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Focused on the Cross

In today’s post, I’ll continue looking at the Gospel of Mark.  A few weeks ago we left off as Christ was on trial.  Now He’s brought before Pontius Pilate for the Roman decision on His case..  You may want to read Mark 15:1-20 before proceeding with this post.

As we saw when Jesus was before the elders of Israel, He was not led by the Holy Spirit to answer the charges being brought against Him.  They were brought by false witnesses who didn’t even agree with each other.

These leaders decided that the Lord was worthy of death.  Actually, they simply wanted Him dead whether He was worthy of it or not.  So they bring Jesus before Pilate, who was the only person who could legally pronounce a death penalty.

Of all the things the Pharisees accused Jesus of; one, in particular, caught Pilate’s attention.

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
Mark 15:2

The Lord was willing to testify concerning the truth about who He was.  But why didn’t He elaborate?  I would have probably gone on to say, “Not only am I the king of the Jews but Lord of Heaven and earth as well.  I am the Creator of the universe. “

Of course, that’s the human reaction.  We have to remember; the Lord’s goal was not to be worshipped but to die on the cross for the sins of the world.  In that respect, He simply answered the question as it had been asked.

The rest of the accusations were of no consequence to Him.

The chief priests accused him of many things.  So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer?  See how many things they are accusing you of.”
But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
Mark 15:3-5

Pilate was not used to this.  Usually, a person in Jesus’ position would be vigorously claiming their innocence.  The Lord saw no need for it.  And neither did Pilate, as he later testified when the crowd was crying for crucifixion.

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Mark 15:14

I praise God that Jesus was single-minded in His determination to complete the work set before Him.  At many points, the Lord could have done something or said something that would have secured His release.  But His focus was unbreakable.  His mind was fixed upon winning our salvation.

We need the Holy Spirit to work that same attitude in us.  Too often we get distracted by side issues.  We feel the need to justify ourselves or to prove our right to do what we want.

We need to be seeking the Father for His will for our lives.  Then, with the strength of the Spirit, we move forward with unstoppable passion.  This should be our prayer for the church in our generation.

Question: Why are the distractions so tempting to us?

© Nick Zaccardi 2018

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Posted by on September 3, 2018 in Encouragement, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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Is a Clean Heart Enough?

We’re continuing our look at Mark’s Gospel.  Specifically, the last week before the cross.  Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Passover feast.

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there.  He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.
Mark 11:15-16

Obviously, Jesus was upset by what He saw going on in the Temple.  The courts were like a city marketplace.

The Law of Moses said that if you lived far away from Jerusalem, you could sell your offering animals at home.  Then, when you journey to Jerusalem for the feast, you could use that money to buy the animals on site.  God was making it easier for the Israelites to serve Him.

Then man gets involved.  The priests determined that you can’t use regular money to buy animals for sacrifice.  You have to use special Temple coins – hence the money changers.  But they sold these coins at a premium.

So if you wanted to give your full offering of animals for the sacrifice, it would cost you double what they were worth.  That’s the thievery that Jesus was talking about.  The Temple had become a place where greed and self-interest was the driving force.

Jesus showed the passion He had for the true worship of God.  There was no place for these attitudes in the courts of the Lord.  He tried to teach them the lessons that they should have already known.

And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?  But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”
Mark 11:17

It’s sad that many religious Christians only apply this by saying that they’ll never have a flea market or fair on church property.  That’s not the point.

In spite of our religious language, local churches are no longer God’s house.  We, as God’s people, are now the temple of the living God.  The question isn’t, “What are we allowing on church property?”  It’s about what I’m allowing into my life.

Please understand that my heart – the sanctuary – may be clean.  But what about the outer courts?  That’s what my body is involved in.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalms 100:4

The courts are where you prepare to worship.  It’s the outer part of our lives that we let the thieves do their work.

Sometimes we get so distracted by too many things in our schedule.  Then we have no time for worship.  We miss out on the blessings of fellowship with the Father.

