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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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The Quiet Life

Is your life quiet and at rest? As believers, we should have an understanding of what it means to live in the peace of God. As I continue looking at Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we’ll see how the apostle deals with this issue.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Paul taught his churches about the benefits of living a quiet life. But just what does that mean to us? Am I supposed to go through life never speaking up for myself? I don’t think that’s what Paul or the Lord intends for us.

Let me start by explaining that I’m the father of three young women. When they were children, the noise level of our house was usually not described as quiet. And, actually, the word quiet in the above passage doesn’t refer to the level of noise in your surroundings.

The meaning of this word is to be settled, secure, and at peace with where you are. This is an important attribute to cultivate in your Christian walk. As a matter of fact, it’s something we have to fight for in this generation. It actually goes counter to the world’s way of doing things.

I believe that in the next phrase, Paul describes exactly what he means by this quiet life. Let me give you my personal translation of the Greek words used in that sentence.

Using your own hands to perform repeatedly and habitually that which is yours to do.

This is the key to enjoying your life and work. It’s also something that the world has no concept of. First of all, you need to know exactly what it is that you’re called to be working on.

In our society we’ve become transfixed on what everybody else is doing. How much money are they making? What shows are they watching? What are they learning? What activities are they involved in?

Even on our jobs, we’re never satisfied where we’re at. We’re taught to always keep our resume up to date. Living like this keeps you in a constant state of unrest.

This is just the opposite of what Paul was teaching his people. We need to settle down into the life that we know we’re called to.

But that requires me to spend time in the Lord’s presence seeking His will for my life. Many of us are afraid to do that because we would lose control of our destiny. Personally, I prefer God’s destiny for my life over anything I could come up with on my own.

Paul concludes this by showing the benefits of a life well lived. The first is a respectable or well-formed life. It’s the kind of life that causes the unsaved to ask why you seem to be more fulfilled than they are. It’s a witness to the grace of God.

The other benefit is described as not being dependent on anybody. In the Greek, it reads lacking nothing. In the book of James, the first Scripture recorded, it talks about the trying of our faith bringing us to the place where we lack nothing (James 1:2-4). Here, Paul adds to our knowledge by showing that it’s knowing and working at God’s will that brings about no lack.

I can’t think of a better combination that I want active in my life. A witness to unbelievers and having no lack. That’s the joy of a life settled in God’s plan.

Question: How have you experienced resting in God’s will?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Word of God and His Rest

SwordThis is the last post in the series about entering God’s rest. In my previous article, we saw that the writer of Hebrew’s final statement was about the Word of God.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

This section of Scripture has been talking about the Word of God throughout chapters three and four.

Based upon these Scriptures, there are three facts that we can conclude.

First, God has spoken to us a Word concerning our entering His rest. Next, we have heard that Word. Finally, we MUST, therefore enter His rest. The reason that we must enter His rest is because the Word of the Lord is living, active, sharp, penetrating, and judging.

The Word of God is both living and active. It doesn’t just lay dormant waiting for you to do something with it. It is, right now, in the process of working in you.

The literal Greek reads that it’s sharp enough to cut through with a single stroke. The Word doesn’t need to keep chopping and hacking. One cut is all it takes and it can pierce through all the layers of your life – body, soul, and spirit.

No matter how you receive it, God’s Word can change everything. If you receive it with your spirit, the Word can cut right through to your flesh. If you hear it with your ears, it can make its way to your spirit. Nothing is beyond its reach.

Another word that’s used about the Word of God in this passage is judging. This means that it’s decisive. It decides the deliberations of your heart. It looks at your moral understanding, intents, and thoughtfulness.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Hebrews 4:13

The Greek word used for that thought means an exposed neck for the killing stroke. There’s absolutely no defense against this weapon. This is especially true when wielded by the One to whom we must give account.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.
Hebrews 4:14-15

The Lord God has called us to enter His rest by His powerful Word. And it’s that same Word that will judge our response to it. Thank God that we have a Great High Priest who has traversed the heavens. He has bridged the gap between us and God’s resting place. We can now hold fast to our profession of faith. This means that we can speak the same way that He speaks.

What will our response be? We’ve been called to enter the powerful place of the Lord’s rest. We’re now responsible for that knowledge. How will we answer? Will we make every effort to enter in? Or will we ignore it like the children of Israel? Remember, we have the Great High Priest to help us. He’s standing with you right now. Here’s the bottom line.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

We must make the decision to enter the place of rest with confidence. That’s what the throne of grace is all about. The word confidence means outspoken, with publicity. It should be common knowledge to all that you’re resting in Christ and are relying upon His power.

