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Called to Become

The next encounter we have in Mark’s gospel is the calling of the four fishermen.  I’m referring to Andrew, Peter, James, and John.

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.  Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Mark 1:16-20

In this narrative, we’re only given the outline of what happened.  It should be obvious from human nature and the accounts in the other gospels that this was not the first time these men had met Jesus.  No one will leave their family business because an unknown man walks by and asks them to follow Him.

On the contrary, there was already a relationship that had formed between these five men.  Jesus had been preaching and healing the sick throughout the area.  At one point, Peter even let Jesus use his boat as a pulpit.  They knew the Lord’s ministry.

We know from John’s gospel, that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist.  He had heard John’s testimony of Jesus being the Messiah.  He had met with Christ in private, and then Andrew introduced his brother Peter to Him.

This was not just a “cold call” on the part of the Lord.  It was the culmination of an ongoing relationship.  They knew who it was that was calling them.  They wanted what Christ was offering.

But what was the Lord promising them?  It’s a very interesting way to invite someone.  There are two important phrases that Jesus says to them.  The first is; I will make you.

He told them that if they’d fall in behind Him, He’d do a work in their lives.  I think that’s the key, even for us.  It’s our job to follow – that’s all.  Too often we get the idea that we need to work on changing ourselves.  Then we get frustrated with the results.

If I’m willing to spend time in the Lord’s presence, through the Holy Spirit, He’ll bring about the changes needed in my life.  That’s where the power is.  It’s clear from Scripture that only the spirit can control the flesh.

The second phrase is not apparent in this English translation.  It’s the phrase; to become.  The original Greek reads; I will make you to become fishers of men.  I believe this means it’s a process, not an instant change.

God has a calling on your life and mine.  He wants us to become something for His glory.  I wish that the transformation was instant, the day I bowed my knee to Him as Lord.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way.

There’s a growing process involved.  I follow behind Christ.  I spend time in the spirit.  Over time, the work of God’s grace becomes evident in my life.  Eventually, I become what I was created to be.

It was like that with these disciples.  They had their rough spots.  Sometimes it looked like they’d never get there.  But after the day of Pentecost, they turned their world upside-down for the glory of Christ.

Let this speak to you.  Follow behind Christ.  Be patient.  Don’t get frustrated that the changes in your life aren’t happening as quickly as you’d like them to.  Become a disciple of Christ through the work of His Holy Spirit in you.

Question: What are some changes that are already evident in your life since you started following Christ?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Perfect Submission

When we think about Jesus, what words come to mind?  Savior, Lord, God Almighty, and many more.  But do we immediately think of “obedient”?  That’s the first picture we get in the Gospel of Mark.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark 1:9-11

Many people wonder why Jesus felt He needed to be baptized in the Jordan River.  After all, He had no sin that needed to be confessed.  The Lord was perfect in all of His ways.

The fact is that Jesus knew His purpose right from the start.  He came to earth with the cross in mind.  He was fully aware that in order to save us, He would need to die a cruel death, be buried and then rise three days later.

That’s what this baptism was all about.  The Lord was showing, by a visible sign, that He was in full submission to the Father’s will concerning His life.  Christ’s initiation into public ministry was a confession that it would end in death, burial, and resurrection.

That’s why the Father gave His seal of approval to the Lord’s work.  He was well pleased that Jesus was willingly going forward with the plan of salvation.

But there was more to the Lord’s obedience and submission than this act of faith.  There was a step by step, day by day leading that He had to follow.  From this point on, the Holy Spirit would be His guide and leader, giving Him the plan for each new day.

I’d like to think that following the Holy Spirit is easy.  No problems; just do what He says and it’s a clear road ahead.  That wasn’t the case for Jesus.

At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
Mark 1:12-13

Immediately after a public submission to the Father’s plan, you would think that there’d be a huge boost in His ministry.  Instead, the Holy Spirit sends the Lord off to the wilderness.  You would think that this was opposite of what He should be doing.

“Go to Jerusalem.  Proclaim yourself the Messiah and Savior of the world.”

No.  That’s not the path that the Spirit had for him.  Jesus needed to be able to listen to the voice of the Father.  The wilderness would be His training ground.

Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…
Hebrews 5:8-9

We sometimes think that the only time Jesus suffered was on the cross.  I don’t believe that’s the case.  It doesn’t matter who you are, forty days in the wilderness with no food is uncomfortable for anybody’s flesh.

That’s why the Scripture tells us that Christ had to learn obedience.  It wasn’t easy.  It involved some suffering.

The suffering I’m talking about is that of self-discipline.  Jesus didn’t have to go to the desert.  He didn’t have to fast for forty days.  He was being led by the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes I think that’s the hardest temptation there is.  The knowledge that you’re following God’s plan.  It’s not comfortable.  No one will know if you deviate, or even cut a few corners.  Yet, you stay on the path you’re called to, no matter what.

This is the path of submission and obedience that we see exemplified in the life of Christ.

Question: What was the hardest thing the Holy Spirit asked you to do?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Thanksgiving Leftovers

Today is the eve of the Thanksgiving Holiday.  So I’ve been reading and meditating on giving thanks to God.  Then I came across a verse that really struck me.

When you sacrifice a thank offering to the Lord, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on your behalf.  It must be eaten that same day; leave none of it till morning. I am the Lord.
Leviticus 22:29-30

In the Old Testament, the thanksgiving offering was to be eaten in one day.  There was to be nothing leftover.  I thought that was funny.  That’s because, in our generation, Thanksgiving is known for having the most leftovers.

This spoke to me of how we should thank God.

We thank God for His daily provision.  Think about the Israelites in the desert.  God provided manna for them.  He told them to only gather enough for the day.

Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”  However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.  So Moses was angry with them.
Exodus 16:19-20

It’s amazing how much things stay the same.  God tells us to trust Him.  “Give us this day our daily bread.”  We want all of our provision – today.  God wants to provide step by step – so we must look to Him in faith.

Our walk with God is step by step.  We want to know the whole plan.  I need to thank God for what I know and trust Him for what I don’t know yet.  That’s a lesson of faith.

We may know where He’s bringing us to, but not the exact path.

When it comes to our blessings from God, we like to keep the leftovers.  Think about all of the things we’ve prayed for.  Then think about all the answers to those prayers.  My first thought is, “They belong to me!”

No – they belong to God.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10

We want to keep everything God gives us for ourselves.  But that’s pretty selfish.

God’s grace to us is for others as well.  We want to keep it all for ourselves.  God wants to bless us AND make us a blessing.  We want to store it all up for our own usage.

That’s the difference between a river and a swamp.  The Israelites learned it when their extra manna got smelly and full of maggots.

Finally, our thankfulness prompts others to thank God.  God desires our thankfulness to overflow into the lives of others.  It’s like a river of blessing flowing into those around us.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 4:15

This is God’s will for us.  To overflow by the spirit.  We may still have leftovers this year.  But as we thank God remember not to hang on to the blessings that He wants you to move along.

Question: What are some blessings you can pass on to others?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Spirit and the Cross

We’re continuing our study through the book of Galatians.  Now that we’re in the final chapter, Paul is beginning to wrap up his teaching.

In this letter, he deals with the false teachers who said that you needed to come under the law in order to be saved. There were people trying to convince the church that Christ forgives your sin, but the law makes you acceptable to God.

Paul had an answer for these people that we need to take to heart in this generation.

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!  Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
Galatians 6:11-12

If our focus is on the outward behaviors, then we’ll avoid the cross at all cost.  In spite of this, we still want God’s grace to work in our lives.  We want to see God’s blessing on our finances, health, jobs, and family.

At that point, our mind tells us that there must be something we can do to obtain God’s blessing.  So we put ourselves under all kinds of rules and regulations in order to earn the grace of God.

Here’s why that approach doesn’t work.  Under the law, you can live for yourself by invoking a string of technicalities.  It’s the same thing the Pharisees of Jesus’ day would do.  You simply tell yourself, “I’m okay.  I go to church, read the Bible, and live a good life.”

In reality, these people want to avoid the fear of the cross.  The word persecuted in the above verse comes from a root word that means to run away or retreat.  That tells me that these individuals are cowards who have decided not to embrace the cross.  Instead of running from it, we must live in its shadow.

Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh.  May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Galatians 6:13-14

Instead of trying to avoid being worldly by our own willpower, we must embrace the cross.  Think about what Paul is saying here.  The world is nailed to a cross.  I’m nailed to another.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t get over to that other cross.  Neither can the world get to me.

