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The Power of Guilt

In my last post, I talked about how Jesus sent His disciples to prepare the towns ahead of Him for His arrival.  As they went, they begin doing the same miracles as Jesus.  Word starts to circulate about the power of Christ and His team.

Finally, word reaches Herod, the ruler of the region.  Mark now begins to explain the relationship between Herod and John the Baptist.  You may want to read Mark 6:12-29 before you continue.

King Herod is an interesting person in Scripture.  He was actually only Jewish by religion, not birth.  He used this religious affiliation as a means to wealth, and political power.

When he heard about the ministry of John the Baptist, he was attracted to the message.  But like so many people, he only wanted to hear God’s Word until it meant that he needed to change.

At one point, Herod took his brother’s wife, Herodias, as his own.  She also happened to be his niece.  As a preacher of righteousness, John the Baptist had something to say about that.

For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
Mark 6:18

Herod found himself in a tight position.  He felt the conviction and power of John’s words.  On the other hand, he didn’t want to stop what he was doing.  Not knowing what to do, he had John arrested and put into prison.

But there’s more to the story…

So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him.  But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man.  When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.
Mark 6:19-20

There was a conflict raging on the inside of him.  It was the tension between the knowledge of truth and a refusal to walk in repentance.

It’s sad to say, but many believers find themselves in this position.  They hear a message about God’s call to a holy life, but they want to hold on to their present lifestyle.  They try to quiet the inner voice of the Spirit by convincing themselves that they don’t have to accept the “message of condemnation.”

Please understand; a call to repentance is NOT condemnation.  Being condemned means that you’re given no chance to repent.

Eventually, through trickery and deceit, Herodias’ grudge turned into full-blown murder.  She had John the Baptist beheaded.  You may think that this was the end of it.  It wasn’t because guilt seems to have a life of its own.

It continued to eat away at Herod’s thoughts.  That’s why, when he heard about the works of Jesus and the disciples, all he could think about was John.

King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known.  Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”  Others said, “He is Elijah.”  And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”
But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
Mark 6:14-16

So strong was the guilt he felt, that he actually believed that John had been raised from the dead.  It was consuming him.

Don’t allow guilt to work death in your life.  If repentance is needed, then handle it quickly.  Allow the life of Christ to bring renewal and restoration.

Question: What are some positive results of repentance that you’ve experienced?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on February 28, 2018 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Asking the Wrong Questions

Did you know that the questions you ask tell a lot about who you are?  It can bring out your motives and prejudices.

As we continue to look at the life of Christ in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus now arrives back at His hometown of Nazareth.

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples.  When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles!  Isn’t this the carpenter?  Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon?  Aren’t his sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at him.
Mark 6:1-3

Here Jesus is preaching in the synagogue He grew up in.  They were friends and family who probably knew Him His whole life.  They asked Him to preach on the Sabbath, so the Lord agreed.

Just like in other places, when He spoke, the power and authority of the Spirit were evident.  There was a life-changing quality in what He was speaking.

Unfortunately, people don’t want to change.  Even more so, they don’t want to admit that they need to change.  The result was that their emotional walls started to come up.

They were truly amazed at what Jesus was teaching.  But they had to justify why they didn’t receive it.

Notice what they do.  They focus on the man, not the Word.

“Where did this man get these things?”

After all, He’s one of us, and we don’t know these things.  They had to explain away the Lord’s teaching.

“I know His family.”

“I hired Him and His father to build my house.”

“Why does He think He’s so special all of a sudden?”

As they started thinking along this path, they were offended.  That’s an interesting word.  In the Greek, it’s a word picture of a trap-stick to catch small animals like birds.

This kind of thinking; looking at the person and not the message, is a trap that many fall into.  Many times we write preachers off because we don’t like their style of preaching or ministry.  But there’s a consequence to doing this.

Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”  He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  And he was amazed at their lack of faith.
Mark 6:4-6a

In my last post, I talked about the importance of hearing the Word in divine healing.  Because of their familiarity with Jesus, they rejected His Word.  As a result, not many people were miraculously touched by the power of God.

