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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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Thanksgiving Leftovers

Today is the eve of the Thanksgiving Holiday.  So I’ve been reading and meditating on giving thanks to God.  Then I came across a verse that really struck me.

When you sacrifice a thank offering to the Lord, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on your behalf.  It must be eaten that same day; leave none of it till morning. I am the Lord.
Leviticus 22:29-30

In the Old Testament, the thanksgiving offering was to be eaten in one day.  There was to be nothing leftover.  I thought that was funny.  That’s because, in our generation, Thanksgiving is known for having the most leftovers.

This spoke to me of how we should thank God.

We thank God for His daily provision.  Think about the Israelites in the desert.  God provided manna for them.  He told them to only gather enough for the day.

Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”  However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.  So Moses was angry with them.
Exodus 16:19-20

It’s amazing how much things stay the same.  God tells us to trust Him.  “Give us this day our daily bread.”  We want all of our provision – today.  God wants to provide step by step – so we must look to Him in faith.

Our walk with God is step by step.  We want to know the whole plan.  I need to thank God for what I know and trust Him for what I don’t know yet.  That’s a lesson of faith.

We may know where He’s bringing us to, but not the exact path.

When it comes to our blessings from God, we like to keep the leftovers.  Think about all of the things we’ve prayed for.  Then think about all the answers to those prayers.  My first thought is, “They belong to me!”

No – they belong to God.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10

We want to keep everything God gives us for ourselves.  But that’s pretty selfish.

God’s grace to us is for others as well.  We want to keep it all for ourselves.  God wants to bless us AND make us a blessing.  We want to store it all up for our own usage.

That’s the difference between a river and a swamp.  The Israelites learned it when their extra manna got smelly and full of maggots.

Finally, our thankfulness prompts others to thank God.  God desires our thankfulness to overflow into the lives of others.  It’s like a river of blessing flowing into those around us.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 4:15

This is God’s will for us.  To overflow by the spirit.  We may still have leftovers this year.  But as we thank God remember not to hang on to the blessings that He wants you to move along.

Question: What are some blessings you can pass on to others?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Joyfully Thankful

In my last post, I finished my series on the book of Galatians.  Since we’re now approaching the Thanksgiving holiday, I feel like posting some things that would prepare our hearts.

At one point, the Apostle Paul prayed for the Colossian believers to have a knowledge of God’s will with spiritual wisdom and understanding.

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Colossians 1:10-12

That’s a long sentence, but it has a great message for us.  We’re told that we should live a life worthy of the Lord.  Our lives should reflect His character since we’re called to live as His ambassadors.  But how is that to be accomplished?

It also says that we should please Him in every way.  This is the only place in Scripture that particular word is used.  It means to have the desire to please someone – to want to make them happy.

I realize that sometimes we make big mistakes and fall short of this goal.  It’s good to know that if the desire’s there, then the Lord is pleased with us.

However, it can’t just end with the desire to please Him.  This desire is not just an internal part of me; it has to be manifested in how I live.

According to Paul, it’s shown forth as I bear fruit, growing, and allowing His power to work in me.  And right along with this, I need to be joyfully giving thanks to the Lord.

Please understand that there are two ways we view life when faced with challenges that we can’t change.  The first is to tolerate them with grumbling and complaining.  The other is to come at them with the knowledge that God has full dominion over everything and everybody.

Looking at life’s problems in this last way allows us to rejoice that God’s power will work in us.  Then it will be evident to the world around us that God is still on the throne.

I love that phrase, “…joyfully giving thanks to the Father…”  Thanking God with joy is what we need in in the challenging situations that we face all the time.

But this kind of response will only happen as we spend time with Him.  Being in His presence allows us to be strengthened by His Spirit.  It gives us the knowledge and faith that Christ is in control.

The word translated giving thanks is a part of speech that indicates Paul is not just talking about Thanksgiving Day.  It’s all about a lifestyle of giving thanks to God continually.

Keep your thankfulness to God going throughout the year.  It will change your whole outlook on life.

