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God’s Will vs. Permission

Jesus had to deal with some very controversial subjects sometimes.  This was one of them.  Even today, the subject of divorce and remarriage can cause arguments among believers.

It’s a very complicated issue, and I’m not going to fully deal with it in this post.  I’m merely going to explain what Jesus is saying to those who asked Him a question.  There are plenty of books and articles you can obtain if you want to get deeper into this subject.

Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan.  Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.
Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
Mark 10:1-2

Clearly, the Pharisees were trying to cause trouble for Jesus.  The question they asked was; is it right for a man to divorce his wife?  So Jesus is about to answer a question in terms of right and wrong.

As He frequently did with people who should know better, the Lord answered their question with another question.

“What did Moses command you?” he replied.
They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
Mark 10:3-4

These two statements really explain everything that characterized the Pharisees.  Jesus asked what Moses commanded.  They answered with what he permitted.

That’s actually what many Christians ask about in our generation.  Many times I’ve been asked, “Pastor, can I still be a Christian and go to Heaven if I … ?”  You can fill in the blank with anything you want.  What they were really asking is; how far into the world can I get and still go to Heaven?

The problem with that thinking is that it misses the point of salvation.  It’s not about making it to Heaven.  My life in Christ is about becoming who God created me to be.

So Jesus answered His question for them by quoting Moses’ commands from the book of Genesis.

“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied.  “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’  ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this.  He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.  And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
Mark 10:5-12

Jesus takes the Pharisees back to Moses’ original commands before the law was given.  We see the will of God in this matter.  Throughout the Bible, God shows that He hates divorce.

It was later on that the law gave permission and requirements for divorce.  The reason was not that divorce was acceptable to God, but that people were going to do it with or without His permission.  Paul explained it this way…

What, then, was the purpose of the law?  It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.
Galatians 3:19a

Like I said, this post is not about fully investigating divorce in Scripture.  Instead, it’s about the lesson Jesus was trying to get across to the Pharisees.

As in all areas of life, my goal should never be to see how much I can get away with and still be a Christian.  I should be trying to please God with every fiber of my being.

Question: How does this truth apply to areas other than divorce?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on April 27, 2018 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Getting Behind Christ

As we continue to study the Gospel of Mark, we see the Lord bringing His disciples to a deeper level of knowledge about Himself.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.  He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
Mark 8:31-32

Jesus began to explain to the disciples that the Messiah must undergo rejection by Israel.  Then, He needed to die on the cross, be buried and three days later, rise from the dead.

Peter was obviously upset by this.  He was so taken back by hearing about the Lord’s death that he totally missed the part about rising from the dead.  He began to rebuke Jesus for His “negative confession.”

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter.  “Get behind me, Satan!” he said.  “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Mark 8:33

No, Peter was not possessed by the devil at this time.  The Greek word, satan, means accuser.  Jesus was not calling Peter the devil, but describing his actions.  (Actually, the devil would have enjoyed seeing Jesus die.)

In his statement, Peter was accusing Jesus of being out of the will of God for his life.  Peter was placing himself on the same level as Christ, telling Him what He should be doing.

That’s why the Lord told him to get behind me.  In other words, you’re not my peer; get back in line following me where you belong.  He explained that Peter was not thinking like God thinks, but like men think.

Jesus took this as a teachable moment.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Mark 8:34-38

Christ makes it clear that in following Him, we have to give up our fleshly, human way of thinking.  Ministry in the kingdom of God is not based on what I think is best for God.  It’s about what He thinks is best.

Too often we’re guilty of giving God our opinion of what should be done.  Then, we run off with our plans and seek God’s blessing on it.  We then get frustrated wondering why it has no effect.

Instead, we need to seek the Holy Spirit to change the way we think.  We need our minds to be renewed.  Because if I can think the way God does, then I’m going to want His perfect will.

This is important.  I won’t need to seek His will; I’ll know it because I want what He wants.  Then it will be blessed – not because I prayed for God to bless it, but because it’s already anointed by God.

