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Category Archives: Faith

Hearts on Fire

Hearts on Fire

We’re continuing through Luke’s Gospel. At this point we’re in the final chapter. Christ has risen from the dead. The women went to the tomb and had an encounter with some angels who told them of the resurrection.

We can learn some important truths from what happens next. You may want to read Luke 24:9-32 before continuing with this post.

At this time, Christ began showing Himself to groups of His followers in various places. At one point two of them were walking from Jerusalem to a town called Emmaus. They had an encounter with the risen Lord, only they didn’t know who it was.

Jesus acted like He didn’t know what had happened in Jerusalem. The disciples shared their grief with Him.

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Luke 24:25-27 NIV

It wasn’t until Christ vanished that they knew who He was. Later, once they knew who they’d been with, they discussed it.

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Luke 24:32 NIV

The key point is that their hearts were burning. So, let’s start at the beginning. If this is about their hearts, then how did they begin the process? This is an important question.

As I said before, they didn’t know at first that they were talking to Jesus. He asked them why they looked so sad. They were amazed that there was a person who had no idea of what had just taken place in Jerusalem.

“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.”

Luke 24:19-21 NIV

This is one of the most amazing confessions of faith AND unbelief that I’ve ever seen! On the one hand they saw in Christ the power of the Word of God. They were inspired to place their hope in Him as the Redeemer of Israel.

Yet at the same time they were walking in defeat, believing that there was nothing more to hope for. It was over. The chief priests and rulers destroyed the dream.

In this condition, they were what James called double-minded.

But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

James 1:6-8 NIV

Being double-minded doesn’t mean that you doubt everything. You’re trusting God for some things, while doubting others. You may trust God to save your soul, yet not believe that He wants to provide for your needs.

That’s the place that many Christians find themselves in today. They know what God’s Word says, yet they have no idea how to apply it to their lives. They’re hoping that God will do something in them, while at the same time they expect nothing to happen.

This is where the burning hearts come in. In my next post we’ll see the Lord’s remedy for this double-minded dilemma.

Question: When have you found yourself both trusting and doubting God at the same time?

© 2023 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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What Are You Preparing For?

What Are You Preparing For?

As we continue our journey through the Gospel of Luke, we’ve just witnessed the death of Christ on the cross. He was buried and laid in the tomb for three days. Now we’ll see the best part of the story.

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Luke 24:1-3 NIV

Recently, I noticed this gem in the Scripture for the first time. I was reading my Bible and the words seemed to jump out at me. The women who had followed Jesus’ ministry were very faithful to Him. They worked to support the ministry while He was alive.

When Jesus went to the cross, they were devastated. But they continued to serve Him the best that they could. This verse says that they prepared spices for His body.

Because Jesus’ crucifixion took place so close to the Sabbath, they were not able to go through the normal embalming process when He was placed in the tomb. It was only after the Sabbath was over that they could proceed with it.

This was quite a bit of work on the part of these women. It involved grinding the spices to a fine powder. Then they had to crush a resin in a mortar and pestle. Only after this was done and the spices mixed, could they go to the tomb.

The problem was – all that work was for nothing. Jesus Christ had risen from the dead! Embalming spices were not necessary. The Holy Spirit started to speak to me about our walk with God.

How often do we give up on something – a plan, dream, or ministry – because it doesn’t seem to be working. We just want to put it out of its misery. So we go through all the work of preparing for its demise. Then, to our surprise, God supernaturally brings life to it again.

While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'” Then they remembered his words.

Luke 24:4-8 NIV

We have to heed the words of the angels to the women. “Remember how He told you…” That was the key for them, as well as us.

We need to remember the things that God has spoken to us. That’s why we should have a prayer journal of some sort. We should always be able to go back and remind ourselves of the interactions we’ve had with the Lord.

Sometimes it looks like the things we heard will never happen. Circumstances, situations, and setbacks can rob us of our vision. But thankfully, God is not bound by circumstances.

We need to remember that we serve a God who can raise the dead. Never give up on a God-given dream. It may go through a “death cycle.” But God is not bound to how things appear on the surface.

