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The Quiet Life

Is your life quiet and at rest? As believers, we should have an understanding of what it means to live in the peace of God. As I continue looking at Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we’ll see how the apostle deals with this issue.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Paul taught his churches about the benefits of living a quiet life. But just what does that mean to us? Am I supposed to go through life never speaking up for myself? I don’t think that’s what Paul or the Lord intends for us.

Let me start by explaining that I’m the father of three young women. When they were children, the noise level of our house was usually not described as quiet. And, actually, the word quiet in the above passage doesn’t refer to the level of noise in your surroundings.

The meaning of this word is to be settled, secure, and at peace with where you are. This is an important attribute to cultivate in your Christian walk. As a matter of fact, it’s something we have to fight for in this generation. It actually goes counter to the world’s way of doing things.

I believe that in the next phrase, Paul describes exactly what he means by this quiet life. Let me give you my personal translation of the Greek words used in that sentence.

Using your own hands to perform repeatedly and habitually that which is yours to do.

This is the key to enjoying your life and work. It’s also something that the world has no concept of. First of all, you need to know exactly what it is that you’re called to be working on.

In our society we’ve become transfixed on what everybody else is doing. How much money are they making? What shows are they watching? What are they learning? What activities are they involved in?

Even on our jobs, we’re never satisfied where we’re at. We’re taught to always keep our resume up to date. Living like this keeps you in a constant state of unrest.

This is just the opposite of what Paul was teaching his people. We need to settle down into the life that we know we’re called to.

But that requires me to spend time in the Lord’s presence seeking His will for my life. Many of us are afraid to do that because we would lose control of our destiny. Personally, I prefer God’s destiny for my life over anything I could come up with on my own.

Paul concludes this by showing the benefits of a life well lived. The first is a respectable or well-formed life. It’s the kind of life that causes the unsaved to ask why you seem to be more fulfilled than they are. It’s a witness to the grace of God.

The other benefit is described as not being dependent on anybody. In the Greek, it reads lacking nothing. In the book of James, the first Scripture recorded, it talks about the trying of our faith bringing us to the place where we lack nothing (James 1:2-4). Here, Paul adds to our knowledge by showing that it’s knowing and working at God’s will that brings about no lack.

I can’t think of a better combination that I want active in my life. A witness to unbelievers and having no lack. That’s the joy of a life settled in God’s plan.

Question: How have you experienced resting in God’s will?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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Growing Love

We all know that we’re supposed to love one another. The question is; how do we get to that point? Paul talks about it in his first letter to the Thessalonian church.

Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-10

Above all else, we should be cultivating our love-walk. Without love, our faith is worthless.

In this passage, Paul talks about two different kinds of love. The first is the Greek word philadelphia, which refers to a brotherly or family type love. The other is agape; this is a choice to love someone, with or without the emotion.

I’ve heard people teach about them in the past. But it’s the relationship between the two that’s the important thing.

Paul starts by saying that he doesn’t need to talk to them about brotherly love. Of course not. That’s something that grows naturally out of a sense of family.

It’s that close feeling we get from spending time with others. The more time spent together, the closer the bond. It’s not just about family. It can be developed in the workplace, school, and most importantly, in the church.

I’ve heard people complain that they feel closer to their work friends than they do to the church. These are the people who usually arrive late and leave right after the “amen”. How could you possibly feel close without spending time with others?

Feeling close to a church family is up to you, not the church. The more time you spend, the closer you’ll feel. Yes, there’ll be some bumps and bruises along the way, but none of us are perfect. We need to be increasing our brotherly love for other believers.

The reason it’s so important is that God uses this to teach us the next level – agape-love. This is the choice to love – to treat someone as a friend – whether you feel like it or not. Love also treats them this way whether they’re present or not.

We need to understand the progression from brotherly love to agape-love. This is very important in our spiritual growth. The apostle Peter talked about this in his epistle.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
2 Peter 1:5-7

It’s only when we truly love others that we’ve entered the mature spiritual walk. The road to culivating this love leads us through brotherly love. The only way this is formed is by time spent with other believers.

