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Category Archives: Ministry

Caring for the Young

In my last few posts, Jesus was preparing His disciples for their future roles as leaders in the body of Christ.  He wants them to understand that leadership in God’s kingdom is handled very differently than in the world.

The Lord now uses a little child as an object lesson for them to understand.

“And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”
Mark 9:42

Using a child as an example, Jesus begins to talk about how to handle new believers.  There are some important issues that I think we usually miss in this section of Scripture.

The Lord is talking about young believers here.  Not necessarily physical children, but spiritual children as well.  The key is that they believe in Christ.  They’re young in the things of God.

Care has to be taken in our dealings with new believers.  The actual word that Jesus used in this verse is, entrap.  He doesn’t want new believers entrapped or tripped up in their walk with God.

Too often I’ve seen young believers given an impossibly long list of do’s and don’ts.  After a short while, they fall away in frustration, believing that they can never measure up to what Christ expects of them.

I actually had one self-righteous member explain it to me this way…”Well, you realize that it’s a lot harder to stay saved than to get saved.”

Really!  Is that the God we serve?  Does He let you into His family by a simple act of faith only to kick you out at your first sign of weakness?  Absolutely not!  We have a loving and faithful God who works with us to bring us into our destiny in Him.

It’s man that wants to make it hard to serve God.  We have to prove how great we are at by putting others down and pointing out their failures.

We need to learn to treat new believers just as we would a newborn infant, spiritually speaking.  The Lord has some very strong words to say concerning His attitude toward those who offend new believers.

But it doesn’t end there.

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.  And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”
Mark 9:43-48

In this context, do you really think Jesus is literally talking about cutting off your hand?  I’ve committed many sins in my life using my hands, feet, and eyes.  But never once was it my hand, foot or eye that caused me to sin.  The desire for sin always started in my heart.

Then what is the Lord talking about?  Simply put, He’s speaking about His body on earth…the church.  Each of us is a member of the body; an eye, a hand or a foot.  Jesus is saying that no one member of the body is so indispensable that it can’t be removed for offenses against the body.  This was a teaching that the disciples probably didn’t understand until long after the resurrection.

But we need to bear this in mind.  How we treat one another is important to Christ.  I believe that there are many who have died before their time because of offending the body of Christ.  We need to major on our love walk in order to be pleasing to Christ.

Question: How have you been a blessing to those who are young in the Lord?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Which Denomination is the Best?

In my last post, I talked about the path to leadership in the kingdom of God.  It requires a servant’s heart.  Today, Jesus will continue teaching along those lines with His disciples.

He took a little child and had him stand among them.  Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Mark 9:36-37

We need to understand what the Lord is talking about in this passage.  In the past, I’ve heard it misapplied all over the place.

Jesus is talking to His disciples.  These are the people He has set apart for the leadership of the church.  They were also specifically chosen to minister to Israel – God’s covenant people (Matthew 10:5-6).  So the Lord is talking about receiving a covenant child in His name.

As the disciples are listening to Him, they have an “Aha! moment”.  They realize that Jesus is not just talking about physical children.  They’re beginning to understand His teaching style.  They apply what He says to an incident that recently happened to them.

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
Mark 9:38

They remember telling someone to stop driving out demons in the name of Jesus.  But their reasoning is important to us.  The Greek verse literally says that the disciples told him to stop because he did not follow us.

Notice that it wasn’t because he didn’t follow Christ, but that he didn’t follow the disciples.  We know from the last post that they had a high opinion of themselves.  After all, they gave up everything to follow Christ.  This man, who was driving out demons, didn’t.

On the other hand, even though he didn’t give up everything to follow Jesus, he had the evidence of the power of God operating in his ministry.  He also must have understood a lot of the Lord’s teachings.  People were being delivered as he preached Christ.

This is where we are at our point in history.  Many Christian denominations are a part of the spiritual landscape before us.  What did the Lord say about this?

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said.  “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.  I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”
Mark 9:39-41

By saying this, Jesus has settled the matter of denominations.  Do all of them follow Christ to the same degree?  Obviously not.  But that’s not the issue.  The question is; are they operating in the name of Jesus?

Jesus is telling His disciples that you don’t have to be a super-apostle, trained by Jesus Christ, Himself, in order to get a reward.  If you’ve trusted Christ for your salvation, and your calling is as simple as giving water to someone, you’ll have a reward for fulfilling that calling.

We may not all be in the same denomination, but we must all receive each other in the name of Jesus Christ.