That’s why we need to spend quality time in the Lord’s presence.  But not spending all our time seeking things and answers to problems.  We must desire to know Him better – His thoughts, His will, and His heartbeat.

Question: What’s the difference between seeking God’s will and seeking God’s heart?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Time Out

What’s your view of leisure time and vacations?  There are some, especially in the ministry, who ignore it.  I’ve talked to pastors who actually see it as a matter of pride.

“I haven’t taken a vacation in over 20 years!”

But is that a good thing?  Is it even what the Lord wants for His people?

We’re continuing to look at the ministry of Jesus as recorded in Mark’s Gospel.  Hopefully, you’ll agree that Jesus should be the example to us of the best way to serve God.

In my last post, we learned about the events surrounding the death of John the Baptist.  He was the one called by God to announce the arrival of the Messiah.  But not only was he a colleague in ministry, he was also Jesus’ cousin.

Hearing about the death of John must have grieved the Lord.  It’s always painful when a close family member dies.  Even more so knowing that it was a murder based on the message he was preaching.

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.
Mark 6:30

It was also during this time that the disciples were returning from their mission.  Jesus had sent them to the towns He was headed to so they could make the plans necessary for their journey.  There was a lot of activity surrounding Him.

What was the Lord’s response to all of this happening?

“Okay guys, we need to really work hard now.  No time to slow down.  We need to push through this!”

No, Jesus had a plan of action to make it through this hard time.  It’s a plan that many would disagree with.

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.
Mark 6:31-32

Jesus knew all about the stresses of ministry.  He also knew that the human body and emotions can only take so much before it stops working properly.  That’s why He announced to the disciples that it was time to take a vacation.

You need to hear this, especially if you’re the type of person that doesn’t take any time off.  Our bodies were created with the need for rest and relaxation from time to time.  Jesus walked this out.

The word translated as rest means to pause.  They weren’t ending the ministry.  They were simply taking a few days to stop what they had been doing.  Their minds and bodies needed a break.

The demands of ministry can be very great at times.  We are surrounded by an incredible need that, on our own, we have no ability to help.  This pressure builds up over time.  If we don’t deal with it properly, there will be a breakdown of some sort.

It’s God’s will that you take a break from work and ministry from time to time.  In that way, you can refresh yourself.  Your mind stays clearer and you can be more sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Too many of my friends in the ministry have burned out and left their positions.  I have seen a few mental, spiritual, and physical breakdowns.  That’s not a part of God’s plan for you.

Follow the example of Jesus.  Take the time needed to renew yourself on a regular basis.  It will make a big difference in your spiritual life.

Question: What do you do for extended relaxation?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2018 in Encouragement, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Good Advice?

“Stick to what you’re working at.  Concentrate on what you’re doing.  Don’t get side-tracked.”

That sounds like good advice.  And it is…most of the time.  However, we have to come to the realization that good advice doesn’t always line up with the will of God for you.  And, God’s will doesn’t always sound like good advice.

That’s what happened from time to time in the ministry of Jesus.  I’m talking about an incident that took place when He got off a boat near the Sea of Galilee one day.  You can find it in Mark 5:21-43.  You may want to read that passage before continuing with this post.

When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake.  Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there.  Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying.  Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”  So Jesus went with him.
Mark 5:21-24

At this point in His ministry, the Lord was gathering crowds wherever He went.  Today was no exception.  But these were not simply people who were following Him.  They were expecting something from Him.  They wanted Jesus to heal them or set them free from demonic oppression.

I don’t know how I would have been able to handle it.  Crowds of people suddenly running up to me, screaming for my immediate attention.  Yet Christ was able to keep His composure through all of it.

All at once, the sea of people parted.  Someone who was well-known and respected by the community was coming forward.  The elder in charge of their local synagogue was in desperate need of a healing for his daughter.

