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Tag Archives: spiritual power

Prayer and Fasting – A Foundation for Faith

Did you know that waiting for a problem to arise before you strengthen your faith is a bad idea?  Too many people only press into God and His Word when their back is against the wall.  Jesus teaches that the time to prepare is well before you need a breakthrough.

In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 9 and verses 14-29, we see what happened as Jesus and His three closest disciples were coming down from the mountain of transfiguration.  You may want to read that passage in the Bible before continuing in this post.

It seems that they walked into a storm of controversy.  A crowd had formed around the other disciples.  Bedlam had broken out.

There was a demon possessed boy whose father had brought him to them for deliverance.  They tried everything they knew, yet the demon would not leave.  Jesus’ response to all of this is important for us to see.

“O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you?  How long shall I put up with you?  Bring the boy to me.”
Mark 9:19

The implication of what the Lord is saying here is, “How long will I have to be in this nation trying to turn you around?”  It sounds like Jesus is swimming against the flow, in a river of humanity.

The only way for Israel to get back on track is to trust in the Messiah.  Unfortunately, they want to continue in their unbelief.  Their “faith” is based on what they think is possible.

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered.  “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.  But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:21-24

Mark makes it clear that the main issue is about faith and unbelief.  It’s not about spiritual authority or how loud you can yell at the demon.  How deeply you trust the Lord is at the heart of the matter.

The Gospel writer wants us to see, through this event in the life of Christ, how to grow in our faith.  The point of this story is to understand how to overcome my unbelief.  That’s where the disciples are headed as the Lord continues His work with them.

Immediately, the Lord rebukes the demon and commands it to leave the boy.  The young man was delivered and set free from the demon from that day forward.  It seemed to be no problem for Jesus.

But the disciples still had some questions.

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”
Mark 9:28-29

Please understand that the demon doesn’t care whether or not you fast and pray.  Also, notice that Jesus didn’t tell the man, “Bring the boy to me in a week.  I need to fast and pray before I can deliver him.”

Jesus is answering the question of unbelief.  Fasting and prayer should be the lifestyle of a mature believer.  Fasting and prayer are what drives out the unbelief of our fleshly nature.  It opens us up to the manifestation of God’s supernatural power.

Follow the example of Jesus.  Walk before God by regularly setting times of fasting and prayer.  Then you’ll see your unbelief start to fade and a greater capacity for the miraculous.

Question: How have you seen the effects of fasting and prayer in your spiritual life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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The Power of the Solitary Place

In my last post, we saw how Jesus ministered to the crowds no matter when or where the Holy Spirit was leading.  How was He able to operate on this level?  Is it something that I can tap into?

I believe that Jesus is the example of how we should approach the ministry.  We need to see how He prepared Himself for the days ahead of Him.

The Lord Jesus was God in the flesh; yes, but He limited Himself to operating as a man led by the Holy Spirit.  Christ didn’t operate in a vacuum.  He didn’t do anything that the Holy Spirit hadn’t shown Him.  The next question that arises in my heart is this; how did He hear from the Spirit?

Obviously, the Lord didn’t just decide “on the fly” what He was going to do.  He had to go to the Father first, and then see what was coming up in His ministry.

Only then was the Lord prepared for the work He was about to do that day or that week.  If I can get a handle on this aspect of His ministry, then it can revolutionize mine.  The fact is, the Scripture is clear as to how He saw the Holy Spirit working.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also.  That is why I have come.”  So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Mark 1:35-39

Many times Jesus would leave a house to find a solitary place to pray.  Most of the time, He would leave while it was still dark.  I’m sure that He didn’t even tell anyone He was leaving.  It must have been much later when the disciples started their search.

He was there alone in the presence of the Father – away from the crowds and the demands of the ministry.  This is what Jesus felt He needed to do to clearly hear the voice of the Spirit.

How do I know this?  It’s clear from the passage.  When the disciples arrived, they were upset that they had to go looking for Him.

Notice that He ignored their statements.  Instead, He simply said, “I know where we’re going next and what we’re going to do when we get there.”  How did He suddenly know this?  He heard from the Spirit.