Question: How have you learned to respect other believers who don’t worship as you do?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2018 in Fellowship, Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Servants First

What do you think is the best path to leadership in the kingdom of God?  There was a principle of leadership that Jesus had to get across to His disciples.  After all, they were going to be leading the church after His ascension.

They left that place and passed through Galilee.  Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples.  He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.  They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”  But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
Mark 9:30-32

As Jesus approaches the time of the cross, He spends more alone time with His disciples.  He needs to prepare them for the challenges ahead.  Part of this was to instruct them about the cross.  He was going to suffer, die, and then rise from the dead three days later.

The disciples just couldn’t grasp what the Lord was trying to get across to them.  But now, after Peter’s rebuke, they were afraid to ask the Lord to explain it.

As they walked along, the disciples started to debate something among themselves.  I’m sure that it got pretty heated.

They came to Capernaum.  When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?”  But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Mark 9:33-34

This argument probably started with, “What if Jesus were to die?  Who would be in charge of this group?”  I’m sure that Peter, James, and John all thought that they were eminently qualified.  That is until Jesus shared His views with them.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Mark 9:35

The Lord explains that the true path to leadership is through servanthood.  That’s something that we have a hard time grasping in the church these days.

Jesus is our prime example.  The disciples were arguing over who was greatest, right after Jesus told them His plan.  He became Lord of all creation.  But the path He took involved laying down His life – serving – all of humanity.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:5-8

I think that it’s funny the way we get into leadership in our generation.  If someone wants to be a pastor or teacher, they go to a Bible college for years.  Then they graduate and send their resumes to churches.  A lot of them will get voted in and installed as pastors having never served in ministry.

I think that’s why there’s such a high burn-out rate in the ministry.  We haven’t learned that the path to knowing your calling is service in the kingdom.  Without being a true servant, there’s no way of understanding the needs of those you’re leading.

That was the path that Christ took.  It hasn’t changed.  The Father is looking for qualified servants to lead His people.  Don’t ever look down on that season of your life.  Enjoy your call to servanthood.

Question: How are you called to serve in God’s kingdom?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2018 in The Church, Ministry, Leadership

 

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The Cross in Our Generation

In my last post, we saw Jesus explaining to His disciples the need to give up their human, fleshly way of thinking.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Mark 8:34

Remember, the Lord had just called Peter an accuser and told him to “get behind me.”  Now Jesus uses that exact same word and says “if anyone would get behind me…”  Getting behind Jesus, following Him, requires taking up your cross.

What does Jesus mean by this?  I’ve heard people use it in a lot of different ways.  Sometimes they’ll use this term in talking about an ongoing illness, or even their spouse.

“That’s just my cross that I have to bear.”

Is that what it’s all about?  I don’t think so.  Carrying a cross is a sign that you’re about to die.  Very soon you’re going to be laying down your life.

In the next few verses, Jesus makes it clear what He’s talking about.

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Mark 8:35-37

The Lord is speaking about giving up the temporary in order to gain the eternal.  The word, life, that He uses here is the actual word for soul.  It’s the seat of who you are as a person; your personality, likes, dislikes, desires, and experiences.

We have to lay all of that down if we’re going to experience God’s destiny for our lives.  That’s the only place where we can experience true fulfillment.  It’s the kind of life where we can look back a million years from today and say that it was all worth it.

But there’s more to it than just that.  There’s a tougher part that needs to be laid down.

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Mark 8:38

I believe that this speaks directly to where we are as God’s people at this point in history.  The word, generation, could also mean a people group.  So Jesus is talking about being ashamed of what He does or says in the midst of an adulterous people group.

Hear what He’s saying.  In order to be adulterous, you have to be in a covenant relationship.  The Lord isn’t talking about the unsaved here.  He’s talking about those who want to follow Him within a church that’s following after the world’s way of living.

There’s a huge segment of the church today that’s ashamed of what Christ does and says in the Scripture.

“Oh, no, we don’t talk about that subject in our church.  We don’t want to offend anybody.”

I thought that the Good News of Christ is that we are headed in the wrong direction – eternity separated from God because of our lifestyle.  But now because of what Christ did on the cross, we can be reconciled to God and CHANGED by the power of the Holy Spirit placed within us.

Father God, I pray that you give your people the boldness to proclaim Your message and to accomplish Your work.

