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Disciples and Fasting

As we continue to look at the ministry of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, one thing we have to realize is that the Lord lived under the Old Covenant.  So there were times He had to make it clear that something new was coming.

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting.  Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
Mark 2:18

That was an interesting question for the Lord.  It’s clear from Scripture that Jesus fasted.  In Jesus’ ministry, He taught what to do “when you fast.”  Jesus assumed that fasting would be a normal part of our lives.  Why didn’t He make His disciples practice this discipline?

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?  They cannot, so long as they have him with them.  But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.”
Mark 2:19-20

The Lord was basically telling them that fasting would change from Old Testament to New Testament.  He wanted them to start the New Covenant fast after the resurrection.

Under the Old Covenant, fasting was a way to humble yourself in repentance.  Now, in Christ, we fast in order to put down the flesh so that we can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit more clearly.  For a more detailed teaching on this subject…click here.

At this point, Jesus gives a description of the differences in parable form.  Those listening to His explanation probably didn’t understand what the Lord was talking about, but looking back, we can.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment.  If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.”
Mark 2:21

The first thing He talks about is the outside – a garment.  In the ancient world, the way to repair your clothing was to take an old piece of cloth and use it to patch an old garment.

Under the Old Covenant, fasting was only a patch.  It was all about doing something to get God to listen to me.  I needed to patch things up.  So I humbled myself by fasting, wearing sackcloth, and covering my head with ashes.  I had to show how sorrowful I was for my sin.

There were times that people fasted just for show.  They wanted to look “holy”.  That’s when God would say things like, “Will I listen to you if you fast like that?”

According to Jesus, we don’t fast like the Pharisees or other Old Testament people.  Much of what they did was to impress people with their outward displays of religion.

If I try to patch things up with God under the New Covenant, I only make things worse.  It’s all about me being able to hear God’s voice clearly.

How, then, do I get God to hear me?  The truth is that I don’t.  In Christ, we have 24/7 access to the throne room of God.  There’s no condemnation; we can enter boldly into His presence.

Now, under grace, we’re a new garment and don’t need a patch.  But a new garment (back then) would always shrink with use.  Fasting under the New Covenant shrinks the outer garment.

That’s what we look for – the flesh to decrease.  As I fast, the voice of my flesh gets quieter.  So fasting forcefully puts down the flesh.

This is because under the New Covenant it’s about me hearing from God.  God hears me in Christ.  But I need to hear Him with my spirit when He speaks.

I don’t think it’s as much God not speaking, as me not listening.  Fasting helps drown out the noise of my flesh.  That’s why I believe that fasting should be a regular part of a Christian’s life.

Questions:  Do you fast?  How often?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2017 in Fasting, Spiritual Walk

 

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Pride – Know the Symptoms

Are you walking in pride? Do you know what to look for? Many are self-deceived and don’t even know they’re headed for problems in this area.

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6

By understanding pride, we can make sure that we haven’t put ourselves in a position of opposing God. That’s a no-win situation. We need to steer clear of that trap.

Scripture records some events that surrounded Christ’s birth. The following principals are gleaned from Luke’s Gospel and the birth announcements of both John the Baptist and Jesus. These are found in Luke 1:5-38. You may want to read this passage before continuing with this article.

By comparing the responses of Zechariah and Mary, we can see how to recognize pride. It’s clear in Luke’s Gospel that Zechariah was rebuked, while Mary was commended. How you answer the following questions will show your spiritual attitude in relation to pride.

Are you walking in fear? Right from the start, Zechariah was terrified, while Mary was troubled. Even though it may sound the same on the surface, there’s a world of difference.

The word troubled literally means to be mixed up or uncomfortable. This is a normal reaction to a spiritual encounter.

When new opportunities arise to serve God, there’s always a level of discomfort and uncertainty. On the other hand, if the thought of doing something new for Christ is terrifying to you, that’s a sign that pride is at work in your life.

Do you need proof of the outcome before you do something for God? Zechariah’s first question was, “How can I be sure of this?” Mary simply asked for a clarification of how it would happen. When given a new assignment from the Lord, do you insist that you know how it will turn out BEFORE you act on it?

Praying for wisdom and direction to complete your service to Christ is the right way to go. Needing proof that it will turn out the way you want it to, is a sign of pride in your heart.

Do you see your title as important to God? Two different people stood before the angel Gabriel – God’s designated messenger. Mary’s response was, “I am the Lord’s servant.” That’s the best way of viewing ourselves. What God wants accomplished in me is my priority.

Zechariah’s response was a little different. Many translations quote him as saying, “I’m an old man.” What he actually said, in the original Greek, was, “I am an elder”.

