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Category Archives: The Church

The Mustard Tree

In looking at the parables of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, we will continue with the Parable of the Mustard Seed.  This will give us some insights into how the kingdom of God should be growing.

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?  It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.  Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”
Mark 4:30-32

First, let me say that unless you know the region, this parable can’t be understood properly.  There are a few different species of “mustard” that are common around the world.  The one that can grow into a tree is not the one where we get the yellow goop for our hot dogs.

The seed for the mustard tree is tiny.  This speaks of the small origin of the church.  Jesus Christ was one man.  But He wasn’t just a man.  He was God made flesh.

When He was planted; the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection birthed an eternal kingdom.  But that’s one of the keys.  For this plant to grow, it has to be planted under just the right conditions.  That’s why Jesus had to emphasize over and over that in His ministry, everything had to be fulfilled according to the Father’s plan.

Another thing about this plant – it germinates quickly and grows slowly, but steadily.  God’s kingdom is unstoppable.  Many have tried to put an end to it, without success.  That’s because it’s a kingdom born and nourished in the spirit.  God is at work in the lives of His people.

As I said earlier, this isn’t the mustard we think of in talking about condiments and seasonings.  However, the leaves and fruit of this tree are edible and have a slight, mustardy flavor.  So animals and people can derive nourishment from it.

That brings me to my last point.  The mustard plant is very hardy.  Once it takes root, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to remove.  Because of this fact, the mustard tree is used throughout the Middle East and Africa for land reclamation.

Because it thrives in hot, arid climates; it can turn deserts into habitable places again.  And isn’t that one of the mandates of God’s plan?  We are to bring life to the dead places around us.

Of course, not everybody sees it that way.  Because it’s so hard to remove, people either view the mustard plant as a beneficial tree or a troublesome weed.  Some spend a lot of time and resources to remove it.

That’s how the church is described sometimes.  Paul had this to say about it.

For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.  And who is equal to such a task?
2 Corinthians 2:15-16

As for me, I’m grateful to be found in the kingdom of God.  As I continue; I look forward to His grace, power, and blessing that he desires to manifest through His people.

Question: How have you experienced the unstoppable growth of God’s kingdom?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on February 5, 2018 in Power of God, The Church

 

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Against the Current

As we continue to look at the Gospel of Mark, we see that Jesus’ ministry is increasing.  More and more crowds are being attracted to Him.  The healing and deliverance of the Lord are flowing in abundance.  You would think that everyone would be happy about it.

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.  When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
Mark 3:20-22

I can’t imagine what this was like.  Jesus is invited to someone’s house.  Immediately a crowd shows up.  They were people hungry to hear a Word from God.  There were sick and demonically oppressed people as well.

The Lord and His disciples began ministering to those who came.  As they lost track of time, those who were watching started to get concerned.

The first response came from those who were closest to Jesus.  His family didn’t understand the calling of God.  They felt the need to have an intervention.  Obviously, Jesus was out of his mind.  The notoriety that He was experiencing was too much for Him to handle.

It never even occurred to them that Jesus was operating according to the Father’s plan.  He spent a large amount of time in God’s presence, hearing what He was to do.  Then, Jesus would step out and accomplish the will of the Father.

Scripture is clear that those who don’t listen to the instruction of the Holy Spirit have no understanding of those who do.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14

The same was true with the teachers of the law.  Of course, they had different motivations.  They were teachers.  They saw Jesus as a rival.  After all, if the crowds are listening to Him, then they weren’t listening to the Pharisees.

Jealousy can blind you to the truth.  Instead of judging Christ based on His teaching and spiritual power, they looked at their own loss of esteem.  They decided that only way to feel good about themselves was to discredit Jesus.

These types of attitudes are always around when you’re trying to walk by the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit usually leads you against the current of “normal” opinion.  People tend to attack whatever they don’t understand.

We see this in the body of Christ right now.  There are well-known ministries that are bringing huge numbers of people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Yet in spite of this, they’re treated as if they’re false teachers or even demons in disguise.

