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Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Hung by the Tongue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Squatters in God’s Kingdom

What’s your purpose for being a part of God’s kingdom?  Are you fulfilling that purpose?  Jesus gives some parables to explain God’s priorities.

Today I’ll be looking at the Parable of the Vineyard as recorded in Mark chapter 12, verses 1 through 12.  You may want to read it in Scripture before continuing with this post.

In this parable, Jesus tells of a man who owned a vineyard and rented it out to some farmers.  According to the terms of the lease, the owner was to get a share of the harvest as payment.  This was a normal agreement for property owners in those days.

It’s interesting to see that the owner did all the work to set up the vineyard.  All the farmers needed to do was move in and start harvesting.

How does this relate to the kingdom of God?  Simply put, the Lord is looking for fruit.  It’s not about our Church attendance, Bible reading, or even our tithing.  He’s looking for the fruit of our relationship with the Holy Spirit that He placed within us.

During His ministry with the disciples, Jesus made this abundantly clear to them.

“I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

What we have to understand is that this is not our kingdom, but God’s.  Everything we have is owned by someone else.  Even our very lives belong to the Lord.

Because of this, God is well within His rights to demand anything from us.  We know right from the outset that He’s looking for the fruit of the Spirit.

Please understand that the fruit of our relationship with Christ is for the benefit and refreshing of those around us.  The fruit of the Spirit are not merely for my personal gain.

The tenants in the parable didn’t understand this.  They wanted to keep everything for themselves.

We live in a society where we’ve been taught that in most places – restaurants, stores, etc. – it’s all about what I want or need.  Somehow we’ve transferred this mindset into our spiritual life.  When it comes to being a part of a local church; I base it on what I can get from it.

What services do you offer me and my family?  Do I like the type of music and the length of the worship service?  Do I enjoy the way the Pastor delivers his sermons?

Wait a minute!!!  Why does God have me in His kingdom?  Is it purely for my comfort and enjoyment?  No!  I serve at the Lord’s good pleasure.

The tenants in this parable made a great mistake.  They figured that if they could get rid of the owner’s son, then they could take over the vineyard.  After all, squatters have rights.

Too often, I’ve seen this attitude in God’s people.  The Bible refers to it as godlessness.  Yes, there are many godless Christians.

To be godless simply means that God and His will don’t figure into any of your decisions.  You’re living as if there is no God.  These are the squatters in God’s kingdom.  They’re living on God’s property as if it belongs to them.

If you’ve been guilty of this attitude, then it’s time to repent.  Get back to the purpose you were saved for.  We need to be producing the fruit of the kingdom.

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
John 15:8

Question: What are the fruits of the spirit that you have produced most recently?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2018 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Will We Ever Learn?

Every once in a while someone will ask me, “Why do I keep facing the same problem over and over?”  We know that the problems we face are trials or tests.  When we get the same test again and again, it’s a signal for us to take a spiritual inventory.

The disciples of Christ had a similar experience.  A remote place, no resources, and a hungry crowd of people.

During those days another large crowd gathered.  Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied.
Mark 8:1-5

History repeats itself.  This is the same scenario that we saw in Mark chapter 6, verses 35-44.  Jesus had been teaching the crowd.  It was getting late.  They were all hungry.

There is one noticeable difference.  In chapter 6, the disciples had to search the crowd to know how much bread they had.  At this time they came to Jesus already knowing the answer.

My first thought is to rebuke the disciples for not learning the lesson when Jesus fed the five thousand.  But then my next thought is, how long it takes me to learn the lessons God is trying to get across to me.  It seems like, at least in my case, I don’t learn them the first time around.

Jesus had to show them, once again, the supernatural provision of God.

He told the crowd to sit down on the ground.  When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so.  They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them.  The people ate and were satisfied.  Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  About four thousand men were present.  And having sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.
Mark 8:6-10

The trials that we face are testing us.  They come along to see if we’ve learned the lessons God is showing us.  He’s teaching us to trust Him.  When we manifest that faith, we pass the test.

James explains the procedure to us.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
James 1:2-3

That means if we face the same test over and over, then we’re not learning the lesson correctly.  It’s time to pray for wisdom to see what we’re missing.

Our goal should be to know the Lord more intimately.  The more we know Him and His desires for us, the better prepared we’ll be for the upcoming tests.  Instead of being frustrated by the repeated testing, let it drive you into the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Let our great Teacher mentor you for the challenges ahead.

Question: What was a lesson that took you a few times to get right?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith, 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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The Drawing Power of the Holy Spirit

Social media is a powerful tool.  It can turn someone into an overnight sensation.  This type of communication wasn’t even imagined in ancient Israel, yet the ministry of Jesus grew in a huge way.