The throne of grace is where we have that perfect rest in God. It’s the intimate place of mercy which we talked about in chapter 4. It’s in that place that you find all the grace needed for life and godliness. The passage literally says that this grace will hold you tightly and right on time.

Remember, the key to resting in God is the knowledge that we don’t work to bring about an outcome. We rest in faith knowing that God has already accomplished it. I have the assurance that God will provide all of my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

I don’t work to provide for myself and my family. I merely need to respond correctly to the leading of the Holy Spirit in my life. The world has no concept of this rest.

Unfortunately, a lot of the church doesn’t either. My greatest need is to learn how to respond to God. It requires me to put forth the faith to lay hold of this. It should our greatest joy to know that we’re fellow participants in Christ. We can experience the manifestation of His rest and His power. Make every effort to enter into His rest today!

Question: What do you need to do to enter this resting place?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2015 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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The Sabbath Concept

Cross SunsetThe concept of resting in the Lord is very important. That’s why I’ve been talking about it for a number of posts.

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.
Hebrews 4:9-10

This is a key verse in our understanding of rest. The term Sabbath-rest is a very interesting one. It’s the Greek word Sabbatismos. This tense of the word Sabbath means the principle behind the Sabbath.

To put it in English terms the writer is talking about the concept of Sabbathism. So what this verse says is that carried over from the Old Covenant, into the New, is the principle if Sabbathism, not necessarily the observance of the Sabbath day itself. This is only referring to the concept behind it.

The reason is that anyone who enters God’s rest must do so exactly like God did. The believer must, by faith, settle down off of his own works. Think about this. God is still resting – but has He stopped acting? Absolutely not! The Lord continues to respond, yet He remains at rest.

This is the same for us. We know that the outcome has already been decided. We don’t know how God will bring it all about, only that He will. Therefore, we are not working to bring about a desired result.

Our only responsibility is to respond to God correctly. It’s this calling that’s the hard part of our walk with God. Israel was never able to attain to this.

So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
Hebrews 3:19

Believe it or not, we’re actually talking about power. When the Scripture says that they were not able to enter this rest, it uses the Greek word dunamis. This verse literally says that they did not have the power to enter. It takes the power of God to enter this rest.

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
Hebrews 4:11

As I said, our response to God is the hard part. This verse makes that very clear. The Greek word that it uses means to be diligent, prompt, and quick. It’s going to require you to put forth some effort to enter God’s rest; it doesn’t just happen by accident.

Otherwise, as this passage warns, you will fall into the same pattern of apathy that hurt the Israelites. We will lose out because we get apathetic about the Lord’s rest. The writer now makes the reason for this abundantly clear.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

The key to this passage of Scripture is the first word, for. This verse contains the reason why we must make every effort to enter God’s rest that He has so graciously provided for His people. So often this verse is read as a “stand-alone” reference.

This was not written merely to give us some information about the Word of God. It’s the main reason why we must enter into the Lord’s rest.

In my next post I’ll finish this series by showing how the Word of God and resting in the Lord are related.

Question: How does trusting God’s Word cause you to rest in Him?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2015 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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The New Testament Sabbath

churchesI’m posting about how to rest in the Lord and in His finished work. We can see the negative example of Israel from Scripture.

It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience.
Hebrews 4:6

These are sobering words. I notice that he writes that some, and not all will enter this rest. The verse says that those who didn’t, missed out because of disobedience. The actual Greek word there is apeitheia. This is where we get the English word apathy from.

This means that they did not enter in because of obstinate and rebellious disbelief. It’s made sadder by the fact that these very people had the Good News preached to them. This means that we have to be all the more careful to not miss this rest.

Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
Hebrews 4:7

I believe that this is the key to the whole issue. If you hear His voice, don’t become hard hearted. Here we are 2000 years later and He’s still calling to His people. “Enter My rest.” If you hear this call, don’t get stubborn about it.

That’s why I think that it’s foolish to argue about what day of the week is the “day of rest.” The Scripture clearly calls it today – whatever day today is.

The Word of God plainly tells us that a cease from work is not the same as resting in God. For that matter, attending church is not the same as resting in God. I can’t say it any clearer than to tell you point blank that Israel observed the Sabbath but still DID NOT ENTER GOD’S REST.

In the Old Testament the Sabbath looks forward to what Jesus was going to accomplish for us. Any concept or truth from the Old Covenant must pass through the filter of the cross. Only then can you understand the true implications for the New Covenant believer.

The Sabbath is now applied to everyday under grace. The simple fact is that if you believe that Sunday (or Saturday) is the only day when you can have a church service, and that all believers need to worship together, you have a problem. If those two statements are true, then it’s not God’s will for firefighters, police, EMT’s, nurses, or others who have to work those days, to be saved.

