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Category Archives: Ministry

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

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Posted by on July 4, 2018 in Encouragement, Ministry

 

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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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Showing True Love

When Jesus was asked about the greatest command of Scripture, He explained how to truly show your love for God.  In today’s post, we’ll look at what the Lord describes as the second greatest command.

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:31

In order to understand this verse, you need to know what a neighbor is.  In another of the Gospels, Jesus is actually asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

It’s pretty simple.  The Greek word used in this verse literally means someone who is physically near you.  Even in the English word, neighbor, the “nei” part means “near”.

So we’re not talking about the community you live in, even though that could be included.  When Jesus talks about neighbors, He’s speaking about anybody you happen to be around during the day.  It doesn’t matter whether you know them or not.

Once we know who we’re supposed to show our love to, the next obvious question is; what is love?  This word has been so overused in our society, that when we read Scripture many people have no clue what it really means.

The first thing I see is that the Lord commands us to love whoever we find in our vicinity.  If it’s a command, then it has nothing to do with our emotions.  The Greek word, agape, used in this verse is a choice to love.

Because there is no emotion involved in this love, it’s simply a choice I have to make when I’m near someone.  It doesn’t matter whether or not I know them.  More importantly, it doesn’t even matter whether I like them or not.  The command stands for enemies as well as friends.

Then there are the excuses we like to make for ourselves.  I’ve heard people say, “I love everybody.”  They say this to justify themselves.  Usually, this statement is untrue.

Jesus tells us that we’re to love others in the same way that we love ourselves.  How do I love myself?  Healthy self-love is an active pursuit to make my life better.  This includes my position with my family, my job, my attitudes, my influence, my finances, my spirituality, and so much more.

So when you talk about loving someone else, it’s an action word.  It means that you are actively participating in their lives.  You want their life to be better because they met you.  That’s showing love to your neighbor.

It could be as simple as greeting someone with a smile in the check-out line.  It could be giving money to a person in need.  There are literally thousands of ways of positively impacting the lives of those around you.

I do realize that this is harder to do when it involves those that we don’t like.  But, with the help of the Holy Spirit, it’s not impossible.

We need to respond to God’s commands as the person in Scripture.

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.  To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Mark 12:32-34

We should make it our goal to let our lives show a true love for God and for others around us.  That will play a large role in attracting people to the Gospel of Christ.

Question: How has the love of others affected your life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2018 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Squatters in God’s Kingdom

What’s your purpose for being a part of God’s kingdom?  Are you fulfilling that purpose?  Jesus gives some parables to explain God’s priorities.

Today I’ll be looking at the Parable of the Vineyard as recorded in Mark chapter 12, verses 1 through 12.  You may want to read it in Scripture before continuing with this post.

In this parable, Jesus tells of a man who owned a vineyard and rented it out to some farmers.  According to the terms of the lease, the owner was to get a share of the harvest as payment.  This was a normal agreement for property owners in those days.

It’s interesting to see that the owner did all the work to set up the vineyard.  All the farmers needed to do was move in and start harvesting.

How does this relate to the kingdom of God?  Simply put, the Lord is looking for fruit.  It’s not about our Church attendance, Bible reading, or even our tithing.  He’s looking for the fruit of our relationship with the Holy Spirit that He placed within us.

During His ministry with the disciples, Jesus made this abundantly clear to them.

“I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

What we have to understand is that this is not our kingdom, but God’s.  Everything we have is owned by someone else.  Even our very lives belong to the Lord.

Because of this, God is well within His rights to demand anything from us.  We know right from the outset that He’s looking for the fruit of the Spirit.

Please understand that the fruit of our relationship with Christ is for the benefit and refreshing of those around us.  The fruit of the Spirit are not merely for my personal gain.

The tenants in the parable didn’t understand this.  They wanted to keep everything for themselves.

We live in a society where we’ve been taught that in most places – restaurants, stores, etc. – it’s all about what I want or need.  Somehow we’ve transferred this mindset into our spiritual life.  When it comes to being a part of a local church; I base it on what I can get from it.

What services do you offer me and my family?  Do I like the type of music and the length of the worship service?  Do I enjoy the way the Pastor delivers his sermons?

Wait a minute!!!  Why does God have me in His kingdom?  Is it purely for my comfort and enjoyment?  No!  I serve at the Lord’s good pleasure.

The tenants in this parable made a great mistake.  They figured that if they could get rid of the owner’s son, then they could take over the vineyard.  After all, squatters have rights.

Too often, I’ve seen this attitude in God’s people.  The Bible refers to it as godlessness.  Yes, there are many godless Christians.

To be godless simply means that God and His will don’t figure into any of your decisions.  You’re living as if there is no God.  These are the squatters in God’s kingdom.  They’re living on God’s property as if it belongs to them.

