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Monthly Archives: January 2016

God’s Word – The Sword

SwordI want to take a few posts to talk about the greatest weapon that we’ve been given. Without it we’ll never overcome the enemy. Unfortunately, many Christians have never even picked it up.

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6:17

This verse is talking about the authority and power of God. He wants to work this through us. In order for that to happen, we must use what He’s given to us. The greatest gift we could be given is the sword of the spirit – the rhema- word of God.

Remember, we’re talking about the armor of God. This is His personal armor and weaponry. That means that this is the sword of the Lord.

Our knowledge of this got watered down over time; especially since the advent of the printing press. With the proliferation of Scripture we have come to assume that whenever we read word of God, it means the Bible.

Please don’t turn me off before I explain this next statement. It may come as a shock to you. You might even think that I’m in error. But the fact is that a careful reading of Scripture will bear me out.

The Bible is not our sword of the spirit. The sword Paul is talking about is a spiritual weapon that wreaks havoc on the enemy.

It’s clear from the Bible and our experience that the devil doesn’t fear the Bible. He actually has it memorized. He even does his best to use it against us. He tried to use it against Jesus – and failed miserably.

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”
Matthew 4:5-6

The devil doesn’t fear to hear or use the Bible. According to the verse from Ephesians it’s the rhema of God that’s our spiritual weapon.

Does that mean I don’t need the Bible? Absolutely not! We’re to study to show ourselves approved.

“If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”
John 5:46-47

In the literal Greek of this verse, Jesus said, “If you don’t believe what was written, how will you believe my rhema?” It’s the knowledge of Scripture that gives us the foundation we need to hear, trust and obey God’s word to us.

That’s what the sword of the spirit is all about. The Greek word Rhema is the revealed word of God to me…and to you. That’s the greatest weapon of the church – God speaking to us.

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Matthew 16:16-18

Christ is building His church on the rock of the revealed will of God. It’s that word of God that brings the victory. The gates of hell can’t stand against it. It’s this revealed word of God that I want to talk about for a few posts.

Question: How has God spoken to you personally in the past?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2016 in Faith, Power of God, Word of God

 

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Hope and Our Inheritance

BeamI’ve been posting about the living hope we have in Christ. In my last post I talked about how the Lord’s mercy brings about hope in us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you…
1 Peter 1:3-4

So far we’ve seen that this hope is birthed by mercy through the resurrection of Christ. But we also need to see that this Living Hope brings us into an inheritance.

The fact is that this hope points to an inheritance that we didn’t deserve. There was nothing we could have done to lay hold of it. It was all a work of Jesus Christ for us.

In the above verse there are three nots associated with this inheritance. First of all, it does not perish or decay. Praise God! That means that my inheritance in Christ is not affected by inflation.

It also says that it will not spoil. That means that it will not become soiled or dirty. It will always remain pure and new to us.

Finally, our inheritance will never fade. That means that it will never be used up or become worthless over time. Nothing on this earth meets those criteria. That’s why our hope, our treasure, is in Christ alone. I can look forward to His blessing in my life.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24

It’s because of this hope of the inheritance that we can work for God with all our heart. But there’s more. The above verse from Peter doesn’t end there.

…who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:5

Yes, we are birthed by mercy, through the resurrection, into an inheritance; but this Living Hope shields us by God’s power. I don’t need to remind you about the shield of faith. It keeps us secure in times of trial.

But it’s fed by the living expectation that’s fresh and new every morning. Paul puts it this way…

…a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time…
Titus 1:2

Paul mentions both faith and knowledge in this verse. Faith is our trust in God’s Word; while knowledge is what we have once our faith has been proven. It’s through these that we can rest on the hope of eternal life.

…so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:7

It’s this hope of eternal life that gives us joy in the trials that we face. This is because we know that the Lord is going to show up and work on our behalf. Never give up your hope; it will be richly rewarded.

Question: How has God proven Himself in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2016 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Mercy and Hope

ThroneI’m posting about the hope that we have in Christ. In my last article we saw that the living hope we receive is birthed in God’s mercy.

The problem I find is that many believers have no concept of what God’s mercy is. In our society we think of it as a “free pass” for something wrong that we’ve done. God can’t operate like that.

Every sin has to be paid for. That’s why Jesus had to go to the cross. Every sin, no matter how small it seemed, had to be laid upon Him.