It’s all about the Word.  That’s the difference between the people of Nazareth and Capernaum.

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.  The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.
Mark 1:21-22

It’s the Word itself that should amaze us.  Let’s learn this lesson.  Don’t look at the style of the preacher, but at the power and authority of the Holy Spirit using him.

Question:  When have you had to overlook a person in order to receive a message God had for you?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2018 in Faith, Ministry, Power of God, Word of God

 

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Fruit When You Need It

In the last few posts, we went through some of the parables of Jesus concerning the Word of God in us.  We saw how to plant it, cultivate it, and eventually see the manifestation of God’s Kingdom as a result.  As soon as He explains these parables, the Lord gives His disciples a vivid demonstration.

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.  There were also other boats with him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.  The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”  Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
Mark 4:35-39

This is a perfect illustration of hearing and obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit (the Word of God).  Jesus was asleep when the storm came up.  The boat was full of water.  They were all minutes from drowning.

There was no time for Jesus to fast and pray about the problem.  There were no friends He could call to pray for Him.  It was a “hear from God or die” situation.

Through His intimacy with the Father, Christ had sensitized Himself to hear the voice of the Spirit.  This was true even in a stress-filled moment.

He talked to the wind and the waves.  The fact is that you don’t speak to inanimate objects unless you’ve heard from God.  He had the assurance, before He spoke, that it would have an effect.

That’s why we need to plant the Word in our lives.  We need to keep the good soil of our hearts free from rocks and weeds.  Then we have the fruit of the Word when we need it.

Even a fool knows that you don’t wait until you want a salad to plant a garden.  You always plant with the expectation of a future harvest.  In this case, Jesus needed the harvest of the Word at that moment.  Because the Lord spent time in the Father’s presence, the power was there when needed.

This should be an example to us.  Without spending quality time with the Holy Spirit, we won’t have a sensitivity to the Spirit’s voice.  A relationship is only matured over time.

Too often I’ve seen disappointed Christians try to do what Jesus did.  They spoke to a situation, and nothing changed.  They get frustrated, angry, and disillusioned with the Lord.

The problem is that you can’t walk out in this type of faith without hearing from God.  You have to get to know how He speaks to you.  Then you need a track record of obedience to what you hear.  The disciples found that out the hard way.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Mark 4:40-41

They missed the whole point, just like us sometimes.  Jesus clearly was saying that they could have handled the storm just like He did.  They came to the conclusion that Jesus was somehow different than they were.

Yes, He is the Son of God.  But He limited Himself to operating as a man under the Holy Spirit’s direction.  If we’re hearing and obedient, we should be doing the same works that the Lord did.

I believe that this is where the Lord is taking His church in our generation.  If we’re willing to spend the time learning to listen for His voice.

Question: How often do you spend in the spirit, listening for the Lord to speak to you?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2018 in Faith, Power of God, Prayer, Word of God

 

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Waiting for the Harvest

As we continue to look at Mark’s Gospel, we come to another parable of Christ.  This one is about a sower and his seed.  The earlier parable about a sower zeroed in on the different types of soil.  This one talks specifically about how the seed works.

This illustration explains our relationship to the Word of God.  Specifically, how it works as seed in our lives.  While I’m responsible to accept God’s Word into my life, there’s another aspect that I have no control over.

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like.  A man scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.  All by itself the soil produces grain – first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.  As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
Mark 4:26-29

One of the most important concepts for us to understand is that the Kingdom of God is all about the Word being planted.  This is a part of all that we do as believers.

As a pastor, my greatest assignment is to receive the Word in order to plant it again in the lives of those who hear me.  Along with that, every Christian needs to be planting the Word into the lives of those around them.

With this comes the realization that nothing I do will bring about the growth of that seed, once it’s been planted.  From then on it’s out of my control.  Once you plant the Word into the lives of your friends and family, it’s time to wait – and that can be the hardest part.