Thanksgiving and praise are things that I have to make my flesh do.  I have to actually make the time for these pursuits.  Once I’ve entered into the place of praise, the courts, then I’m ready to pour my heart out to God.

Christ is passionate about you becoming a “house of prayer.”  Don’t let it get to the point where your “distracting tables” need to be overturned.   Spend the time needed in thanksgiving and praise so that you’re truly prepared to enter His presence with no distractions.

You’ll be glad that you did.

Question: How do outward distractions affect your inner peace with God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2018 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk, Worship

 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Patience

The next stop in our study of the Fruit of the Spirit is patience.  As with the other fruit, I need to explain how God looks at this characteristic.  Contrary to what society thinks, it’s not merely the ability to stand in a long check-out line without complaining.

I think that part of the reason we have a mistaken view of patience is that the KJV translated the word as long-suffering.  We get the idea, from that word, that patience requires us to suffer for a long time.  I’ve got good news for you.  There’s no suffering involved in the original Greek word.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
Hebrews 6:12

The actual Greek word in Scripture is a compound word.  It means long passioned.  According to this verse, faith and patience go hand in hand.  There’s a reason for that.

When we hear from the Lord and His Word, faith is birthed in us.  We then start to pursue what we’re trusting God for.  Then something happens.  Day follows day, and week follows week.

As time goes on we sometimes lose sight of God’s promise.  That’s when we need patience – the long passioned work of the spirit.  I have to have the same passion about what I heard from God weeks, or even years after I initially heard it.

That’s what the fruit of patience is all about.  I like the way James described it in his book.

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.  See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.
James 5:7

James uses the example of a farmer waiting for his crops to appear.  He’s not just waiting in line for his turn at life.

He prepared the ground and planted the seed.  He continued to work by weeding and fertilizing the field.  He did all that was required of him, and now he’s patiently waiting for God’s part to be accomplished.

That’s the key to understanding God’s view of patience.  The fruit of patience must always be based upon God’s Word.  There’s an outcome that I’m trusting God for.  So I want the Holy Spirit to cultivate a passion in me that won’t fade away over time.

This is the kind of patience that’s a part of God’s character.  We can see this through Paul’s testimony of how the Lord worked in his life – bringing him to a knowledge of Christ.

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
1 Timothy 1:16

The fruit of patience in us is a manifestation of God’s patience at work.  Christ didn’t just wait idly for Paul to become a Christian.  The Lord saw the outcome before it was ever manifested.

That’s the patience I want the Holy Spirit to grow in my life.  I want to see the outcome of my faith with the eyes of my spirit.  Then it will produce a passion that doesn’t fade away over time.

Spend time in the spirit.  Allow Him to work His patience in you.  Then you can be long-passioned toward your destiny in Christ.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s patience operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Temple or Marketplace?

Fake MoneyThere were a number of things that Jesus was passionate about in His ministry. Do we have a passion for those same things? Or do we spend our energy on things that aren’t important?

At the start of Jesus’ ministry He went to Jerusalem for the Passover. He had an interesting encounter with some men in the Temple area.

In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
John 2:14-16

I’ve heard some pretty animated discussions about this passage. People use it to teach about the evils of having a church fair or flea market. I’ve heard others say it’s a sin to have a church bookstore.

Through all of this I think that they’re missing the whole point of what Jesus is saying. We need to understand what was really going on. It was all about greed on the part of the priests.

There were some provisions in the law to make it easier for the people to tithe. If I lived far away from Jerusalem, I could sell the sheep I was bringing for a tithe. Then I travel to Jerusalem with the money, and buy more sheep when I get there. In that way it was less of a burden on the people.

Unfortunately, religion changed all that. The priests made a rule that you could only buy specially inspected animals at the Temple for an inflated price.

On top of that, you could only use specially minted Temple coins to buy these animals. These coins were purchased from the money-changers at a high rate of exchange.