It was as if he was somehow superior and needed the assurance that his position would not be compromised by this announcement. After all, he had a reputation to maintain.

If you can’t do what the Lord wants because it’s “beneath you” – that’s a symptom that pride has taken over. You have to realize that if God doesn’t do what He says He’ll do, He has more to lose than you do.

Don’t let pride mess up your walk with the Lord. If you find these symptoms in your life, then simply repent and move on in the grace of God.

Question: How have you found yourself wrestling with pride?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Money and Humility

Fake MoneyThey say that the grass is always greener in the next yard. But is that the truth? What should our attitude be towards wealth?

If we want to do our best work for the Lord, then we need to deal with the issue of money. In our society you can’t function real well without it. So, we need to understand the Scriptural view. James had something to say about it.

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.
James 1:9-10

The first thing that we understand from this verse is that James is not saying that we all need to be poor. He doesn’t contrast poor vs. rich, which references how much money you have. Instead, he’s dealing with humble vs. rich, which tells me that he’s talking about our attitudes.

I believe that God wants to provide abundantly for His children. But what I’ve learned is that He works with us individually. What I mean is this; abundant provision in the United States will look differently than abundance in Indonesia. Yet, in both places, the Lord blesses His people in order for them to be a blessing to others.

The problem is not about how much money you have, it’s your attitude towards it that makes the difference. I’ve seen people who have no real money – everything they own is on credit. Yet they act arrogantly as if they own the world and are better than everyone else.

I’ve also seen people who don’t have a lot, but they’re constantly blessing others. As a result, God is always continuing to provide for them.

We need to learn the lesson of attitudes. It’s never about how much money you have. There needs to be a walk of humility.

But what is humility? Some think that it means you have to see yourself as a nobody. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

At one point Paul told Titus to show true humility toward all men (Titus 3:2). The fact is that true humility is always directed at others and never at us. It’s how I need to view those around me.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3

Humility never puts itself down. Instead, it lifts others up. Okay, but what does that have to do with money?

If you think that your money makes you great and important, then you need an attitude adjustment. Money is a tool that we use to provide for our needs and to bless others. Having it doesn’t make you any better than you were without it.

James makes it clear in his next statement.

For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.
James 1:11

One way or another we’re going to learn that the external is not what life’s all about. Either you develop the spiritual strengths that bring a mature walk or you find out that the material things you’re relying on are never enough.

If you put your hope in a big bank account, then it will fail you. Your willingness to trust God and bless others is what will see you through the challenges of life.

Question: How have you experienced that trusting God is better than a big bank account?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2017 in Faith, God's Provision, Spiritual Walk

 

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Abel – Acceptable Offerings

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs I look at Cain and his unacceptable offering, it’s not really complete unless we understand why Abel’s offering was accepted. After all, why would Cain kill Abel if he was really mad at God?

The truth is that there’s an offering that’s acceptable to God. The question is; what makes it acceptable?

But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering…
Genesis 4:4

Some say that God accepted Abel because he brought a blood offering, but that’s not the real reason. We must also remember that God called for many offering of firstfruits from the Israelites. So there’s no law that says God only accepts blood offerings.

You need to understand the times that Cain and Able lived in to see the issue. In talking about Abel’s birth, the Bible says…

Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.
Genesis 4:2

Why was Abel a shepherd of flocks? I ask that because God did not give mankind permission to eat meat until after the flood.

When Adam and Eve sinned and were removed from the garden, God did something interesting.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
Genesis 3:21

In order to cover their sin and nakedness, God slaughtered an innocent animal before them. He showed them the way to sacrifice a sin offering.

Abel was the shepherd of the flock. That means that Abel was the priest designated by God to offer sacrifices and offerings. Even the Lord Jesus referred to Abel as the first prophet (Luke 11:50-51).

Because Abel was God’s chosen priest, he was the only one who could offer sacrifices before God acceptably. Protocol dictated that Cain bring his offering to Abel in order for God to accept it.

Remember in my last post we saw that God told Cain, “If you do what is right, you will be accepted.” It wasn’t what Cain offered that was wrong; it was how he offered it.

This was going to require humility on Cain’s part. That’s always the catch, even for us. We offer a lot of things to God – Worship, praise, tithes, offerings, prayers, etc. In all of this we must humble ourselves before God.

I must realize that what I give isn’t acceptable simply because I’m bringing it. I’m only accepted because I’m in Christ. He’s our great High Priest.

We can’t boast in what we offer. It’s not about us. It’s about the One who makes us acceptable to God.

