is the word side-step.  You’re on the right path following Christ.  But you made a misstep.  You haven’t lost your salvation.  You don’t have to “get saved” all over again.

However, there is something that could be keeping you from receiving all that God has for you.  In Christ, God dealt with all of your sin before you were ever born.  Now He’s asking you to do the same thing for a fellow human being.

If you’ll remove the thing that’s blocking you from blessing them, then He will remove the thing blocking your blessing.  I think that it’s well worth the trade.  Of course, in our flesh, we might not agree with that.

This is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit working in us.  It’s also why the Lord said that it needed to be done while we were standing in the place of prayer.

So, if there’s anything the Lord’s dealing with you about, take care of it quickly, and let the blessings flow freely again!

Question: How has God’s forgiveness changed your life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Faith from the Word

In my last post, we saw how Jesus upset the religious leadership by clearing out the marketplace that was set up in the Temple.  It angers people when you mess with their cash-flow.

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
When evening came, they went out of the city.
Mark 11:18-19

Jesus and His disciples then went to Bethany for the night and returned to Jerusalem the next morning.

In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.  Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look!  The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
Mark 11:20-21

Two posts ago (What’s Your Season?) I talked about Jesus cursing the fig tree.  Now we see the result of what Jesus did that day.  The disciples were amazed at how the tree had died so quickly.

It’s important for us to understand the explanation that Jesus gave to the disciples.

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.  “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Mark 11:22-24

This is one of those verses that are often misunderstood.  I’ve heard people reading into it.  They make it sound like Jesus is saying that God will give you whatever you want as long as you can believe you’re going to get it.  That’s not what Jesus is saying here.

His first and most important statement is – HAVE FAITH IN GOD!  The Lord always has to be the object of our faith.  My faith cannot be toward what a preacher says (and that’s coming from a preacher!), or what you read in a book.

Listen carefully, because I’m about to make you mad at me.  We are not even to make the Bible the object of our faith.  It’s the Word of God that points to God as the object of faith.

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

When I hear God’s Word, it inspires me to trust God.  When the Scripture tells me that by the stripes of Jesus I’m healed…my faith is not in that Bible verse, it has to be toward Christ my Healer.  Too often our faith is misplaced.  It has to be toward God.

Another thing we misunderstand is that Jesus is talking about hearing from the Holy Spirit.  He didn’t curse the fig tree because He was in a bad mood that day.  The Holy Spirit instructed the Lord to do that for an object lesson for His disciples.

Jesus clearly said that this faith, or doubt, is in your heart.  He’s not talking about you simply deciding that you want a new car, so you start believing that you’ll receive it from God.  The Lord is talking about believing Him for a desire that God has placed in your heart.

True faith will always come from a Word from God and will have God, Himself as the object.  Then you’ll see the manifestation of your request.

Question: How is faith in your heart different than a “head-faith”?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2018 in Faith, Power of God, Prayer, Word of God

 

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The Needs of the Lord

As we continue to go through the Gospel of Mark, we’re coming to the culmination of the earthly ministry of Christ.  He is approaching Jerusalem, knowing that the cross awaits Him there.  As the Lord is about to enter the city, Mark records an interesting event that takes place.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden.  Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.'”
They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?”  They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.
Mark 11:1-6

We need to understand what’s happening here.  It has a lot to do with attitudes and faithfulness in the kingdom of God.

The first thing I see is that something is needed to fulfill the ministry of Christ.  It was foretold in the Old Testament that Jesus would enter Jerusalem on the back of a colt.  It was time for this to be accomplished.  In every ministry, there are needs that must be met in order for God’s will to be done.

Next, I see a supernatural revelation as to how this need was going to be filled.  Notice that Jesus didn’t say to His disciples, “Guys, I’m going to need to ride in on a colt.  You have to go out and find me one quickly.”

That tells me that to accomplish my calling, it will always require faith.  After all, there were other ways this could have been done.  Jesus could have purchased a colt in Jericho, the last town He visited.  Then He would have had it ready to go upon His arrival.

But that’s not how the Father wanted this to happen.  He desired the disciples to act in faith toward the instructions of Jesus.

Finally, it comes down to attitudes.  The disciples know what the ministry needs and how God intends to provide it.  The problem is that it all depends upon another party – those who own the colt.  All they heard was, “The Lord needs your colt to accomplish God’s will.”

Think about it.  How many times have we been in a meeting listening to a missionary share their excitement over the people-group that God has called them to reach?

“The Lord needs your money to accomplish His will.”

I know what you’re thinking.  The disciples told the owners that the colt would be sent back when the Lord was through with it.

“Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Luke 6:38

Why do we get the attitude sometimes, “Oh, no!  Another special offering.”  We need to understand that God looks at these gifts as loans to His kingdom.  He always repays with blessings we couldn’t ever get on our own.  But it all comes down to attitude.

Get your money or resources involved in kingdom work as the Lord leads you.  You won’t regret it.

Question: How have you been blessed by giving something to the Lord’s work?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2018 in Faith, God's Provision, Ministry

 

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