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Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Truth about Spiritual Warfare

mhXQFuIWe’re in a battle. Not against people, but unseen spiritual forces. Do we really understand the nature of this conflict?

I’ve heard Christians use the term spiritual warfare in many different contexts. Does our teaching line up with Scripture? That’s what matters.

After watching many self-proclaimed spiritual warriors get flattened by the enemy, I have to ask myself what exactly is this about? We need to base what we’re doing in the Scripture if we want success.

The Bible is clear.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
2 Corinthians 10:1

Unfortunately, many take this verse too far out of context. Then the church ends up looking like an army of clowns going off to do battle. They’re unarmed and untrained in this spiritual battle. Then we wonder why the church is so devastated.

At one point the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and made a statement I found hard to accept. What I heard on the inside was, “Do you realize that there’s been no spiritual warfare for hundreds of years?”

How can this be true? I hear people say they’re doing spiritual warfare all the time. We sing about it. We preach about it.

Eventually I was able to understand what the Spirit of God was trying to get across to me. The key word is warfare.

In the above verse, the phrase wage war literally means to serve in a military campaign. This is where our definition of spiritual warfare falls short. Our skirmishes are not warfare.

According to the Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary, war is “a contest between or among nations…carried on by force or with arms.” That’s where we miss it. War is between nations, not individuals.

For instance, what if I got upset about some things that Canada is doing (I’m not!). What if I then covered myself in weaponry, Rambo style, then walked to the border of Canada and declared that I was going to war against them. How long do you think that “war” would last?

As crazy as that sounds, that’s what many believers do in the spirit. Then they call what they’re doing spiritual warfare.

We need to realize that true spiritual warfare will not take place until the church wakes up from its sleep. Then, in the spirit, we must begin to pull down the strongholds of Satan. This is not just the job of one or two bold Christians. It’s something that the Lord is calling us all to take part in.

We can either spend our time complaining about our society, or do something that will make a difference. Time on our knees before God will bring great change on the earth. Prayer, fasting, intercession, and prayer in the spirit are what it will take to bring revival to our land.

Question: What’s your part in this spiritual battle?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

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Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Warfare

 

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How Will the World See Jesus?

JesusJesus called us to be the light of the world. We are to bring people to the knowledge of Christ. How does this happen? There’s a picture of this in the book of Revelation.

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.
Revelation 1:12-13

Through this passage we can gain great insight into the function of a church. This is the point where John begins to see his vision. The first thing that happens is that he hears the voice of the Lord.

Where’s it coming from? He turns around to locate the source and the initial objects of his attention are the golden lampstands. Verse 20 tells us that the lampstands are the churches. So the first thing John sees is the church lighting up the area.

Then, as the view comes into focus, he starts to see the Lord Jesus Christ walking among the churches. We must always remember that when the world hears the voice of the Lord calling them, the first view they’ll get is of the church. It’s only through the light of God’s people that the world will see Christ.

It’s sad today that, in the United States, the church has become the object of such disrespect. The worst part of it is that most of this was brought on by ourselves.

Our pride, arrogance, and foolishness have caused the world to write us off as worthless. Many godless people today feel that if there are any answers to the problems of life, they won’t be found in a church.

Is the picture in Revelation a representation of your church? Can people hear the voice of the Lord there? When they turn to look, do they see Jesus Christ in all His glory?

We are the body of Christ on earth. It’s ultimately through us that the voice of God is heard. How well are we communicating the message?

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
Matthew 18:19-20

The presence of the Lord is an incredible thing, and must not be taken lightly in our churches. Jesus walks among us – He is present in all that we do. This knowledge should motivate us to come together in unity of spirit.

The original Greek of the above verse reads that where two or more come together in My name, there I am in the middle of them. The Lord is not just off to the side watching as a spectator does. He stands between us. He wants to be at the center of all that we do.

Walking in unity assumes that there’s more than one person in the mix. We must come into agreement – for that’s the place of power in God. I can’t do it alone.

God has ordained that there’s a special manifestation of His presence when we come together as “the Church.” It must not be ignored or taken lightly. I need to be a part of a local body of believers. I need to be in unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

That’s how the world will see Christ in us.

Question: How do we show more of the light of Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2014 in Revival, The Church, The Gospel

 

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Love Letters vs. the Lover

Garden PathIn my last post I talked about spending time in God’s presence and hearing a Word from Him. Maybe you got the impression that I don’t encourage the reading of Scripture. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I believe that daily time in the Scripture is absolutely essential for a strong spiritual walk. Nothing can replace that.

But in the same light, by redefining the term Word of God in Scripture, many have totally ignored intimate time with the Lord. They seem to think that reading the Bible and then praying for God to meet their needs is enough.

The fact is that we need intimacy with our Lord. Here’s how Jesus explained it to the Pharisees.

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
John 5:39-40

As important as the reading of the Bible is, it doesn’t replace quality time with the Holy Spirit. We need both to mature in Christ.