Don’t waste your time preparing for defeat, when the Lord’s plan is for your victory. Let Him have the final say in your situation.

Question: What are some God-given dreams that you’ve laid aside?

© 2023 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Is It Really Over?

Is It Really Over?

We’re at the final chapters of Luke’s Gospel. Jesus Christ is on the cross, giving His life for our redemption.

It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Luke 23:44-46 NIV

The power that was released because of Christ’s obedience is beyond comprehension. You need to realize that the curtain in the Temple was not a mere piece of cloth. It was made of leather panels stitched together. It was tested by placing it between two teams of oxen. If they couldn’t tear it, then it was ready for the Temple.

In the same way, the power of God is released in us when we walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit. There may be trials along the way. There may even be people who ridicule and tell us we’re wrong to trust God. But, God’s power shines brightest when we’re at our weakest.

The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Luke 23:47-49 NIV

This wasn’t something that was done in secret. There were many people surrounding the cross. They watched as He gave His life.

Many of these people had placed their hopes in Christ. Now that dream was gone.

Maybe they were all praying for a miracle as they watched everything taking place. They could have hoped that at the last moment, angels would swoop down and take Jesus off the cross. They watched and waited, but the Messiah stayed on the cross.

Now it was over. There was nothing left to do but to take care of the body. A member of the Sanhedrin stepped up and came out of the shadows.

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

Luke 23:50-54 NIV

Joseph was a man who was highly respected. He could have remained as a secret follower of Christ. Instead, he summoned his inner strength, and received the body of Jesus. Joseph did what he could to prepare the body for burial. He even gave the Lord his own tomb that had never been used.

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

Luke 23:55-56 NIV

Once the body was laid to rest, the tomb was sealed. It was finished.

At least that’s what everybody thought. What went through their minds as they tried to sleep that night? It seemed like God had failed them.

It’s like us sometimes. We give God a time limit. We think He needs to answer us by this time. Then, when nothing happens, we get upset at God.

“Lord, I trusted You. Why didn’t You answer my prayer?”

What we miss, sometimes, is that God isn’t bound by our limits and weaknesses. He can bring about His plan even after we think it’s too late.

The people of Scripture thought the same way as us. Jesus is dead and buried in the ground. There’s no way that He can save Israel now.

Understand this. God always has a bigger plan than we can see. It’s never too late for the Lord to turn things around. Put your trust in Him and never waver in your faith.

We know how the story will finish!

Question: When has God answered your prayer even when you thought it was too late?

© 2023 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Save Yourself?

Save Yourself?

We’re continuing through the Gospel of Luke. We’re now seeing Christ on the cross and all that means to us. Listen as the crowd mocks Him.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

Luke 23:35-39 NIV

As emotionally charged as this scene is, there’s something for us to take note of. There’s an overall theme of what’s being said to the Lord. “Save yourself!”

I think that we lose sight of this truth sometimes. The will of God often goes against the natural tendencies of our humanity.

The world and even our own flesh will cry out for us to save ourselves. Surely there must be something we can do to get out of the mess we find ourselves in. However, that’s carnal thinking.

Jesus prepared the disciples for what His attitude would be on the cross.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

Matthew 16:24-25 NIV

There was a work that needed to be done. The only possible way was by means of the cross. There was no accomplishing our salvation and at the same time saving Himself. Jesus totally surrendered to the will of the Father.

We are not called to anything less. The road that we walk, many times, requires us to deny ourselves for the sake of others. Our flesh may be insisting that we save ourselves. But that’s not the example that was laid down for us.

Even in His pain and suffering, there was a work that Christ needed to be doing for those around Him. There was one more act of compassion that had to be done before His death.

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:40-43 NIV

I can’t even fathom the love of the Lord at this point. My attitude would have been a lot different.

“Really, Father? I’m dying here. Do you really expect me to minister to this man in my condition?”

I’m so glad that Christ lived above our petty self-centeredness. His life was never about Himself, but always for the betterment of others.

That’s the key to a fulfilled life in Christ. We must accurately portray who He is through our daily lives.