Sometimes we want to force them to produce fruit.  We try to convince and coerce.  That’s usually when we start to push them further away.  We need to learn to plant, then step back and let God provide the increase.

The Word, by its very nature, begins to grow below the surface.  It cannot be stopped, but neither can it be hurried along.  It goes at the pace God has set for it.  One thing is certain; it will produce the harvest that God intended it to bring forth.  This thought was echoed by the apostle Paul.

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
1 Corinthians 3:6-7

We all have our part to play in the Kingdom of God.  Some of us plant the seed and some water it.  None of us can make it grow; that’s God’s department.  The only help we can give it, once it’s planted, is in the watering process.

In the natural, no farmer would think to dig up the seed, just to check if it started growing yet.  But there are many who are guilty of this – spiritually speaking.  How many spiritual crops have we missed because we didn’t simply leave the seed alone?

Once the Word is planted, it’s time to step back and leave it in the Lord’s hands.  Let Him do what only He can do.  Then we’ll see the harvest come by the power of God.

Question: When have you caused bigger problems by trying to force the Word of God to grow in someone?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2018 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Ears to Hear

We’re looking at some of the parable of Jesus that Mark’s Gospel records for us.  We should have the insight to understand what the Lord was speaking about.  These particular parables have to do with our handling of God’s Word to us.

“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Mark 4:23

God has placed His Holy Spirit within us.  It’s because of His ministry that we can hear God’s voice.  If we draw on His power, we’ll understand and walk in the Word.  Because of this, we must be careful as to our handling of that Word.

“Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you — and even more.  Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”
Mark 4:24-25

This is one of those sections of Scripture that we sometimes misapply.  Because it sounds like others verses that talk about money, we miss the connection to the Word of God.  This directly applies to hearing God’s Word.

The word, consider, means to look carefully into something.  We need to be discerning listeners.  When we think that God is speaking to us, we need to consider it very carefully.  We don’t want to lose anything that He has for us.

This is important because the measure – the container – that we use will determine how much we receive.  This verse is using the illustration of holders.  If I use a 1-liter bottle, then the most I can take with me is one liter.

If God wants to give me a gallon of understanding, but I’m only prepared to receive a quart, then I’m going to miss out on some of the things He wants to accomplish in me.  I must be ready and willing to receive God’s whole message; not just the parts I like.

Too often we like the blessings that He promises to send our way.  But the things that He’s calling us to change seem to go right over our heads.  We need to retain and carefully consider the Lord’s whole message to us.

When we receive what God gives us, then He’ll be faithful to send even more.  The final statement above literally says that he who holds on to it will be given more.  Consequently, he who doesn’t hold on to it will lose what he had been given previously.

This goes right along with a warning Christ gives us in the book of the Revelation.

“I am coming soon.  Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.”
Revelation 3:11

We need to be careful listeners of God’s Word.  We should be cultivating our ability to hear the Holy Spirit when He speaks to us.  Then we won’t find ourselves learning the same lessons again and again.

Be prepared to accept the whole message that God speaks to you.  Then, carefully retain it, meditate on it, and protect it until it is fulfilled in you.  That’s the kind of disciples the Lord is actively seeking.

Question: What’s the last message that you’re sure the Lord spoke to you?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Think like a Farmer

Over the past few posts, we’ve looked at the parable of the seed planted in different soils.  The message Christ was focusing on should be clear.  In order to prepare my heart for a great harvest, I must come to the realization that the Word of God must be the single crop in my heart.

This is what Scripture means by being single-hearted.  When you have a single crop of the Word planted in your life, you’ve set yourself up for a plentiful harvest.

We have a spiritual epidemic across our nation.  There’s an abundance of the Word of God, with very little fruit being produced.  It’s time to weed out these distractions from the good, rich soil of our hearts.  What we need is the mindset of a farmer when it comes to the Word of God.

“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

It’s clear from this verse that in order to see the harvest, I must hear the Word with understanding – seeing that it applies to my life.  I have to go beyond the person who lives too close to the road.

Luke records this in a little more detail.