That’s what we do to our flesh by invoking the power of the cross in our lives.  When we nail our flesh to the cross there’s a power that’s released to work God’s righteousness in us.  It’s not a struggle to keep pure, but reliance upon the Holy Spirit in us.

But we need to remember, we nail our flesh to the cross by the spiritual walk.  The more I pray in the spirit, the more my flesh is dealt with.

I can never crucify the flesh with its wants and desires by my will-power.  My flesh can’t change itself, no matter how good my intentions are.  It can only be accomplished by cooperating with the Holy Spirit.

This is the path to all that God has for you.  I’m talking about healings, increase, miracles and the provision of God.  It’s everything you need for life and godliness.

It will only come in its fullness as we embrace the pattern laid down by the Lord.  We must follow the path of the cross by a walk in the spirit.  Allow the Lord to work His pattern of salvation in us.  It’s the way to freedom in Him.

Question: What would the church look like if we all embraced the path of the cross?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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The Church Together

How do you feel about church?  There are many believers who’ve written it off.  Their church is on TV.  Either that or they spend an hour on Sunday morning and that’s their investment for the week.

As I see it from Scripture we need the gathering together of real-life flesh and blood believers.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6:10

As I read the life of King David, I see a lot of parallels with our present generation. In waiting for God to fulfill His promise to make him king, it seemed like everything was going against him. But it was at this time in David’s life that God started to bring people to his aid.

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.
1 Samuel 22:1-2

This is one of the lowest points in David’s life. God had called to be king in place of Saul. He had accomplished victories over giants and armies.

Yet, at this time he was being pursued by King Saul – hunted like an animal. His calling was to restore Israel to greatness, yet he was alone and outcast.

Many in Israel had no clue about the issues that were occurring throughout their nation. It was almost like the church in the USA right now. We are badly in need of an awakening.

So David decided to go to a place called Adullam. It was a cave in the side of a cliff, surrounded by wilderness. It was near a cool, clear spring so there was plenty of water. It had a system of caverns that could hold 1000 men comfortably. Eventually, 400 to 600 would come and join with David here.

In the same way, it’s time for God’s people to rally together. So many believers are “serving God” yet going nowhere. Where do we start?

Maybe where God starts. In David’s life, it was his father’s household, his immediate family. That’s us – the church.

The work God wants to be accomplished in our generation starts with us. God is calling the church family together.

But it also says his brothers. The Hebrew word used is relatives in the most general term. There are many people who are a part of the body of Christ who have distanced themselves from their churches. It has been for various reasons. It might have been the results of hurts, laziness, disappointment, offense, or any number of issues.

For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
1 Peter 4:17

The word judgment in this verse is simply the word decision. It’s time for decisions to begin here, among God’s people. We want the world to decide for Christ. How about if we decide first. It’s time to give up the excuses.

I’ve been in church for my whole life. My deepest hurts have come from church people. Even as a pastor I’ve endured hurts, betrayals, and other problems. Yet on the lowest day of my life, I would choose God’s people over the world.

Just like in David’s day, God is calling His people to do a great work in our generation. But it won’t be accomplished by big names or televangelists. It will be normal, everyday people who have heard and obeyed the call of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Question: What’s your place in the Body of Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2017 in Fellowship, Revival, The Church

 

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Spiritual Restoration

Toward the end of Paul’s letter to the Galatian church, he begins to talk about some important issues for dealing with people.  The first is working with people who aren’t perfect.  I think we forget, sometimes, that none of us walks in the clouds.

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
Galatians 6:1

Paul talks about someone who’s had a side-slip.  Whether intentional or not, we sometimes see our past sinful life try to make an appearance.  That’s why God has us doing life together.

The Lord’s desire is always for restoration.  It’s not about guilt or condemnation.  When we experience a failure, there’s usually enough self-condemnation, so that we don’t need to add any more from the outside.

I believe that’s why the Holy Spirit wants restoration to be accomplished only by those who are spiritual.  Notice that He didn’t say that those versed in psychology, or those who’ve never sinned, should work with them.

The qualification is for those who are spiritual.  They spend time listening to the Holy Spirit.  It’s evident from their lives that they consistently produce the Fruit of the Spirit.  They’re the ones uniquely qualified to bring restoration.