Allow God to work out His love-plan in your life. Be a close, functioning part of a local church. In this way you’ll be able to increase more and more in your love for others.

Question: How have you learned about God’s love by being part of a church?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2017 in Fellowship, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Holiness – Walk or Position

In my last post I talked about how church leaders need to spend quality time in God’s presence. They need to hear a Word from God to pass on to their people.

Much of church teaching today has no effect on the people. I believe it’s because most church people know that it doesn’t come from the Holy Spirit, but from the training and study of the teacher. Of course a leader must train and study, but the goal should be to hear what God wants said at the meeting.

Now Paul is going to talk to them about a segment of the known will of God.

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-6

In my last post I explained why 1 Thessalonians was one of the foundational books. In this verse we see another “first”. This is the first time that the word sanctification or holiness appears. This is important to us.

Paul tells us that we should be sanctified – made holy – and uses an example of what it looks like. One of the signs is an avoidance of sexual immorality. The word Paul uses for this is the general term for any sexual sin.

I know that there are a lot of believers who like to deal with people about the sin. That’s not the right place to start. We should be stressing holiness. If we understood true holiness, then sin wouldn’t be an issue.

The problem of understanding stems from the fact that there are two forms that holiness takes. When we’re saved, God immediately declares us to be holy in Christ. We’re set apart to Him and are free to approach His throne whenever we want. This is called positional holiness.

Paul isn’t talking about positional holiness in this verse. Because he explains a sanctification that can be seen in your lifestyle, he’s talking about the walk of holiness.

One of the imbalances I see in the church these days is the overemphasis on the position of holiness. The Holy Spirit felt that it was important that the first mention of this principle in Scripture, be the walk of sanctification.

I believe that when an immature Christian hears about their positional sanctification, without hearing about the corresponding change of lifestyle, they become apathetic to the life-changing work of the Spirit of God.

For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 4:7-8

This passage sums up what’s been said so far. Paul is talking about a lifestyle of holiness. We should expect to see our lives changed by the salvation of God at work in us.

If there’s no ongoing change in a person’s life, that’s evidence that they’re rejecting God. After all, when we’re saved, God places His Holy Spirit in us. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit to change us into the image of Christ.

We must allow the Holy Spirit within us to continue making us holy.

Question: How would you describe the difference between the position of holiness and the walk of holiness?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2017 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Whose Authority?

I’ve been posting about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Now we’re going to get into a new area as we start chapter 4.

Just to remind you, I’m going through the New Testament in the order it was revealed to the church by the Holy Spirit. The first four books, James, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, and Mark, are the foundation stones of our walk with Christ.

Because of this, there are a lot of “firsts” in these writings. In this post I’m going to deal with an important first principle. It’s one that’s almost lost in our modern church experience. I believe that God wants to restore it in this generation.

Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-2

Before I get started into the main subject, I want you to see that God’s desire is always for our growth. Whatever we’ve learned and implemented in the past, it must always increase more and more each year. We want the life of Christ to become increasingly brighter all the time.

The principle that we need to understand is that of authority and submission. These are two subjects that most people don’t want to deal with in the church. That’s usually because it’s not done in a Scriptural way.

In these verses, we see the first time that a church leader talks about his authority in Christ. It’s the foundation for the relationship between leaders and followers in the body of Christ.

When Paul says that we instructed you, it literally means you received instructions from us. I believe that there’s a big difference in those two phrases.   Paul didn’t just talk to them, they actually took what he said seriously; and applied it to their lives.

He taught them how to live in such a way that it pleases God. To please God means that you evoke a positive emotional response from the Lord. Some of our modern teaching gives us the wrong ideas.

The fact is that God loves us and wants us as His children at all times. However, not everything we do brings a good emotion to the Lord. When I operate outside of His will, He’s not smiling happily saying, “That’s My boy!” There are plenty of Scriptures that implore us not to grieve the Holy Spirit within us.

