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Category Archives: Spiritual Walk

The Power of the Solitary Place

In my last post, we saw how Jesus ministered to the crowds no matter when or where the Holy Spirit was leading.  How was He able to operate on this level?  Is it something that I can tap into?

I believe that Jesus is the example of how we should approach the ministry.  We need to see how He prepared Himself for the days ahead of Him.

The Lord Jesus was God in the flesh; yes, but He limited Himself to operating as a man led by the Holy Spirit.  Christ didn’t operate in a vacuum.  He didn’t do anything that the Holy Spirit hadn’t shown Him.  The next question that arises in my heart is this; how did He hear from the Spirit?

Obviously, the Lord didn’t just decide “on the fly” what He was going to do.  He had to go to the Father first, and then see what was coming up in His ministry.

Only then was the Lord prepared for the work He was about to do that day or that week.  If I can get a handle on this aspect of His ministry, then it can revolutionize mine.  The fact is, the Scripture is clear as to how He saw the Holy Spirit working.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also.  That is why I have come.”  So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Mark 1:35-39

Many times Jesus would leave a house to find a solitary place to pray.  Most of the time, He would leave while it was still dark.  I’m sure that He didn’t even tell anyone He was leaving.  It must have been much later when the disciples started their search.

He was there alone in the presence of the Father – away from the crowds and the demands of the ministry.  This is what Jesus felt He needed to do to clearly hear the voice of the Spirit.

How do I know this?  It’s clear from the passage.  When the disciples arrived, they were upset that they had to go looking for Him.

Notice that He ignored their statements.  Instead, He simply said, “I know where we’re going next and what we’re going to do when we get there.”  How did He suddenly know this?  He heard from the Spirit.

So clear was the knowledge of the Father that many miracles were performed on the ministry trip they took.  Even a leper with little faith was healed.

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”  Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
Mark 1:40-42

There are ministers today who would handle this situation very differently.  If someone were to state, “If God wills,” they’d send him back to his seat until he could “believe God for his healing”.  Instead, Christ healed the man regardless of his small faith.  What made the difference?  Jesus had, by the Spirit, seen the Father accomplish it already.

Do you need to know the next step in your life?  If Jesus needed to seek God in that way, I assume that the same has to be true for us.  We desperately need a Word from the Father to complete our task.

Find that solitary place today.  Go before the Lord in the stillness that surrounds you and open up your soul to Him.  Spend some time just listening for His still, small voice to your heart.  Then answer the call in obedience to His will.

Question: Where is your solitary place?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on December 15, 2017 in Ministry, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Gospel and Convenience

We live in an age of convenience.  A few taps on my smart-phone and a pizza shows up at my door with the exact toppings I wanted.  A few more taps and my order is waiting, ready and paid for, at the local coffee shop.

The question is; how does this translate over into my spiritual life?  There are many in our generation who are looking for a convenient faith.  They show up for church Sunday morning, fast food breakfast in hand.  They stay for the hour and a half service – in and out – the rest of the day to themselves.

The problem is that a life like that is devoid of power.  I can’t reconcile convenience with the life of Christ.

We say that we want to live and minister as Jesus did.  Do we really?  Do we actually want our life to look like His?

As we continue to look at Mark’s Gospel, we’ll see what it should be like.  A day in the life of the Lord.  It’s a Sabbath day.  He had just preached at the local synagogue.  In the middle of His ministry, a demon-possessed man disrupted the meeting.  (We looked at that in my last post)

After His ministry there, I’m sure He was tired.  At least I am after I preach.  Most people look forward to a nice restful day after the morning service.

As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew.  Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her.  So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up.  The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
Mark 1:29-31

When they back to the house, there was no dinner waiting.  Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was sick and in bed.  The Lord’s ministry wasn’t over for the day.  He graciously prayed with her and her healing manifested.

After she got up, she served them.  No problem.  Dinner was only delayed a little.  We could handle that.  But it’s what happened next that we need to take to heart.

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed.  The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases.  He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
Mark 1:32-34

As soon as the sun started to set, people began to gather.  Please realize that this wasn’t a planned meeting.  What the Lord was actually looking forward to was a restful night at home with His disciples.