Jesus agrees to go with him and they start heading in that direction.  Then, as they’re proceeding, an interruption takes place.  People are pressing in all around Him, yet the Lord stops and looks around.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him.  He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
Mark 5:30

“Wait a minute, Jesus.  Let’s do one thing at a time.  There’s someplace else we need to be.”

That might have been my thought when this happened.  But then, I would have been out of the will of God.  There was a bigger purpose than I could see.

The reason that Jesus could go through situations like this, unflustered, was because of His intimacy with the Father.  Time spent in God’s presence allowed Him to have a great sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

That might be one of the reasons why we get ourselves into trouble when unexpected things pop up.  We react with the best of our understanding.  Many times it’s our limited knowledge that fouls things up.

The Lord could hear and obey the voice of the Spirit, even in a stressful situation.  He could know which requests to accept, and which to ignore.  This was true even when from the outside it looked like the wrong plan of action.

We know, from the end of this passage, that Jesus was proven right by His decisions.  He remained in God’s will through the whole encounter.  We need to cultivate this same intimacy with the Holy Spirit.  I believe it will help us to see God’s plan unfold on a daily basis.

I will probably be talking about this passage over the next few posts.  There are some good lessons that we can glean from it.

Question: How do you cultivate personal intimacy with God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Seeds in a Rocky Place

I’m posting about the different “heart soils” in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 4.  Today I’ll deal with the rocky soil.  This is about rocks with only a thin layer of dirt to cover them.  The seed germinates and springs up quickly.  But just as quickly, the sun comes out, scorches the plant, and it withers and dies.

Jesus explained the spiritual application this way.

Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time.  When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
Mark 4:16-17

This verse literally says that these people receive the Word in the middle of joy.  It sounds like a camp meeting to me.  There’s excitement in the air.  The whole atmosphere of the meeting is charged with a heavenly joy.  It’s easy to believe in a place like that.

We’re not talking about people who don’t believe what they hear.  They believe it’s for them.  The problem is, that what has sprung up so quickly, also withers just as quick.  What is it that withers?

For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”  And this is the word that was preached to you.
1 Peter 1:24-25

What withers is the glory of man.  This type of person hears the Word and believes that it’s “all about me.”  That’s why there’s all the joy and excitement.

They think that the Word is for my blessing, health, and prosperity.  Forget about what God’s ultimate purpose is.  It’s me that’s important.

The Lord says that in this rocky heart there is some faith exhibited for a while, but it doesn’t last long.  Eventually, trials and testings will come.  When this happens, Jesus literally says that they will become offended.  Why does Christ use this word?

When I go through a time of testing, I realize that it’s not all about me.  I get offended that I’m not the center of all the attention.  I don’t want the spotlight on Christ and what He’s trying to accomplish in me.  I want the priority to be my comfort and happiness.  The result is that I get offended and walk away from the Lord and His plan for my life.

If I want my heart prepared for an abundant harvest, I must assume that the Word of God spotlights Jesus Christ.  I must desire to know His heart.  There are many who read the Bible and pursue God only for what they can get from Him.  The big question on their minds is, “What’s in it for me?”

Instead, we should be focusing on God’s eternal purpose – to draw all humanity into His kingdom.  The blessings of God are great, but they’re not an end in and of themselves.

God has promised us prosperity, but it’s to finance the spread of the Gospel.  God has promised us health and healing, but it’s so that we can minister the Good News of His love to the best of our ability.

All the promises of God should be viewed through the filter of God’s will and God’s plans.  That’s what’s missing in the shallow faith of rocky soil.  We need to keep our hearts clear of the rocks of self-centeredness.

Question: How is God working through you to bring about His purpose?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2018 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Are You in the Family?

At one point in the Lord’s ministry, His family thought that He was pushing Himself too far.  They decided to have an intervention.

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.”
Mark 3:20-21

They obviously had no understanding of the Holy Spirit’s leading.  Sometimes there are assignments that go beyond your normal abilities.  It’s during those times that you receive supernatural strength for the moment.