But we’ll never be able to live up to this in our own strength and ability. The only way to accomplish such a lifestyle is through the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

That’s why we need to spend quality time in the Lord’s presence. It’s only as He imparts His love, boldness, and strength, that we can hope to minister as Jesus did. Let the Lord’s example motivate you to seek His face for the days ahead.

Question: How much of the Lord’s compassion do you see in your life?

© 2023 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2023 in Faith, Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Forgiveness Begins

Forgiveness Begins

As we continue through Luke’s Gospel, we’re now at the crucifixion of Christ. There’s so much for us to see in this section of Scripture.

Sometimes we need to be reminded about the simplest concepts. Something as common as forgiveness should be reviewed again and again so that it stays fresh in our hearts. Christ is our greatest example of forgiveness, even while hanging on the cross.

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals — one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Luke 23:32-34 NIV

In the past I’ve shared about what forgiveness is. It started out as God’s idea. In the Old Testament, God is the only one who ever forgave. Forgiveness is the end of the penalty for our actions. It cancels the demand for retribution. It also frees us from the guilt.

If you want to read the original series in more detail, click here.

Jesus started the process of our forgiveness even while being humiliated and ignored on the cross. But, how does this process work? Let’s start with King David in 2 Samuel, chapters 11 and 12.

It all began when he stayed home from battle when he should have been with his army. He ended up on his porch, watching his neighbor’s wife as she bathed. David ended up being involved in adultery, murder, and a cover-up.

God sends the prophet, Nathan, to confront David with these sins. David is convicted, repents, and writes a song about his experience. (Psalm 51)

In the first 4 verses of Psalm 51 he used 5 different words for sin. He wanted to make sure he covered everything. That’s how forgiveness starts.

The first step – Sin is committed. There is a failure, a hurt against someone. But the truth is that no matter who gets hurt, there’s one important truth we need to recognize.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.

Psalm 51:4 NIV

Think about all that were hurt by David’s actions. There was Bathsheba, Uriah, Joab, Nathan, David’s family, as well as the whole nation of Israel. In spite of all this hurt, David recognized that the sin was against God only.

This is the key. We have such a high opinion of ourselves. The fact is that we were created to be perfect. Anything less offends God. There is no sin we could possibly commit that’s not against God.

There is good news, however. That’s not the end of the story. The next step is that once sin is committed, forgiveness is purchased.

We know from Scripture that without blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). Under the Old Testament Law there had to be a sacrifice. The Good News is that we live after the cross.

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Matthew 26:27-28 NIV

The blood of Christ paid for our forgiveness once and for all. It was the one perfect payment needed.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.

Ephesians 1:7 NIV

This verse says that we have been loosed off by His blood and our sins are forgiven. Forgiveness is available to all.

But that’s also a problem. It’s available to all, but it’s not yet manifest. That’s what the Good News of Christ is all about. It’s communicating the forgiveness of God to the world.

Each one of us, as believers, should be proclaiming this great Gospel.

Question: How has God’s forgiveness changed your life?

© 2023 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2023 in Encouragement, Faith, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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Judge for Yourself

Judge for Yourself

As we continue through Luke’s Gospel, we’re now looking at the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin. That’s the ruling body of elders in Israel.

At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. “If you are the Christ,” they said, “tell us.”

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”

He replied, “You are right in saying I am.”

Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”

Luke 22:66-71 NIV

This is quite an applicable portion of Scripture. It contains what I call the “Jesus Dilemma”. It was faced by the religious leaders of Israel as well as the unbelieving world of today.

The biggest part of the problem is faith. These were a group of men who saw the works of the Lord. They heard His teachings and felt the power of His wisdom. The life of Christ was above reproach – there was no wrong-doing that they could accuse Him of.

However, they had already rejected the Lord before the trial ever started. They were simply looking for a way to put Him to death.

That happens a lot in today’s society. Many times, people say that they want to talk to us about Jesus Christ or the teachings of Scripture. However, the reality is that they’ve already made up their minds to reject it no matter what we say.

It’s almost like the world views Christians the same way they view time-share salesmen. They listen politely, but they already have their “no” ready and waiting for the end of the conversation.

