RSS

Category Archives: Spiritual Walk

Courage Under Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

Advertisements
 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Voice of the Spirit

As we continue through Mark’s Gospel, it’s now the day of the Last Supper.  The disciples have no idea what’s about to take place during this feast.  All they know is that the Passover needs to be celebrated.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you.  Follow him.  Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’  He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready.  Make preparations for us there.”
Mark 14:12-15

To understand the importance of this passage, you must first understand the relationship between Christ and His disciples.  At that time, the role of Jesus to His disciples was the same as the Holy Spirit is to us today.

Remember that Jesus told His followers that He would send another Counsellor to lead and guide them.  The Holy Spirit wants to lead us in the same way that the Lord led His disciples.  That’s why it’s so important for us to develop sensitivity to the voice of the Spirit.

It’s sad that so many Christians think that God no longer works in this way.  I personally believe that the Holy Spirit still desires to operate through the church.  It’s the manifestation of the Gifts of the Spirit that will draw unbelievers to a saving knowledge of Christ.

In this instance, Jesus is functioning in the gifts of Prophecy and the Word of Knowledge.  Notice how specific His instructions are.  I believe that the Holy Spirit will be just that detailed with us if we’ll place ourselves in a position to hear Him.

What was the response of the disciples to this astounding instruction?

The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them.  So they prepared the Passover.
Mark 14:16

This simple statement shows the trust that had developed between Christ and His followers.  There was no question or hesitation.  They just went and did exactly as they were told.

So often we find two different extremes in the body of Christ these days.  The first is that some Christians come up with elaborate stories of what the Holy Spirit “told” them.  Then, a few days later the “spirit” tells them something that sounds just the opposite.

On the other hand, I’ve heard people who feel impressed to do or say something.  They don’t follow through on it.  Then, when it’s too late, they realize that they’d heard from the Holy Spirit and missed the opportunity for a blessing.  (I’ve been guilty of this more than once.)

We need to spend quality time in the spirit.  That’s where trust and sensitivity are developed.  I believe that’s why the disciples had an easier time hearing from the Spirit once Christ had ascended.  They simply transferred their focus to the voice of the Spirit.

Spend the time necessary to learn to hear and obey the Spirit.  I believe that’s where the Lord is leading His church in this generation.  It’s through hearing and obeying that we’ll see the end-time harvest of souls before the return of Christ.

Question: What can you do to develop a listening ear in the spirit?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 18, 2018 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Attitudes are Contagious

As we continue in the Gospel of Mark, we’re now a few days before the cross.  The Lord was invited to a party in His honor.  Many people came to see Him.

I suggest that you read Mark chapter 14, verses 1 through 11 before proceeding in this post.

During this meal, a woman shows up and makes her way to the feet of Jesus.  She opens a bottle of expensive perfume (approximately $40,000 in our economy) and pours it on the Lord’s feet.  This caused quite a stir among the crowd.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume?  It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.”  And they rebuked her harshly.
Mark 14:4-5

But wait a minute!  How did it get to this stage?  I think that the answer may surprise you.

According to John 12:4-5, Judas was the first person to mention the price of the perfume.  He objected to its being poured out on Jesus’ feet.  Then, in Matthew 26:8-9, we see the rest of the disciples picking up this attitude.

I believe that it wasn’t until Judas and the disciples started their fuss, that the crowd heard it and ran with it.  I’m sure that it took some time for this attitude to build up.  Then the crowd got angry and eventually said something to the woman.

This should be a lesson to us.  We need to watch what we say and the attitude that comes across.  Too often we’re guilty of giving the world ammunition to aim at the church.

I find it interesting that people who’ve never set foot inside a church will say that all the church wants is your money.  Where did they hear that from?  Was it from a believer who was upset that the pastor actually taught about tithing?  We need to be careful.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus.  “Why are you bothering her?  She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.  But you will not always have me.  She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.”
Mark 14:6-8

Jesus makes some interesting statements to the crowd.  If you put it into modern terms, He said, “Let it go!” and “Get off her back!”  The Lord made it clear that they had placed a heavy burden on her.