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”
Luke 8:15

This literally says that I must hold it down fast; keep it secure in my heart.  It has to take root deeply in my life.  I must go beyond those who have rocky soil.

According to Mark’s Gospel, we have to accept the Word.  This means to associate with, delight in.  If you delight in a crop, you’re going to keep it free of weeds.  You don’t want anything choking it out.

The bottom line is that you must persevere.  In actuality, it’s never easy to keep a farm or a garden.  It always requires tending.

I must come to the point where I acknowledge that the Word of God is everything to me.  It’s the same principle as in the physical world.

In the past, I’ve had a garden.  The fresh tomatoes, peppers, and squash were a welcome sight throughout the summer and fall.  I could proudly say, “This eggplant came from my garden.”  Here’s the difference – I wasn’t a farmer.  I enjoyed the fresh vegetables grown in my garden, but I didn’t need them in order to survive.

A true farmer, on the other hand, lives by what he grows.  His livelihood is tied to the crops that he produces.  His new car is a result of the crops he harvested.  The renovations to his home are a result of the harvest.  Everything he has is tied up in his ability to produce a bountiful crop.

We must pick up this same mindset in regards to the Word of God.  We live by the Word.  Everything we need for life and godliness is all tied up in the Word. How I relate to the Word determines my destiny.

Hopefully, you can see by Christ’s teaching that it’s not just a matter of getting the seed into the ground.  You can be planting huge amounts of seed and never see a single piece of fruit if you’re not following the basic principles of spiritual farming.

It’s all about getting the right seed into the right ground, then persevering to make sure that the seed can grow and produce fruit unhindered.

Question: How do you cultivate a “farmer’s mindset”?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2018 in Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Are You in the Weeds?

I’m posting about the different kinds of soil that Jesus said was contained in our hearts.  Today’s post is about someone with very good soil.  It produced bountifully.  The problem was that it wasn’t producing fruit.

Instead, it raised a great crop of thorns and thistles.  Then the few good plants that sprung up were choked out before they produced anything.

Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
Mark 4:18-19

These believers get further along than the other groups.  They believe the Word and actually let it take root in their lives.  Their problem is that they let other things grow right along next to it.

The first weed Jesus mentions is the distractions of this age, in the original Greek.  What a description of the modern Christian – DISTRACTED!

It’s not that we’ve turned our backs on God.  On the contrary, we want God’s best – His Word and His grace.  The trouble is that we want the world’s best as well.  We’re getting distracted by the things of the world.

Another weed the Lord talks about is the delusion of wealth.  When we think of wealth, it tricks us into believing that it can supply all of our needs.  The truth is that wealth can only obtain material possessions.

Wealth can never satisfy the longing of our souls.  If it could, you’d never hear of a wealthy person committing suicide.  The thing we need to put into perspective is that only the things that come from the Word of God are truly able to fulfill our lives.

The third weed that grows next to the Word is simply, desires.  What the verse implies is that this is a desire for the things that were given up in order to follow after God.  When we start looking back at these things with longing in our hearts, it’s a sure road to failure.

Please understand that it’s not doing the former things that cause the trouble, it’s the desire to do it.

The biggest thing that the Christians of this generation need to realize is that you can’t have it all, no matter what any televangelist will tell you.  You can’t have the power of God manifest in you, as well as everything your flesh desires.

It’s a well-known principle of farming.  When weeds and valuable crops are allowed to grow in the same space, it’s the weeds that will win out every time.

But when our life is unfruitful, we’re so quick to blame God.

“Oh God, I planted the Word.  Why is there no harvest?  Why have you failed me?”

I’m here to inform you, it wasn’t God who failed.  Everything grew as God ordained it to.  It was the weeds in your life that choked out the Word before it was able to produce fruit in you.  That’s why there was no harvest.

Part of the farming process is to keep the ground free of weeds.  Intimate time spend in the Spirit is what’s required.  Then the ground will be free and clear.  At that point, you can expect an abundant harvest.

Question: How are you keeping your heart free from the weeds?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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