The next thing they knew, the entire town had shown up at their doorstep.  They weren’t there simply to get a look at the new prophet that had come to town.  They were there to be ministered to.

What was Jesus’ response?  Did He tell them to go home and He’d plan another meeting for tomorrow after a good night’s rest?  Absolutely not!  He flowed with the leading of the Holy Spirit and shared the power of God with those waiting.

My question for this generation is; do we want the inconvenience of a truly Spirit-led walk?  Are we prepared to give up some of our precious “me time”?  Are we willing to minister to the hurting people around us, no matter when we’re called into action?

This is what we’re destined for – a ministry like Jesus.  But in order to walk in it, we need to change some of our attitudes toward our time.  We have to realize that our schedules don’t belong to us; they belong to God the Father.  We must be willing to let Him set the agenda and the course of our lives.

Question: How do “spiritual interruptions” affect your attitudes?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2017 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Called to Become

The next encounter we have in Mark’s gospel is the calling of the four fishermen.  I’m referring to Andrew, Peter, James, and John.

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.  Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Mark 1:16-20

In this narrative, we’re only given the outline of what happened.  It should be obvious from human nature and the accounts in the other gospels that this was not the first time these men had met Jesus.  No one will leave their family business because an unknown man walks by and asks them to follow Him.

On the contrary, there was already a relationship that had formed between these five men.  Jesus had been preaching and healing the sick throughout the area.  At one point, Peter even let Jesus use his boat as a pulpit.  They knew the Lord’s ministry.

We know from John’s gospel, that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist.  He had heard John’s testimony of Jesus being the Messiah.  He had met with Christ in private, and then Andrew introduced his brother Peter to Him.

This was not just a “cold call” on the part of the Lord.  It was the culmination of an ongoing relationship.  They knew who it was that was calling them.  They wanted what Christ was offering.

But what was the Lord promising them?  It’s a very interesting way to invite someone.  There are two important phrases that Jesus says to them.  The first is; I will make you.

He told them that if they’d fall in behind Him, He’d do a work in their lives.  I think that’s the key, even for us.  It’s our job to follow – that’s all.  Too often we get the idea that we need to work on changing ourselves.  Then we get frustrated with the results.

If I’m willing to spend time in the Lord’s presence, through the Holy Spirit, He’ll bring about the changes needed in my life.  That’s where the power is.  It’s clear from Scripture that only the spirit can control the flesh.

The second phrase is not apparent in this English translation.  It’s the phrase; to become.  The original Greek reads; I will make you to become fishers of men.  I believe this means it’s a process, not an instant change.

God has a calling on your life and mine.  He wants us to become something for His glory.  I wish that the transformation was instant, the day I bowed my knee to Him as Lord.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way.

There’s a growing process involved.  I follow behind Christ.  I spend time in the spirit.  Over time, the work of God’s grace becomes evident in my life.  Eventually, I become what I was created to be.

It was like that with these disciples.  They had their rough spots.  Sometimes it looked like they’d never get there.  But after the day of Pentecost, they turned their world upside-down for the glory of Christ.

Let this speak to you.  Follow behind Christ.  Be patient.  Don’t get frustrated that the changes in your life aren’t happening as quickly as you’d like them to.  Become a disciple of Christ through the work of His Holy Spirit in you.

Question: What are some changes that are already evident in your life since you started following Christ?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Perfect Submission

When we think about Jesus, what words come to mind?  Savior, Lord, God Almighty, and many more.  But do we immediately think of “obedient”?  That’s the first picture we get in the Gospel of Mark.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark 1:9-11

Many people wonder why Jesus felt He needed to be baptized in the Jordan River.  After all, He had no sin that needed to be confessed.  The Lord was perfect in all of His ways.

The fact is that Jesus knew His purpose right from the start.  He came to earth with the cross in mind.  He was fully aware that in order to save us, He would need to die a cruel death, be buried and then rise three days later.

That’s what this baptism was all about.  The Lord was showing, by a visible sign, that He was in full submission to the Father’s will concerning His life.  Christ’s initiation into public ministry was a confession that it would end in death, burial, and resurrection.

That’s why the Father gave His seal of approval to the Lord’s work.  He was well pleased that Jesus was willingly going forward with the plan of salvation.