The result was – if I started at home with 100 sheep as a tithe; by the time I was through with this process I might only be able to afford 50 to offer at the Temple. So the priests and salespeople were getting rich while the people and God were being robbed. Jesus was reacting to the thievery that He was witnessing.

But the real question is; how does this apply to us? In the above Scripture Jesus said to take this stuff out of the Temple area. More importantly, My Father’s house is not an emporium.

So, religious people get hung up about church flea markets or fairs. First of all – a church building is not my Father’s house. Right now – I am my Father’s house and you are too. We are the dwelling place of God’s Spirit.

The bottom line for them – and us – is greed. It’s about what your house is based upon. Are you an emporium – a marketplace? Is your life revolving around stuff?

Are you truly the house of God – a place of worship? Can people see by your life that your whole being is devoted to the worship of the Lord? Do all the parts of your life revolve around Him?

Everything starts with an attitude – what’s ours?

His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
John 2:17

Do you hear what the Holy Spirit spoke to the Apostles about this matter? Zeal for YOUR HOUSE will CONSUME ME. Our zeal to be a place of worship should consume all that we are. Think about that in relation to our lives.

John the Baptist said, “I must decrease – He must increase.” This should be the attitude of all believers. I am not all about the temporary, material things of this world. I must maintain the integrity of the living temple where God reigns supreme.

Question: What are some things you do to keep your Temple a place of worship?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2016 in Legalism, Ministry, Revival, Worship

 

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The Battle Zone and Passion

JetsI’m posting about the spiritual battle that we face in our generation. In my last article I talked about the need to be diligent and press in past our comfort zone.

The New Testament speaks a lot about prayer. That’s what we really need to be strong toward. That’s what the enemy would like to stop. That’s where our victory comes from.

In talking about Moses, the writer of Hebrews said…

By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.
Hebrews 11:27

This is an important verse for us to understand in our times. Moses SAW Him who is INVISIBLE. It sounds like an oxymoron. Of course many things in the spirit don’t make sense in the natural.

The fact of the matter is that Moses pressed in. It wasn’t easy to get the children of Israel out of Egypt. He kept running into unseen hurdles along the way.

In Moses’ original encounter with God, he was basically told to “Just do this. Go to Egypt and bring My people out.” It sounded simple at the time.

In order to accomplish his calling, Moses had to keep going back to the presence of the Lord. He stayed strong because, through prayer, he saw the end.

That brings us back to our original verse in Ephesians.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Ephesians 6:18

The phrase keep on praying literally means through all diligence and petition in the Greek language. I had a problem with this – reconciling petition and life in the battle zone. I understood the need to be alert and diligent, but how did petitioning fit into all this.

It turns out that my lack of understanding had to do with being raised in church. From what I learned, petition was a list of needs presented to God.

“O God – bless my work, heal this one, provide this money, etc.”

That’s what I thought it meant to bring a petition before God. Because of that, I couldn’t understand it as a part of warfare.

The Greek word in that verse is deesis. It means begging. Literally, it’s what a beggar would do. Over time the church had turned it into a “holy” word. Actually the root of this word is want, lack, need, desire, ask, or beg.

I began to pray and seek God’s wisdom as to what this means for us. I found that this word came from a root even further back. The root meant to bind, either by chains or duty. It spoke of someone who was duty bound.

That’s when it clicked. When a military person receives orders, they are bound by their duty to perform it or die trying.

Here is a company of men who are told to take that hill. They’re pinned down by enemy fire. But they have a duty to perform. What do they do?

Do they send off a list of things they need? NO! They get on their radio with a passionate call for air support. Their communication is specific, passionate, and urgent. As they make this call, they are ready to move immediately when it arrives.

Now I know the Scriptural truth. Petition is more about the passion than the list. This requires us to have the same heart as our Commander and Chief. It requires us to press in by the Holy Spirit.

