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Servants First

What do you think is the best path to leadership in the kingdom of God?  There was a principle of leadership that Jesus had to get across to His disciples.  After all, they were going to be leading the church after His ascension.

They left that place and passed through Galilee.  Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples.  He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.  They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”  But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
Mark 9:30-32

As Jesus approaches the time of the cross, He spends more alone time with His disciples.  He needs to prepare them for the challenges ahead.  Part of this was to instruct them about the cross.  He was going to suffer, die, and then rise from the dead three days later.

The disciples just couldn’t grasp what the Lord was trying to get across to them.  But now, after Peter’s rebuke, they were afraid to ask the Lord to explain it.

As they walked along, the disciples started to debate something among themselves.  I’m sure that it got pretty heated.

They came to Capernaum.  When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?”  But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Mark 9:33-34

This argument probably started with, “What if Jesus were to die?  Who would be in charge of this group?”  I’m sure that Peter, James, and John all thought that they were eminently qualified.  That is until Jesus shared His views with them.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Mark 9:35

The Lord explains that the true path to leadership is through servanthood.  That’s something that we have a hard time grasping in the church these days.

Jesus is our prime example.  The disciples were arguing over who was greatest, right after Jesus told them His plan.  He became Lord of all creation.  But the path He took involved laying down His life – serving – all of humanity.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:5-8

I think that it’s funny the way we get into leadership in our generation.  If someone wants to be a pastor or teacher, they go to a Bible college for years.  Then they graduate and send their resumes to churches.  A lot of them will get voted in and installed as pastors having never served in ministry.

I think that’s why there’s such a high burn-out rate in the ministry.  We haven’t learned that the path to knowing your calling is service in the kingdom.  Without being a true servant, there’s no way of understanding the needs of those you’re leading.

That was the path that Christ took.  It hasn’t changed.  The Father is looking for qualified servants to lead His people.  Don’t ever look down on that season of your life.  Enjoy your call to servanthood.

Question: How are you called to serve in God’s kingdom?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on April 18, 2018 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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The Importance of the Unseen

Over the last few posts, we can see that the disciples following Jesus seemed to be pretty slow in their trust of the Lord.  They have a hard time applying what He did in the past, to their present challenges.  Of course, that’s our problem sometimes as well.

I’ve found that the questions Jesus asks are just as important as His teachings.  It draws out what’s really going on inside of us.  He wants to activate the faith that may be lying dormant within us.

For this reason, He asks the disciples some questions.

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi.  On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
Mark 8:27-28

This is an interesting conversation between the Lord and His followers.  Jesus asks them who the crowds think He is.  In reading the original Greek, it sounds like their initial answer is, “John the Baptist.”  Then they added that some say Elijah or another lesser known prophet.

That’s funny when you think about it because Jesus was baptized by John.  They were seen together on a few occasions.

This actually shows us how society works.  When someone becomes famous, and people start to recognize their name, it’s as if they had never existed before that moment.

When Jesus was baptized by John, He probably stood in line like everyone else.  Even though John recognized who the Lord was, to the casual observer, Jesus was simply one of many being baptized that day.

They didn’t see Jesus studying and meditating on the Scripture for His first 30 years.  They didn’t see the hours of fasting and prayer over His future ministry to Israel.  They never knew about the 40 days He spent in the wilderness being tested.

The foundation of the house is the most important part, yet it’s the part rarely seen in the completed structure.  That’s why there can be no shortcuts in the preparation seasons of our ministry.  It’s frustrating to realize it, but most will never know the hard work that went into what people eventually see in public.

The disciples knew the reality.

“But what about you?” he asked.  “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
Mark 8:29-30

They were finally able to voice what they had been thinking inside.  It was no longer a question; could this be the Messiah?  Now it was a definitive statement.

We need to follow the example of Christ.  Are you believing for God to accomplish something extraordinary through you?  Then don’t look for the shortcuts.

Don’t become so frustrated that you drop out during your season of preparation.  Continue to do what you know to do.  Allow the Lord to bring you to the place you need to be in Him.  Then, at the appointed time, you’ll see the manifestation of God’s Word to you.

Question: What are you believing God to bring about in your life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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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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Sheep Without Shepherds

In my last post, we saw Jesus going off to a solitary place with His disciples.  They were in need of some rest after a particularly stressful time.  After they were leaving, some people discovered where the Lord and His team were going to.

