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Warnings from the Past

Many times I’ve been asked, as a Pastor, why the Old Testament is even important to us.  Many believers don’t ever read it.  They say it’s too bloody and violent.  Grace hadn’t been fully accomplished yet, so there are many instances where we see God’s wrath.  Why read that kind of stuff anyway?

In today’s post, I want to continue talking about the example of ancient Israel.  We must let the Bible take its rightful place in our daily lives.

We’ve been looking at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  He used ancient Israel as an example of how not to serve God.  In telling the church about how God dealt with the Jews, he mentioned some of their rebellions as well as the judgments they received.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.
1 Corinthians 10:11

This verse makes it clear that the things that happened under the Old Covenant, especially the negative things, are a warning to us.  The Greek word for warning in this verse means to place in our minds – in other words, the Lord is trying to grab our attention.

This is because we’re quickly approaching a time in history when all things will be fulfilled.  The goal line is before us.  We’re about to witness the final days of this entire age.

Because of that, we’re at a point in time that requires a different kind of walk from God’s people.  We can’t live the way they did in ages past – that will not work for us.

Israel saw and heard incredible things – yet they fell away.  We need to take this to heart.  Even though we’re under grace, the message of the Old Testament is still important to us.

No, we won’t come under judgment as Israel did.  But the fact remains, God still hates the same lazy attitudes that He hated back then.  He still loves the mindset that’s passionate for His will.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
1 Corinthians 10:12

In this verse, the word, think, means to assume or to have a reputation of.  In other words, don’t believe your own press.  Just because people tell you that you’re standing strong doesn’t necessarily make it true.

We must take inventory of our walk with God and see if it lines up with the truth of God’s Word.  Only then will we be assured of the rewards that Christ has set aside for us.

The Jews thought that they would be rewarded simply on the basis of them being in Abraham’s family.  It didn’t work that way.  The Lord is looking for a combination of faith and faithfulness.  We need to serve God out of a heart of loving gratitude for all that He’s done for us.

Israel didn’t know the great lengths that the Father would go to in order to save us and bring us into His family.  They didn’t know about Christ dying on the cross.  We do.

How much more should we embrace all that God has for us – both the responsibilities and the glories?  The examples of Scripture warn us to be careful.

Even though we’ll not come under the judgment of the world, we may still lose some of our rewards if we live for ourselves.  Salvation is based on grace; rewards are based upon obedience.  Scripture is a warning to us that disobedience will always be dealt with.  If you want all the rewards the Lord has set aside for you, then heed the warnings of Scripture.

Question: How have the warnings of Scripture kept you out of trouble?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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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

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

 

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Birth Pains Ahead

I’m continuing to look at Jesus’ discussion of the Last Days with His disciples.  He’s giving them a general outline of future events.

When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
Mark 13:7

The Lord warns us that peace will not occur in this age.  Wars and rumors of wars will be going on around the world.  In Luke 21:9, the Lord is recorded as adding revolutions, or literally unrest to the list.

As Christians, we’re not to be alarmed.  That word alarmed in the above verse means to cry out in fright.  We should not be afraid or surprised at these events.

The Lord doesn’t give us the illusion of a world getting better and better.  Instead, He shows us the reality of what living on this earth will be like.

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.  These are the beginning of birth pains.
Mark 13:8

The Lord goes on to list more signs that He calls birth pangs.  He mentions famines.  This is a lack of food usually caused by greed.  In many places around the world, people starve while ships full of food are docked in the harbor and cannot be unloaded because the repressive government won’t allow it.

The number of earthquakes has been rising steadily over the last hundred years.  They cause a lot of devastation.   Many times they’re accompanied by volcanic eruptions or tsunamis.  It seems like every week we hear of new disasters.

When I was a child, we heard of natural disasters happening very infrequently.  Now it seems like every day we’re hearing about a new “worst”.  They are always reporting the worst flood, worst tornado outbreak, worst drought, or other such calamities in the news.

Jesus calls all these things the beginnings of birth pangs.  I believe the Lord is referring to the time at the end of this age where He will begin to make a distinction between the church and the world.

We’re told in the Word what our attitude should be.  We’re expecting our Lord to appear.