So clear was the knowledge of the Father that many miracles were performed on the ministry trip they took.  Even a leper with little faith was healed.

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”  Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
Mark 1:40-42

There are ministers today who would handle this situation very differently.  If someone were to state, “If God wills,” they’d send him back to his seat until he could “believe God for his healing”.  Instead, Christ healed the man regardless of his small faith.  What made the difference?  Jesus had, by the Spirit, seen the Father accomplish it already.

Do you need to know the next step in your life?  If Jesus needed to seek God in that way, I assume that the same has to be true for us.  We desperately need a Word from the Father to complete our task.

Find that solitary place today.  Go before the Lord in the stillness that surrounds you and open up your soul to Him.  Spend some time just listening for His still, small voice to your heart.  Then answer the call in obedience to His will.

Question: Where is your solitary place?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2017 in Ministry, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Christ the Baptizer in the Spirit

I believe that America is ripe for revival.  I also believe that prayer in the spirit will play a major role in this move.  John the Baptist preached about this subject in the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel.

John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.  I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Mark 1:6-8

We’ll need an understanding of this if we’re going to flow in revival to the level God desires.  I’m talking about coming face to face with Christ, the Baptizer.  He’s the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

But there’s a question that this brings up.  How can Christ do that if He wasn’t baptized Himself?  I believe that Jesus was baptized in the Spirit and prayed in the spirit.

Of course, Jesus prayed in the spirit without the manifestation of tongues.  The reason for this is that speaking in tongues is the reaction of our sinful flesh to the work of the Spirit.  Our flesh can’t comprehend what’s happening when we pray in the spirit.

In another Gospel, we see John the Baptist witnessing something unique.

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.  I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’”
John 1:32-33

This was unheard of in their day – the Holy Spirit remaining upon a person.  This was the point where Jesus was baptized in the Spirit.  I believe that from this day forward, Jesus prayed in the spirit.

But I think that the key word here is, remained.  The Holy Spirit remained upon the Lord and Jesus remained in the Spirit.

That’s something we need to see the importance of.  Very often we think that what Jesus did was a special case.  He said that the same works He did, we would do.  But in order for that to happen, it will take the same preparation.

We need the same remaining in the Spirit.  You could also call it immersion in the Spirit.

Before He ascended to the Father, Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for this gift.  Don’t preach, don’t make disciples, don’t do anything, just wait.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:8

That was fulfilled in the baptism found in Acts chapter 2.

What about Jesus?  He was baptized by John who testified that the Spirit remained on Him.  Then Jesus went into the wilderness to fast and pray for 40 days.  There, the Lord was tempted by the devil himself, yet…

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.
Luke 4:14

What power did He walk in?  The power of His immersion in the Spirit.   We need this same power to be evident in our lives.  In that case, we must remain in the Holy Spirit just like He did.

Question: How does Christ exemplify the Christian walk?

 

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The Right Fuel for the Job

In the natural world, you must always have fuel to use power.   No matter if it’s electricity, cooking, heating, or driving.  Even something as simple as a candle requires wax as a fuel.  The same is true for power in the spiritual realm.

The Galatian church was starting to think that they could get power to serve God by following the Law.  In his letter, Paul shows them the true source of their spiritual power.

What we commonly mean when we use the term fuel is combustible matter.  But there’s also a general definition of fuel.  According to this definition, fuel is whatever feeds or sustains any expenditure, outlay, passion, or excitement.  What, then, is the fuel for our spiritual power?

It doesn’t take much study of the Bible to realize that faith is the fuel – that which feeds and sustains our spiritual passion – for the Christian life.  Without faith, it’s impossible to please God.  Without faith, we would have no access to the grace of God.  Faith is the requirement for God to do anything at all in our lives.

Having the fuel is important.  But we must also know how to utilize it.  Just holding a can of gasoline doesn’t automatically make me travel 60 mph.  I need to put it in the gas tank of a working automobile.