But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  So he began teaching them many things.
Mark 6:33-34

Jesus and His disciples wanted a break from ministry.  Apparently, a few hours sailing on the lake was enough to lift their energy levels.  When He saw the crowds, Jesus was ready and willing to bring them God’s Word.

What impresses me the most is that it wasn’t out of obligation.  He didn’t minister because He was the Messiah and that was His job.  There was an inner pressure that was initiated by His compassion for the crowds.

It’s important to note how the Lord viewed these people.  He saw them like sheep without a shepherd.  That’s important.  They had shepherds assigned to them in the synagogues.  But for all intents and purposes, it was as if they had none.

That got me thinking about our generation.  As I look out across Western Christianity, I see the same problem.

Yes, we have people that we refer to as pastors (shepherds), and I’m one of them.  But I’ve been noticing a trend that gives me a cause for concern.  In our society, many believers are like sheep without a shepherd.

What do I mean by that?  Right now there’s an attitude in the body of Christ that we don’t need or want shepherds.  We want teachers who will tell us about living for God.  What we don’t want is a shepherd who will lead us in the right paths – and warn us not to take the wrong paths.

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
2 Timothy 4:3

The Apostle Paul saw it on the horizon.  He spoke about it to a young shepherd named Timothy.  We’re living in the fulfillment of this.  We want to surround ourselves with teachers, not shepherds.

When somebody teaches, I become the judge.  I decide whether or not to apply what I hear.  After all, no one’s going to tell me what I have to do.  God loves me, no matter how I decide to live my life.

The truth is that God does love you.  You may even be on your way to heaven.  But is that really what your life is all about?

We’re called to be the light of Christ in this dark world.  We’re the ones with the message of hope and salvation to those who are lost and dying.  When we live for ourselves, we miss the whole point of why the Lord placed His Holy Spirit in us.

When we live as sheep without a shepherd, then we’re on dangerous ground.  The enemy is able to pick us off, one by one.  That’s why so many Christians have the same problems as the world.  We should be living at a level that’s so much higher.

Make it your goal to place yourself under a God-assigned shepherd who will speak God’s word into your life.

Question: How has following a God-given shepherd protected you from an attack of the enemy?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Time Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question: What do you do for extended relaxation?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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

 

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Preparation is Everything

When you think about the ministry of Jesus, what’s the picture you get in your mind?  Do you think that He simply wandered around Israel with no objectives, preaching as He walked along?  As we continue to study the Gospel of Mark, we’ll start to see the logistics involved in the Lord’s ministry.

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.  Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.
Mark 6:6b-7

Jesus’ work in Israel is starting to grow.  Larger crowds are coming to hear Him speak.  At the same time, the number of disciples is increasing.  At this point, the Lord probably has about 20 people in His group all traveling with Him.

We sometimes get the idea that life was somehow easier in the ancient world.  In actuality, they had some of the same challenges that we have in our modern society.

It’s always easier when one or two people are traveling together.  Food and lodging aren’t too tough to find along the way.

But now Jesus is moving around with a group of twenty.  Think about it.  That’s not something that could just be done without any prior preparation.

After all, there were no restaurant chains along the highway.  There were no big name hotels with 800 numbers to book in advance.  They had no arenas that could schedule a huge event with advanced ticket sales.

Jesus needed some of His disciples to do the advance work in the cities He was heading to.  They needed to let the towns know that the lord was on His way there.  Then they had to report back as to where they would sleep, get food, and what would be the best place to preach when they arrive.

Later on in His ministry, as the team grew to over a hundred, Christ had 72 workers who did this job.  (Luke 10:1)  Jesus never had the attitude of, “We’ll just figure it out when we get there.”  It’s sad that many churches and ministries have no vision other than to hold meetings, and then just see what happens.

The Lord never took that approach.  He even instructed the disciples as to how they were to accomplish their objectives.

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff — no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.  Wear sandals but not an extra tunic.  Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.  And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”
Mark 6:8-11

Contrary to what some teach, this is not Jesus laying the groundwork for a poverty mentality among His ministers.  This was the vetting process for the towns Jesus was about to pass through on His intended course of travel.

By taking nothing with them, they were testing whether or not a town was ready for the full ministry of the Messiah.  If they were not willing to supply the needs of two lone travelers representing Christ, then they weren’t worthy of the tremendous blessing that would be given to their town when Jesus arrived.

That’s why it’s important to pray, seek God’s direction, and make plans for how your ministry will progress.  It doesn’t just happen by accident.  You have to put some legs on the dreams and visions God has placed in your heart.

Question: What’s the next step you have to do to prepare for what God has in your future?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2018 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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