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Loving God

As Jesus was nearing the time of the cross, He was questioned by various religious leaders.  Some with good motives and others who were trying to trap Him in what He said.  There was one who seemed to want a real answer.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating.  Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Mark 12:28

Jesus was always willing to answer those who asked a serious question.

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”
Mark 12:29-30

The Lord gives this man the most important command of the Law.  It turns out that Jesus didn’t give him a rule to follow, such as sacrificing, tithing, or reading Scripture.  Instead, it was a command to know who God is and then knowing how to respond to Him correctly.

This is still a valid command for us today.  As Christians, we need to understand who it is that we serve and what it takes to show our love for Him.

Love God with all of your heart.  Your heart is the garden of your life.  It’s where you put things that you want to grow.

It’s the good soil that you should be planting the Word into.  Loving God with all your heart means that you will only plant things that will please God.

If I were a servant tending to a garden for my master, this would be simple to understand.  If my master hated green beans, then there would never be any green beans in my garden.  We should only be planting the things that please God in our hearts.

Love God with all of your soul.  That’s the seat of your decision making.  We show our love for God each day by the decisions we make.  Do we take God’s will into account when we decide what direction our lives will take?

Love God with all of your mind.  Your mind is the storehouse of your life.  Whether you remember it or not, everything that you see and hear is stored forever in your mind.  That’s why it’s so important to be careful gatekeepers of what we watch and listen to.

When the Lord walks through your storehouse, what does He see?  Are there things that are offensive to Him?  If so, then you can clean it up through repentance and faith in the cleansing power of the blood of Christ.

Love God with all of your strength.  I think that this is the one command that seals all of the others.  Without it, our love falls short.

That’s because your strength speaks of actually doing something.  You can’t say that you love without putting it into action.

I’ve heard people say, “I love God in my heart even though you don’t see it in my actions.”  Actually, that’s not real love.  Whether you’re talking about a human relationship or walking with God, love has to be shown by what we do.

It takes all of these together to make a complete love package.  Our heart, soul, mind, and strength must be working in unison.  It’s through these that we fulfill our greatest calling.

Question:  Why is this the most important command of Scripture?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on June 6, 2018 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Heart of the Matter

Many people worry about how others see them.  They want to make sure that they’re doing and saying the right things.  They want to be acceptable in their particular circle of friends.

In my last post, we saw that you can’t just go through the motions of worship if you want to please God.  It has to come from the inside.  The Lord explained it to the crowd that had gathered around Him.

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.  Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him.  Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.'”
Mark 7:14-15

That concept was totally foreign to the Jewish people.  They were taught that there were things that could make you unclean simply by touching them.

But that gives you a false sense of security.  If you haven’t touched any unclean things, you were okay.  Along with that, if you’ve observed all the prescribed ceremonies, then you were spiritually strong.

Jesus saw things from a different perspective.

After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable.  “Are you so dull?” he asked.  “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’?  For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.”  (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)
Mark 7:17-19

Jesus makes it clear.  It’s what we put into our hearts that determines where our life is headed.  When we eat or drink something, the usable parts are digested and distributed in the body.  The waste products are expelled.

The heart, on the other hand, is the storehouse of our being.  What we place in there may last a long time.  Then, when we least expect it, those things in our heart my spill out.

He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’  For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'”
Mark 7:20-23

We need to understand what Christ is teaching us here.  You can’t just decide not to sin anymore.  As someone who grew up in church, I can tell you from first-hand experience that this doesn’t work.  I’ve personally made this decision many times throughout my life.

That’s because sin is not birthed in your mind.  It’s an overflow of what you’ve been storing in your heart.

If you want to stop sinning, then you need to spend time in the Lord’s presence.  That’s where our hearts are purified.  It’s all about the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit in us.  Because in the same way that sin in our hearts will eventually manifest itself, righteousness will do the same thing.

Let the Spirit put God’s desires, direction, and passions on the inside of you.  Then, when your heart starts to spill over, it’s the fruit of the Spirit that people will see.

Question: How have you seen God’s Word overflow from your heart when you didn’t expect it?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2018 in Legalism, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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God’s Approval System

I’ve been posting from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. In it we’ve been looking at the true Gospel. According to Paul, it comes with a demonstration of God’s power. In my last post I talked about the other methods people must use when they don’t walk in God’s power.

The question is; why is there so little of the whole Gospel of Christ being presented in our generation? It turns out that Paul understood the answer.

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.
1 Thessalonians 2:4

We’ve seen that Paul understood the true Gospel as including power, the confirmation of the Holy Spirit, and deep conviction. That might have been surprising to some. But I believe his words in this verse would totally shock many preachers if they understood their significance.

According to Paul, you need to be approved by God to preach this Gospel. Actually it’s deeper than that. He said that you need God’s approval even to be entrusted with this Gospel.

