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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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Does Your Tongue Lead a Double Life?

Are you living a double life? That’s the question James asks us in his small book. I’ve been posting about how our tongue shows publically what’s going on in our heart.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
James 3:9-12

There’s a self-deception sometimes, over how far along we are in our spiritual maturity. We like to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. This is especially true when we find ourselves in a Christian meeting, praising God along with everyone else.

James gives us a more accurate picture. He starts with what it looks like by observation. Praise and cursing coming from the same mouth. “Lord I love you” with one breath, and telling someone “you’re no good” with the next. It looks like you can do both – unless you see God’s perspective.

That’s why James asks these questions. He knows the answer. Jesus answered them with His disciples. I’m sure that James heard Jesus say it on more than one occasion.

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
Luke 6:43-45

It’s obvious that James hasn’t changed the subject. He’s still talking about controlling the tongue by what you put in your heart.

More than that, he’s saying what sounds like praise to us, is not always praise to God. If your heart is overflowing with things other than the Word, then your so-called praise is not acceptable to God. It may look like fresh water to all those around, but to God it’s a salt spring.

A life that’s consistently producing bad fruit is a sign of a heart without much of the Word of God. What about the praise that’s going up to God? Isn’t that a sign of a good heart?

I wish it were. Unfortunately, praising God is not a fruit of the spirit. I’ve even heard some ungodly people exclaim, “Praise the Lord” or “Hallelujah” at times. That’s not the sign of maturity.

The fruit of the spirit and maturity are things that can’t be forced or pretended. They have to be grown into. That’s why there must be a consistent walk with the Lord. The more of the Word we receive – both the written and spoken Word of God – the more our hearts overflow with the right things.

Take love, for an example. The world looks at the emotion. As the fruit of a mature spiritual life, love is a choice we make. It goes against our human nature to choose to love people we don’t even like. That’s why we need the power of the spirit working in us.

The sign of our maturity is not a random act of kindness once in a long while. It’s the consistent production of mature fruit on a daily basis. That’s the sign of a life spent in the presence of the Lord.

Question: What fruit of the spirit have been evident in your life lately?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2017 in Prayer, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Are You Thankful?

ThanksgivingHow thankful are you for all that God has done? Luke 17:11-19 has some interesting insights to help us answer that question.

In that portion of Scripture, a group of ten lepers went to Jesus for healing. He told them to go and show themselves to the priests. As they obeyed His command, they found they were healed along the way.

One former leper had a great response.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.
Luke 17:15

The first thing he does is to come back to Jesus, yelling praises on the top of his lungs. He must have attracted a lot of attention, but he didn’t care. He wanted to praise God for what happened to him. That’s the first thing we see…

Thankful people live loud for the Lord. We must learn to have a lifestyle of praise. It’s time that God’s people come “out of the closet” with their thankfulness.

That’s because this is a normal response to the hand of God at work. It doesn’t mean that you have to yell all the time. But I am saying that God’s work should be abundantly evident in your life. But there was more…

He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan.
Luke 17:16

Next thing we see is this man throwing himself at Jesus’ feet. This is the position of worship.

Thankful people live a life of worship. Because we’re thankful – we worship. Worship acknowledges God for who He is. We’re simply grateful because He allows us to come before Him anytime we want, clothed in His righteousness.

But that verse also said that he thanked Jesus.

…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:20

Are we to thank God for everything? The actual Greek says over everything. I need to thank God over everything I receive. (I don’t receive sickness, etc.)

Thankful people thank God over everything. We know the source of life and blessing. Of all people, we should be the ones who are constantly thanking God for the good things we see in our lives.

But there’s one more aspect of thankfulness that we need to look at. It comes from Jesus’ reaction to the healed man.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Luke 17:17-18

This question gives us insight into the heart of God. We all want to be loved and appreciated. Where do you think that comes from? I’ll tell you – we were created in the image of God.

Thankful people are sought out by God. Thank offerings were not required by the Law of Moses. God wanted the hearts of the people to prompt them to be thankful. When we’re thankful it opens the door for a richer walk with the Lord.

This Thanksgiving, in spite of all the other activities you may be involved in, take the time to be truly thankful before God.

Question: What are some of the biggest things you are grateful for?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2016 in Prayer, Spiritual Walk, Worship

 

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God’s Representatives

MirrorWe sometimes get the impression that it doesn’t matter what people think about us. After all, “I’ll live the way I want. I don’t care what you think about me.” As Christians, we have to be careful about that attitude.

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:11

Whatever we say or do should be praiseworthy. Of course, that in itself can bring on another set of problems.

We all like to be praised. When we accomplish something worthwhile, we expect people to notice and appreciate us. It makes us feel good about ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with accepting praise for a job well done.

The problem we get into, is wanting to keep it ALL for ourselves. If we live independent of God, then we don’t have to give Him any praise. The fact is, my wisdom isn’t good enough. My strength will never overcome all the obstacles before me. I need to rely upon God.

So there are the two ditches on the side of our path. Not caring at all about how we affect people, or living for praise. Either way, we miss out on God’s best. I need to learn to live with the knowledge that my life represents someone other than myself.

I belong to Christ. I’m a citizen of the Kingdom of God. I’m an ambassador for a realm that’s beyond this world. As such, I can’t allow myself to pick up the attitudes of this world.

When I spend time in the presence of the Lord, I begin to live on a higher level. Then, when someone is touched by my words, I can’t take the credit for it. God gets the glory.

When I do something sacrificial that my flesh would have never agreed to apart from God’s prompting, He get the praise for it.

We should seek to live our lives in such a way that God receives continual praise. This requires us to spend time with Him, meditating on His Word, and listening to His Spirit.

Yes, there will still be things that we’re praised for, but our goal should be for the Lord to receive most of the glory for how we live. In that way our lives will be a continual testimony to the greatness of our God.