We argue and fight about the most foolish things in the body of Christ. Israel obeyed the law of the Sabbath. Yet the Scripture clearly says that Israel never entered into God’s rest. Yet, we hold them up as the example for keeping the Sabbath.

The important thing we need to ask ourselves is not what day of the week we worship God, but are we entering into His rest? Will you enter into God’s rest TODAY?

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.
Hebrews 4:8

The problem Israel faced is that Joshua only brought about a military victory. He was not able to bring the nation into true rest. That’s why God is so serious about our entering in.

More than anyone else, Christians should be entering the rest that God has provided for them. Not just on weekends, but 24/7. Anything less and you’re missing a big part of the blessing that was given us at the cross.

Question: How often are you intentional about entering God’s rest?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2015 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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God the Chess Player

ChessI’m posting a series about resting in the Lord. Of course you can’t talk about rest without mentioning the Sabbath.

For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.”
Hebrews 4:4

At this point the writer of Hebrews begins talking about the Sabbath – the seventh day. There’s a lot of controversy in the body of Christ over the concept of the seventh day. I believe that if you just read the Scripture with open eyes it will go a long way to clear things up. It’s obvious that in this verse the writer is referring to the creation account in Genesis.

Once everything was in place, God rested from His work. That’s how God rests. God entered His rest knowing that the world had been established such that everything would turn out as He had planned. This is why the principle of God’s rest is so elusive to us.

This is just the opposite of how we view it sometimes. By observation, we get the wrong impression. We think that each time someone or the enemy makes a move; God has to find a way to answer it. That is absolutely NOT the way it is.

Think about a master chess player. When they play chess, they plan 20 or more moves ahead. Then there comes a point in a match when one will declare, “Checkmate in 5 moves.” That means that the board is set in such a way that no matter what the opponent does, the victory is a sure thing.

This is what God did at Creation. As He formed the world, God knew every choice every person could ever possibly decide. He also knew how to bring about the end He desired no matter what choice anyone made. It will all turn out as planned.

He established the world so that He knows all the right moves to make to bring about His victory at the right time. By saying that God rested on the seventh day, we mean that at that point God announced, “Checkmate in 7000 years.” (Or however long it will take!)

God has been resting ever since that day. God was still resting when the children of Israel went into Egypt. That was also the case when they crossed the Red Sea. He was resting when Israel went into Babylonian captivity, and when they returned. God was resting when Jesus Christ walked the earth, died, was buried, and rose from the dead. He was resting on the day of Pentecost. God is resting right now. How can this be?

The Scripture above literally says that God rested off of His work. I believe that this means that His rest is separate from His actions. This brings up the question, can you rest and work at the same time? That and other questions will be answered as we continue to look at this concept of rest. At this point we only need to understand that when everything was prepared and in place, God rested.

God is at rest, not fretting or fussing over the future. If that’s the case, then why should I worry about how things are going to turn out? I can place my confidence securely in the Lord, knowing that He’s already worked out my problem.

Question: Why do believers worry so much about the future?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2015 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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God’s Place of Rest

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been posting about resting in the Lord. I’ve talked about what life is like with and without that rest. God desires for His people to find that place in His presence.

Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.'” And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world.
Hebrews 4:3

The only way to enter that rest is by faith, there’s no other way. God calls it, My rest. That means it’s the very same rest that He has entered. What a privilege to know that we may enter God’s rest. It should be obvious that since it’s His we cannot enter on our own.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
Psalm 23:2

It’s interesting to note that the phrase quiet waters literally means the waters of rest. Just like sheep, we can’t find this place without Him. That’s because it’s only found in Him. According to the writer of Hebrews it’s for we who have believed. It must be by faith that we enter this rest.

Jesus said the same things during His earthly ministry.

“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

Jesus was speaking here about the Holy Spirit. That’s where we access the streams of God. If they are the waters of rest, then that means that I must rest in the Holy Spirit. Of course the Israelites we read about in the Old Testament rejected this provision of God. Jeremiah talked about it in his prophetic writings.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
Jeremiah 2:13

The children of Israel rejected God’s rest. They ended up trying to find a rest on their own. It didn’t work. It’s sad to say, but we’re guilty of the same type of wandering sometimes. We would much rather do it ourselves than to take part in what God has freely provided.

He makes it clear in Hebrews 4:3 above that everything that was needed for our rest was accomplished in God’s Creation. Now that’s interesting to learn. The cross wasn’t needed to enter into His rest. The only thing required was faith. Of course there’s more available to us now through the cross, but the access is still the same – faith.

It requires us to trust God in all things. It doesn’t matter what the situation I’m in right now looks like. God has it all under control. I can rest confidently in Him, knowing that He will work all things out for my good.

Question: How does resting in God affect your outlook on life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2015 in Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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