On the other hand, our present church culture usually doesn’t want to be instructed on how to live for God. It’s okay to suggest to us some things, but don’t tell me what I need to do. I’ll decide for myself what I will and won’t do in my life.

By this time, you might think that I’m simply talking about being obedient to church leaders. Nothing could be further from the truth. This lack of submitting to instruction has a lot to do with our present leadership.

I call your attention to the second verse above. The word instructions is actually the word commands; like in the military. They’re not optional.

Here’s the important point that I don’t want you to miss. The word authority is not in the original Greek verse. Paul actually says; you know what commands we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

Please understand that Paul is not saying that Jesus gave me the authority to tell you what to do. Unfortunately, that’s how many leaders incorrectly interpret it. Then the leaders try to force people to do their will.

On the contrary, Paul was saying that he spent quality time in the presence of the Lord. He then heard from Christ certain commands that he was to pass on to the church. And that’s where, I believe, we’ve missed it.

We need leaders who are willing to do what it takes to hear a Word from God. People don’t need to hear my opinion on how to live for Christ. They need to hear from Christ, Himself. That’s where God is bringing His church to in our generation.

Question: How have you seen the effect of leaders operating in their own authority?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2017 in The Church, Ministry, Leadership

 

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The Leader’s Prayer

I’m continuing to post about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church. He’s been very encouraged by the reports he heard about their strong walk with the Lord. It’s Paul’s desire to visit them again in the future.

Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
1 Thessalonians 3:10

According to Paul, it’s his constant, earnest, prayer that he would see them again. But I want you to notice that it’s not just about friendship. As great as their Christian walk is now, the apostle wants to see them increase their effectiveness.

They may be strong in their faith, but they’re not perfect. Paul wanted to spend the time necessary to impart what they need. It’s interesting to see that he included an example of how he’s praying for them.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

There are three specific things that Paul is praying about. First – he wants the Lord to open up a way for him to return to Thessalonica.

This is an important truth. I don’t decide what I want to do for God. My schedule doesn’t belong to me. My time is the Lord’s and I use it as He directs. Paul wanted to be in the center of God’s will; hoping that it would lead him back to this church.

The second request that Paul prayed about, was that their love would increase. He already commended them on the fact that their faith and love were actively seen. Now Paul wants their love to increase to the point where it’s overflowing.

This is something that should be a prayer of our heart. This overflowing love literally means that you have excess or too much love than there are people to share it with. When you operate at this level, you’re truly walking in the love of Christ.

The final prayer that Paul has for this church is that their hearts would be established, immovable, and set fast in one direction. In that way he would know that they were able to go the distance in their faith.

That should be the desire of our hearts as well. That we stand strong in all the will of God.

I want to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when I come before the throne of the Lord. To do that, I must have a heart that’s firmly established in Christ. No looking to the right or left. Never wondering what I may be missing out on in the world.

This prayer of Paul is even more important to serve as an example to us as church leaders. We need to have a heart for our people. It’s not just about teaching and preaching to them. Our desire should be for them to grow in maturity and to be able to stand strong in the Lord.

Never lose your vision for others; for their strength and establishment. Make that your prayer, just like the apostle Paul. Be a leader who sees their people through the eyes of Christ.

Question: What prayers do you bring before God for those in your care?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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Is Your Faith Known?

In my last post, I talked about the need for a faith-coach. In sports, coaches are needed to overcome the challenges that an athlete faces during their competition. I believe it’s the same in our Christian walk. It’s how we’ve been coached that gets us through our challenges.

Paul tells the Thessalonian church the reason he was sending Timothy to coach them…

…so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.
1 Thessalonians 3:3-5

First of all, let me say that I’m not particularly thrilled with this passage. Paul makes it clear that it’s an undeniable fact of life that we will certainly face trials. Both of the words he uses – trials and persecution – mean pressure, narrow spaces, and challenges.