If you’ve been guilty of this attitude, then it’s time to repent.  Get back to the purpose you were saved for.  We need to be producing the fruit of the kingdom.

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
John 15:8

Question: What are the fruits of the spirit that you have produced most recently?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2018 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Church Politics

As we continue through the Gospel of Mark, we come to an interesting encounter between Jesus and the religious leaders of Jerusalem.

They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him.  “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked.  “And who gave you authority to do this?”
Mark 11:27-28

On the surface, this may sound like a reasonable request.  After all, the leaders of Israel need to make sure that Jesus is the legitimate Messiah of the Jewish people.  But, as always, attitude is everything.

Authority is basically the permission to do something.  It must always be delegated from someone who has it.

In the Lord’s case, it should have been fairly obvious.  Who gave Him permission to heal the sick, open blind eyes, or raise the dead?  There’s only one place that authority could have come from – God the Father.

The Lord gets right to the heart of the matter.

Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question.  Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  John’s baptism — was it from heaven, or from men?  Tell me!”
Mark 11:29-30

The leaders of Israel wanted to look like they were experts in judging spiritual matters.  So Jesus turns it around.

“If you want to investigate my spiritual credentials, then let’s see how well you’ve done in the past.”

The Lord used what should have been a real easy test.  John the Baptist led the nation back to God in repentance and a true change of heart.

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’  But if we say, ‘From men’ . . . .” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Mark 11:31-33

This discussion cuts right to the bottom line of the problem.  Did they talk about John’s lifestyle or the message He preached?  No!!  Their only concern was the result of what they would answer.

This is politics in its purest form.  Truth takes a backseat to my image.  It’s about how people will perceive me based upon my answers.  That type of attitude gets no response from God.

Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Mark 11:33

There are too many churches that fall into this category in our generation.  God’s will has nothing to do with their decisions.  It’s all about who’s in power, and what they personally want to accomplish.

We need to get back to our roots as believers.  Being a people of prayer who want to see God’s desire done in our lives.  It’s not how big I build my kingdom, or how many people think I’m the best.  I need to see God’s kingdom increase on the earth.

One thing is for certain, spirituality and politics don’t mix very well in the government of Christ.

Question: Why does the will of the majority not always equal the will of God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2018 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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What’s Your Season?

We are now looking at the week before Christ’s death on the cross as recorded by Mark.  Jesus is in the area of Jerusalem and a lot is going on.  He spends the evenings in Bethany where some friends live.

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple.  He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
Mark 11:11

Right after His triumphal entry into the city, the Lord goes to the Temple area and looks around.  I don’t think it was just a casual observing.  He was listening to the Father’s voice instructing Him what He was to do next.

Jesus must have been grieved by what He saw going on in the Temple.  As the feast of Passover was approaching, Jerusalem was the center of all the activity in Israel.  People were coming in from all over the world to worship here.

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.  Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit.  When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.  Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”  And his disciples heard him say it.
Mark 11:12-14

This is one of those events in the life of Christ that many people ask about.  They don’t understand what’s happening or why Jesus cursed the tree.

Let’s work our way through it.  Jesus was in Jerusalem, watching the outward, lifeless trappings of religious people.  They were going through the motions, not because they were worshipping God, but because they were following the rules.

Jesus probably spent the next morning in prayer, as was His custom.  He heard the Father’s heart, breaking over the condition of His people.

As He and His disciple start heading back to the city, they’re hungry and ready for some breakfast.  Seeing a fig tree off in the distance, they’re checking to see if it has any fruit.  After all, it has plenty of leaves.

There’s one slight problem.  The Bible tells us that it’s not the season for figs.  Why would Jesus be upset at the tree if that’s the case?

This whole incident was a life-lesson for the disciples.  In many places in Scripture, Israel is likened to a fig tree.  Messiah had arrived on the scene.  It was the time for them to be producing fruit for the kingdom of God.

Instead, all Jesus saw was empty religion.  Everything was just for show.  A lot of leaves, but no fruit.

Many in Israel were starving, spiritually.  Yet those who were in leadership did nothing to fill the longing of their souls.  The priests of Israel were mostly just feeding their own egos.

What about us?  How do we apply this to our lives?  We need to hear the exhortation the Paul gave to Timothy.

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.
2 Timothy 4:2

It doesn’t matter what season you’re in.  The time to produce fruit is when there’s a need.  That’s why we must always prepare.

Prayer, meditation on the Word, and intimate times with the Lord make us ready to produce kingdom fruit.  Don’t follow empty religion – all leaves and no fruit.  Time in the Lord’s presence prepares us for blessing others, whether we feel like it or not.

Question: When was a time that you produced fruit “out of season”?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2018 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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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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