I love how the Lord gets right to the center of the issue. It’s not that clear in this English translation, so I’ll try to explain what was said.

The first thing Jesus told the leadership of Israel was, “If I told you who I am, you wouldn’t believe me.” That’s where faith comes in.

People see the difference in our lives. They see the blessing and favor of God on us. They ask us to explain what makes the difference. But, when we tell them how the Lord Jesus has changed our lives, suddenly the walls go up.

They start getting defensive. They tell us that the blessings of God are merely coincidences that could happen to anyone. They’ve decided from the start, not to believe.

There’s a second issue as well. Literally, Jesus said, “If I asked you, then you not think long and hard about your decision.” That’s because the word for answer, is a word that means to make a decision based upon all of the facts before you.

That’s what I think is a major problem in today’s society. People don’t want discernment and understanding. They simply want explanations that agree with what they already want to believe. They don’t want to make a personal judgment about who Jesus Christ is.

We have a generation that doesn’t want to think deeply about anything. That’s why we enjoy Google and Facebook. These sites record what we view, determine what we like, and spoon feed us more of the same.

Personally, I want to be challenged. Tell me why you think I’m missing it. It strengthens my faith. Or it shows me areas in which I need to change. In either case, I experience growth.

The worst-case scenario is for me to decide what I want to believe, then only listen to those who agree with me. That’s a sure road to failure.

I don’t follow Jesus Christ by blind faith. He has proved Himself faithful to me over and over again. My trust in the Lord is based upon a deep understanding of Him and His ways.

My prayer is that you will know Jesus Christ in the fullness of who He is. Then your life will reflect the glory of God.

Question: Why do you think that many in the world reject the knowledge of Jesus Christ?

© 2023 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2023 in Faith, Israel, The Gospel

 

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Christ in Our Place

Christ in Our Place

We are now in the Gospel of Luke, looking at the trial, arrest, and death of Jesus Christ. There’s so much that took place here. As believers, we need to understand what the Lord went through for us.

The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” And they said many other insulting things to him.

Luke 22:63-65 NIV

Whether you know it or not, this is a very important verse to us. It’s the point at which the Lord begins to pay for all the riches of His grace.

There are three things that happen here. They are spiritual battles that Jesus came through victoriously on our behalf. The first is the one that most preachers talk about.

He was wounded for our healing. This verse says that they began beating Him. That word means to strike hard enough to leave a mark. It could cause bleeding or bruising.

In any case, the Lord took that pain for us. Isaiah prophesied that this was for our healing.

…by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5b NIV

So many people don’t want to believe that Christ paid for our physical healing. However, this Hebrew word speak of a physical cure. The fact is that throughout Scripture, we are told that we serve a God who heals our bodies.

It’s at this point in His struggle, that Jesus paid the price for our healing. Now it’s up to us to trust Him as our Healer. But, there was more going on in this verse from Luke.

He was mocked to take away our shame. Many times, our past is a place of shame and disgrace. The Lord took that all upon Himself so that we no longer need to bear it. Isaiah explains this.

I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.

Isaiah 50:6b-7 NIV

Don’t allow the devil to shame you by bringing up your past. It’s all buried under the blood of Christ. We’ve been delivered from the shame and disgrace of our past because of Jesus’ victory.

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

Romans 10:11 NIV

There’s so much more that Jesus Christ accomplished for us. As we look at the verse in Luke, there’s one more thing I want to explain.

He was blasphemed so that we would know the power of His name. Every power in heaven and on earth bows before the name of Jesus Christ. The amazing thing is, that we have been given the authority to use that name.

Again, the prophet Isaiah looked forward to the day when this would happen.

“And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed. Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.”

Isaiah 52:5b-6 NIV

Those of us who are in Christ have been called by that name that is above every other name. Essentially, we’ve been given power of attorney to walk in that name.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:17 NIV

This means so much more than simply tacking on “in Jesus’ name” at the end of our prayers. It means that we are to walk and minister just as Jesus did. We are now taking His place on earth through the power of His Holy Spirit. This is a great responsibility.