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”
1 Peter 3:14

The Lord doesn’t warn us of these events so that we’ll fear the future.  As we see these things happening, our faith in the Lord and in His Word should grow.  It should give us a greater urgency for winning souls into His kingdom.  We must let this knowledge transform us into the end-time church Christ will be looking for when He returns.

Question: How should believers keep from fearing the future?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2018 in Encouragement, Return of Christ

 

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The Needs of the Lord

As we continue to go through the Gospel of Mark, we’re coming to the culmination of the earthly ministry of Christ.  He is approaching Jerusalem, knowing that the cross awaits Him there.  As the Lord is about to enter the city, Mark records an interesting event that takes place.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden.  Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.'”
They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?”  They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.
Mark 11:1-6

We need to understand what’s happening here.  It has a lot to do with attitudes and faithfulness in the kingdom of God.

The first thing I see is that something is needed to fulfill the ministry of Christ.  It was foretold in the Old Testament that Jesus would enter Jerusalem on the back of a colt.  It was time for this to be accomplished.  In every ministry, there are needs that must be met in order for God’s will to be done.

Next, I see a supernatural revelation as to how this need was going to be filled.  Notice that Jesus didn’t say to His disciples, “Guys, I’m going to need to ride in on a colt.  You have to go out and find me one quickly.”

That tells me that to accomplish my calling, it will always require faith.  After all, there were other ways this could have been done.  Jesus could have purchased a colt in Jericho, the last town He visited.  Then He would have had it ready to go upon His arrival.

But that’s not how the Father wanted this to happen.  He desired the disciples to act in faith toward the instructions of Jesus.

Finally, it comes down to attitudes.  The disciples know what the ministry needs and how God intends to provide it.  The problem is that it all depends upon another party – those who own the colt.  All they heard was, “The Lord needs your colt to accomplish God’s will.”

Think about it.  How many times have we been in a meeting listening to a missionary share their excitement over the people-group that God has called them to reach?

“The Lord needs your money to accomplish His will.”

I know what you’re thinking.  The disciples told the owners that the colt would be sent back when the Lord was through with it.

“Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Luke 6:38

Why do we get the attitude sometimes, “Oh, no!  Another special offering.”  We need to understand that God looks at these gifts as loans to His kingdom.  He always repays with blessings we couldn’t ever get on our own.  But it all comes down to attitude.

Get your money or resources involved in kingdom work as the Lord leads you.  You won’t regret it.

Question: How have you been blessed by giving something to the Lord’s work?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2018 in Faith, God's Provision, Ministry

 

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Attitudes of Pharisees

In my last post, we saw that Jesus proved, in a very powerful way, that He could remove sin in all of its forms.  As we continue in the Gospel of Mark, this ministry of Christ becomes clearer.

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake.  A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them.  As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth.  “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
Mark 2:13-14

In this passage, we see the Lord calling a new disciple – Levi.  I believe that this was his given name.  Later on, he’s called Matthew.  That’s probably the name Jesus gave to him.  It means the gift of God.

Remember, Jesus did this with a few of His disciples.  The Lord called Simon, Peter.  James and John became the sons of thunder.

But there’s an interesting point to this.  Both the name Levi and Matthew were strongly Levitical names.  That probably means that Levi was from the tribe of Levi.  He should have been training for the priesthood.  Instead, he was collecting taxes for the Roman conquerors.

Jesus had been teaching in the area.  Undoubtedly, Levi listened to Him and it spoke to his heart.  There’s no other reason why he would leave his lucrative position immediately when the Lord called.

Levi threw a dinner party to introduce Jesus to his friends and co-workers.  The Pharisees who were watching weren’t too happy about it.

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.  When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
Mark 2:15-16

You have to understand the thinking of that day.  Levi was seen as a Jew, taking money from his own people, and giving it to Caesar.  They viewed him much the same way as we would view a drug dealer today.

Not only that, but he has the same type of friends that a drug dealer would have.  Prostitutes, loan sharks, and the like.  All the people that the upstanding Pharisees would look down on as the dregs of their society.

Why would Jesus, a prophet who obviously operated in the power of God, ever associate with such rabble?