Question: How do you show your humility before God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2016 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk, Worship

 

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America at the Crossroads

FlagcrossToday is Memorial Day. It’s a day to remember the sacrifices that so many men and women have made so that we can live in freedom. It’s sad to see how far we’ve fallen from the original plan of the founding fathers.

How did this happen? First of all, we have to understand that God treats nations differently than He deals with individuals.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.
Psalm 33:12

God will bless a nation that follows His ways.

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.
Proverbs 14:34

To the extent that America followed God’s ways – we were blessed and exalted. We saw the abundance of God, and then thanked Him for it. Our people had wisdom to create wealth, inventions, and many other great achievements.

But there came a time when we started to leave the path.

Does he who disciplines nations not punish? Does he who teaches man lack knowledge?
Psalm 94:10

The truth is that God disciplines nations. Of course, this requires understanding God’s ways. The world is the Lord’s, and all of the land that exists is His. Nations, themselves, cannot be saved or unsaved. As such, nations are under law, not grace.

We know from Scripture that the power of sin is the law (I Cor. 15:56). That means that the enemy’s kingdom is powered by the law.

This principle was the basis of the law given to Moses.

…for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.
Leviticus 18:27-28

In effect, the law gives the devil permission to attack a nation that defiles God’s land. It’s not God cursing a nation. It’s a nation cursing itself by inviting the enemies’ attack.

How is the land polluted? A few things listed in the Bible are: Bloodshed (Numbers 35:33-34); Corruption (Ezra 9:11); Sexual Sin (Leviticus 18:25); Prostitution (Jeremiah 3:2); and Idolatry (Jeremiah 16:18). The devil has permission to attack polluted lands.

It grieves me to admit that America is a defiled land. I’m sorry for sounding so down about the USA. The truth is that there’s nowhere else on earth that I’d rather live. I love this nation. But without a proper diagnosis, there can be no healing.

There is a remedy for the problems we face in our culture.

…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

I have heard this verse emphasized in America since the sixties. But rather than humble themselves, pray, seek, & turn – God’s people have either protested the moral landslide or joined right in with them.

It’s time for us to take God’s holy prescription for this nation. It’s time for the church to remember where we came from, and fervently seek revival.

Question: What would a national revival of the church look like?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Prayer, Revival

 

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The Revival Forgiveness Connection

Heart CellAmerica needs a spiritual revival.  That’s beyond question.  I believe that it’s coming.  But we as God’s people need to prepare ourselves for it.  I want to take a few posts to deal with an issue that I think is important for us to understand in this generation.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

The outcome of this verse is to forgive their sin and heal their land.  Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that these two concepts are linked with each other.  If we want to be positioned for revival, then we must grasp how the forgiveness of God figures into it.  In this post I want to talk about some principles of forgiveness.

Forgiveness was God’s idea.  Human beings would have never come up with this concept.  It was God who first approached us and told us that forgiveness was possible.  Only after seeing His example, could we try and forgive others in the same way He forgave us.

True forgiveness is freedom.  When we sin against God or another person, we place ourselves under the curse of divine judgment.  My sin has a penalty that must be paid.

We have watered down the scope of forgiveness.  Forgiveness ends the demand for the penalty.  Then it goes even further and frees us from the payment of that penalty.  Then, because of what Christ did on the cross, that sin is totally and permanently removed from my record!  Now that’s freedom!

Forgiveness is a process.  There’s a definite flow of events in order for forgiveness to take place.  First there is the sin that brings the need for forgiveness.  Then, forgiveness itself must be purchased.  In our case God purchased it by the precious blood of Christ.

The next steps are on my part.  First, I have to humble myself, admit what I have done, and turn from my sin.  That’s what true repentance it.

Next, I have to receive the forgiveness that was purchased for me.  This is probably the most overlooked step of the whole process.  Only when all of these things are accomplished can I step into the freedom of forgiveness.

There’s a link between revival and forgiveness.  Sometimes we miss the blessing because we don’t see the big picture.  America is in need of a great change.  We need revival.

We think the problem is that when we tell others about Christ, they don’t want to listen.  We need to see the scope of revival.  In the verse above we’re told that it comes when God’s people pray.

Revival comes when the church humbles itself.  Literally this Scripture says we need to search out, seek, and strive after the presence of God.  Only then will forgiveness and revival break out.

In the next posts I’ll deal with how and why forgiveness and revival work together.

Question: How often do you specifically pray for revival in our nation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2013 in Prayer, Revival

 

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When Fasting Changed #spiritualfast

Fine DiningI’m taking a few posts to talk about fasting.  I believe that fasting is one of the most neglected sources of spiritual power in the Christian walk.