When the woman heard the crowd, she probably started to second-guess herself.  She might have thought, “I’ll never do something like that again.”  Many times, because they’re misunderstood, people are hurt and then they don’t do anything else for God.

It’s clear that she had done something prompted by the Holy Spirit.  She was anointing Christ to prepare Him for burial.  This was something she had no way of knowing in the natural.  This woman was operating in the wisdom of God.

“I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”  Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them.
Mark 14:9-10

This story has a sad ending.  In the original Greek, these two sentences are connected by the word “and”.  I believe that Judas was upset at being called out for his bad attitude.  It was the final act that made him seek to betray Jesus for money.

Don’t let your attitude mess up your walk with God.  Keep it in check by the Holy Spirit and don’t let it affect others around you.

Question: How has the attitude of others caused your attitude to change?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 16, 2018 in Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Prepared to Wait

As we continue our study of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is closing His End-Times teaching with His disciples.  These are His concluding statements.  They’re important for us to hear and understand.

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Be on guard!  Be alert!  You do not know when that time will come.  It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.”
Mark 13:32-34

He starts by saying that the exact day and hour will be a mystery.  Even Christ, when He took on our humanity, did not retain that knowledge of when that day would be.  Of course, now in His glorified state, Jesus knows when He will return.

His first command to the disciples and us is to watch.  The word literally means to be sleepless.  I don’t believe that the Lord means physical sleep in this verse.  It’s our spiritual eyes that we must keep open.

Too many of God’s people seem to be blind to what’s happening in the spirit.  They go to church for an hour or two a week and expect that this will provide them with everything they need to know.  I wish that were true.

We need intimacy with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis.  That’s the only way to remain spiritually alert and vigilant in these Last Days.

 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back — whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.  If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
Mark 13:35-37

Jesus is explaining to us a little bit of His time frame here.  Even though He never tells us exactly when He’ll return, He gives us some hints to help us be ready.  He doesn’t want us to be taken by surprise.

Jesus tells us the most important hint as we wait for His return.  He says that He will come when you don’t expect it.  Please be careful when reading the words of Jesus here.  Many miss the whole point of what He says.

Notice that it will not be a surprise because He comes before you expect Him.  What’s going to throw people off is that He’ll arrive later than they thought it would be.  That’s what He’s emphasizing in this verse.  The Lord said that it could be as late as midnight, the early hours of the morning, or even dawn.

What if I said to you, “Can I come over to your house tonight?”?

“Sure,” you reply and you wait for me to show up.  7 o’clock, 8 o’clock and 9 o’clock go by.  At that point, you’ll probably shut the porch light off.  At 10 o’clock you might be in bed.  At 11 o’clock you’ll definitely be in bed.  If I then bang on your door at 3 o’clock in the morning, I’m sure you wouldn’t even get out of bed to answer the door, even though I told you I was coming.

That’s what Jesus is saying.  He’s telling us that He’s coming later than we think.  There will be a time when people think that Jesus should be here by now, but He’s not.  We could call that “prophetic midnight”.

If you’re one of the people who believe that He’s going to be here at this prophetic midnight, you might be disappointed.  We’ve got to be careful.  Most of Christianity is expecting Him to come before certain prophetic events occur.  Jesus said, “I’m going to come later than you think.”

As a matter of fact, what you’re going to find, is that whenever Christ warns us about being ready, He always qualifies it by saying that He’ll come later than we’re expecting.  Jesus said that if the servant knew when the owner was coming he’d be ready.  We need to be spiritually awake and alert no matter what the future holds.

Question: What do you do to remain spiritually alert?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Our Last Days Witness

We’re continuing our study of the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus is now preparing His disciples for the events that are coming in the future.

“You must be on your guard.  You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues.  On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.  And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”
Mark 13:9-10

The first command that the Lord gives in this passage is that we open our eyes and watch ourselves.  When it comes to being prepared for the Last Days, it’s our own responsibility.  I’m not responsible for anybody else’s walk.  I need to make sure that I’m on the right path.

How do I need to prepare?  That’s the important question.  Jesus talks about three different areas that will require us to be willing to show our witness for Christ.