Question: How have you experienced shame over the ministry or teachings described in Scripture?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2018 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Getting Behind Christ

As we continue to study the Gospel of Mark, we see the Lord bringing His disciples to a deeper level of knowledge about Himself.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.  He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
Mark 8:31-32

Jesus began to explain to the disciples that the Messiah must undergo rejection by Israel.  Then, He needed to die on the cross, be buried and three days later, rise from the dead.

Peter was obviously upset by this.  He was so taken back by hearing about the Lord’s death that he totally missed the part about rising from the dead.  He began to rebuke Jesus for His “negative confession.”

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter.  “Get behind me, Satan!” he said.  “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Mark 8:33

No, Peter was not possessed by the devil at this time.  The Greek word, satan, means accuser.  Jesus was not calling Peter the devil, but describing his actions.  (Actually, the devil would have enjoyed seeing Jesus die.)

In his statement, Peter was accusing Jesus of being out of the will of God for his life.  Peter was placing himself on the same level as Christ, telling Him what He should be doing.

That’s why the Lord told him to get behind me.  In other words, you’re not my peer; get back in line following me where you belong.  He explained that Peter was not thinking like God thinks, but like men think.

Jesus took this as a teachable moment.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Mark 8:34-38

Christ makes it clear that in following Him, we have to give up our fleshly, human way of thinking.  Ministry in the kingdom of God is not based on what I think is best for God.  It’s about what He thinks is best.

Too often we’re guilty of giving God our opinion of what should be done.  Then, we run off with our plans and seek God’s blessing on it.  We then get frustrated wondering why it has no effect.

Instead, we need to seek the Holy Spirit to change the way we think.  We need our minds to be renewed.  Because if I can think the way God does, then I’m going to want His perfect will.

This is important.  I won’t need to seek His will; I’ll know it because I want what He wants.  Then it will be blessed – not because I prayed for God to bless it, but because it’s already anointed by God.

That’s why we need to spend quality time in the Lord’s presence.  But not spending all our time seeking things and answers to problems.  We must desire to know Him better – His thoughts, His will, and His heartbeat.

Question: What’s the difference between seeking God’s will and seeking God’s heart?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Importance of the Unseen

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

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

For this reason, He asks the disciples some questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The disciples knew the reality.

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

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

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

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

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

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Drawing Power of the Holy Spirit

Social media is a powerful tool.  It can turn someone into an overnight sensation.  This type of communication wasn’t even imagined in ancient Israel, yet the ministry of Jesus grew in a huge way.

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there.  As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus.  They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.  And wherever he went — into villages, towns or countryside — they placed the sick in the marketplaces.  They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.
Mark 6:53-56

There are some things about this passage that amaze me when I read it.  The first thing I see is that immediately, the crowds recognized Jesus.

There were no newspapers or TVs.  Most of us know what the major celebrities look like.  We’ve seen their pictures in many places.  But back then, nobody had a picture of Him.  Yet as soon as they saw Him and His disciples, they knew exactly who they were.

Another thing I notice is that word spread quickly.  People literally ran throughout that whole region, telling that Jesus had arrived.  I’ve never witnessed this type of behavior.

At one point, part of a major motion picture was being filmed in our town.  Nobody ran through the streets announcing the arrival of the stars and camera crews.  It came and went without a lot of people even noticing.

But the notoriety of Jesus went even further than that, especially when it can to the sick and infirm.  If they couldn’t walk to see Jesus, there were those who were willing to carry the sick people.  In some cases, they were carried for miles.

Because of this, hundreds of people were arriving where the Lord was expected to show up.  They were waiting for Him even though there was no guarantee that they would be ministered to.

Then, when Christ was walking through, they begged Him to simply let them touch His clothing.  They didn’t want a special meeting.  They weren’t waiting for an altar call.

“Just walk close enough so I can reach out to you.”

Jesus understood the working of the Holy Spirit.  It wasn’t a carefully crafted media blitz.  It was the Father pulling on the hearts of the people.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
John 6:44

The results were overwhelming.  Everyone who touched Him experienced the Lord’s healing power.

Think about it.  They were healed simply by touching Jesus’ clothes as He walked by them.  He felt no need to dramatically lay hands on them so that all would know who it was that performed the miracle.

The Lord had no need for self-promotion.  He walked through the crowd getting as close to as many as He could in the time given to Him.  I believe that’s one of the reasons that the Holy Spirit could work so powerfully through Him.

We need to spend time in His presence.  In that way, we can pick up the same heartbeat that He had.  Then the Holy Spirit can work in us to that same degree.

Question: How differently would we minister if we had the Lord’s heart?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2018 in Ministry, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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