In my last post I said that the New Testament fast is totally different than that of the old.  I base this upon the words of Jesus Himself when He was questioned about fasting by the disciples of John the Baptist.

Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”
Matthew 9:14-15

When asked why He didn’t make His disciples fast, Jesus replied that they were not going to mourn while He was here with them.  The Old Testament fast was a humbling process before God for the forgiveness of sin.  Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was the fulfillment of this.  Humiliation for sin was finished – God’s provision had arrived.

The Lord then goes on to talk about the “new patch” and the “new wineskins” in the next verses (v16-17).  Most Christians have no idea that Jesus was talking about fasting when He gave these illustrations.

It’s obvious to me that the Lord didn’t want the disciples to get confused.  This would have happened if He made them fast according to Old Testament tradition, and then later on tried to teach them the New Covenant fast.  He must have felt it was better to start them off correctly right from the beginning.

That’s also why I don’t spend a lot of time looking at the Old Testament fast.  Under the law, fasting was a whole different thing than in the New Testament church.  Unfortunately, many Christians have no idea what the fast is all about now.  It’s my prayer that you will by the end of this series.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Matthew 6:16-18

The first thing we see here is that Jesus said, “When you fast…”  Preachers are always quick to point out to their people that Jesus said, “When you pray…” They explain that it means Jesus expects prayer to be a regular part of the Christian walk.  They do the same thing with “When you give…”  What happened to fasting?

It seems to me that the Lord wants fasting to be just as much a part of our lives.  Many of us ignore it and think our walk with God will not suffer for it.  Jesus assumed that fasting was to be a regular part of the Christian walk.  I believe that most of us don’t understand it, and that’s why it is not practiced.

Question: How important is fasting in your walk with God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2013 in Fasting, Spirit of Excellence

 

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Excellence Restored #restoration

GrapesThe LORD will grant you abundant prosperity – in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground – in the land he swore to your forefathers to give you.
The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands.  You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.  The LORD will make you the head, not the tail.  If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.
Deuteronomy 28:11-13

Israel was called by God to walk in excellence.  To live at that level requires above average resources.  Scripture is clear that along with the calling we can expect the supernatural equipping of God.  He never calls you to a work and then leaves you to use your own strength and ability.

God wants you to have excellence in ministry.  He wants you to have all that you need to fulfill that ministry.  God has never been the God of “just enough.”

Some may say, “It’s too late for me.  I’ve wasted too many years in mediocrity to be able to walk in excellence now.”

To you I say, “Let God be God.”  You take care of your part, and He’ll take care of His.  The above verse was written to Israel so they would know God’s perfect will for their nation, which was that they might walk in excellence.

There was a problem, however.  In the next chapters, Moses went on to prophesy through the Spirit that they would fall away from their divine calling and lose the abundance of excellence.  He then goes further into the future showing them that eventually they would repent and return to the way God had chosen for them to walk.

The next verse explains what God said His reaction would be when they once again returned to a walk of excellence.

Then the LORD your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land.  The LORD will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your fathers.
Deuteronomy 30:9

Praise God for the once again in the Lord.  All God is looking for is someone to humble themselves before Him. This will require the person to admit his or her mistakes, repent, and turn back to the right path.

He wants the fruit of your hands to flow with excellent prosperity.  You need to be listening for His voice and watching for His leading.  If you find that you’ve blown it, then be quick to admit it, repent, and move on.

Question: How has God equipped you for your calling?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
 

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The Glory of the Dawn

Job 38:12-15
“Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?  The earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features stand out like those of a garment.  The wicked are denied their light, and their upraised arm is broken.”

Sunrise is a very special time of day.  It is then that the dark, gray, formless world suddenly bursts with color, shape, and sound.  I consider it a privilege to be able to wake up with the dawn.  Just to see the blazing colors of the rising sun, to smell the earthy fragrance of the fresh morning dew, and to hear the chatter of the forest creatures as they begin their work in the new day is an experience that cannot be duplicated anywhere else.

This should humble us as human beings.  Just to think that this ritual of nature has been repeating itself since creation, and yet we have absolutely no control over it.  The rising and the setting of the sun was set by God ages ago and is far outside the realm of our power and authority.

Don’t miss the opportunity to thank God for this new day. Each one is a blessing from Him.  It is a gift from His hand, and we never know what it will bring until we walk it out.  Start each new day with adoration, praise, and thanksgiving to the Lord.  In that way you will have established it on a firm foundation.  What you do at this critical time will set the direction and atmosphere for the rest of your day.  Make good use of each one.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Daily Thoughts

 

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