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The Voice of the Spirit

As we continue through Mark’s Gospel, it’s now the day of the Last Supper.  The disciples have no idea what’s about to take place during this feast.  All they know is that the Passover needs to be celebrated.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you.  Follow him.  Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’  He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready.  Make preparations for us there.”
Mark 14:12-15

To understand the importance of this passage, you must first understand the relationship between Christ and His disciples.  At that time, the role of Jesus to His disciples was the same as the Holy Spirit is to us today.

Remember that Jesus told His followers that He would send another Counsellor to lead and guide them.  The Holy Spirit wants to lead us in the same way that the Lord led His disciples.  That’s why it’s so important for us to develop sensitivity to the voice of the Spirit.

It’s sad that so many Christians think that God no longer works in this way.  I personally believe that the Holy Spirit still desires to operate through the church.  It’s the manifestation of the Gifts of the Spirit that will draw unbelievers to a saving knowledge of Christ.

In this instance, Jesus is functioning in the gifts of Prophecy and the Word of Knowledge.  Notice how specific His instructions are.  I believe that the Holy Spirit will be just that detailed with us if we’ll place ourselves in a position to hear Him.

What was the response of the disciples to this astounding instruction?

The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them.  So they prepared the Passover.
Mark 14:16

This simple statement shows the trust that had developed between Christ and His followers.  There was no question or hesitation.  They just went and did exactly as they were told.

So often we find two different extremes in the body of Christ these days.  The first is that some Christians come up with elaborate stories of what the Holy Spirit “told” them.  Then, a few days later the “spirit” tells them something that sounds just the opposite.

On the other hand, I’ve heard people who feel impressed to do or say something.  They don’t follow through on it.  Then, when it’s too late, they realize that they’d heard from the Holy Spirit and missed the opportunity for a blessing.  (I’ve been guilty of this more than once.)

We need to spend quality time in the spirit.  That’s where trust and sensitivity are developed.  I believe that’s why the disciples had an easier time hearing from the Spirit once Christ had ascended.  They simply transferred their focus to the voice of the Spirit.

Spend the time necessary to learn to hear and obey the Spirit.  I believe that’s where the Lord is leading His church in this generation.  It’s through hearing and obeying that we’ll see the end-time harvest of souls before the return of Christ.

Question: What can you do to develop a listening ear in the spirit?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on July 18, 2018 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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False Christs

In my last post, we started looking at Jesus’ warning about the fall of Jerusalem.  The disciples knew what was coming and could prepare accordingly.  But there was one more aspect of this that they needed to know.

“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.  For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect — if that were possible.  So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.”
Mark 13:21-23

The Lord also warned His disciples about false Messiahs.  During times of great crisis, there are always those who want to rise to power.  They convince the masses that they have the solution to all the problems.  I find it amazing that the real Author of peace and life was rejected, while society will accept anyone else who promotes himself as the hero of the day.

Jesus reminds the disciples that no matter how wonderful this messiah sounds, they will not live to see the return of Christ, so there’s no question that this person is false.  Their signs and miracles would be so convincing that the apostles themselves would be fooled – if Jesus had not told them ahead of time that they would not see His return.

What many Christians never hear is that this second fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy has already occurred.  Even though the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the Jews still regarded this site as holy.  Around 132 AD the Roman emperor Hadrian decided that Judea needed to be Romanized.  He put many policies into effect that were intolerable to the Jews.

He made it illegal for Jews to enter Jerusalem except for one day a year.  He banned the rite of circumcision.  He made it a crime to practice or teach the Jewish religion.  The most detestable change of all, however, was that he established a pagan temple to the god Jupiter on the former Temple site.

At this point in history, two men came onto the scene in Israel.  One was named Akiba Ben Joseph and the other was Simon Bar Kokba.  Bar Kokba was a Jewish leader who incited the people into violent rebellion against these hateful policies of Rome.  Today, he would be labeled a terrorist.

Akiba Ben Joseph was a rabbi who was imprisoned for teaching and practicing the Jewish religion.  When he saw what Bar Kokba was doing, he proclaimed this leader as the long-awaited messiah, giving him the title “son of the star”.

Akiba taught that Bar Kokba was sent by God to restore Israel and to reign in righteousness over the entire world.  With Akiba’s support, Bar Kokba was able to raise a huge army of Jews who were willing to fight the Romans.

