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Category Archives: The Church

Who are You Really Serving?

There are posts that I really enjoy writing.  There are others that I wrestle with God about publishing them.  I don’t want to be the one who rocks the boat.  Unfortunately, today’s post is one of those that I didn’t want to write.

Jesus was nearing the cross and the battle lines were being drawn between Him and the religious leaders of His day.

As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law.  They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.  They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.  Such men will be punished most severely.”
Mark 12:38-40

In Jesus’ day, there were those who taught the Scripture, while at the same time having an element of self-indulgence.  There were times that they taught the truth of God’s Word, drawing people closer to the Lord.  At the same time, they were feeding their own egos and lining their pockets.

These religious leaders liked the fact that they were highly esteemed among the people.  They were able to dress well and were readily recognized.  People wanted to be at the meetings when these leaders were present.

According to Jesus, for all of their training and knowledge, they weren’t scoring any points with God.  As a matter of fact, the Lord warned the crowds that they needed to do what these leaders taught, while at the same time rejecting their self-absorbed lifestyle (Matthew 23:1-4).

Jesus also condemns the religious system itself.  He points out the fact that their extravagant way of life is paid for by those who could least afford it.

That was the easy part of this post.  Now on to the difficult section…

Lately, I’ve been becoming more and more disheartened by the direction of our modern system of Christianity.  It seems like in many areas we’re taking on the attitude of corporate America.

What do I mean by this?  In most large corporations, the senior executives make more money than they could spend in ten lifetimes.  In that same company, the employees who do the bulk of the work can’t make ends meet with the one salary they earn from doing that job.

Now we have huge churches where the pastors have big homes, garages full of cars, private jets and a continual desire for more.  Many of their members have to work two or sometimes three jobs to make ends meet.  Granted, they’re preaching Jesus Christ and many are getting saved under their ministry.  But at what point is enough, enough?

I’m told that their luxurious lifestyle is the reward for their faithfulness in the ministry.  As a pastor who has been serving the same church for 30 years, I find that kind of thinking offensive.  I gave up a career where I was on track for a six-figure engineering salary when God called me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not jealous of these preachers.  If I had it to do all over again I would gladly make the same choices for the honor of serving my Lord.  I just don’t like being told that the car I drive or the house I rent is the indication of how faithful I’ve been to the calling of God.

It’s nothing new.  The church has been dealing with this throughout history.  I like Paul’s attitude.

But what does it matter?  The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.  And because of this I rejoice.
Philippians 1:18

That’s the attitude I want to portray.  I apologize if I seemed to be ranting.  I hold no ill will against any of my brothers or sisters in the ministry.  I simply want Christ to be exalted in His church.

Question: What is the true indication of faithfulness to God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on June 13, 2018 in Faith, God's Provision, Ministry, The Church

 

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Who is Christ?

As we continue to look at the Gospel of Mark, we’re at the point where Jesus is in Jerusalem, during the last weeks before the cross.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David?  David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:
“‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ‘
David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”
The large crowd listened to him with delight.
Mark 12:35-37

Jesus is giving the crowd something to think about.  It’s also a testimony as to who He really is.  Any teacher of the Law would know exactly what He was saying.

First, the Lord asks a question.  Why do the teachers of the Law use the term Son of David for the Messiah?

That’s important because the phrase Son of David is never used in the Old Testament in relation to the Christ.  It does teach that Messiah would be a king from the line of Judah.

So they were right in assuming the connection to David.  But the title, Son of David, was coined by the Rabbis.  So in answering the question – they call Messiah the Son of David because their careful study of the Scripture pointed them in that direction.

The next question is harder to answer without a willingness to have your heart changed.  If David calls Him Lord, how can the Messiah be his son?  Jesus is quoting the prophecy of Psalm 110.

In the Hebrew, David gives a prophecy that “Yahweh will say to my Adonai…”.  But in Scripture, both Yahweh and Adonai are names of the one, true God.

It’s through this teaching that Jesus declares to all the religious leaders who He is.  By their own study, the teachers of that day should realize that the only way for the Son of David to be Adonai is for God Himself to take on flesh.

That’s what sets Christianity apart from all the seemingly Christian based cults.  Jesus Christ declared Himself, on more than one occasion, to be God in the flesh.  That’s the test of what is the true church versus the false.

Even in Paul’s day, there were those who would try to deny the deity of Christ.  He condemned the church at Corinth for not being careful with their teaching.