Jealousy in the ministry is not very becoming.  I’ve learned that even if I have questions about how a ministry operates, I keep it to myself and praise God for those being won into the kingdom of God.

In my next post, we’ll see Jesus’ response to those who were putting down His ministry.

Question: How have you been questioned about something the Lord instructed you to do?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2018 in Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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Holy Spirit Marketing

Church growth is a popular seller these days.  There are experts who can tell you what your church needs to do to make it to the next level.  Is this how God intended to grow His kingdom?

As we continue looking at the Gospel of Mark, we’ll see how Jesus grew the ministry.  It’s something that we need to take to heart.

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed.  When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.  Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him.  For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.  Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”  But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was.
Mark 3:7-12

What was the Lord’s plan?  It seems counter-intuitive to how things are done in our generation.  He withdrew to a place that was a distance from the city.  Yet in spite of that, the crowds came to where He was.

There are two things that I see happening in this passage that are directly applicable to the church of our generation.  They deal with the attitudes in the whole church growth movement.

You may think that I’m preaching against church growth consultants – I’m not.  There is a place for them.  Churches need to know the trends that are taking place in our society.

If my church isn’t speaking the same social language as the society around me, then they’ll never hear or understand the message of Christ.  Jesus told His disciples to have a boat ready so that the people wouldn’t crowd Him.  He knew that in order for the message to be communicated, there had to be order.

So a consultant’s job is to coach a church in how to effectively speak to the society around them.  What needs to be in place for the message of Christ to be clearly understood by the community?

The problem is when a church uses a consultant to show them how to attract people.  When we think that our look, sound, or childcare services will bring people in; now we’ve missed the whole point.  They didn’t come to Jesus because He had the boat ready, or that He used a great ad campaign.

This passage clearly tells us that people came from all over because they heard what the Lord was doing.  The sick were being healed.  Those oppressed by the enemy were being delivered.  The Good News was being preached.

Unfortunately, it’s a harder road to see a manifestation of the Spirit.  Healings, signs, wonders, and miracles only come from time spent in the Spirit.  It’s easier to build a new nursery than to spend a month in prayer and fasting.

Jesus pressed in to hear the Father’s voice.  He then obeyed what He heard.  The results were a supernatural ministry with a Holy Spirit marketing campaign.

Yes, He had to train His disciples in crowd control.  He had to make sure the boat was ready so He could preach unhindered.  But it was the power of the Holy Spirit that drew the crowds.

Our generation needs more churches that do both.  We need a polished look that speaks to our society.  But we also need to do what it takes to walk in the manifestation of the power of God.

Question: How have you seen church growth through the power of God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2018 in Ministry, Power of God, Revival, The Church

 

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The Church Together

How do you feel about church?  There are many believers who’ve written it off.  Their church is on TV.  Either that or they spend an hour on Sunday morning and that’s their investment for the week.

As I see it from Scripture we need the gathering together of real-life flesh and blood believers.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6:10

As I read the life of King David, I see a lot of parallels with our present generation. In waiting for God to fulfill His promise to make him king, it seemed like everything was going against him. But it was at this time in David’s life that God started to bring people to his aid.

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.
1 Samuel 22:1-2

This is one of the lowest points in David’s life. God had called to be king in place of Saul. He had accomplished victories over giants and armies.

Yet, at this time he was being pursued by King Saul – hunted like an animal. His calling was to restore Israel to greatness, yet he was alone and outcast.

Many in Israel had no clue about the issues that were occurring throughout their nation. It was almost like the church in the USA right now. We are badly in need of an awakening.

So David decided to go to a place called Adullam. It was a cave in the side of a cliff, surrounded by wilderness. It was near a cool, clear spring so there was plenty of water. It had a system of caverns that could hold 1000 men comfortably. Eventually, 400 to 600 would come and join with David here.

In the same way, it’s time for God’s people to rally together. So many believers are “serving God” yet going nowhere. Where do we start?

Maybe where God starts. In David’s life, it was his father’s household, his immediate family. That’s us – the church.