There’s so much that Jesus accomplished for us. We may never know all the battles that were won from the Lord’s arrest to His crucifixion. But what I do know is that He paid for everything I’ll ever need.

Question: How well have you applied the Lord’s grace to your life?

© 2023 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2023 in Faith, God's Provision, Healing, Power of God, The Gospel

 

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Prayer in the Battle

Prayer in the Battle

As we continue through the Gospel of Luke, we’re now at the point just before the Lord’s arrest. They had finished the Passover meal and were now spending the night on the Mount of Olives.

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

Luke 22:39-40 NIV

This was the time in Jesus’ life that leads up to His betrayal and arrest. He knew that the cross was before Him. He came to earth knowing that He was to die for the sins of all people.

When it comes down to the hard choices, knowing your path and walking it out can be very different. Now that the hour was at hand, the Lord needed the strength to see it through.

In order to receive what He needed from the Father, Jesus did what He always knew would bring Him an answer. He spent time with God the Father in a private place, far away from any distractions.

This was not to be a time for crowds of people. He even left most of His disciples at the entrance to the garden. The only ones to stay with Him were Peter, James, and John. He would spend the night agonizing over what was ahead.

The disciples didn’t know it, but they were about to enter a storm of doubt and fear. Jesus wanted them to be prepared as well. Unfortunately, they didn’t have that same fervency in prayer.

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Luke 22:41-44 NIV

This is one of the simplest yet profound prayers in the Bible. It’s during these times of struggle that we dispense with the “religious protocol” of prayer. We forget about the intricate prayer charts or King James English. Our goal is to get right to the heart of the prayer – HELP!!!

It was no different for Jesus. He wasted no time on introductions. However, there’s one difference between His prayer and many of ours. This is seen in His attitude. Rather than trying to convince the Father to work out His plan in an easier way, our Lord immediately bowed His knee to the revealed will of God.

This is the example we need to follow. How often do we try to convince God to do things our way? Instead, our goal should be to learn the kind of submission that brings us right into the center of God’s will for us.

Are there things that God wants you to do that you’re having a hard time yielding to? Take this time to follow Christ’s lead. Surrender your whole life to God. Submit yourself by saying, in your own way, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.”

When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Luke 22:45-46 NIV

I always stand in awe of how determined Christ was to accomplish the work He was called to do. After His time in the presence of the Father we see no hesitancy or fear. He has set His face toward the path ahead.

I realize that, unlike us, He had no sin nature. However, it’s clear that He keenly felt the sting of His mortality. I believe that He also understood clearly the pain that He would have to endure. It was these realizations that brought Him to His knees in the garden.

What I really need to grab hold of is the understanding that it’s only in the presence of God that I can receive the strength and determination that it takes to move forward in my life. All of my will power and good intentions will never bring me to my destiny in the Lord. I need help from beyond myself.

Seeking intimacy with the Lord is time well spent. Use the time that you’ve been given to get into that place of safety in God. In that way – just like Jesus – you may leave your time in His presence physically drained, but you’ll be spiritually strong.

Question: What trials are you facing right now that are beyond your control?

© 2023 Nick Zaccardi

 

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A Psalm for 2023

A Psalm for 2023

As we begin this new year, we should take the time to meditate on where we’re headed. I want to use this post to give you some thoughts to pray on.

For many years, I’ve had a tradition when it comes to the New Year. I’ve only posted about it a few times, but I want to start making it a yearly thing.

A long time ago, I noticed that since 1901, the Psalms have pretty much lined up with what was happening in world events. For at least 20 years, I’ve been using them to prepare me, and those under my ministry, for the year ahead.

Last year, I noticed something that I find very interesting. With the global pandemic that started in 2019, a majority of Christians stopped attending church in-person. Coinciding with that, from Psalm 120 on, are what’s known as the Psalms of ascent. That means they are Psalms calling God’s people to meet together. Hmmmm!

In last year’s post, I showed a call to return to in-person meetings. Unfortunately, there are large groups of believers who still don’t meet together for whatever reasons. To read last year’s post, click here.

Psalm 123 is the Psalm of Ascent for 2023. That’s what I want to talk about in this post. It’s up to you whether or not you see it as a prep for the coming year.