But there was more to the Lord’s obedience and submission than this act of faith.  There was a step by step, day by day leading that He had to follow.  From this point on, the Holy Spirit would be His guide and leader, giving Him the plan for each new day.

I’d like to think that following the Holy Spirit is easy.  No problems; just do what He says and it’s a clear road ahead.  That wasn’t the case for Jesus.

At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
Mark 1:12-13

Immediately after a public submission to the Father’s plan, you would think that there’d be a huge boost in His ministry.  Instead, the Holy Spirit sends the Lord off to the wilderness.  You would think that this was opposite of what He should be doing.

“Go to Jerusalem.  Proclaim yourself the Messiah and Savior of the world.”

No.  That’s not the path that the Spirit had for him.  Jesus needed to be able to listen to the voice of the Father.  The wilderness would be His training ground.

Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…
Hebrews 5:8-9

We sometimes think that the only time Jesus suffered was on the cross.  I don’t believe that’s the case.  It doesn’t matter who you are, forty days in the wilderness with no food is uncomfortable for anybody’s flesh.

That’s why the Scripture tells us that Christ had to learn obedience.  It wasn’t easy.  It involved some suffering.

The suffering I’m talking about is that of self-discipline.  Jesus didn’t have to go to the desert.  He didn’t have to fast for forty days.  He was being led by the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes I think that’s the hardest temptation there is.  The knowledge that you’re following God’s plan.  It’s not comfortable.  No one will know if you deviate, or even cut a few corners.  Yet, you stay on the path you’re called to, no matter what.

This is the path of submission and obedience that we see exemplified in the life of Christ.

Question: What was the hardest thing the Holy Spirit asked you to do?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Christ the Baptizer in the Spirit

I believe that America is ripe for revival.  I also believe that prayer in the spirit will play a major role in this move.  John the Baptist preached about this subject in the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel.

John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.  I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Mark 1:6-8

We’ll need an understanding of this if we’re going to flow in revival to the level God desires.  I’m talking about coming face to face with Christ, the Baptizer.  He’s the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

But there’s a question that this brings up.  How can Christ do that if He wasn’t baptized Himself?  I believe that Jesus was baptized in the Spirit and prayed in the spirit.

Of course, Jesus prayed in the spirit without the manifestation of tongues.  The reason for this is that speaking in tongues is the reaction of our sinful flesh to the work of the Spirit.  Our flesh can’t comprehend what’s happening when we pray in the spirit.

In another Gospel, we see John the Baptist witnessing something unique.

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.  I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’”
John 1:32-33

This was unheard of in their day – the Holy Spirit remaining upon a person.  This was the point where Jesus was baptized in the Spirit.  I believe that from this day forward, Jesus prayed in the spirit.

But I think that the key word here is, remained.  The Holy Spirit remained upon the Lord and Jesus remained in the Spirit.

That’s something we need to see the importance of.  Very often we think that what Jesus did was a special case.  He said that the same works He did, we would do.  But in order for that to happen, it will take the same preparation.

We need the same remaining in the Spirit.  You could also call it immersion in the Spirit.

Before He ascended to the Father, Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for this gift.  Don’t preach, don’t make disciples, don’t do anything, just wait.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:8

That was fulfilled in the baptism found in Acts chapter 2.

What about Jesus?  He was baptized by John who testified that the Spirit remained on Him.  Then Jesus went into the wilderness to fast and pray for 40 days.  There, the Lord was tempted by the devil himself, yet…

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.
Luke 4:14

What power did He walk in?  The power of His immersion in the Spirit.   We need this same power to be evident in our lives.  In that case, we must remain in the Holy Spirit just like He did.

Question: How does Christ exemplify the Christian walk?

 

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A Call to Repentance

We’re continuing our look at John the Baptist in the Gospel of Mark.  He had a very important ministry.  He prepared Israel for the coming of the Messiah.

He’s also a good example of what our ministry should be like.

And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
Mark 1:4-5

John was a minister who didn’t feel the need to impress people.  He lived separately from society.  He didn’t let the day to day fads affect him.  He simply ministered the message he was given.

I’m glad that there are churches today that are attracting lots of people.  They have a modern atmosphere.  There’s smoke, lights, comfortable seating, and a professional sound.