The first is councils and synagogues; or specifically, organized religion.  It seems that whenever you decide to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, there will be a point when “religion” will disagree with you.  So you must be prepared for them to take action against you.

That’s because most major denominations have a set of rules that they’ve put in place to maintain order.  In most cases, that’s not a bad thing.  I’m currently a part of a large denomination that’s very encouraging.

But that’s not always the case.  There are sometimes when you have to choose between following God and serving your denomination.  That will require the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

The next area deals with those who influence society – governors, and kings.  I believe that this also includes leaders of industry.  That’s because in many cases, those with huge resources have influence over those in government.

We’re told that we’ll be made to stand before them.  This is God’s doing so that we can be a witness to them.  Again, this will require the wisdom of God to be active in us.

That phrase is interesting in the original Greek.  It implies that our witness will be a wind that blows in a different direction than they want to go.  Some leaders will receive our testimony and be saved while others will reject both it and us.

The final area He talks about is the nations.  Jesus tells us that the Good News of Christ must be proclaimed among all nations.  The word for nations in that verse really means people groups.  There are some countries where many tribes are represented in them.  These groups of people must all be reached with the message of Christ.

But that brings us back to our big question.  How can I possibly prepare for such a complex assignment?

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say.  Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
Mark 13:11

The literal Greek of this verse says when you are led or surrendered.  I believe that the Lord’s telling us that our place of testimony may be either voluntary or involuntary.  But no matter which we find ourselves in, the preparation is the same.

We need to have an intimate knowledge of how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.  How can I receive the word to speak, if I’ve never taken the time to hear Him in the past?  The time is now to develop listening spiritual ears.

I believe that this is the next thing on God’s agenda for His church in these Last Days.  He wants us to take the time to learn to hear from the Spirit in His presence.

Question: How did the ability to hear from the Spirit affect evangelism in the early church?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Heart of Giving

What’s your attitude toward offerings at church?  Do you consider it a necessary evil?  Do you look forward to the chance of investing in God’s kingdom?  It turns out that the Lord takes an interest in how we give.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.  Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.
Mark 12:41-42

There are some things about Jesus that you need to know, especially in regards to your giving.  As the pastor of a church, I know that where people choose to sit tells a lot about them.  Jesus chose to sit right in line with the offering boxes so that He could watch people as they gave.

It’s interesting that the literal Greek of this verse says that the Lord watched how the people put their money in the box.  Whether you know it or not, how you give is as important to God as what you give.

That’s because true giving is an act of the heart.  Jesus explained the underlying principle.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:21

This statement brings it all into focus.  At offering time, do you feel like you’re giving your treasure to God?  Or do you feel like you’re giving money to the One that you treasure?  In other words, is Christ your treasure, or is money your treasure?

As Jesus watched the rich give money, they weren’t affected by it.  They gave out of their overflow.  What they put in the treasury wouldn’t change their standard of living.

The widow, on the other hand, gave everything.  Money that could have been used for food or other necessities was now gone.  That made an impression on Jesus and He called it to the disciples’ attention.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.”
Mark 12:43-44

The Lord’s commentary is important for us to hear.  There’s a “break-even point” in our finances where our expenses equal our income.  He explained that the rich gave from above that point.  The widow gave all that she had, even though she had less than breaking even.

But there’s more Jesus said that we miss because of the translation.  In the original, the Lord said that the widow put in all that she had and her whole life.

She wasn’t just giving her money to God.  She was placing her very life in His hands.  That’s the attitude that’s needed in our giving.

It’s not just my money that belongs to God.  It’s everything that I have, even my very life.  All that I am – my time, goals, dreams, possessions – I must place it all in His hands.

Offerings are not simply a tradition of the church that we have to do each week.  It’s not something I do to get God off my back for another week.  It’s an opportunity to once again confirm to myself and the Lord that all of my life is His.

This widow may have thought that her giving had gone unnoticed.  But the truth is that God saw it, and it moved His heart.  I know without a doubt that God met her need and sustained her because of her faith.  That’s the true attitude of giving.

Question: What goes through your mind as you give your offerings?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,