Question: What are you passionate about in the Kingdom of God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2015 in Power of God, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Warfare

 

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One More Week

TimingI’ve been posting about the fact that the Holy Spirit in us is jealous over us. He’s passionate about His love for us. Ignoring or rejecting His attempts to work in us gives the Holy Spirit emotional pain.

We talk a lot about faith. Without it we can’t receive anything from God. If we truly trust God, then we’ll delight in His plan to renew our lives.

Rejecting the Lord’s instruction is the opposite of faith. We can see this in the example of Moses.

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
Hebrews 11:24-26

I’ve heard different people teach about this verse and I think we’ve missed the real point. The writer isn’t saying that sin only gives you pleasure for a short time. Actually, if you spend enough money, you can sustain the pleasure of a sinful lifestyle for quite a long time before it catches up with you.

This verse literally says that Moses chose not to enjoy the pleasures of sin for this little time only. In other words, he didn’t say to God, “Let me have one more month as a royal Egyptian before I follow your plan for my life.”

“Pharaoh’s birthday is in two months. That kind of celebration will never happen again. I’ll attend it, then after that I’ll identify with Israel.”

The trap is that it will never be the right time to live for God. It will never be the right time to listen to and obey the Holy Spirit in us.

Scripture says that Moses was looking ahead to the reward. Do I look ahead to the reward that the Holy Spirit is holding out to me? The choice is – do I want to go where the world is leading me to or where the Holy Spirit wants to take me?

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
Galatians 5:16-18

That’s why we need the Holy Spirit’s leading. If we submit to His process then there’s no need for the law. It’s when our heart sides with the flesh that the conflict starts. My spirit wants to submit to Christ and my flesh wants to chase after the world.

I need make the choice to follow the Spirit’s leading. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today – while the Holy Spirit is seeking my attention. Don’t ignore His gentle voice calling for your fellowship.

Question: Is there something in your life that’s been hindering you from fully submitting to the Holy Spirit’s leadership?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2015 in Faith, Prayer, Revival, The Church

 

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Reflecting God’s Glory #gloryofGod

Music SmokeAnd we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18

In this verse, Paul is referring to Moses.  When he was leading the children of Israel through the desert, they stopped for a while at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  Moses went up to meet with God.  As he spent time in the presence of God, he started to soak in some of the glory.  At one point, upon his return, the people couldn’t look at his face because it shone like the sun.

The glory of God was reflecting off his face.  Moses had to wear a veil until things were back to normal.  It’s interesting that way the Bible relates it.  It sounds like Moses wore the veil so that the Israelites wouldn’t see the glory fading.  His experience was great, but it didn’t last a long time.  He had an incredible encounter with God, but it eventually faded back to the way it was.

Understand this, the Lord has greater plans for us.  The Holy Spirit is working in us to make us like Christ.  Each day we are becoming more and more like Him, if we submit to His plan for our lives.  This is the glory of God in us.

This glory that God is clothing us with is different than that of Moses.  First of all, it doesn’t fade.  It’s a glory that’s always on the increase.  My prayer in the presence of the Lord is that throughout my life people will see more of Jesus and less of me.

This is a wonderful thought.  God is doing greater things in us than He did in Moses!  We sometimes look to the pages of Scripture and wish we were a part of what God did back then.  In reality, there’s no need to go back.  God is working just as powerfully today – if we let Him.

Another aspect of this glory is that we reflect it with unveiled faces.  It’s not a glory that frightens others and pushes them away.  It’s the warmth of love and freedom that draws men and women to the cross.  Don’t ever use your walk with Christ as an excuse to condemn or put down other people.  That’s not what the glory of God is about.

We are here to draw men to Christ.  It’s the love, patience and passion of the Lord that brings people to a knowledge of His grace.  We need to use the same tactics that He does.

What should our goal be?  We must desire to spend time in the presence of this glory.  Let it continue to do its transforming work in us.  By doing this we are making it our goal to reflect more of His beauty. That’s what will attract people to Christ.

Question: How much quality time do you spend in God’s presence?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2013 in Encouragement, Prayer

 

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