The work God wants to be accomplished in our generation starts with us. God is calling the church family together.

But it also says his brothers. The Hebrew word used is relatives in the most general term. There are many people who are a part of the body of Christ who have distanced themselves from their churches. It has been for various reasons. It might have been the results of hurts, laziness, disappointment, offense, or any number of issues.

For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
1 Peter 4:17

The word judgment in this verse is simply the word decision. It’s time for decisions to begin here, among God’s people. We want the world to decide for Christ. How about if we decide first. It’s time to give up the excuses.

I’ve been in church for my whole life. My deepest hurts have come from church people. Even as a pastor I’ve endured hurts, betrayals, and other problems. Yet on the lowest day of my life, I would choose God’s people over the world.

Just like in David’s day, God is calling His people to do a great work in our generation. But it won’t be accomplished by big names or televangelists. It will be normal, everyday people who have heard and obeyed the call of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Question: What’s your place in the Body of Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2017 in Fellowship, Revival, The Church

 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Peace

I’m continuing to look at the Fruit of the Spirit – today’s fruit is peace.  I’ve heard people talk about the fruit of peace in the past, but sometimes they misunderstand it.

The problem is that the Greek language has a couple of different words that are translated as peace in English.  I’ve heard people teach that it’s calm, quietness – like when Jesus said, “Peace. Be still”; and He calmed the storm.  This isn’t that Greek word.

The word used for the fruit means harmony between two parties.  In other words, it’s the opposite of war.  This is something that can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit.

One of the biggest divisions in history, and in the Bible, was between Jews and Gentiles.  Bringing both sides together into the body of Christ had to be a supernatural work of God.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.  His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace…
Ephesians 2:14-15

By fulfilling the requirements of the Law, the family of God was now open to the Gentiles.  But that doesn’t mean that the Jews would be happy about sharing their Messiah.  There needed to be a change of heart.

It wasn’t enough to take the requirements of the Law out of the way.  The Lord had to go even further to deal with the hostility.  Ingrained hatred is one of the hardest things to change in our flesh.

That’s what’s so powerful about the fruit of peace.  It changes the hearts of those affected by it.  Of course, that’s why there are many who refuse to yield to the Holy Spirit.  They’re afraid of the changes that may take place in them.

The fruit of peace abolishes things like bigotry, hatred, racism, or chauvinism.  It compels you to love and work with those that through your life, and even your heritage, you grew up hating.  Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit working in you, there’s not much else that can accomplish such a change.

Refusing to let his peace reign in you is refusing God’s plan for your life.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:3

There are many people who pray for unity in the church.  I think that in some cases, we don’t really know what we’re praying for.  We sometimes think that unity means that everyone thinks and acts like us.

That’s not true unity.  Unity built upon the bond of peace takes very different people and puts them together into one, perfectly functioning organism.  It’s what Jesus did with His disciples.

He brought working class people like Peter, James, and John, and put them with a spoiled rich kid like Judas.  He took Simon the Zealot – an anti-Roman terrorist – and placed him with Matthew, who collected taxes for the Roman government.  Only the Holy Spirit can do such a huge work.

But as good as this is, there’s an even greater work this peace can do in us.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

The peace of God even takes away the spirit of competition between us.  We’re not competing for God’s blessings.  I don’t have to worry that if the Lord answers your prayer, then He may not have the resources to answer mine.  He has an unlimited supply of grace.

Allow the Holy Spirit to work His peace in you.  It will change your whole outlook on life.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s peace operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Is there a “Glass Ceiling” in Christ?

Many people accuse the Apostles of being male chauvinists.  They say that in their writings they speak mostly to men and assign women to a lower position.  I believe that this is an inaccurate assessment based upon a mere surface reading of the Bible.

As we continue our study of the book of Galatians, Paul begins to talk about the concept of sonship in Christ.  It’s an important truth that all believers – both men and women – need to understand.