Look at the Lord’s response.

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived.  Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.  A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 3:31-35

There is a truth here that not a lot of people want to hear.  We’d like to assume that as long as you prayed the sinner’s prayer, all believers are equal.  But that’s not what the Bible teaches.  We achieve certain levels based on the criteria laid out in Scripture.

One of those titles is sons and daughters of God.  We want to believe that this applies to everyone.  It doesn’t.  Jesus makes it clear that whoever does God’s will is family.

This implies something.  It means, first of all, that you seek God’s will for your life.  Then, you spend the time it takes in God’s presence to hear and know the Lord’s will.  Finally, you walk in obedience to what you’ve heard.

Maybe you think that I’m just taking this verse out of context.  On the contrary, this truth is taught throughout the Scripture.  Paul understood this very thing.

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
Romans 8:13-14

You have to be pursuing this in the spirit.  It’s not a work you can do by simply deciding that it’s true.  It requires us to remain in Christ.  In that way we allow the Holy Spirit to complete His work in us.

Our problem is that we don’t want to remain.  We want the freedom to live for Christ some of the time, and for ourselves at others.  We want to go in and out as we please.

Jesus talked about this in another place.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.
John 8:34-35

The original language of this verse reads, the servant does not remain in the house forever.  You can’t serve two masters.  When you try to serve both yourself and the Lord, you end up going in and out of the house.  You miss out on God’s best – the blessings of sonship.

Make it your goal to seek, hear, and obey God’s will for your life.

Question: What’s the next step in God’s plan for you right now?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2018 in Prayer, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Religion on the Attack

In my last post, we looked at how Jesus confronted the attack of religion against His ministry.  Today we’ll see another aspect of that battle.

Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there.  Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.
Mark 3:1-2

I always read this account with amazement.  I can’t fathom the thinking process of the Pharisees.

I understand that they were starting to be annoyed by Jesus’ ministry.  I even understand how they were looking for a way to discredit Him.  But to use healing as the vehicle, doesn’t make sense to me.

In my last post, I talked about the traditions that the Pharisees had to bring more detail to the definition of work.  They had a lot of man-made rules concerning healing.  It’s the work of a doctor to heal so no work of healing could be performed on the Sabbath.

For instance, it was illegal to drink wine on the Sabbath, if you had a toothache.  That’s because if the alcohol in the wine deadened the pain in your tooth, it would be considered healing.

That’s all well and good for a doctor.  But there’s a huge flaw in their argument when they apply it to the Messiah.

Jesus didn’t work to bring about a cure in the natural sense.  He was able to flow in the power of the Holy Spirit.  In Jesus’ ministry, it was God who healed the sick.

Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”  But they remained silent.
He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.  Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
Mark 3:3-6

It’s obvious from the above details that the healing was supernatural.  Jesus did absolutely no work to accomplish it.

That tells me that religion is blind to everything but its own ends.  It claims that it’s trying to serve God.  The actual truth is that religion is bent on proving its own superiority over anyone else.

They claim that by keeping the Sabbath pure from work, they’re following God’s will.  God, on the other hand, healed this man; proving that He had no problem with healing on the Sabbath.  Religion actually has the audacity to say that they’re more holy than God!

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking even creeps into the church.  Paul describes it this way…

…having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.
2 Timothy 3:5

Religion couldn’t care less about the power of God in operation.  It’s the form that’s more important.  How you look and what others think about you.  Powerlessness is okay, as long as people think that we have a more superior walk of “righteousness”.

Unfortunately, it’s merely a form of self-righteousness.  It doesn’t impress God, and it doesn’t help those around us.

Our goal should be a spiritual walk.  Spending time in the spirit, listening for the voice of the Father, then, obeying what we hear.  That’s the example that Jesus leaves us with.

Question: Why do so many choose form over power?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2018 in Healing, Legalism, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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