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Category Archives: Spirit of Excellence

Prayer and Fasting – A Foundation for Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the disciples still had some questions.

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

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

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

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

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

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Fasting and Preparation

In my last post, I talked about Jesus’ view of fasting.  There was a change from the Old to the New Testament fast.  The Lord explained it in parable form.

Last time, we looked at the parable of the patches.  Christ also gave another parable concerning the difference between the Old and New Covenant fast.

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins.  If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined.  No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”
Mark 2:22

The Old Covenant is the old wineskins that the Lord is referring to.  It’s empty, used up, dry, and unyielding.  It has nothing on the inside to give life.

New wine is unfermented grape juice.  During the fermentation process, it produces gasses that pressurize the skins.  A dry and unyielding wineskin will burst under the pressure of this reaction.  You can’t live for God like that.

A new wineskin; unstretched, oiled, soft, and pliable, is ready to receive the new wine.  We get that new wine of the Holy Spirit in us when we’re saved.

As we spend time in the Lord’s presence, it starts to ferment; it creates a pressure on the inside, and we start to grow.  That’s the second part of this process.

Fasting increases the inner man.  There’s a spiritual pressure that builds up.  Because you’re quieting your flesh, you begin hearing from God.  Then, as you spend time with the Holy Spirit, something is being poured into you.

The pressure is building.  Now you have something to give that will cause God’s grace to flow through you.  Now you can pour out into someone else.

When you walk in your calling, the pressure released – for a little while.  Now you have something on the inside that stretches the outside.  I don’t know what God wants to do in the months and years ahead, but I want to be prepared to hear His voice.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Matthew 4:1-2

We find that just before Jesus started His public ministry He went through a time of tempting and testing.  What did He do to prepare for it?  He fasted.

Do you think you’ll be tested in the coming year?  What are you going to do?  How will you enter the test?  Prepared or unprepared?  How will you answer the enemy?

The fact is, fasting prepares us for the battle.  We don’t know what’s coming.  But I know this; the enemy is good at predicting it based upon what he sees lining up in the spirit world.

We don’t see it.  We have to rely on what we hear from God.  Are we going to have a Word from God for our generation?  That’s what’s needed.  I want to be prepared to face whatever lies ahead.  The blessings, the callings, the tests – everything.  So I’ll fast in order to hear from God more clearly.  I hope you will too.

Question: What are the things that God’s preparing you for in 2018?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2017 in Fasting, Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Disciples and Fasting

As we continue to look at the ministry of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, one thing we have to realize is that the Lord lived under the Old Covenant.  So there were times He had to make it clear that something new was coming.

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting.  Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
Mark 2:18

That was an interesting question for the Lord.  It’s clear from Scripture that Jesus fasted.  In Jesus’ ministry, He taught what to do “when you fast.”  Jesus assumed that fasting would be a normal part of our lives.  Why didn’t He make His disciples practice this discipline?

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?  They cannot, so long as they have him with them.  But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.”
Mark 2:19-20

The Lord was basically telling them that fasting would change from Old Testament to New Testament.  He wanted them to start the New Covenant fast after the resurrection.

Under the Old Covenant, fasting was a way to humble yourself in repentance.  Now, in Christ, we fast in order to put down the flesh so that we can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit more clearly.  For a more detailed teaching on this subject…click here.

At this point, Jesus gives a description of the differences in parable form.  Those listening to His explanation probably didn’t understand what the Lord was talking about, but looking back, we can.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment.  If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.”
Mark 2:21

The first thing He talks about is the outside – a garment.  In the ancient world, the way to repair your clothing was to take an old piece of cloth and use it to patch an old garment.

Under the Old Covenant, fasting was only a patch.  It was all about doing something to get God to listen to me.  I needed to patch things up.  So I humbled myself by fasting, wearing sackcloth, and covering my head with ashes.  I had to show how sorrowful I was for my sin.

There were times that people fasted just for show.  They wanted to look “holy”.  That’s when God would say things like, “Will I listen to you if you fast like that?”

According to Jesus, we don’t fast like the Pharisees or other Old Testament people.  Much of what they did was to impress people with their outward displays of religion.

If I try to patch things up with God under the New Covenant, I only make things worse.  It’s all about me being able to hear God’s voice clearly.

How, then, do I get God to hear me?  The truth is that I don’t.  In Christ, we have 24/7 access to the throne room of God.  There’s no condemnation; we can enter boldly into His presence.

