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Category Archives: Times in the Wilderness

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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Climbing Higher

CliffAs the weather starts to get warmer, I begin thinking about the outdoors again. If you follow this blog, then you know that I enjoy hiking. There’s nothing I like better than spending a few days in the woods; hiking, praying, and meditating on the Word of God.

It seems that the more time I spend hiking, the more insight I get into those Scriptures that speak of our “walk” with God. Sometimes it’s an uphill climb.

Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.
Psalm 43:3-4

I think that it’s funny when I hear people talking about our emotions in terms of mountains. They say things like, “Some days you wake up on the top of a mountain, and some days you find yourself in the valley.”

I say that it’s funny for the following reason. I’ve hiked hundreds of miles of trails. I’ve spent countless nights in the woods. Yet I have never once fallen asleep in the valley and woke up on the top of the mountain.

There’s only one way to get to the mountaintop. That’s by putting one foot in front of the other, and continuing on the uphill climb.

If you want to ascend God’s holy mountain – to enter His presence – you must take His route. You won’t get there by accident. Unfortunately we’re incapable of following that path. It’s much too difficult a climb for us. It requires absolute perfection.

The Good News is that the Lord knows this and has provided a way for us. He has sent His Guide to us. We have access to the Light of His Spirit and the Truth of His Word. They’re what’s needed to bring us just as we are into the Lord’s awesome presence.

What I need to learn is that I’m not admitted into the presence of God because of my struggling to ‘be good’. It doesn’t have anything to do with me being a pastor or minister. I can enter His holy presence because of the work Jesus Christ did on the cross.

Now, because of His work, I can access the mountaintop through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. This is a blessing we could have never attained to on our own.

It should be our daily oasis. Simply spending time in His light and His truth should bring refreshment to our soul and usher us before the Creator of the universe.

It’s up to us to pick the time and the place with the fewest distractions. We want our time with Him to be fruitful. It’s very important that you use this time to build your relationship with the Father. Enter His presence today and enjoy His company. Follow His truth and light to take you on the path up His holy mountain.

Question: What have you learned by spending time in God’s presence?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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Hiking and Praying

BackpackAs I said in my last post, I’m about to leave for two weeks of hiking and praying. I always find these times refreshing. I get to be alone with the Lord for hours praying and listening for His voice.

The Lord spent 40 days alone in the wilderness. This helped to prepare Him for ministry. I’m looking forward to what Holy Spirit will work in me during this time.

Actually this type of praying in the outdoors was a large part of Jesus’ ministry. Over and over again we read of the Lord having this “alone time” with the Father.

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.
Matthew 14:23

I think that every believer should experience this blessing. No, you don’t have to go off into the woods for a week. You can find a quiet place near your home where you can spend even an hour or two outdoors with the Lord.

I can tell you this; it’s a totally different experience than praying in your house or office. Be prepared to hear from God in a way that you never have before.

As I’m preparing to leave, I feel the Lord impressing me to do something a bit different for the posts while I’m away. My hope is that it will be a blessing to you.

I realize that this blog is not very far reaching at this point. But there have been a few of my posts that seemed to touch a lot of people. So for the two weeks that I’m away, I’m going to repost the 6 most read posts of mine since I’ve started.

Many of those following this blog were not here for those early days. They’ll probably be new to most of those now following me. The Apostle Peter put it this way.

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body…
2 Peter 1:12-13

It’s good to be reminded of the truths that we’ve heard in the past. Who knows, even if you read them the first time they were posted, you might get something new from them in your present walk with the Lord.

One more thing; please keep me in your prayers as I take this time to seek God. And please be patient with me if I take a while in responding to comments. Sometimes the cell phone reception is spotty on the trails.

Question: Do you have any interesting experiences you’ve had outdoors with the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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Spiritual Sensitivity

TrailHow sensitive are you to the things of the spirit? Do you take the time to hear what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you? God’s people should be in tune to what the Lord is accomplishing on the earth.

This is how Paul described it.

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

I know that I’ve mentioned my hiking from time to time in this blog. As a matter of fact, in a few days I’m leaving on a two week long “hiking and prayer” trip. I’m looking forward to a good time in the Spirit.

I find it enjoyable talking to non-hikers about my backpacking trips. I love their reactions to some of my statements.

“How can you sleep all night in a shelter with only three sides?” “What do you eat?” “Where do you find a bathroom?”