For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
2 Corinthians 11:4

That’s also what separates Christianity from all other religions.  They all teach that man has to strive to reach acceptance with a god or struggle for perfection.  The true God tells us that it’s impossible for us to do it on our own.  So He took the initiative to take on flesh and provide the way of salvation for us through the work of Christ on the cross.

I am so grateful for the gift given to us by Jesus Christ.  There truly is no other name under heaven that provides such a rich reward for those who choose to follow Him.

Question: What events brought you to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2018 in The Church, The Gospel

 

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Hung by the Tongue

As we continue to study the Gospel of Mark, it’s getting closer to the time of the cross.  The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus in His words.  They’re sending delegations of teachers to Him for the purpose of tripping Him up.

Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words.  They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity.  You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?  Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
Mark 12:13-15a

This is an interesting group that came to Jesus.  Pharisees and Herodians.  The Pharisees wanted national independence for Israel.  The Herodians were very comfortable under Roman rule.  They expected that no matter what Jesus answered, someone would be offended.

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy.  “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”
Mark 12:15b

The key word here is hypocrisy.  It’s really the Greek word for stage acting.  Jesus knew that these men were simply playing a part; what they said about Him was not meant in reality.  If they really believed what they said about Him, they would have been followers of Christ.

If you think about it, it’s actually something we should take seriously in our generation.  It seems pretty easy for us to say things like, “Jesus is my Lord.”  Every week we sing lyrics that say, “Jesus, you are my whole life.  I give my all to you.”

We need to ask ourselves; do we really mean it, or are we just playing a part – our Sunday morning acting personas?  That’s what it means to be a hypocrite.  It means that under certain, public conditions, we say things that are not true in our daily lives.

“No!  I’m not trying to deceive anyone.  I’m just singing the words that they put on the screen.”

Remember, Jesus said that we would have to give an accounting for every careless word spoken (Matthew 12:36).  I believe that includes the careless words we sing too.

They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this?  And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him.
Mark 12:16-17

This is the truth that we all need to hear.  If we live in the world, then there are obligations that come with it – taxes, jobs, expenses, and other things as well.  The Lord knows about these.

The problem comes in when we voluntarily obligate ourselves to the world.  In our generation, we take on too many things that leave no room in our schedules for the plan of God.

We don’t have time for spiritual things because of that night class, soccer practice, movie night, or the hundred other things clamoring for our attention.  We can binge watch twelve episodes of our favorite TV show but have no time for intimate prayer with the Holy Spirit.

According to Jesus, we need to get our priorities straight.  The time is now for the people of God to live as though Jesus Christ truly is our whole life.  Then we’ll see the hand of God manifesting the power that they had in the early church.

Question: How do you reorder your schedule to make more time for developing your spiritual life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Church Politics

As we continue through the Gospel of Mark, we come to an interesting encounter between Jesus and the religious leaders of Jerusalem.

They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him.  “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked.  “And who gave you authority to do this?”
Mark 11:27-28

On the surface, this may sound like a reasonable request.  After all, the leaders of Israel need to make sure that Jesus is the legitimate Messiah of the Jewish people.  But, as always, attitude is everything.

Authority is basically the permission to do something.  It must always be delegated from someone who has it.

In the Lord’s case, it should have been fairly obvious.  Who gave Him permission to heal the sick, open blind eyes, or raise the dead?  There’s only one place that authority could have come from – God the Father.

The Lord gets right to the heart of the matter.

Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question.  Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  John’s baptism — was it from heaven, or from men?  Tell me!”
Mark 11:29-30

The leaders of Israel wanted to look like they were experts in judging spiritual matters.  So Jesus turns it around.

“If you want to investigate my spiritual credentials, then let’s see how well you’ve done in the past.”

The Lord used what should have been a real easy test.  John the Baptist led the nation back to God in repentance and a true change of heart.

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’  But if we say, ‘From men’ . . . .” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Mark 11:31-33

This discussion cuts right to the bottom line of the problem.  Did they talk about John’s lifestyle or the message He preached?  No!!  Their only concern was the result of what they would answer.

This is politics in its purest form.  Truth takes a backseat to my image.  It’s about how people will perceive me based upon my answers.  That type of attitude gets no response from God.

Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Mark 11:33

There are too many churches that fall into this category in our generation.  God’s will has nothing to do with their decisions.  It’s all about who’s in power, and what they personally want to accomplish.

We need to get back to our roots as believers.  Being a people of prayer who want to see God’s desire done in our lives.  It’s not how big I build my kingdom, or how many people think I’m the best.  I need to see God’s kingdom increase on the earth.

One thing is for certain, spirituality and politics don’t mix very well in the government of Christ.