But even spiritual people aren’t above being tempted.  Tempted to do what?  Paul goes on to talk about this temptation.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  Each one should test his own actions.  Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
Galatians 6:2-5

In dealing with the weaknesses of others, there’s always a temptation to compare.  We end up comparing our strength with their weakness.  But that gives us an inflated view of ourselves.

It also makes it easier for us to begin judging others.  We start to criticize and condemn, instead of bringing the restoration of the Holy Spirit.

I think that an important part of this is understanding the difference between a burden and a load.  These are two very different words in the Greek.

The word burden simply means a weight – something heavy.  There are times where, because of what we’re going through, our life seems a little too tough to handle.  Spiritual people are a help during these times.  The law of Christ is their internal prompting by the Holy Spirit to bring encouragement during these times.

The word, load, on the other hand, speaks of an invoice or work-order.  That’s our God-given assignment.  No one can do that for us.  Mine is different than yours.  I can’t compare what I’ve been called to do with your calling.

There are people only you can reach and assignments only you can do the way the Lord wants them done.  So it’s not my job to take over because I think you’re inadequate.  If I truly am spiritual, then I’ll encourage and strengthen you so that you’re able to fulfill your unique destiny.

Comparison and condemnation have no place in the body of believers.  We’re here to fulfill the plan of Christ, not to please each other.

Spend time in the presence of the Lord and then be a blessing to those around you.

Question: What is a time that the Holy Spirit prompted you to be a help to someone else?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2017 in Encouragement, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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What’s Driving You?

If you’ve been following my posts, then you know that we should be driven by the Holy Spirit.  Time in His presence should be strengthening us on the inside and propelling us forward.  That’s how we fulfill our destiny in Christ.

But as we continue our study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we see that there’s another driving force that could be detrimental to our spiritual walk.

Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Galatians 5:26

The word translated as conceited in this verse means that someone is after vain or empty glory.  To understand this we must first understand what glory is.  We use that word a lot, especially about God.  In spite of that, most Christians don’t really know what it means.

Glory is the amount of weight that you assign to someone’s opinion.  To give God glory means that we place what He says higher than anyone else’s word.  That means that what God says about me is more important than the word of the doctors, reporters, financial advisors, or even the voice of my past.

But this verse is talking about empty glory.  That means that I place my opinion higher than anyone else’s.  The reason it’s empty is that it’s usually based on what I perceive as my high level of spiritual performance.

Empty glory is all about me.  It’s how great I’m doing and I want you to know about it.  I want you to acknowledge that I’m more spiritual than you.  This kind of thinking is empty because my walk with God has nothing to do with my abilities and everything to do with the power of the Holy Spirit.

According to Paul, there are two factors involved in this empty glory.  The first is that we provoke each other.  That literally means to call someone out or to challenge them.

I’ve seen this even in ministry circles.  When I was a new pastor it used to annoy me, but now I’m just amused by it.  With some ministers, the first thing they ask when they initially meet you is, “What seminary did you graduate from?”

Then, based upon your answer, they decide how much value they’ll place upon your beliefs.  It has nothing to do with the anointing of God on your life or ministry.  (For the record – I haven’t completed seminary yet.  I’ll let you assign a value to my opinions based on my posts.)

Of course, this happens with church people as well.

“How many chapters a day do you read?  I read through the whole Bible every year.”

“How many hours a day do you spend in prayer?  I get up at 4 AM every morning to seek God.”

We call people out so that we can brag about our great spiritual accomplishments.  Fortunately, the move of the Holy Spirit in our lives isn’t based upon how many chapters a day that we read, or what time we wake up.

The second part of empty glory is envy or jealousy.  This is also used so we can feel better about ourselves.

It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.
Philippians 1:15

There are those who witness for Christ out of rivalry.  It’s like they’re placing another notch on their spiritual gun when they lead someone to Christ.  Then they try to make you feel bad because you don’t witness to others the way they do.

Of course, even Paul had to concede that preaching Christ is a good thing, no matter the motive.  (Philippians 1:18)  But if it’s more about how great I am than it is about Christ, that’s what makes it vain and hollow.

Watch your attitudes and let the Holy Spirit be the driving force in your life and ministry.

Question: How can you be a better encouragement to others in the body of Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2017 in Legalism, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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