Question: How has something that you’ve done brought praise to God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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Praise – Prelude to Worship

087True worship of God is essential to maintaining a growing relationship with the Lord. Revelation, chapter 4, is a beautiful picture of what worship is like in the throne room of God. We need to have these same attitudes as we worship on the earth.

Today, I want to start a small series of posts based upon the gems which form the atmosphere surrounding worship. It’s the way God represented this to John in his vision.

And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.
Revelation 4:3

In this short verse we see 3 precious stones mentioned. On the earth, kings wear jewels and gems. They have crowns and scepters. It shows that they’re special.

There’s a majesty surrounding our God. To look at God is to look at majesty itself. That’s why I want to look at the gems around Christ, and how they inspire worship from His people.

The first stone mentioned is jasper– a mixture of a few different elements. That’s why it has bands and spots of all different colors.

A few years ago I was in Machias, Maine. Near there was a jasper beach. The entire beach was made of jasper stones. It’s one of only two in the world. The other is in Japan.

This beach was an incredible place. Every time a wave would come in, as the water receded, it sounded like thousands of people clapping their hands. It sounded to me like there was continual praise going up to the Lord.

In my experience, worship usually springs from an atmosphere of praise. It seems that praise and worship always go together.

Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
Nehemiah 8:6

Usually it’s very easy to go from praise into worship. I’ve only rarely heard a meeting go from worship to praise.

Throughout history jasper has been known as the warrior’s stone. It’s interesting that there’s a link between praise and warfare.

From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
Psalms 8:2

That’s because praise clears the air spiritually. It gets rid of the junk we’ve been thinking of and focuses us in on Christ. As we lose sight of the earthly distractions, we’re better able to enter that intimate place of worship. It’s so much easier to enter into worship if you’ve spent time in praise.

Question: What do you do to prepare your heart to worship the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2015 in Prayer, Spiritual Warfare, Worship

 

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Let Thanksgiving do its Work

GrapesI’m taking a couple of posts to talk about Thanksgiving from Psalm 118. In my last post I talked about how Christ has opened the gates of righteousness. Through thanksgiving, we enter those gates into the throne room of God.

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

Today is a great day to praise the Lord. God made this day – that we can enter His righteousness. This word rejoice literally means to jump, dance, and spin around under the influence of a violent emotion. God deserves the best of our praise.

In the original Hebrew this verse reads and in this rejoicing we will brighten up and be made glad. So, in reality, you don’t have to feel good to start with. Being thankful changes your emotions. David understood this truth.

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:4-5

This is a lesson we all need to learn. As I thank and praise the Lord, I begin to feel good emotionally. Then, when our emotions change, our whole outlook on life changes for the better.

O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.
Psalm 118:25-26

When we thank God for His work in us we’re actually admitting that we needed His salvation. Without Him we can do nothing. He is our strength and our success.

When I’m thankful – meditating on the good things of God – that joy gives me strength to move forward. So it’s my thankfulness that makes me strong. That’s why it’s such an important part in the life of a believer.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.
Psalm 118:26

We’re supremely blessed in that Name above all names that Christ has given to us. In the name of Jesus we have all that we need for life and godliness. We have hope, healing, victory, peace, and salvation. That’s where the place of blessing is – in His name.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

My prayer for you is that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday this year. But more than that, I pray that you can live a life of thankfulness before God.

Question: What are you specifically thankful for that God has done in you this year?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2014 in Encouragement, Prayer

 

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Worship – The Place of Power #trueworship

PowerWithout a doubt, the Bible teaches that God’s power flows to us through the Holy Spirit.  In my last post we looked at what Jesus said in John, chapter 7.

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.  Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
John 7:38-39

The first thing the Lord told us was that you must believe as the Scripture declares.  We can’t just believe anything that we want.  It will not work with faith simply for faith’s sake.  Our faith must be firmly based in the Word of God.

In order to get into the flow of God’s power we must trust Him as the Scripture declares.  We must also couple this with the knowledge that power involves intimacy with the Lord.  We must remain, abide, live, dwell, and reside in Him.  If intimacy with God is the priority, then we must ask ourselves what’s the most intimate place, spiritually?

There’s a biblical word that’s used for the concept of spiritual intimacy with God.  The meaning has been all but lost to modern Christians.  I’m hoping that the church will once again make this their goal.  The word I’m speaking about is WORSHIP.

In the Old Testament the Hebrew word translated worship means to prostrate yourself or to lay down with God.  In the New Testament, the Greek word they used for worship literally means to lean forward as if to kiss.  Both of these concepts involve intimacy.  You would never want to lay down with someone or kiss someone unless the moment was just right.

As I said before, we have all but lost the concept of what true worship is all about today.  To most Christians, leadership included, the difference between praise and worship is that praise is the fast songs and worship is the slow songs.

Actually, if you study the Scripture, you’ll find that both the fast and slow songs are praise.  This is because anything that we do toward God with our flesh (sing, clap, dance, etc.) is praise.

According to the Word, worship is a function of our spirit.  That’s why throughout the Old and New Testaments, whenever the position of worship is described, the worshipper is always prostrate or leaning on something.

Praise is always my flesh giving glory to God.  It’s a team effort.  That’s why when we’re in a meeting, the bigger the crowd, the more incredible the praise.

Worship, on the other hand, is just me and God.  Think about the times in church during the praise time when suddenly a “holy hush” comes over the congregation.  This is when the Lord is calling us to be intimate with Him.  It’s usually the most uncomfortable time there is in church.  That is because we are so unused to true worship.

What we have to realize is that if power requires intimacy, then worship is the place of power.

Question: How comfortable are you with being quiet before the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2014 in Prayer, Prayer in the Spirit

 

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