I think that it shocks some people to learn that it’s possible to live without all the trappings of society. The thought of spending one night without TV or the internet is frightening. They don’t even want to think about the fact that running water isn’t necessary to survival.

Unless you’ve experienced the freedom of the wild, the ecstasy of a mountaintop, or the tranquility of a hidden lake there’s no understanding what I find.

It’s the same in the spirit. Unless you’ve experienced the wisdom, peace, and power of a relationship with the Holy Spirit, you have no clue how important it is. The thought of spending time in prayer is foolishness to those who ignore it.

That’s what Paul is talking about in the verse above. The phrase man without the spirit is actually the soulish man in the Greek. He’s not talking about an unsaved person. Rather, it’s the Christian who lives by what sounds logical to him. He gives no thought to the Spirit.

Unfortunately there are many believers who live this way. They read the Bible, go to church, and then do their best to figure out what they should be doing for the Lord. What they don’t realize is there are some things in their Christian walk that they can never figure out on their own.

They need to be hearing from the Holy Spirit. There are some things God has for us that can only be received by the spirit. But in order for that to happen there needs to be some quiet, alone time with the Holy Spirit.

There are some who can’t imagine spending time in the presence of God. But until you experience it for yourself, you’ll never fully understand the blessing. All of my descriptions fall short of the reality of time spent in the Spirit.

Walk in that blessed experience today. Spend time in the presence of the Lord. Let His Spirit minister to yours. Come away refreshed and revived. Let your soul be reminded why it’s so important to obtain what can only come from the Spirit.

Question: How has your life been touched and changed by time spent with the Holy Spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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The Truth about Mountaintops – The Grind

MountainHave you ever heard people say, “Some days you find yourself on the mountaintop, and other days you’re in the valley?” What they mean is that there are good days and bad days. It also shows that they don’t really understand what it means to be up on a mountaintop.

I’ve told you before that I’m a hiker. I love going out on the trail for days at a time. This summer I plan on doing a two-week section of the Appalachian Trail. It allows me to have a lot of uninterrupted prayer time.

I’ve learned a great deal about how hiking in the natural parallels our walk in the Spirit with Christ. In my hikes I’ve been to the tops of many mountains. These summits are interesting places. I want to share a few things that I found as I listened to the Holy Spirit relating to spiritual mountaintops.

The first thing I want to do is to dispel one of the biggest myths about spiritual mountaintops. In all my years of hiking – hundreds of miles and many nights on the trail – I have never once gone to sleep in a valley and woke up on a mountain. It just doesn’t happen that way, even though I wish it would.

There’s only one way to find yourself at the summit. You have to put one foot in front of the other and continue walking uphill. There’s a natural resistance to your efforts that’s called gravity.

But it’s more than that. You have to continue this repetitive motion, step after step, indefinitely until you reach the top. It can become a boring, monotonous grind even if you enjoy hiking.

To make matters worse, every so often you come to a false summit. Up ahead you see what you think is the top of the mountain. Then when you get there you find out that it’s only a place where the trail flattens out for a bit.

What does this have to do with the spiritual?

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:7-9

This is a great spiritual truth. If we want to see the move of the Holy Spirit in our lives, then we have to continue to do the things we know to do. This is true even when we don’t feel like it, or it’s not convenient.

It continues on day after day, week after week. Sometimes it feels like you’re not making any headway. Sometimes the resistance of our flesh has to be dealt with. But if we want to see the outcome God’s promised, we have to continue on.

I’d love to tell you that there’s an easier way. Just pray this simple prayer and you’ll wake up on the mountaintop. It doesn’t work that way.

Reading, confessing and meditating on the Word of God. Prayer in the Spirit and praying with your understanding. Fellowshipping and worshipping with other believers. These are a part of the sowing that is required for us to reap.

Step by step we approach the summit. Sometimes it doesn’t look like we going very far at all. Then, all of a sudden, there it is. We’re on top of the mountain. But we didn’t get there by magic. It took a determination to reach the top and a consistent walk with the Lord.

In my next post I’ll talk about what exactly it is to be on a spiritual mountaintop.

Question: What are the daily steps you’re taking to reach the summit God has for you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
 

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Look at Me when I’m Speaking to You

BeamI live in the Boston area. Maybe you’ve heard what our weather’s been like lately. Last week we had two feet of snow and now they’re calling for another foot this week.