Unfortunately, there are many in the body of Christ who haven’t learned this simple concept.  We hold on to the fuel of faith and expect the light and heat of God to start working.  When nothing happens, we conclude that the Scripture is wrong, or that maybe God doesn’t do miracles anymore.  The Bible has the answer to this dilemma.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Galatians 5:6

In this verse, the word value literally means force in the Greek.  It’s not how you look on the outside that gives spiritual force, or power, to your walk.  It’s the fuel, faith, expressing itself through love.  What that verse says in the Greek is that faith must energize or activate itself through love.

If I put this in natural terms I could say that faith is the fuel, and love is the generator producing the voltage needed to maintain the power of God in us.  The Bible clarifies this truth.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:2

If I have all the faith-fuel in the world but don’t have the love-generator to use it in, I am nothing.  This is where much of the church finds itself in this generation.  We seem to be so full of faith, yet accomplishing nothing for God.

According to this verse, it sounds like a love problem to me.  If we’re not using our faith correctly, then there’ll be no manifestation of power.  I must use my faith to power my love-walk.

Trying to follow the Law is totally different.  I don’t need any love at all.  I could even look down on you because, after all, I follow the Law so much better than you do.

It should be obvious that following the Law of Moses will never bring about the changes that God is looking for in His people.  Just the opposite; it puts us into competition with each other.

We need to serve God the way He wants us to.  We need faith in His Word.  Then we must use that faith to fuel our love-walk.  That’s where true power originates.

Question: How have you experienced the failure of faith without love?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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God’s Approval System

I’ve been posting from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. In it we’ve been looking at the true Gospel. According to Paul, it comes with a demonstration of God’s power. In my last post I talked about the other methods people must use when they don’t walk in God’s power.

The question is; why is there so little of the whole Gospel of Christ being presented in our generation? It turns out that Paul understood the answer.

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.
1 Thessalonians 2:4

We’ve seen that Paul understood the true Gospel as including power, the confirmation of the Holy Spirit, and deep conviction. That might have been surprising to some. But I believe his words in this verse would totally shock many preachers if they understood their significance.

According to Paul, you need to be approved by God to preach this Gospel. Actually it’s deeper than that. He said that you need God’s approval even to be entrusted with this Gospel.

Is this what’s taught in Bible schools? I don’t think so; at least I’ve never heard it taught. In my experience preaching the Gospel is simply coming up with a Scripture for an opening text. Then we apply it to the need for the hearers to “get saved.”

Where’s the power? Where’s the confirmation of the Holy Spirit, and the deep conviction? I believe that there’s too much unapproved Gospel being preached these days. That’s why many have written off Christianity as a dead horse that needs to be removed from society.

How do you become approved to be entrusted with the true Gospel? The answer to this is why there’s so little of it in our generation. It’s not about college degrees or denominational accreditation. No, it’s much deeper than that.

Paul makes it clear that this approval can only come from God. Furthermore, the test takes place in your heart. Where’s your heart set? Who are you trying to please?

Your anointing (God’s approval of your ministry) is resting on that answer. It’s not about how much you want it; instead, it’s wrapped up in the direction your heart is taking you.

What we have to realize is that in our own power we can never be well pleasing to God. It only comes from time spent in His presence. It’s what Jesus talked about in the parable of the sower.

“Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop — thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”
Mark 4:20

As I said, the test is in your heart – where you hear and plant the Word. This requires time in the presence of the Lord. It means that we have a listening ear toward the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Then, when Gods sees the quality of the crop produced by the Word planted in our heart, He grants His approval. We will see the manifestation of the Word of God when we present the Gospel. Then the lives of the hearers are changed by that powerful Word from God.

Question: How would churches be different if we sought the approval of God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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What is the Gospel – Really?

In my last post we began looking at the second Word that the Holy Spirit gave to the church. It was Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Today we’ll look at an important “first”.

It’s always good to note the first time a word is used in the Scripture. It helps us to understand what the Holy Spirit means when He uses it elsewhere in the Bible. Sometimes preachers call it the “law of first use.”