Is this what’s taught in Bible schools? I don’t think so; at least I’ve never heard it taught. In my experience preaching the Gospel is simply coming up with a Scripture for an opening text. Then we apply it to the need for the hearers to “get saved.”

Where’s the power? Where’s the confirmation of the Holy Spirit, and the deep conviction? I believe that there’s too much unapproved Gospel being preached these days. That’s why many have written off Christianity as a dead horse that needs to be removed from society.

How do you become approved to be entrusted with the true Gospel? The answer to this is why there’s so little of it in our generation. It’s not about college degrees or denominational accreditation. No, it’s much deeper than that.

Paul makes it clear that this approval can only come from God. Furthermore, the test takes place in your heart. Where’s your heart set? Who are you trying to please?

Your anointing (God’s approval of your ministry) is resting on that answer. It’s not about how much you want it; instead, it’s wrapped up in the direction your heart is taking you.

What we have to realize is that in our own power we can never be well pleasing to God. It only comes from time spent in His presence. It’s what Jesus talked about in the parable of the sower.

“Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop — thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”
Mark 4:20

As I said, the test is in your heart – where you hear and plant the Word. This requires time in the presence of the Lord. It means that we have a listening ear toward the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Then, when Gods sees the quality of the crop produced by the Word planted in our heart, He grants His approval. We will see the manifestation of the Word of God when we present the Gospel. Then the lives of the hearers are changed by that powerful Word from God.

Question: How would churches be different if we sought the approval of God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Does Your Tongue Lead a Double Life?

Are you living a double life? That’s the question James asks us in his small book. I’ve been posting about how our tongue shows publically what’s going on in our heart.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
James 3:9-12

There’s a self-deception sometimes, over how far along we are in our spiritual maturity. We like to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. This is especially true when we find ourselves in a Christian meeting, praising God along with everyone else.

James gives us a more accurate picture. He starts with what it looks like by observation. Praise and cursing coming from the same mouth. “Lord I love you” with one breath, and telling someone “you’re no good” with the next. It looks like you can do both – unless you see God’s perspective.

That’s why James asks these questions. He knows the answer. Jesus answered them with His disciples. I’m sure that James heard Jesus say it on more than one occasion.

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
Luke 6:43-45

It’s obvious that James hasn’t changed the subject. He’s still talking about controlling the tongue by what you put in your heart.

More than that, he’s saying what sounds like praise to us, is not always praise to God. If your heart is overflowing with things other than the Word, then your so-called praise is not acceptable to God. It may look like fresh water to all those around, but to God it’s a salt spring.

A life that’s consistently producing bad fruit is a sign of a heart without much of the Word of God. What about the praise that’s going up to God? Isn’t that a sign of a good heart?

I wish it were. Unfortunately, praising God is not a fruit of the spirit. I’ve even heard some ungodly people exclaim, “Praise the Lord” or “Hallelujah” at times. That’s not the sign of maturity.

The fruit of the spirit and maturity are things that can’t be forced or pretended. They have to be grown into. That’s why there must be a consistent walk with the Lord. The more of the Word we receive – both the written and spoken Word of God – the more our hearts overflow with the right things.

Take love, for an example. The world looks at the emotion. As the fruit of a mature spiritual life, love is a choice we make. It goes against our human nature to choose to love people we don’t even like. That’s why we need the power of the spirit working in us.

The sign of our maturity is not a random act of kindness once in a long while. It’s the consistent production of mature fruit on a daily basis. That’s the sign of a life spent in the presence of the Lord.

Question: What fruit of the spirit have been evident in your life lately?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2017 in Prayer, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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From Heart to Mouth

In my last post I talked about controlling the tongue, by putting the Word of God in our hearts. This was because it’s from the overflow of what we store in our heart that the mouth speaks. James goes on to give us more detail about this.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.
James 3:3-4

It doesn’t take much to steer a horse or a ship. Bits and rudders are relatively small in comparison to the whole animal or ship. Yet, if we have control of that small piece, we can set the direction we want to go.

I’ve heard people take this verse and say that this is why we need to speak out what we want to receive from life. They say that your speaking will set the direction you’re heading. But that’s not the whole truth.

If you read the two chapters of James leading up to this, you’ll find that this is more about planting the right things in your heart. In order to be in continual control of your tongue, you need to be continually planting the right things in your heart.

The fact is that it’s possible to recite Scripture without letting it change your heart. That’s the same as only grabbing the rudder of a ship and controlling it for five minutes a day. You’ll never get to your destination like that. You must take continual control.

We need to heed the warning of Proverbs.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
Proverbs 4:23

This verse literally says that your heart contains the source of your life. Everything you receive comes through your heart first. It’s what you plant in your heart that eventually dictates what your life becomes.

When the Word of God flows from your heart to your mouth, your life starts heading in that direction. If not, then nothing you do can stop the natural progression that James warns us about in the next verses.

Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
James 3:5-8

This is the outcome of a heart without the Word being planted. Our mouth is a part of our flesh. Trying to control it for ten minutes a day is not enough. Without the constant supply of the Word to our hearts, there’s no control to where our lives are heading.

It’s clear from Scripture that the progression of a spiritual life is – Word of God, heart, mouth, and then life. If that’s not how we work it, then it’s like we’re on the ocean without holding the rudder. Take control of your life. Plant the Word of God into your heart.

Question: How have you seen the Word bring forth fruit in your Life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2017 in Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Mature Talk

In my last post I started looking at how the book of James dealt with the speaking of our faith. Our words and actions need to line up with what we believe. Our words make visible the faith – or doubt – that’s in our heart.

But did you know that our words also indicate our level of spiritual maturity? Too often we like to think of ourselves as being more mature than we actually are. It’s our words that truly show how far along we are.

I believe that most of us want to experience the walk of maturity and the blessings that come with it. Here’s the problem. We know what it should look like. But many are trying to do it without growing up.

We’re always on the lookout for some new teaching or “move of God” that will give us our breakthrough. We want the Six Steps to Prosperity or the Ten Confessions that bring Healing. We’re trying to get the freedom and resources of maturity while desperately hanging on to our childhood.

This is never going to happen. It’s only when we attain to the goal of spiritual adulthood that we’ll see these things accomplished in us.

We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
James 3:2

There’s more to the mature walk than simply getting our needs met. This word perfect literally means mature and complete. When you reach this level in your Christian experience sin is the exception rather than the rule. It’s not about trying harder. It’s the Holy Spirit working in you to perfect you.

So much of our energy is spent on trying to “be good.” Many preachers are wasting their time using guilt and scare tactics to try and get their people to live a righteous life. That’s not the scriptural way to get there.

The reason James talks about this in relation to our speaking, is because this is one of the most obvious ways that we show our immaturity. You might look good on the outside, but as soon as you open your mouth, everybody knows where you’re at.

Jesus gives us the reason for this.

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45

The fact is that whatever is in your heart will eventually come out of your mouth. It’s not something that you can control simply by deciding “not to say anything.” Most of us have found out the impossibility of sticking to that statement.

Your mouth is merely a channel from your heart to the outside world. You can try plugging it up, but eventually the pressure will build until the contents flood out. Then we wish we could take it back. We tell people that we didn’t mean it. But the fact remains that if it wasn’t already in your heart, it wouldn’t have come out of your mouth.

That’s why we can’t concentrate on simply using self-control. The answer is to have a change of heart. If I can plant God’s Word in my heart, then I know the output of my mouth will be pure.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Psalms 119:11

This includes the sinful things that come out of our mouths. If I can keep my heart pure, then my mouth will follow.

Question: How has your mouth showed the good things in your heart?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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But I Wasn’t Asked

Question MarkI’ve been posting about David’s mighty men. They have a lot they can teach us about spiritual warfare.

I shared about the greatest of this group. They were simply known as “The Three”. Men named Josheb, Eleazar, and Shammah. But with these three, it wasn’t just about boldness. It was their heart that made the difference.

Here they are at a place called Adullam, with David. David’s home town, Bethlehem, was under Philistine control. Israel’s enemy actually had a military post there. Soldiers were housed there.

At one point, David starts to get homesick.

David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!”
2 Samuel 23:15

He was simply musing about his home. But it didn’t end there.

So the three mighty men broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the LORD.
“Far be it from me, O LORD, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it. Such were the exploits of the three mighty men.
2 Samuel 23:16-17

Do you hear the heartbeat of these men? They weren’t ordered to do this. No one asked them to do it. There was no memo – “If anyone has some free time…”

David didn’t need this water. He was just talking – “You know what I miss, the water of Bethlehem.”

I can picture the looks on the faces of The Three. They probably didn’t have to say a word to each other as they quietly slipped away during the night.

How many things need to be done in the kingdom of God these days? When asked, some reply, “I just don’t feel called.”

Other times you ask why something went undone. You hear things like, “Nobody asked”; or, “I don’t like the way I was asked.”

I think that it’s funny sometimes when we look at incredible international ministries and successes. Many times we find that they’re being done by people who started small, just meeting a little need that they came across.

“I could have done that.”

But you didn’t.

“I didn’t know it would grow that big.”

They didn’t either. Do you think these mighty men said, “If we bring David this water, we’re definitely getting our names in the Bible.”?

It’s clear from the Scripture that the mighty take the initiative. They don’t need to be asked, begged, or coerced.

Too many good people were clueless in Israel. Others were content to be in the 600. But to be one of the mighty requires more. Is that your goal?

Spend time in the presence of the Lord – then do what He impresses upon your heart. That’s the start of greatness.

Question: What is God prompting you to do for Him?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2017 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Warfare, The Church

 

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