Now, under grace, we’re a new garment and don’t need a patch.  But a new garment (back then) would always shrink with use.  Fasting under the New Covenant shrinks the outer garment.

That’s what we look for – the flesh to decrease.  As I fast, the voice of my flesh gets quieter.  So fasting forcefully puts down the flesh.

This is because under the New Covenant it’s about me hearing from God.  God hears me in Christ.  But I need to hear Him with my spirit when He speaks.

I don’t think it’s as much God not speaking, as me not listening.  Fasting helps drown out the noise of my flesh.  That’s why I believe that fasting should be a regular part of a Christian’s life.

Questions:  Do you fast?  How often?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2017 in Fasting, Spiritual Walk

 

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Do You Know the Two Kinds of Testing?

ClimberWe all go through challenging times in our lives. The Bible calls them trials or tests. None of us are exempt, so we need to be aware of how they function.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

Notice that James is not saying that the trial is a blessing. Our blessing is the result of coming through the test victoriously. If you remember from the first post in this series; it’s our faith that’s tried. This trial then brings perseverance and results in our faith being approved as genuine.

But what exactly are these tests all about? James goes on to explain it to us.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James 1:13-15

First, we must understand the words being used. In the English Bible, the words temptation, test, and trial all mean different things to us. In the original Greek they’re all the same word. The translators used these different English words depending upon the context.

In this verse, James is only referring to one kind of testing – testing by evil. In this post I want to talk about the two kinds that are spoken of in Scripture.

The first I want to share about is testing by evil. This is usually called temptation by the translators. This is when we are given the opportunity to do something against God’s law or human law. It could also be troublesome, injurious, or destructive to us or others.

In thinking about testing, it’s important that we don’t get our theology from cartoons. There isn’t any little demon or angel sitting on our shoulder, whispering into our ears!

James makes it clear that usually the devil is not even involved. I think that we give him too much credit. It’s actually our own flesh that brings on the temptations that we face. We are tempted when our sin nature wants something that’s not God’s best for us. The only way to overcome consistantly is by a lifestyle of fasting and prayer in the spirit. (For more detail on these, click fasting or prayer)

The second kind is testing by God. James only says that God doesn’t use evil to test us, but there is a test that He sets up for us. This happened a lot with Jesus and His disciples.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
John 6:5-6

In this kind of testing, the Lord brings opportunities before us. Their purpose is to show forth the faith that has been produced in us as a result of hearing His Word. He wants us and others to see the growth that’s taking place in us. The result should bring glory to Christ working in us.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:6-7

Knowing these two types of trials will help us to be victorious no matter what challenges we face. As we rely upon the Holy Spirit, we can become mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Question: How has the testing process worked maturity in your Christian walk?

©Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Let Yourself be Stretched

BandsI’ve been posting about the place of fasting in the believer’s life. In my last article we saw that there was a difference between fasting under the Old and New Covenants. The New Covenant fast is so that you put down your flesh to better hear from God.

We don’t seem to hear the voice of the Lord as well as they did in the early church. I don’t think it’s as much God not speaking, as me not listening. Fasting helps me drown out the noise of my flesh.

But Jesus gave another parable…

“Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Matthew 9:17

The Old Testament fast is likened to old wineskins; empty, used up, dry, and unyielding. They have nothing of value on the inside.

In that culture, new wine was unfermented grape juice. The fermentation process produces gasses that pressurize the skins. Old, dry and unyielding bags would burst. You can’t live for God like that.

A new wineskin was made of unstretched leather. Then it was oiled to make it soft and pliable. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit in us – to prepare us to receive God’s Word.

Then we get that new wine in us. It starts to ferment, the pressure builds up and the wineskin stretches.

That’s another reason why fasting is so important to us. Fasting increases the inner man. When you fast, there’s a spiritual pressure that builds up.

You’re hearing from God and something is being poured into you. The pressure is building. Now you have something to give.

You’re now able to pour out into someone else. Then the pressure is released – for a little while anyway.

By fasting you have something on the inside that stretches the outside. I don’t know what God wants to do this year, but I want to be prepared to hear His voice.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Matthew 4:1-2

Just before Jesus started His public ministry He went on an extended fast. He knew that He was going to be tempted and tested. In order to prepare Himself, He fasted.

Do you think you’ll be tested this year? What are you going to do? How will you enter the test? Prepared? Or not? How will you answer the enemy?

The truth is that fasting prepares us for the battle ahead. I don’t know what’s coming. But I know this; the enemy is good at predicting it based upon what he sees lining up in the spirit world.

