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The Fig Tree

I’m continuing to look at the Gospel of Mark.  In this section, Jesus is teaching His disciples about His Second Coming.  It seems that what Jesus taught is different than what many are teaching in our generation.

As He brings this teaching to a close, the Lord begins to summarize for His followers.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.  Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door.  I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
Mark 13:28-31

Before He finishes this section of His teaching, Jesus emphasizes the certainty of His words.  It will take place as He said.  We will see it approaching just as we see the changes of the seasons.  If we are believers who are prepared to meet Christ, then this day will not take us unawares.

Let me add a note here.  Some teachers use this section to fix a date for the return.  They reason that the budding fig tree is when Israel became a nation again in 1948 or perhaps when the United Nations recognized them in 1965.  This line of thinking continues as they explain that a generation is 40-50 years.  That would have made the year of the return 1988, 1998, 2005, or 2015!

Jesus said that we wouldn’t know the day or the hour.  In reality, the word generation in the above verse could also be translated race.  Jesus could have merely been saying that, as a sign to prove the truth of His statement, the Jews would never be totally exterminated.  Considering the persecutions and the atrocities that have been committed against them, this is a miracle in itself.

The Lord then seals the certainty of what He says.  He contrasts the Word that He speaks to the natural heavens and the earth.

The earth and the sky that we see now are only temporary.  There will come a day when they’re changed by the Lord.

Right now, because of sin, everything is subject to decay – which, in terms of Physics, is the Third Law of Thermodynamics.  When Christ returns, He will make all things new – with no more decay.  I’m looking forward to that day with great anticipation.

His Word, however, will never change.  It is forever settled in Heaven.  I can put my trust in Christ, knowing that He will always bring about His revealed plan to completion.  That’s true whether we’re talking about world events or my personal life.

So, as we continue living in these last days before Christ’s return, let’s focus our hearts and minds on Him.  That’s how we’ll receive the strength and wisdom needed to be victorious until the end of this age.

Maranatha!  Even so, come quickly, Lord!

Question: How are you preparing yourself for the Lord’s return?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on July 11, 2018 in Return of Christ, Word of God

 

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Faith from the Word

In my last post, we saw how Jesus upset the religious leadership by clearing out the marketplace that was set up in the Temple.  It angers people when you mess with their cash-flow.

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
When evening came, they went out of the city.
Mark 11:18-19

Jesus and His disciples then went to Bethany for the night and returned to Jerusalem the next morning.

In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.  Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look!  The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
Mark 11:20-21

Two posts ago (What’s Your Season?) I talked about Jesus cursing the fig tree.  Now we see the result of what Jesus did that day.  The disciples were amazed at how the tree had died so quickly.

It’s important for us to understand the explanation that Jesus gave to the disciples.

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.  “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Mark 11:22-24

This is one of those verses that are often misunderstood.  I’ve heard people reading into it.  They make it sound like Jesus is saying that God will give you whatever you want as long as you can believe you’re going to get it.  That’s not what Jesus is saying here.

His first and most important statement is – HAVE FAITH IN GOD!  The Lord always has to be the object of our faith.  My faith cannot be toward what a preacher says (and that’s coming from a preacher!), or what you read in a book.

Listen carefully, because I’m about to make you mad at me.  We are not even to make the Bible the object of our faith.  It’s the Word of God that points to God as the object of faith.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17

When I hear God’s Word, it inspires me to trust God.  When the Scripture tells me that by the stripes of Jesus I’m healed…my faith is not in that Bible verse, it has to be toward Christ my Healer.  Too often our faith is misplaced.  It has to be toward God.

Another thing we misunderstand is that Jesus is talking about hearing from the Holy Spirit.  He didn’t curse the fig tree because He was in a bad mood that day.  The Holy Spirit instructed the Lord to do that for an object lesson for His disciples.

Jesus clearly said that this faith, or doubt, is in your heart.  He’s not talking about you simply deciding that you want a new car, so you start believing that you’ll receive it from God.  The Lord is talking about believing Him for a desire that God has placed in your heart.

True faith will always come from a Word from God and will have God, Himself as the object.  Then you’ll see the manifestation of your request.

Question: How is faith in your heart different than a “head-faith”?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2018 in Faith, Power of God, Prayer, Word of God

 

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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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