Think about it this way. A soldier stationed in Afghanistan loves his wife and regularly writes her letters from the field. He shares his heart with her – what he’s doing and feeling, how much he misses her and things he looks forward to doing with her when he returns.

The wife loves and misses her husband as well. She reads each letter over and over, imagining him speaking directly to her. Now that she has a collection of these letters, she spends time every day reading them. It comforts her.

When the husband’s tour is over, he returns home to the embrace of his wife. This was the hour they’ve both been waiting for. They’re together again.

But there’s a problem. The next day the husband wants to take a walk in a nearby park, hand in hand with his wife. Does she agree to this? No.

She tells him that it’s her habit to take a couple of hours each day to read his letters. She doesn’t want to stop doing this simply to walk outdoors. The husband is confused and sits on the couch, waiting for her to read his letters and to have the time to be with him.

Does this sound far-fetched? In real life it does. Normal people don’t act that way. Or do they?

I hate to say it, but that’s the practice of many believers. We have access to the intimate presence of Christ. Yet we’re content to merely sit and read His letters to us.

We must read the Bible to understand the heartbeat of God. But there’s more to it than that. Don’t just read the love-letters. Spend time with the Lover of our souls. He’s patiently waiting for our quiet time together. It’s at those times that I receive things that are for no one else but me.

Take the time to hear from the Lord.

Question: Why does it seem easier to read Scripture than to spend time with the author?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2014 in Prayer, Word of God

 

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Hearers and Doers of What?

Letter“Don’t just be a hearer, be a doer.” I’ve heard that exhortation many times, and in many situations. What does it really mean? It was first spoken by a pastor hundreds of years ago.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
James 1:22-24

James was the Pastor of the church in Jerusalem at the very start of the church age. Hundreds of people were being saved every week and the body of Christ was growing at an incredible rate.

I believe that he wrote this book as a sort of handbook for new believers. It was something they could continue to refer to as their walk with Christ matured.

I also believe that this was the first New Testament document to have been written. Before any of the Gospels or the letters of Paul, we have the book of James. But that’s where my questions begin. What does he mean by the term Word of God?

Over time, we’ve come to assume that when the Bible says Word of God, it’s talking about itself. Is that a correct assumption? After all, the New Testament wasn’t written yet.

On top of that, the normal believer of that day had no access to the Old Testament. It wasn’t until the invention of the printing press that the Bible became available to the average Christian. This brings me to my original question – hearers and doers of what?

The answer to this is also the destiny God has for His people right now. I’m talking about hearing a Word from God Himself. The early church had no other choice for knowing what to do. They had to seek the direction of the Holy Spirit.

The key here is the word listen. James isn’t talking about reading the Bible. He’s assuming that God’s people are spending time in the Lord’s presence listening to Him. The word he uses is actually an intense form of listening – giving your total attention to the one speaking.

One of our biggest problems in this generation is that we’re not even listeners yet. James is not talking about listening to a great sermon and then trying to be a good person. He’s looking for someone to deepen their relationship with the Father.

We can’t be a doer of God’s Word until we actually spend some time listening to the Holy Spirit. The Lord has so much He wants to share with us. There’s a great deal we need to hear if we would just take the time in His presence.

This is the lesson that the modern church needs to learn. God wants to speak to us. He wants us to hear a Word from His Spirit. Then we can walk in it and know that we will see God’s hand at work in us and in those around us.

We need to spend time listening – then doing.

Question: What would the church look like if we truly listened to God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Revival, Word of God

 

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Revival’s Secret Assumption

FireI think we can all agree that America needs a spiritual revival. I’m not talking about simply a lot of people being saved – as wonderful as that would be. I’m speaking about a radical waking up of the church.

Knowing the need is not enough. There are some deeper questions that need to be asked. Do we truly want a revival to sweep through our nation? More importantly, are we willing to do whatever it takes to lay hold of revival?

In talking to the crowd at the Temple in Jerusalem, the Apostle Peter made an interesting statement.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you — even Jesus.
Acts 3:19-20

He talked about times of refreshing that come from the Lord. This is what we need in our generation. The refreshing wind of revival needs to blow through our cities.

That’s not what we have an issue with. It’s what the Apostle began with that we stumble over. He used that nasty little word that nobody seems to like these days – REPENT. It’s this repentance that ushers in the Spirit of revival.

Revival doesn’t just show up at regular intervals for no reason. As a matter of fact, God doesn’t even send revival because He knows we need it. It’s actually a response to the church beginning to move in the right direction.

Repentance is not very popular in mainline Christianity anymore. We like to think that we’re doing okay and only need a little tweak now and then. Repent sounds too drastic.

To repent means to change your mind, to turn around 180 degrees and head in a new direction. This means that you have to turn away from something.

But more than that, he said that they needed to turn to God. That’s the assumption that keeps us from experiencing the move of God that we really need.