The Romans in Caesarea eventually killed Akiba.  Bar Kokba then attacked the Romans.  He defeated them and captured Jerusalem and over 50 towns and villages.  When the emperor Hadrian sent an army to stop this rebellion, Bar Kokba defeated them as well.  Things were looking good for Israel.  Unfortunately, trying to be a messiah without the power of God can prove fatal.

In 135 AD Hadrian was at the end of his patience.  He sent his best general, Julius Severus.  It was a long campaign, but eventually, the Jewish army was annihilated at the town of Bethar, near Jerusalem, in August of that same year.  It’s interesting to see the result of this false messiah in the light of what Jesus said would happen.

The Temple had been destroyed in 70 AD, 65 years earlier, but the city of Jerusalem was still intact.  But, when Hadrian polluted the Temple grounds (the abomination that causes desolation), a false messiah rose up to deceive many and bring about the final destruction of Jerusalem.

On the day of Bar Kokba’s defeat, over 500,000 Jews were killed.  Thousands of Jewish women and children were sold into slavery.  Others were forced to leave Israel and settle throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa.

This was the final dispersal of the Jews spoken of by Christ when He said that they would be taken as prisoners to all nations.  It turned out just like Jesus said.  From that point on, the Gentiles held Jerusalem for almost 2,000 years.

It’s important for us to see, as believers, that this part of Jesus’ teaching has already been fulfilled.  The prophecy of the book of Daniel ended up pointing to two different events.  Some say it will happen again.

They teach that the Jews will rebuild the Temple, and in the last days, we will see this take place.  Those who teach this are only speculating.  There’s nothing in Scripture that directly supports this.  Only time will tell how it will all turn out.

What we shouldn’t do is get caught up debating what the end-times will look like.  The important thing is to be preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.  We need to be working to bring in the end-time harvest, knowing that the Lord’s return is imminent.

Question: How are you preparing to reach the lost in these Last Days?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2018 in Return of Christ, Revival

 

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The Warning

We’ve been in the Gospel of Mark, looking at Jesus teaching His disciples about the end-times.  Having warned them of what they were about to face, the Lord now answers their original question that started it all.

He tells them the signs that signal the approach of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.  Because we live on this side of the historical event, it’s easier to look back and interpret the Lord’s words.

“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong — let the reader understand — then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
Mark 13:14

Jesus quotes the book of Daniel.  He makes mention of the abomination that causes desolation.  Literally, it reads the detestable thing that causes destruction.  Then Mark himself adds his admonition to the reader of this gospel to “use your mind, think and consider” what Jesus has said.

I know a lot of Bible teachers who say that this is a future event and have a variety of teachings and beliefs on this subject.  I ask you to please read the Scripture without preconceived ideas about what’s being said.  Put yourself in the place of the disciples who are hearing this for the first time.

The reaction of the disciples must have been one of surprise.  Every God-fearing Jew knew that the quote Jesus gave them from the book of Daniel had ALREADY BEEN FULFILLED.

Around 170 BC there was a Syrian ruler named Antiochus IV.  He was so full of himself that he gave himself the title “Epiphanes,” which means “the manifest god”.  As many emperors did, he forced those around him to worship him.

Antiochus Epiphanes led his army to successfully conquer Israel.  On December 15, 168 BC, he set up the image of Zeus on an altar in the Temple of Jerusalem.  Ten days later, he dedicated it by sacrificing a pig in the Temple.

Heathen altars were then erected throughout Israel, their celebrations being compulsory.  Any Jew would receive the death penalty if found in possession of the Torah.  Observing the Sabbath and circumcision were forbidden.  Because of their faithfulness to the Law of God, many Jews were killed in those days.

As the disciples heard Jesus speak about Daniel’s prophecy, they must have also thought about the reign of Antiochus.  Now they’re hearing from the Lord that it will be fulfilled again.  This was a new concept for them to grasp – the fact that a prophetic Scripture could have two fulfillments.

“Let no one on the roof of his house go down or enter the house to take anything out.  Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.  How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!  Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now — and never to be equaled again.  If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive.  But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.”
Mark 13:15-20

This sounds all too familiar to the disciples.  Throughout history, the Jews had been conquered again and again.  Now one of the worst chapters in their history was going to repeat itself.  All they could do was listen and be prepared.

This should encourage us.  I believe that this is how the Holy Spirit operates.  If we’re listening, the Spirit will always prepare us for what’s ahead in our future.  We need to continue developing our spiritual sensitivity to hear His voice.