Question: What are you thankful for this season?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Encouragement, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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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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Thanksgiving and God’s Plan for You

ThanksgivingMany people are preparing their homes for Thanksgiving. I think that the average American has lost sight of the true meaning. It’s become “Turkey Day” or a day for watching great football games. But many have erased God from the picture.

The world we live in is so uncertain. Finances, healthcare, government, crime, terrorists…society is on the edge of their seat. How can we be thankful in a time like this? The fact is, if we want to live victoriously, then it’s all about thankfulness. Here are some things to think about as we head into this holiday.

…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

First of all, giving thanks is God’s will. It doesn’t matter what you’re going through – good times or bad. Notice that He doesn’t say for all things, but in all things. We shouldn’t be moved by the visible. We must keep our eyes on the eternal.

The ups and downs of society and the weather are all temporary. In any situation I find myself in, I can give thanks and I’m in the will of God for me.

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

This is a poor translation. The verse literally says always giving thanks OVER everything.

Giving thanks raises you over the situation. In the name of Christ we’re above our circumstances.

We see the problems and they look so big. Like the Israelites who spied out the Promised Land. They saw the giants. But Joshua and Caleb were looking through eyes of thankfulness because God was giving them the land.

It doesn’t matter how big the mountain is thankfulness puts you over it.

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

Giving thanks results in the peace of God. The literal Greek of this verse says that when you offer up thanksgiving in a worrisome situation then the peace of God will hold you above all understanding.

Then it will guard you; like having sentries all around you. It’s the peace OF GOD that will hold you above the circumstance.

He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.
Psalms 50:23

Giving thanks prepares you for victory. You need to be prepared to receive God’s blessing. That’s the rule in the kingdom of God.

Somewhere along the way we’ve missed it. We’ve let the selfishness of society mold our thinking.

“When somebody does something nice, you thank them.”

Thankfulness after the fact is based upon doubt. The kingdom of God is based on faith. When do you thank God for your food – after you receive it? No – we see the food, thank God, and receive it.

By faith we see the answer to our need, thank God, and THEN receive it. This holiday, be thankful – future tense.

Question: What are the future blessings that you’re thanking God for right now?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2015 in Faith, God's Provision, Power of God

 

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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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What’s Become of Thanksgiving?

ThanksgivingIt’s interesting to see what’s happening in society. Stores have had huge displays for Halloween. At this point they have taken them down and have gone right into Christmas displays.

According to my daughter, Thanksgiving has become a “middle child” holiday – mostly ignored. That’s probably because both Halloween and Christmas can be merchandised for a huge profit. There’s no getting around the fact that Thanksgiving is about thankfulness to God.

To the believer, this day should be one of the most meaningful of the year.

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

I’ve read and sung this verse hundreds of times. It’s through giving thanks that we enter the gates. But what gates are being talked about here? More importantly, do I want to go in?

Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter.
Psalm 118:19-20

It’s obvious from this verse that they’re gates of righteousness. In this Psalm the writer is asking God to open wide the gate that only He can open. That’s why I’m thanking Him.

Righteousness is the package of all He has for me. Because of His righteousness I can live on a higher level than I ever thought possible. I’m made righteous in Christ so I can enter the Gate.

I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone…
Psalm 118:21-22

This is an incredible truth. The writer literally says I thank you because you paid attention to me and you have become my salvation. The word for salvation here is Yeshua – which is Jesus in the Greek.

He was rejected for me. Yet He has become the chief stone of the pinnacle – the capstone.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

In Him we are the righteousness of God. That means that Christ is the gate of righteousness through which we enter God’s presence.

Think about how we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We show forth the death of Christ in the bread and the cup. His work on the cross allows us to enter into a righteousness beyond our comprehension.

The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
Psalm 118:23

It is absolutely incredible in our eyes. Only those who have experienced the life changing power of Jesus Christ can truly fathom it. That’s why no one should be able out do our celebration. It’s a shame that football teams and entertainers receive more praise than our God.

As we prepare for our Thanksgiving celebration this week, don’t miss the most important part. Make sure that your thanks and appreciation to God is central to what you’re doing.

Question: What are you thankful to God for at this time?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2014 in Encouragement, Prayer, Worship

 

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