I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy.

Psalm 123:1-2 NIV

This Psalm begins with an acknowledgment that God is higher than we are. We need to start looking up – seeking His face. This has to be done in the humility of a servant’s heart.

That in itself is an important concept. We look to the Lord’s hand. The Hebrew language distinguishes between an open hand and a closed hand. In the above verse, we look to the open hand of our Lord.

We need to understand this because an open hand is significant in Scripture. An open hand speaks of power, means, and direction. All of these things are to be sought from the hand of God.

This is where the Holy Spirit is leading us in the coming year. That is, if we’re willing to seek His face. That’s the place where we obtain mercy.

In this verse, the Hebrew word for mercy literally means that a superior being is bending or stooping in kindness to an inferior, in order to bestow favor on them. This is where the Lord wants us to be positioned.

However, the question this brings up is; why – why do we need this divine impartation at this time? The Psalm gives us the answer, although you may not want to hear it.

Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured much contempt. We have endured much ridicule from the proud, much contempt from the arrogant.

Psalm 123:3-4 NIV

This cry for mercy is because of the attitude of the world around us. These verses say that our lives will be abundantly filled with disrespect, contempt, and ridicule.

Our society has already begun this type of assault against true, Bible believing Christians. I believe that it will ramp up this year. Some of it is deserved for our timid service to Christ.

I believe that God is allowing this in order to get our attention. We need to get back to a lifestyle of seeking God’s face. We must let 2023 be a year of pressing into the Holy Spirit.

Question: How deep is your walk with the Lord?

© 2023 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Standing with Christ

Standing with Christ

We’re looking at the events leading up to the crucifixion of Christ as recorded by Luke’s Gospel. They have just finished the Passover meal. Jesus gave them some sobering words about His betrayal. Now, He gives them some encouragement.

You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Luke 22:28-30 NIV

The Lord lets them know that their faithfulness will be rewarded. They have been given a place of honor in the kingdom of God. They are qualified to judge, because they have seen the response of the nation of Israel.

Now, Christ turns His attention to Simon Peter.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

Luke 22:31-34 NIV

The Lord predicts that none will stand with Him in His final hours. That thought shocked them, especially Peter. He couldn’t imagine that he would ever deny knowing Christ. But very soon he would find out how far off his self-assessment was.

I think that we focus on Peter too much when we read this passage. After all, we would know better than to deny knowing the Lord. Or would we? Let’s think about what’s happening here. Mark gives us a few more details.

You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’”

Mark 14:27 NIV

Jesus quotes a Scriptural truth to His disciples. He tells them that when the Shepherd it struck, the sheep are scattered. He was referring to the disciples as the sheep.

However, Jesus was using this verse to prove His first statement that they would all fall away. That literally means that they would all be offended or tripped up. It was being offended that caused the sheep to leave the side of the Shepherd.

This didn’t mean that they stopped loving or following Christ, they just didn’t want to stand too close to Him. They didn’t want the hatred of the leaders to be against themselves.

In our society, right now, there’s a definite hatred against the name of Jesus Christ. Any mention of Christ or the teaching of Scripture and they begin to shut down and stop listening. So, what’s our response?

I’ve found that in many cases we start to distance ourselves from Christ. For instance, there are many singers and entertainers who profess Christ – privately. I’m frequently told of one or another who are Christians.

The problem is that by watching the movies they’re in or hearing the songs they record; I would never have known. Even in their interviews, they may only make a slight reference to God.

Of course, it’s not just those in the media. What about “regular” Christians? What happens when people ask us about our views on evolution, homosexuality, abortion, or other controversial topics? Do we simply shrug our shoulders and stay silent?

Please understand that I’m not talking about being offensive and attacking others with Scripture. The world has a very good idea of what Christ, and the Bible, teaches. As believers, we need to be willing to stand with Christ and take any heat the world may bring on account of this.

We need to pray for boldness in our generation. In that way, when the world strikes at our Shepherd, we will stand with Him.

Question: How have you been hurt for standing with Christ and His Word?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2022 in Faith, Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Church, The Gospel

 

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