The Good News is not that we have an easy life with Christ. Instead, the Lord strengthens us to overcome in all of our trials.

This is why Paul wants them to be coached. In our trials, we should never be unsettled. That word literally means to wag – like a dog wags his tail.

Too often we, as Christians, end up simply reacting to our trials. We don’t expect them. Worse than that, we don’t know how to correctly operate in faith to walk through them. God has a better way for us. Listen to what He said to Israel when He taught them the law.

The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.
Deuteronomy 28:13

The Lord never wants us to be wagged – to simply react – to the challenges of life. We have been given the Holy Spirit so that we can be ready for anything that comes our way. By watching others overcome, we can be equipped for the same victories.

Unfortunately, many refuse God’s mentoring system. They end up learning to overcome by trial and error. Personally, I want to know the strategy before I enter the heat of battle.

Back in the verse from Thessalonians, Paul said that he wanted to find out about their faith – literally he wanted to know their faith. The fact is, that true faith can be seen and known by those around you.

Trials and challenges – the pressures of life – serve an important purpose. They come so that the faith that you have on the inside can become evident on the outside.

Listen to how Peter describes the result of trials in our lives.

These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:7

Do what needs to be done in order to prepare your faith. Then when the trials come, as you know they will, Christ will be revealed in you.

Question: How has watching other believers prepared you for your trials?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Get a Faith-Coach

I’ve been posting about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. I’m now starting to look at chapter three. We now begin to see Paul’s desire for their continued growth.

So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith…
1 Thessalonians 3:1-2

If you remember, Paul had to leave Thessalonica before he had a chance to establish the church in his usual way. He had been worrying about their spiritual health as he traveled through the area. Now that things had quieted down a little, he could check up on them.

He decided to send his spiritual son, Timothy, to see how they were doing. With Paul as his mentor, Timothy had grown to a seasoned minister in his own right. Paul even calls him a co-worker in the Gospel. Having Timothy show up in their church was like having Paul, himself.

But the real question is; why did Paul feel the need to send anyone? After all, there are many in the body of Christ today who don’t feel the need to sit under any teaching. What was it that Paul was trying to accomplish?

Why didn’t Paul just encourage them to make sure they were reading the Bible? Okay, so they didn’t have a Bible. This letter was the second book of the New Testament that was written. And the only copy of the Old Testament in Thessalonica was in the synagogue, where most of the persecution was coming from.

If you’ve been following this blog through the book of First Thessalonians, then you know that one of the themes Paul talks about is the principle of imitation. The fact is that we all need spiritual mentors to look up to. I would say that 80% of our growth comes from how we see others living for Christ.

Timothy was given two specific assignments in regard to the people. Paul wanted to position them for growth and maturity. These are the same things that we need from those we find ourselves under in the church.

The first thing Timothy was to do is strengthening them in their faith. This word has a couple of different uses. It means to establish or set fast. We need to be rooted in our faith. Trusting God is not something we can do today and forget about tomorrow. It must be a consistent part of our life.

This word also means to turn resolutely in a certain direction. Faith always has a direction. Faith never wanders around looking for the right path. When I know where God’s leading, I can walk with the assurance that I’ll come to my destiny in Christ.

Timothy’s other job was to encourage them in their faith. That’s a word that means to call alongside. It’s the job description of a coach. A coach is someone who’s walked that way before, and can bring you there quicker than you could have done it by yourself.

Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
1 Corinthians 4:16-17

This verse describes perfectly what’s happening with the Thessalonians. The word urge is the same word that means to coach. There’s no doubt about it. We need to place ourselves under faith-coaches in the body of Christ.

It might be a pastor or a teacher that God has brought into your life. Whether we think we need it or not, these faith-coaches will keep us from getting stuck in our Christian walk.

Question: How have godly leaders helped your growth in the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2017 in Faith, Leadership, Spiritual Walk

 

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