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there.  As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus.  They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.  And wherever he went — into villages, towns or countryside — they placed the sick in the marketplaces.  They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.
Mark 6:53-56

There are some things about this passage that amaze me when I read it.  The first thing I see is that immediately, the crowds recognized Jesus.

There were no newspapers or TVs.  Most of us know what the major celebrities look like.  We’ve seen their pictures in many places.  But back then, nobody had a picture of Him.  Yet as soon as they saw Him and His disciples, they knew exactly who they were.

Another thing I notice is that word spread quickly.  People literally ran throughout that whole region, telling that Jesus had arrived.  I’ve never witnessed this type of behavior.

At one point, part of a major motion picture was being filmed in our town.  Nobody ran through the streets announcing the arrival of the stars and camera crews.  It came and went without a lot of people even noticing.

But the notoriety of Jesus went even further than that, especially when it can to the sick and infirm.  If they couldn’t walk to see Jesus, there were those who were willing to carry the sick people.  In some cases, they were carried for miles.

Because of this, hundreds of people were arriving where the Lord was expected to show up.  They were waiting for Him even though there was no guarantee that they would be ministered to.

Then, when Christ was walking through, they begged Him to simply let them touch His clothing.  They didn’t want a special meeting.  They weren’t waiting for an altar call.

“Just walk close enough so I can reach out to you.”

Jesus understood the working of the Holy Spirit.  It wasn’t a carefully crafted media blitz.  It was the Father pulling on the hearts of the people.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
John 6:44

The results were overwhelming.  Everyone who touched Him experienced the Lord’s healing power.

Think about it.  They were healed simply by touching Jesus’ clothes as He walked by them.  He felt no need to dramatically lay hands on them so that all would know who it was that performed the miracle.

The Lord had no need for self-promotion.  He walked through the crowd getting as close to as many as He could in the time given to Him.  I believe that’s one of the reasons that the Holy Spirit could work so powerfully through Him.

We need to spend time in His presence.  In that way, we can pick up the same heartbeat that He had.  Then the Holy Spirit can work in us to that same degree.

Question: How differently would we minister if we had the Lord’s heart?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2018 in Ministry, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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What Does Your Ministry Need?

What are the priorities of ministry?  What can we learn from the way Jesus handled the day to day logistical challenges?

In my last post, we saw Jesus teaching the crowds in a very remote location.  Now it’s getting late and there are some needs that must be addressed.

By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late.  Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
Mark 6:35-36

The first thing that happens is that the disciples see and recognize the need.  That’s the easy part.  Ask anyone what’s wrong with the church and they’ll tell you what it needs.

Notice the response.  It wasn’t the disciples’ problem.  The people needed to fix it.  If they were hungry, then the crowd needed to go out and find something to eat.

That’s the attitude of many people today.  “If they would do what they were supposed to do, the church would be better.”

Notice how Jesus turns that whole attitude around.

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
Mark 6:37a

That’s the response of a good leader.  Turn the responsibility over to the ones who are sensitive to the need.

“Pastor, this church needs a Men’s Ministry.”

“I totally agree.  When do you plan on starting it?”

I don’t think the disciples were prepared for that type of answer from the Lord.  It caught them off guard.

They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages!  Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
Mark 6:37b

Here’s where most ministries lose sight of the true vision.  The disciples immediately make it a resource problem.  Their first reaction was to throw money at it to make it go away.

But first – here’s an aside for those who think ministers of the Gospel should live in poverty.  The disciples DID NOT say, “We don’t have the money to feed them.”  They asked if Jesus wanted them to spend that much cash on the crowd.

In our economy, think about how much it would cost to buy 5000 fast food value meals.  Jesus had that much money on Him at the time.  But I digress.

According to Christ, it wasn’t a money problem, but a Word problem.  How did the Father want this need met?  Too often we ask for money before we seek the Holy Spirit to provide a miraculous solution.

Verses 38 through 44 of Mark chapter 6 tell us of the way Jesus heard from heaven and met the needs of over 5000 hungry people.  This is how we should be ministering to those around us.  We must spend time in the Spirit, and then walk out what we’ve heard from the Father.

Too many times I hear, “If we don’t get the donations, then we can’t do what God has called us to do.”  Personally, I serve a God who’s bigger than the donations.  He can make a way with or without the money.

We need to learn to be listening for His voice.  That way we keep in step with not only what the Lord is leading us to do, but how exactly He wants it accomplished.

Questions: Has God ever worked His plans through you without money?  How did He bring it about?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2018 in Faith, God's Provision, Ministry, Prayer

 

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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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