We don’t see it. We have to rely upon what we hear from God. Are we going to have a Word from God for our generation? That’s what’s needed.

I want to be prepared to face 2016 and all it holds. The blessings, callings, testings – everything. So I fast to hear from God. Enter into the blessing that fasting brings.

Question: How will you incorporate fasting into the New Year?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2016 in Fasting, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Are Your Clothes Shrinking?

clothes2I’m posting about the place of fasting in the life of a believer. In my last post I looked at an incident in the life of the early church.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 13:2-3

We saw that it was fasting that prepared them to hear from God. They received the message to set apart Barnabas and Saul. So what did they do next? They continued to fast and pray in order to hear the specifics of this calling.

You need the whole Word from God. Too many people run off with only part of the message. Then they get into trouble and blame God.

What’s so special about fasting? In Jesus’ ministry He taught what to do “when you fast.” Jesus assumed that fasting would be a normal part of our lives.

I believe that hearing from God is the great assumption in the New Testament. In the above verse, it doesn’t look like a special, radical, event took place in the church. A mature believer should be hearing from God regularly.

The problem we have today is that much of the church has lost this ability to hear from God. It’s hearing from God that gets us to the narrow gate I talked about in my last post. His Word to us helps us to stay on the narrow road. Fasting is the key.

There was a point when the disciples of John and the Pharisees were fasting. They noticed that Jesus’ disciples were not. They questioned Jesus about it.

He said that fasting would change in the transition from the Old Covenant to the New. The Lord wanted the disciples to wait until after the resurrection to begin fasting. Jesus gives a description of these differences in parable form.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse.”
Matthew 9:16

First, the Lord talks about the outside – a garment. The old way was to take an old cloth and patch an old garment. Fasting in the Old Testament was only a patch. At that time, fasting was all about getting God to listen to me. I needed to patch things up between God and me.

If I try to patch the garment in the New Testament it only makes things worse. Then how do I get God to hear me? I DON’T!!!

In Christ we now have access to God 24/7. There’s now no condemnation and we can enter boldly into His presence. Now we are a new garment and we don’t need a patch.

But a new garment (back then) would shrink with usage. Fasting under the New Covenant shrinks the outer garment. That’s what we look for – the flesh to decrease. We want the voice of the flesh to get quieter.

Fasting forcefully puts down the flesh. This is because now it’s about me hearing from God. God hears me in Christ. But I need to hear Him when He speaks. And that’s where fasting comes in.

Question: How often, and for how, long do you fast?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2016 in Fasting, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Start By Seeking the Lord

FinishThe beginning of the year is a good time to seek direction from the Lord. Because of that, I’m setting aside this week for personal fasting and prayer. Fasting should be a normal part of your Christian experience.

Scripture tells about some people who were working in a church in Antioch. They were involved in teaching and helping out for years. They also understood the truth about fasting and prayer. I’m going to be talking about it for a few posts.

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.
Acts 13:1

Because he’s listed first, we see that Barnabas was the one in charge of this ministry. Last on the list was a guy named Saul. He had his 5 minutes of fame while he was persecuting the church. Now he’s pretty much forgotten.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 13:2-3

In the middle of their meeting they heard from God. That made all the difference. According to Scripture, they were performing public service to God and fasting.

Throughout the day a few different people heard the same thing from God. Separate Barnabas and Saul to the work I have called them.

We have to come to grips with the fact that fasting prepares you to hear from God. The truth is that God always desires to bring you from glory to glory. He wants to cause growth in your life and ministry.

The more you hear from the Lord, the more specific your calling becomes. The path you’re walking becomes more and more narrow.

During His time on earth, Jesus talked about asking, seeking and knocking. He said that if you knock, the door will be opened for you. What door was He talking about? He went on to say…

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Matthew 7:13-14

I don’t believe that He’s talking about salvation here. This verse is about asking the Father for direction and wisdom.

There’s an easy way that leads to loss and ruin. Many people – Christians included – are running after the temporary. But there is another way that’s easier to miss. You have to seek and ask just to find the gate.

Then you have to knock, keep on knocking, and push through. Very few even find it. That’s because they don’t want to seek and ask. But Barnabas and Saul were seeking. They were prepared to hear.

This is the gate of fasting and prayer. I invite you to come on in and see what the Lord has for you this year.

Question: How important to your Christian walk is fasting and prayer?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2016 in Fasting, Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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