Do you have any idea the first place in the New Testament when the word Gospel is used? I’ll give you a hint; it’s not in the Gospels. That’s because the Gospels weren’t the first books written. The Gospel of Mark was probably the fourth book written; which is close, but not the first to use that word.

Actually, the word Gospel is first used in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. This was the first of Paul’s epistles. He was writing to a young church he started with only a brief stay in the city of Thessalonica. Here’s what he wrote them in the opening verses of his letter.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.
1 Thessalonians 1:4-5

That’s a very interesting comment to make. The first time the word Gospel is used in the Scripture, it means more than just words. It’s a complete presentation of the power of Christ. Paul is very clear in saying that it’s not just words, but also includes power, the Holy Spirit, and conviction.

It’s unfortunate that in our day there are those who think the Gospel is simply a cleverly crafted message designed to convince a sinner to get saved. When we believe that, we’re only working with a small part of the Gospel. For it to be the true Gospel of Jesus Christ there must also be a demonstration of power.

If I’m going to demonstrate something, then I need to know what it is. In natural terms, power is the ability of something to produce change. If nothing changes, then there’s no power.

Paul tells us here that when the true Gospel came forth – things changed. It’s not like many of our meetings today where we say, “That was a powerful message.” By we simply meant that we were stirred emotionally or felt goose bumps.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

As you can see, I’m not using some isolated verse without context. This teaching runs throughout the New Testament. The Good News must be demonstrated. That demonstration can only be energized by the power of God.

I fear that too many Christians allow their faith to rest on man’s wisdom, because they’ve never seen a demonstration of the power of God.

There are so many believers that have never seen a healing or a miracle. As a result, the Good News, in many cases, has merely become an intellectual debate. Sometimes, what we call the Gospel today, is void of any power to change the direction of a life impacted by it.

The Gospel has to be a Word from God, not just a convincing argument. When I speak what God is saying, then the Holy Spirit is free to confirm the message. People are convicted by the Word and their lives are forever changed.

We need to get back to being a people who spend time listening to their God. Then, once we’ve heard His voice, we need to step out and speak what He’s saying to us. This is the true essence of the Gospel. This is what will change our society for Christ.

Question: What would church look like where the true Gospel was preached?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

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Spiritual Believers

DoveIf we want God’s best, then we need to develop a rich spiritual life. Unfortunately, in this generation there are not many examples to follow.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14

The phrase man without the Spirit is literally the soulish man in Greek. The New Testament actually speaks of three different kinds of Christians. This is one of those described.

First, there is the carnal or fleshly Christian. This is the type of believer who serves God according to the way he or she feels. If I feel like going to church, I’ll go. If not I’ll stay home. Their flesh is in control of every decision they make. Carnal Christians are very nominal at best.

Next there’s the soulish or natural Christian, depending upon the translation of the Bible you use. This kind of Believer serves God because he or she has made a conscious decision to serve Him. They have decided that the Lord’s way is best no matter what they feel like.

They will give their best for the Lord because they believe it’s the right thing to do. They serve the Lord with all of their soul. They are very strong in their faith, and they can accomplish a lot for the kingdom of heaven.

There is, however, another class of believer spoken of in the Word of God. That’s the spiritual Christian. He or she is the believer who lives their life by using their spirit to its fullest extent in their interaction with God.

This is the one that we either hear very little about or we mistake it for a soulish Christian who is doing great works for Christ. Over the years we have redefined many of the terms used in the Scripture. It’s time to straighten out the rough spots. In the above passage, Paul makes a clear distinction between a spiritual and soulish Christian.

According to Paul, the soulish person cannot understand life in the spirit. The Greek literally says the he does not have the power to accept them. The apostle actually uses the Greek word dunamis in this verse.

A soulish believer does not have the dunamis – the power – to receive the things that can only come by the Spirit. This person is left to rely upon earthly means of communication to receive what he needs from the Lord. This is because, as Paul writes, these things are spiritually investigated.

I want to take a few posts to talk about what Paul describes as a spiritual Christian.

Question: How far do you venture into your spiritual life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2016 in Prayer in the Spirit, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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