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:17

Jesus has just proven Himself to be a remover of sin.  If your ministry is to remove sin, then your place is in the middle of great sin.  Jesus knew that He was sent to save these people.  The Pharisees may have written them off, but Jesus saw them as loved by God.

I always find it offensive when I hear a Christian remark that someone deserves hell.

“When they die, they’re gonna get what they have coming.”

That must break the Lord’s heart.  He died for everyone.  Not just the people we like.

We need to watch our attitudes about those without Christ.  The fact is that we all deserve hell – but I don’t want anyone to go there.

Even the most perverted, murderous, evil person on earth should be given the chance to hear about the life-changing work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  We should be representing Christ and His attitudes in our generation.

Question: Why is it so easy to pick up the same attitudes as the Pharisees?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2017 in Legalism, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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Favoritism

Do you show favoritism? What does that even mean? As Christians we need to be aware of the correct way to treat people that we meet.

According to James, we need to be careful of our attitudes towards others.

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.
James 2:1

This verse implies that faith and favoritism don’t go together. But that brings up some questions. When we hear the word favoritism in our society, we think of something unfair. The King James Version of the Bible translates it as being a respecter of persons.

The Bible also says that God doesn’t act this way. Yet we know that some people are under His grace – His favor – and others are not. So in actuality, the word favoritism is not a good description of what’s being talked about here.

The literal Greek translation of the word being used in the above verse is face-accepter. It’s when we judge someone simply by their appearance. God’s ways are very different from ours.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

Psychologists tell us that our attitudes about people are formed within the first five minutes of meeting them. Usually it’s based upon zero facts. It’s all about the impression we get when we look at them.

Sometimes we pick up attitudes for no reason. We think someone is lazy and dumb without ever getting to know them. Then there are others we want to be around, knowing nothing substantial about them. That’s what James is talking about. Look at his description.

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
James 2:2-4

It’s obvious that this is about looking at people’s outward appearance and making a judgment based on sight alone. James tells us that if we approach people in that way, then we aren’t walking in faith.

That word discriminate means to separate in order to make a distinction. When we treat people in this way, it’s because we’re looking at their possible value in what they could give to us.

That’s the evil thoughts that this is talking about. Relationships based upon what I can get out of it.

Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?
James 2:5-7

The word insulted in this verse means to render valueless. That’s the true problem. When we see someone as having no value simply based upon their appearance, we’re not operating in faith. I’m glad that God placed such a high value on us that Christ went to the cross for us.

We need to follow His example. He went to those that society had written off. We need to do the same.

Question: How do you judge people when you first meet them?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2017 in Faith, Fellowship, Ministry, The Church

 

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God’s Representatives

MirrorWe sometimes get the impression that it doesn’t matter what people think about us. After all, “I’ll live the way I want. I don’t care what you think about me.” As Christians, we have to be careful about that attitude.

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:11

Whatever we say or do should be praiseworthy. Of course, that in itself can bring on another set of problems.

We all like to be praised. When we accomplish something worthwhile, we expect people to notice and appreciate us. It makes us feel good about ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with accepting praise for a job well done.

The problem we get into, is wanting to keep it ALL for ourselves. If we live independent of God, then we don’t have to give Him any praise. The fact is, my wisdom isn’t good enough. My strength will never overcome all the obstacles before me. I need to rely upon God.

So there are the two ditches on the side of our path. Not caring at all about how we affect people, or living for praise. Either way, we miss out on God’s best. I need to learn to live with the knowledge that my life represents someone other than myself.

I belong to Christ. I’m a citizen of the Kingdom of God. I’m an ambassador for a realm that’s beyond this world. As such, I can’t allow myself to pick up the attitudes of this world.

When I spend time in the presence of the Lord, I begin to live on a higher level. Then, when someone is touched by my words, I can’t take the credit for it. God gets the glory.

When I do something sacrificial that my flesh would have never agreed to apart from God’s prompting, He get the praise for it.

We should seek to live our lives in such a way that God receives continual praise. This requires us to spend time with Him, meditating on His Word, and listening to His Spirit.

Yes, there will still be things that we’re praised for, but our goal should be for the Lord to receive most of the glory for how we live. In that way our lives will be a continual testimony to the greatness of our God.

Question: How has something that you’ve done brought praise to God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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