Mercy is a whole different matter. If you do a word study of how mercy is used in Scripture, you’ll find a rich truth. In actuality, mercy is the favor God shows to His obedient children. That was brought out in the book of Hebrews.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

If I’ve been disobeying the Lord, then I definitely don’t have confidence in approaching His throne. But as I obey Him, He births in me a living hope. It will never die and never go stale. According to the Old Testament, His mercies are new every morning. This is something that helped the apostle Paul face his many trials.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
2 Corinthians 4:16-17

In Christ we have a hope that’s birthed, brand new, each day. Why does God have to give us fresh hope each day? It’s important because…

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12

This verse literally says that old hope wears out your heart. So God keeps His hope alive and fresh each day if you’re walking obediently before Him.

In my last post we looked at a verse from Peter.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…
1 Peter 1:3

It’s clear to see that this Living Hope is given through the resurrection. Our hope could never be alive if not for the resurrection. If God could raise Christ, then I can be raised as well.

That’s good news. Not only did Jesus take my sin with Him to the cross, but He rose from the dead as well. That proves that He has the power to accomplish His will in my life. This should inspire a fresh hope in us each day, as we spend time in His presence – before His throne.

Question: How does the Lord’s mercy and hope affect you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2016 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God, Sonship

 

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Our Living Hope

Cross SunsetI want to take a few posts to look at the hope we have that’s talked about in I Peter 1:6-9.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 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 1:6-7

This truth is seen all through the Bible. It’s one of those teachings that we don’t want to hear. The fact of the matter is that we will all face trials and challenges.

Yet in spite of all this we can walk in the joy of the Lord. It’s also good to know that in those trials our faith being perfected.

In all of this, Peter understands that there’s a problem we face.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9

The problem is that we don’t see the Lord. Because we can’t see Him we must operate by faith. We have to trust in His Word to us.

Of course faith always has a goal. Our goal is to see God’s life-changing power at work in us. Because we look to this goal by faith, it inspires hope – expectation – in our hearts.

As we continue to walk with Christ, we learn more about His ways. This causes us to love Him more and more.

So actually, the trials of life are foundational to our spiritual growth. They produce faith, hope and love in us as we continue to look to the Lord. These are the three essentials that we can’t live without if we want to live a life pleasing to God.

Of all the apostles, Peter had the best handle on this. When it came to persevering under trials, there was no one else like him. When Paul and Silas were in jail they had to start singing to keep their spirits up. When Peter was in prison, chained between two guards, he actually fell asleep!

The question is; how can I rejoice in trials? The secret is in the verses before these.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…
1 Peter 1:3

We’ve been given a Living Hope, an expectation of what God’s going to accomplish in and through us. It’s this living hope that causes rejoicing in the trials. The prophet Jeremiah understood this truth.

O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.
Jeremiah 17:13

He knew that the hope of Israel was the Lord, as the spring of living water. Israel missed it. I don’t want to miss it.

It’s clear from the above verse that the Lord’s mercy gives birth to a Living Hope. Hope is birthed in His mercy. In my next posts I’m going to expand on this thought.

Question: How has placing your hope in Christ changed your outlook?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2016 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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How to Turn Dirt into a Garden

Flower GardenIn my last post I started a “dirt” theme. I talked about a verse in James that tells us how to bring about the changes we need in our lives.

Today I want to ask a related question. How do you turn plain old dirt into a beautiful garden? James tells us the answer a few verses before the one we looked at last time.

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
James 1:18

The answer to our question comes with the realization that the difference between dirt and a garden is the seed that’s planted. You put the seed into the dirt, water them, and all by themselves the flowers grow.

At some point a transformation takes place. There’s a change from a patch of dirt to a garden. Even though the dirt is still there, people will say, “Look at the wonderful flowers.” I’ve never walked by someone’s garden and said, “Hey, that’s really great dirt.”

In the last post we were told by James that in order to remove the evil in us, we need to humbly accept the Word planted in us. That’s what I’m talking about. Today’s verse tells us that the Lord gave us new birth through the Word. It’s the Word of God that breathes new life into us.

He wants us to be a kind of firstfruits for His glory. Farms go through the same transformation that a garden does. It starts out as dirt, but the emphasis changes to tomatoes, wheat or whatever was planted.