If I say that the church in the USA needs revival, then what I really mean is that we need to turn back to God. That sounds good until you realize that to turn back to God assumes that we’re looking in the wrong direction to begin with. That’s the last thing that many believers would want to admit.

I hate to say this, but a majority of Christians are looking to the world for their fulfillment in this generation. They’ll do their obligatory hour or two in church, Sunday morning. But the rest of their time is spent on their own pursuits and interests.

It’s time for us as God’s people to turn around – to repent of leaving God out of our everyday lives. It’s time to head back in the direction of a radical walk before the Lord. That’s what a desire for revival assumes. It’s what America needs. It’s what the Holy Spirit is longing for us to enter into.

Question: How far are you willing to go to see revival sweep our nation?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2014 in Revival, The Church

 

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Why We Ignore the Cross

cross 2In my last post I talked about the mystery of the power of the cross. It’s something that God expects His church to understand. It’s been revealed to us in His Word.

Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:22-24

This is a problem we face even in our society today. There’s a pressure on the church to cater our message to those we’re trying to win. Religious people want to hear one thing, while the educational community wants to hear something else. Many times we fall into the trap of trying to please our listeners with the message we think they want to hear.

Paul strips away all of these elements by boiling the message down to its vital component. He preaches the same essential message to all who will listen. That message is the Word of the cross – Christ crucified.

The reason is clear. There’s a supernatural call in that Word. It contains the power of God to draw men and women to the place of repentance.

We need to see this. When we water down or ignore the Word of the cross, we lose the bulk of the power needed to win the lost. Beyond that, those who do come to the Lord with little knowledge of the cross, have no desire to become radical disciples of Christ.

This is what the world desperately needs to see in the church. It’s also what the church needs in order to be transformed into the victorious kingdom that was set forth by Christ. We must hunger and thirst for the Word of the cross.

We’ve tried a whole host of other strategies only to be met with little or no results. Isn’t it time to proclaim Christ the way they did it when the world was “turned upside-down” by the Gospel? We need to renew our knowledge of what happened in and through the cross of Christ. This is a message that the Lord can’t wait to reveal to us if we’ll just stop and listen.

This is one of the things that we’re missing in our churches these days. In my last post I quoted I Corinthians 2:7. In it, Paul explained that this message was destined for our glory. That’s why it’s such a mystery. From the outside, the cross looks like a place of pain, suffering, and weakness. But in reality, it will bring glory to all who live by it.

It was the same for Christ. The demonic kingdom had no idea what would be unleashed on the cross. When the “Lord of Glory” was crucified, there was an explosion of power that rocked the universe. It’s clear that Satan would never have allowed this to happen if he had known what the results would be.

It’s time for God’s people to once again unleash this power in the world. We need to walk in the power of the cross. The message of the cross is vital for our last-days testimony.

Question: What would change if we incorporated the teaching of the cross in our message?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2014 in Power of God, Revival, The Church

 

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The Mystery of the Cross

Question MarkDo I want to be a disciple – a student – of Christ? Do I want to learn the path of life from His example? If not, then the cross is a word I push off to the corners of my Christian walk.

How do you turn all this around and get the victory? The Word of the cross is what makes the difference. There’s just one problem with this kind of thinking. We don’t like the cross. It makes us nervous. It sounds too much like sacrifice.

This isn’t the first time the church has had to deal with this issue. Paul wrote about it 2000 years ago.

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:1-2

This is a totally different approach to ministry than what we see today. Paul said that he didn’t arrive on the scene with great, persuasive words of wisdom. Instead, he preached a simple message – Christ crucified.

That was it. Not the risen Lord, not the King of Heaven, not Christ the Healer, or seated at the right hand of the Father. Only the crucified Savior, which he calls the testimony about God.

The Greek word for testimony in this verse literally means mystery. Scripturally, a mystery is something that wasn’t understood until God actually accomplished it.

That’s what Christ did on the cross. The Old Testament saints had no concept of how God would use the cross to provide our salvation.

No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
1 Corinthians 2:7-8

It was a secret that God kept hidden away from before our age began. Even Satan, as intelligent as he is, couldn’t conceive of how God would save us. If he even had a hint of the power of the cross, Satan would never have crucified the Lord. The working of the cross was the greatest mystery of all time.

But wait! Does this mean that it’s a mystery to us? Of course not.

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” — but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10

This is a mystery that God wants to reveal to us. If we can grasp what happened on the cross, then it will have the power to totally transform our lives. This is the message for those who want to participate with the work of God’s ongoing salvation in their lives. It’s for those who desire to be disciples of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

This is how we’ve gotten so far astray in this nation. We spend most of our time seeking God for things. We follow Him for healings, joy, and prosperity. Yet, we don’t realize that all of these things are available in the person of the crucified Savior. We need to seek a relationship with the One who has the power to completely save us from the effects of sin.

Question: Why does this generation seem to avoid teaching about Christ crucified?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Power of God, The Church

 

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