Question: Why does the will of the majority not always equal the will of God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2018 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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Rank and Privilege

In my last post, we saw two of the disciples, James and John, trying to take leadership over the others.  Jesus explained to them that in the kingdom of God, your positions were prepared for you by the Holy Spirit.

The other disciples heard about it and started to get mad at the brother’s attempt at gaining power.  The Lord handled it by teaching them some kingdom principles.

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.  Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:41-45

There are some good points that Jesus covers in this short statement.  I want to start with the most important one.  It’s the key to the whole passage.

The Lord concludes by using Himself as the example of service.  He came to serve the needs of others and to lay down His life for our freedom.  We miss the importance of this sometimes.

Christ didn’t simply do what He was told.  He didn’t let people push Him around.  He was a leader.  He instructed His disciples and even commanded them to do certain things.  Along with this, Christ served the needs of those around Him.

In explaining it, the Lord uses two levels of leaders.  Then He contrasts the world and the church.  He says that in the world, those who seem to be in charge lord it over them or make people do what they want them to do.

But there’s another level.  The really high officials exercise authority over them.  The word He used means to exercise privilege.  That means it’s all about what pleases me.  So in the world, leadership is communicating what I want done and what pleases me.

That’s not how the kingdom of God should be operating.  The two levels of leadership are completely different from the world’s way of operating.

Jesus starts by explaining how you become a leader.  It starts by serving.  This word literally means to be a waiter or an attendant.  This implies that you are not a slave to the one you’re serving.  Instead, you are serving people as instructed by the owner of the establishment.

Then, the next position is that of the top level of leadership.  Jesus says that to fit in there, you must become a bond-slave of the whole.  This is where we miss it sometimes.

As a leader in the body of Christ, I am not a slave to the Finance Committee, the individual members, the biggest tither, or even my denomination.  I am a bond-slave to the church of Jesus Christ.  My goal is to see the kingdom of God advanced.

That’s how Jesus fulfilled these roles.  It’s how we follow His example.  I’m not pushing my agenda or what makes me happy.  I serve others under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

If you walk in this attitude, then you’re ready for leadership in God’s kingdom.

Question: What are some examples you’ve seen of servant-leadership?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Salt and Fire

We have been looking at the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus is teaching His disciples how we need to treat each other in the body of Christ.  As the leadership of the church, they needed to understand these principles.

The Lord continues in this context.

“Everyone will be salted with fire.  Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?  Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
Mark 9:49-50

As a part of the Jewish people, there were some things that the disciples understood about this.  First of all, salt was representative of their covenant with God.  Even today in cultures where covenants are used, close friends will say, “We have salt between us.”

This is what God says about the share of the offerings belonging to the Levites.

“Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the Lord I give to you and your sons and daughters as your regular share.  It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring.”
Numbers 18:19

But a question that many have is; how can salt lose its saltiness?  It doesn’t in our culture because of the purity.  Back in ancient Israel there was always a small amount of sand that couldn’t be removed.  So if the salt got wet, the real salt would melt out with the water, leaving only sand.

Nobody wants to put sand on their food.  Of course, that’s why we leave a bad taste in the mouth of the world if we water down the Gospel.

There is, however, a deeper truth here than salt merely being used as a spice or a preservative.  We’re talking about covenant and how we treat each other.

Jesus was not just talking about salt.  He spoke of salt and fire.  This was something else that a devout Jew would understand.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices — gum resin, onycha and galbanum — and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer.  It is to be salted and pure and sacred.
Exodus 30:34-35

Salt was a part of the fragrant incense that was used in the worship of God.  The incense represents our prayers rising up to the Father (Revelation 5:8).  The salt is a reminder of how those prayers can enter His presence – because of the covenant we have through the shed blood of Christ.

As the smoke of our prayers rises up to the throne of Heaven, it’s all one cloud.  There’s no differentiating where the individual wisps came from.  We are all one in Christ.

Salt and fire speak of the unity of the spirit as we pray in God’s presence.  That’s why we’re told again and again to walk in unity and agreement with our brothers and sisters in the faith.

That’s what Jesus’ final statement is all about.  He is summing up everything He just taught them.

Have salt in yourselves.  Understand that you’re in covenant with God and therefore with each other.

Then He commands us to be at peace with each other.  There should be no hint of factions or discord between the Lord’s people.  As far as it depends on me, I have to keep my relationships on solid ground.

Question: How does our treatment of others affect our covenant with God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2018 in Fellowship, Prayer, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Caring for the Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it doesn’t end there.

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

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

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

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

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

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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