Question: Why does the Holy Spirit want to reveal the future to us?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2018 in Encouragement, Return of Christ

 

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Are We Listening?

This is my last post which will look at the first of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians.  In his conclusion, the apostle encourages them in their spiritual walk.  He gives a few exhortations that are just as applicable today.

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-20

These verses literally say don’t quench, put out, the Spirit and don’t act like prophecy doesn’t exist.  I believe that this sentence gets at the heart of one of the biggest problems in the church today.  A large segment of the modern church totally ignores the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

When we bow our knee to Christ as our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us.  But that’s not just for show.  He lives in us in order to lead and guide us into the Lord’s plan for our lives.

The Biblical term for ignoring the Holy Spirit’s work is godlessness.  To be godless doesn’t mean that you’re an atheist, or even unsaved.  Godlessness is living as if there’s no God, or as if God’s plan doesn’t really matter to you.

It’s so unfortunate that many believers try to figure out on their own how they want to live.  They come up with the plan of what they’ll do for God and what they’ll do for themselves.  They act as if God doesn’t speak to His people anymore.

Personally, I don’t know how anyone could live for Christ without spending time in His presence.  That’s where we truly learn to live life to the fullest.

Test everything.  Hold on to the good.  Avoid every kind of evil.  May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Brothers, pray for us.  Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.  I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
1 Thessalonians 5:21-28

When you’re walking with the Holy Spirit, you can test, or literally approve, everything that comes your way.  Some things are for you to get involved in – the good, and others are not for you – the evil.

We get into trouble because of our skewed concept of good and evil.  We think that just because something isn’t intrinsically evil, then it’s okay for us to get involved in it.  I’ve had so many people ask me, “What’s wrong with…?”

The point isn’t whether something is right or wrong.  It’s all about whether or not it’s a part of God’s plan for your life.  That’s why time in the Lord’s presence, listening to His Spirit is so important.  There may be something that looks good, that God doesn’t want me to waste my time on.

On the other hand, just because something is not for me, doesn’t mean that it’s not in God’s plan for your life.  I can’t make you walk within the boundaries that God has set for my life.

Now please realize that in all this discussion I’m not talking about those things that the Bible calls sin.  Sin is sin, and it’s never God’s will for us to fall into it.

I’m talking about the normal day to day decisions of life.  God wants to be involved in all of our planning.  That includes our time, money, career, family and educational choices.  When we ignore God’s voice in these matters, we’re quenching the Spirit and treating prophecy with contempt.

The important thing to see is that Paul wanted this read to everyone, not just the leadership.  We all need to be listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice and following His leading.

Question: What’s the last instruction you’ve heard from the Holy Spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2017 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Revival in Our Generation

agricultureIn my last post I talked about repentance as the first step toward revival. It doesn’t matter whether you want a personal breakthrough, or are looking for the church to awaken. That’s where it starts.

So many people talk about revival. I’ve heard a lot of prophecies saying that a new move of God is on the way. Right now, many seem to just be in a waiting mode.

Is that how it works? God says that revival is coming and then we just sit back and wait for it? I don’t believe that this is what the Bible teaches.

Israel learned it the hard way. The prophet Jeremiah gives us the principle.

If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.
Jeremiah 18:7-10

The problem is that people don’t understand the role of prophecy. Usually it’s dependent upon the hearers.

Please don’t get me wrong. The prophecy of Scripture is totally independent of anything we do. Jesus Christ is going to return to establish His kingdom regardless of what the world does. That’s not the issue here.

I’m talking about a prophecy that deals with a certain time and place; that affects us. These are the ones that need to be listened to carefully. They will only be fulfilled if we do our part.

For instance, a prophecy may come forth that God wants to send a move of His Spirit to a region. That’s great, but it doesn’t end there. God’s people now need to do what it takes to usher in that move.

As in all areas, God is a gentleman. He tells us His plans for our good. But if we don’t want them and refuse His Word, then it will never come to pass.

I believe the Word that I’ve heard though many individuals. God is sending a new awakening to the USA. But I can’t let it stop there.

There’s something I need to do to prepare. We need to be prepared as individuals and as the church. The first step involves prayer and seeking God by the Holy Spirit. It’s not enough to sit back and “trust God to do the work.”

We need to be involved in the process.