That’s fine, as long as the message of Christ isn’t watered down.  When the methods become more important than the message, then we’re starting to compromise.  When the cash-flow required to maintain the look becomes the purpose; now the church is in trouble.

It seems to me that it was the message of John the Baptist that was attracting the crowds.  Their lives were being changed.  They came back from the Jordan River with a new outlook on life.

There’s also an aspect of John’s ministry that I think we miss because we’re on the other side of the cross.  We have to remember, while we read the Gospels, that the events described were taking place under the Old Covenant.

The people coming out to hear John’s message were “church people.”  If they were participating in the traditions of the Law of Moses, then they were saved and on their way to Heaven.  This was not the same baptism that we receive after salvation.

These people were already a part of the Old Testament congregation of believers because of the sacrificial system.  This baptism was a preparation for the continued work of Christ in the lives of His people.

Jesus didn’t just die on the cross to give me my initial salvation.  He took all my sins to the cross so that I could remain clean before God.  This baptism was looking forward to the ongoing work of grace in our lives.

That’s because we see the people confessing their particular sins, then being baptized for their removal.  It corresponds to the continued work of Christ’s cleansing in our lives.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8-9

This verse isn’t telling me that I need to be rebaptized whenever I fall into sin.  I’ve already been baptized to identify with Christ.  Now, all that’s needed is for me to confess my failures to God and receive His forgiveness and cleansing power.

I explained all of that, to simply say that this ministry is fading away in our generation.  Where’s the call to repentance in our day?  It seems that when someone preaches against sin and calls for repentance, a cry goes up that they’re bringing condemnation.  This is not the way it should be.

Yes, we’re righteous in the sight of God if we’re in Christ.  However, there’s an ongoing work of cleaning that the Holy Spirit wants to work in us.  That process requires conviction, confession of sin, repentance, forgiveness, and purifying.  Please don’t ignore the whole work of salvation that Christ wants to accomplish in you.

Question: When was the last time you went before God in repentance?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2017 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Gospel Beginnings

Over the last year or so, I’ve been systematically teaching through the New Testament in the order that it was revealed to the church.  Today, I’m starting the fourth of what I call the foundational books.  They are James, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, and Mark.

I believe they are the foundation on which the rest of the New Testament is written.  The Gospel of Mark is the foundation for all that we know about the life of Christ – the Messiah.

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Mark 1:1

I think that it’s clear the way the Holy Spirit inspired Mark to open this Gospel account.  This is the beginning; literally the commencement, of the gospel of Christ.  This is where our knowledge of how Jesus lived gets its formation.

But who is this man, Mark, which paints this picture of Christ?  We don’t know much about him.  Most of what we believe comes from various church traditions.

I think that the best explanation is that he is John-Mark, from the book of Acts.  He was a relative of Barnabas and traveled with him for a while on a missionary journey with Paul.  He was young then and wasn’t prepared for this type of ministry.  He soon abandoned Paul and Barnabas.

Many believe that when he left the traveling life, he settled down as one of Peter’s helpers.  The Apostle mentions Mark in the greeting of his epistle.

She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark.
1 Peter 5:13-14

Since he traveled with Peter for so long, it’s believed that most of Mark’s gospel comes from the preaching of Peter.  He gives very brief stories and an immediate application of truth.  It sounds very much like how a “street preacher” would talk to a crowd.

That Mark grew and matured under Peter’s mentorship is without question.  He left the missionary life when he was younger, and actually caused a split between Paul and Barnabas.  However, later on, even Paul saw the change that had taken place in his life.

Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
2 Timothy 4:11

As we read through this Gospel, my desire is that you get a clear foundation of who Christ is and how He lived.  God in the flesh.  Yet he humbled Himself to function as a man led by the Holy Spirit.

In the Gospel of Mark, we see Jesus Christ as the conquering Savior.  We also see Him as a humble Servant of God the Father.  It’s a contrast that we should be striving for in our ministries.

This is the beginning of the Gospel.  It’s the first glimpse that the Holy Spirit gives us into the life and ministry of Jesus.  Let it speak to you in the coming weeks.

If you haven’t yet subscribed to this blog, I encourage you to do so.  In that way, you won’t miss any of the teachings in this series.

Question: How has the Holy Spirit brought you to where you are today?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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