Let me start by saying that I’m not going into a detailed discussion of women in the ministry.  However, a careful reading of who Paul greeted in his letters, and how they were titled, shows that Paul ordained women as both pastors and apostles.

There’s no Scriptural “glass ceiling” that would keep a woman from attaining to any position or calling. It’s all based upon the will of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:26-29

What I really want to talk about is the use of the words son and sonship in Scripture.  Unlike what many teach, it was not the Apostles trying to make the church a Patriarchy.  In reality, it was just the opposite.

In the cultures of the day, which included Roman, Greek, and Middle Eastern peoples, the place of women were at the bottom of the social ladder.  At best, they were a piece of art to be seen and appreciated.  At worst, they were treated as property, slaves, or a family pet.

In Peter and Paul’s letters, this concept was totally done away with.   They elevate women to a new level of equality unheard of in their day.

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
1 Peter 3:7

Peter used a word in this passage that’s translated heirs with you.  It’s literally the word co-heirs.  This means that the wife is someone with an equal share and claim on the inheritance.  This was unheard of in those ancient cultures.

Women rarely, if ever, shared in their family inheritance.  But in the family of God, all this has changed.  Now women are considered of equal importance in the spiritual inheritance of the Lord.

In Christ, there’s no longer the differences and limitations placed upon us by society.  These have all been done away with at the cross.  In the first verse we looked at, Paul says that there is neither…male nor female. YOU ARE ALL SONS.

Why would the Apostle make such an absurd sounding statement?  He did it to emphasize the truth that in the Kingdom of God women have all the rights and privileges of a firstborn son.  God sees a woman on the same spiritual level as a man.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Romans 8:15-16

If you’re a woman of God, then never feel inferior or of less importance than a man.  You can go as high in ministry as the Holy Spirit will bring you.

Question: How has the ministry of women positively affected your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2017 in Encouragement, Ministry, Sonship, The Church

 

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In Christ is Perfect Freedom

I’ve been posting about Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  In it, he outlines what Christ did to overcome the effects of the Law.  We’ve been set free in Christ.

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
Galatians 2:19

The result of trying to serve the Law is always death.  There’s no way that anyone can live up to all it contains.  Paul understood that no matter how hard we try, we always end up at the same place.  The Law places us in an endless cycle of guilt, fear, and frustration.

That’s why the Lord wants to get rid of your entire past. The “old you” is removed and nailed to the cross with Christ. It’s never to be heard from again. But it doesn’t end there.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

Christ doesn’t only deal with our past. The work He did on the cross affects our present and future as well. This is because the cross means nothing without the resurrection. The two must go hand in hand.

It’s great that Jesus got rid of my past sins and the guilt and shame that came with it. But I’m living in the present. I’m concerned about the future. How does what He’s done speak to this?

The power that was released when Christ rose from the dead is available to me today. I now have the power of God present in me. I have a source of strength that will get me through today victoriously. It will carry me through until I reach my destiny in Christ Jesus. That’s the power of the death and resurrection of Christ.

It’s just like when we’re doing something on our computers. You can create a lot of great stuff. But until you click on the save button, everything can be lost. Christ did a powerful work on the cross. But it was when He rose up from the dead that He hit the save button.

The Lord’s death and resurrection opened up the saving work of God for all time and to all people. This is what the church should be proclaiming. Repentance and forgiveness are now available through Jesus Christ.

That’s why I’ve bowed my knee to Jesus as my Lord and Savior. No other god has ever done this for his people. All the other religions tell their followers that if they want acceptance, enlightenment, or paradise, then they need to work harder. Sweat for it, bleed for it, suffer for it. Only when you’ve put enough effort into your seeking, will you attain the prize.

My God understood my problem. As a human being, I’m incapable of living the perfect life He requires. I had no ability to approach God on my own merit.

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!
Galatians 2:21

If there was a rule book or a set of laws that we could follow correctly, then we wouldn’t need Jesus. Because of the grace of God and the work of the cross it’s no longer about my ability. It’s now all about God’s work in me.

Question: How does Christ’s work continue to change your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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