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

This is the verse that keeps coming to us again and again. It’s time we heed the voice of the Spirit; and move our nation in the direction of a great awakening.

Question: What can you do to prepare for a move of God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2016 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Tongues – The Sign

FireI’ve been sharing about why God uses prayer in the spirit. In my last post I talked about giving control over to God. But does that mean that when I pray in tongues I’m ‘out of control’?

The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.
1 Corinthians 14:32

Paul is talking about church order in this section of Scripture. He talks about the limits we place in public meetings.

According to Paul, no one can say, “I just had to – I couldn’t control it.” In context he’s talking about the gift of prophecy. But it’s the same for tongues, healing, or any gift that comes from the Holy Spirit. My spirit is always under the control of my soul.

Does that mean that I’m controlling everything that happens? No. I simply can allow the gift to operate or not operate at any given moment.

Think about sports, for instance. An athlete will spend an enormous amount of time practicing so that his body will function almost independently. We call that eye, hand coordination. If a third baseman has to think about catching a line drive, it’s already too late.

In certain areas we’ll let our body do things on its own. Our mind initiates the response, but reflex takes over. It’s the same with prayer in the spirit.

We need to let prayer in the spirit become a reflex of the spirit. I know when I need to commune with God, and whether or not it’s an appropriate time. Then, if it’s right, I give my spirit the freedom to go where the Holy Spirit will lead.

The reason tongues is so important should be obvious. Paul talks about the reasons we use our spirit to talk to God.

In the Law it is written: “Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me,” says the Lord.
1 Corinthians 14:21

God is trying to get our attention. With Israel He tried using prophets, but they wouldn’t listen. So God used other means to get His word across.

Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.
1 Corinthians 14:22

This verse seems to confuse people. The first definition of the word sign is a distinguishing mark. For instance, circumcision was the sign of the covenant. The second definition of sign is an unusual occurrence beyond the course of nature.

The fact is that tongues gets people’s attention.

So what Paul is saying in this verse, is that tongues is not unusual to believers (or at least they shouldn’t be).  It’s something that gets the attention of unbelievers. Prophecy, speaking for God, is not that unusual for unbelievers. They’ve heard moving speeches before.

When used together in a meeting, tongues will get their attention, and then the prophetic word will open their hearts. Both are needed. This generation is in desperate need of seeing the hand of God at work.

It’s time for God’s people to spend time praying in the spirit. It’s not just a spiritual toy to take out when we want to feel happy. It’s vital to our spiritual growth and the evangelism of our nation.

Question: How have you experienced tongues and prophecy working together in the church?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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The Sign

One WayWe have entered what is traditionally thought of as the Christmas season. During this time we think about what the birth of Christ means to us. As I was meditating on it, this verse came to mind.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

This is a prophecy about the Messiah being born of a virgin. We sometimes hear it read during this season.

As wonderful as this verse is, it’s even richer when you know the whole story. I believe in the importance of context. So I want to talk about how this prophecy came about.

King Uzziah was one of the greatest kings of Judah. He served God faithfully and gained victory after victory. One of his failures was that he didn’t remove the high places where people worshiped other gods in Israel.

Then one day, in an act of pride, he decided that he was holy enough to burn incense in the temple. Because of this, he was struck with leprosy until the day of his death.

Then Uzziah’s son Jotham became king. He served God and kept the status quo. Just like his father, he didn’t remove the high places. During his rule, Israel and the nation of Aram start to attack Judah.

After Jotham, Ahaz became king. He didn’t serve God at all. He actually worshipped at the high places. Then Israel and Aram begin to step up their attacks. Judah is in absolute fear over this.

It’s at this point in their history that God sends the prophet Isaiah with a Word for Ahaz.

“Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood — because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah.’”
Isaiah 7:4

Isaiah prophesies about victory. But then he says something interesting.

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
Isaiah 7:10-11

This is absolutely incredible. He is told to ask anything, even to the point of raising the dead. That rarely happens.

We serve a God of signs. A sign, in Scripture, means a signal – like traffic signals. A sign is a signal of God’s will.

Stop, do not enter, one way. It’s one of the things God uses to make sure we’re on track.

The world is full of signs. We were given the sun, moon and stars. God has established them as signs for times and seasons. A rainbow is a sign to remind us of God’s covenant.

I want to take a few posts to talk about supernatural signs, and how they fit into the plan of God for us.

Question: Can you think of any other signs that God has used?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
 

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