“Who cares about the dirt; look at all those watermelons!”

It’s the same way in our lives. As we allow the Word of God to take root in us, people no longer emphasize the “dirt” that we’re dealing with. It’s the fruit of the Spirit that catches their attention. As I accept the seed of the Word into my heart, it can transform my life. Instead of dirt, I’m now considered firstfruits to God.

This is actually a humbling experience. When the focus turns to the fruit, it no longer has anything to do with us. After all, the dirt has nothing to do with what kind of plant is grown. That’s determined by the seed.

When people see the fruit of the Spirit in us, it’s all the work of God. The humbling admission is that I’m nothing, just a patch of dirt, without His Word in me.

Allow the life transforming Word of God to change you into firstfruits for His glory.

Question: How has the Word of God transformed your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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Let Yourself be Stretched

BandsI’ve been posting about the place of fasting in the believer’s life. In my last article we saw that there was a difference between fasting under the Old and New Covenants. The New Covenant fast is so that you put down your flesh to better hear from God.

We don’t seem to hear the voice of the Lord as well as they did in the early church. I don’t think it’s as much God not speaking, as me not listening. Fasting helps me drown out the noise of my flesh.

But Jesus gave another parable…

“Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Matthew 9:17

The Old Testament fast is likened to old wineskins; empty, used up, dry, and unyielding. They have nothing of value on the inside.

In that culture, new wine was unfermented grape juice. The fermentation process produces gasses that pressurize the skins. Old, dry and unyielding bags would burst. You can’t live for God like that.

A new wineskin was made of unstretched leather. Then it was oiled to make it soft and pliable. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit in us – to prepare us to receive God’s Word.

Then we get that new wine in us. It starts to ferment, the pressure builds up and the wineskin stretches.

That’s another reason why fasting is so important to us. Fasting increases the inner man. When you fast, there’s a spiritual pressure that builds up.

You’re hearing from God and something is being poured into you. The pressure is building. Now you have something to give.

You’re now able to pour out into someone else. Then the pressure is released – for a little while anyway.

By fasting you have something on the inside that stretches the outside. I don’t know what God wants to do this year, but I want to be prepared to hear His voice.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Matthew 4:1-2

Just before Jesus started His public ministry He went on an extended fast. He knew that He was going to be tempted and tested. In order to prepare Himself, He fasted.

Do you think you’ll be tested this year? What are you going to do? How will you enter the test? Prepared? Or not? How will you answer the enemy?

The truth is that fasting prepares us for the battle ahead. I don’t know what’s coming. But I know this; the enemy is good at predicting it based upon what he sees lining up in the spirit world.

We don’t see it. We have to rely upon what we hear from God. Are we going to have a Word from God for our generation? That’s what’s needed.

I want to be prepared to face 2016 and all it holds. The blessings, callings, testings – everything. So I fast to hear from God. Enter into the blessing that fasting brings.

Question: How will you incorporate fasting into the New Year?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2016 in Fasting, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Are Your Clothes Shrinking?

clothes2I’m posting about the place of fasting in the life of a believer. In my last post I looked at an incident in the life of the early church.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 13:2-3

We saw that it was fasting that prepared them to hear from God. They received the message to set apart Barnabas and Saul. So what did they do next? They continued to fast and pray in order to hear the specifics of this calling.

You need the whole Word from God. Too many people run off with only part of the message. Then they get into trouble and blame God.

What’s so special about fasting? In Jesus’ ministry He taught what to do “when you fast.” Jesus assumed that fasting would be a normal part of our lives.

I believe that hearing from God is the great assumption in the New Testament. In the above verse, it doesn’t look like a special, radical, event took place in the church. A mature believer should be hearing from God regularly.

The problem we have today is that much of the church has lost this ability to hear from God. It’s hearing from God that gets us to the narrow gate I talked about in my last post. His Word to us helps us to stay on the narrow road. Fasting is the key.

There was a point when the disciples of John and the Pharisees were fasting. They noticed that Jesus’ disciples were not. They questioned Jesus about it.

He said that fasting would change in the transition from the Old Covenant to the New. The Lord wanted the disciples to wait until after the resurrection to begin fasting. Jesus gives a description of these differences in parable form.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse.”
Matthew 9:16

First, the Lord talks about the outside – a garment. The old way was to take an old cloth and patch an old garment. Fasting in the Old Testament was only a patch. At that time, fasting was all about getting God to listen to me. I needed to patch things up between God and me.