Needless to say, I’m ready for spring. I love to go out into the woods to hike and pray. It’s a great way to meet with the Lord.

Did you know that this was a large part of Jesus’ ministry?

At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
Luke 4:42-44

Very frequently Jesus went off alone into the wilderness. Usually He would go to pray and to meditate on the Word while seeking the Father’s will for the days ahead. Many times He wouldn’t even tell anyone where He was going. This caused the people and especially His disciples to become annoyed on more than one occasion.

Most people don’t understand the power of solitude with the Lord. When you’re alone in God’s presence, you can see the way ahead more clearly. This is because there are less distractions around you.

I’ve been driving in the car with friends and talked with them the whole way to where we were going. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that those conversations aren’t very deep. I can talk and keep my eyes on the road if I don’t have to think very hard.

Intimate conversation, on the other hand, is very different. If what I’m saying is important, then I want you to make eye contact with me. I want to know that you’re giving me your full attention.

It’s the same with the Holy Spirit. We can pray and praise the Lord no matter what we’re doing throughout the day. That’s fine and it keeps our minds focused on Him.

But there comes a time when we need to enter a more intimate time with Christ – worship. This requires an undistracted heart. I’ve found that the outdoors provides just such an experience. It allows me to “make eye contact” with the Lord.

From the example of Christ, we see that walking in the Spirit is a lot more efficient than the trial and error method many Christians use.

“I’ll try going forward; if the door closes I’ll try another direction.”

When you spend quality time with the Lord seeking His will for your life, you don’t have to waste your time on all these dead end paths that lead nowhere. Jesus knew where He was going before He was surrounded by the crowd. Then they couldn’t sway Him from His path by their persuasive arguments. It’s that level of guidance you should be seeking from God.

If you’ve never tried it, spend some time with the Holy Spirit in the outdoors. Of course, you may have to wait until the weather breaks. Unless you’re like me and can’t wait. (I have a good pair of snowshoes!)

Find a nice solitary place that you can come undistracted into the Lord’s presence. You won’t be disappointed.

Question: Where do you go to seek God with no distractions?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2015 in Prayer, Times in the Wilderness, Worship

 

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Meeting God in the Wilderness

BeamI don’t mind saying that with all the snow and cold that we’ve been getting in my part of the country, I’m ready for spring!  Then I can start one of my favorite pastimes again.  I’m talking about spending time in the woods hiking, praying, and meditating on the Word.

It’s always a lift to my spiritual life.  I believe that every Christian who’s physically able should try it.

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

Since I’ve started hiking I have a new respect for the Lord’s physical condition.  Being able to survive in the wilderness for forty days, living on only water is quite a physical challenge.

At one point I tried a two-day fast while hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail.  I remember barely making it. The hunger was intense.  I felt weak.  It got to the point where it hurt just to put one leg in front of the other.

I promised myself I would never do that again.  I can only imagine what Jesus felt like after 40 days.

There is a hunger, however, that I want to hike with.  That’s a hunger of the spirit.  If we can go into the wilderness with a hunger for the presence of the Lord, then we’ll come back from our journeys a changed person.

If we can see the outdoors as a meeting-place between God and us, we’ll take our wilderness activities to a whole new level.

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 4:3-4

Once you decide to use the wilderness to achieve spiritual goals, it will transform your whole experience.  The outdoors will become a place where you must sometimes face your own personal demons.  In Jesus’ case it was from the outside.  In our case it’s usually from within.

The wilderness gives God a chance to confront us on His terms.  There’s nothing to fall back on; no distractions to hide our thoughts.  God can throw a light on all the issues we’ve been sweeping under the rug for so long.

What I’ve found is that there’s no place to hide.  I can’t “remember” that phone call I need to place.  There is no TV program that I have to watch right now.  God can have my undivided attention.

It’s an awesome thing to go into the wilderness to hear from God.

Be prepared.  It’s not always what we expect.  He’ll set the agenda, and there’s no way out.  Change will happen in our lives, if we give the Lord an opportunity.

Think about spending some time in a wilderness setting with the Lord.  I guarantee that it will be life-changing.

Questions: Have you ever spend time praying in the woods?  What did you take away from that time?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2014 in Prayer, Times in the Wilderness

 

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