If I try to patch the garment in the New Testament it only makes things worse. Then how do I get God to hear me? I DON’T!!!

In Christ we now have access to God 24/7. There’s now no condemnation and we can enter boldly into His presence. Now we are a new garment and we don’t need a patch.

But a new garment (back then) would shrink with usage. Fasting under the New Covenant shrinks the outer garment. That’s what we look for – the flesh to decrease. We want the voice of the flesh to get quieter.

Fasting forcefully puts down the flesh. This is because now it’s about me hearing from God. God hears me in Christ. But I need to hear Him when He speaks. And that’s where fasting comes in.

Question: How often, and for how, long do you fast?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2016 in Fasting, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Start By Seeking the Lord

FinishThe beginning of the year is a good time to seek direction from the Lord. Because of that, I’m setting aside this week for personal fasting and prayer. Fasting should be a normal part of your Christian experience.

Scripture tells about some people who were working in a church in Antioch. They were involved in teaching and helping out for years. They also understood the truth about fasting and prayer. I’m going to be talking about it for a few posts.

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.
Acts 13:1

Because he’s listed first, we see that Barnabas was the one in charge of this ministry. Last on the list was a guy named Saul. He had his 5 minutes of fame while he was persecuting the church. Now he’s pretty much forgotten.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 13:2-3

In the middle of their meeting they heard from God. That made all the difference. According to Scripture, they were performing public service to God and fasting.

Throughout the day a few different people heard the same thing from God. Separate Barnabas and Saul to the work I have called them.

We have to come to grips with the fact that fasting prepares you to hear from God. The truth is that God always desires to bring you from glory to glory. He wants to cause growth in your life and ministry.

The more you hear from the Lord, the more specific your calling becomes. The path you’re walking becomes more and more narrow.

During His time on earth, Jesus talked about asking, seeking and knocking. He said that if you knock, the door will be opened for you. What door was He talking about? He went on to say…

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Matthew 7:13-14

I don’t believe that He’s talking about salvation here. This verse is about asking the Father for direction and wisdom.

There’s an easy way that leads to loss and ruin. Many people – Christians included – are running after the temporary. But there is another way that’s easier to miss. You have to seek and ask just to find the gate.

Then you have to knock, keep on knocking, and push through. Very few even find it. That’s because they don’t want to seek and ask. But Barnabas and Saul were seeking. They were prepared to hear.

This is the gate of fasting and prayer. I invite you to come on in and see what the Lord has for you this year.

Question: How important to your Christian walk is fasting and prayer?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2016 in Fasting, Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Vision Brings the Puzzle Together

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is my last post in a series about having God’s vision for your life. There’s a verse that people often quote when talking about vision.

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Proverbs 29:18

In one of my previous posts I made the point that vision gives you movement and direction. Because of this truth, there’s a result that many are not pleased with. The fact is that vision limits your options.

Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”
Nehemiah 6:2-3

It’s the limitations of the vision that kept Nehemiah out of trouble. We need to learn this same lesson.

If I’m headed north, I shouldn’t be going south on the highway. This is what trips us up the most in our walk with God. Many Christians are spiritually paralyzed because of it.

We have a way of looking at all the parts of our life separately. We think that our job, our family, our schooling, etc. have no relation to each other. We see all the parts as individuals; but they’re not. Everything we do affects the whole.

Think of your life like a 200 piece puzzle with 300 pieces in the box. Some of the pieces look like they go together, while others look totally different. The picture on the box cover is God’s vision for you.

That’s why we need His understanding to put it all together. In order to take this mess and make the picture out of it you need to see the completed picture. Then it becomes obvious which pieces don’t belong.

How does knowing God’s plan bring me to the destination? Here’s an example. God’s vision for my life is that I become debt free. Will buying this new Smart TV on credit get me there?

That’s what I meant when I said that vision will limit your options. It’s like that for every area of your life. Knowing God’s vision for your life helps you make good decisions.

We should be a people who seek God. Then, as He speaks, we can walk in His plan for our lives. That’s how the world will see something different in us.

Question: How have God’s limits on your life turned out to be a blessing?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2016 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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