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Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Constant Light

BeamWhat are you striving for? That’s an important question that we all need to answer. James had some insight into this issue.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
James 1:16-18

The first thing he tells us is not to be deceived. That’s because the truth goes contrary to what we normally accept as logical in our modern society. We think that to get ahead we need to struggle and sacrifice.

Fortunately, the most valuable thing offered to us, is absolutely free. James makes it clear that if it’s worth having then it comes from God. You can rely on Him to know what you need the most, and to provide it as we trust in Him.

As you probably know from reading my blog – I love to go camping. At night, I love sitting around a campfire under the stars. The fire that I watch produces light. But it isn’t consistent.

The shadows of a campfire move and dance around the whole time. Sometimes the things around me look like they’re moving, even though they’re standing still.

That’s not how God’s light works. The light of His Word is a clear, constant source of blessing for us. I don’t go off in one direction, and then find out that the Lord has changed His mind. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.

It was by God’s wisdom that He chose to give us birth by the Word of Truth. He’s referred to as the Father of Heavenly Lights. It’s His light shining on us that brings us life. In His love and wisdom He sent Christ into the world for that purpose.

This passage is clear. We’ve been given a new birth. It’s a birth that wasn’t flesh and blood, like our original entrance into the world. This birth was through the Word of Truth.

I believe that James is referring to something more than the Bible, as wonderful as that Word is. It’s a Word that speaks to our inner being.

One of the names of Christ is the Word made flesh. It wasn’t a matter of ink and paper coming alive. He’s the living and enduring Word of the Most High God. Christ said of Himself, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” He’s the direct expression of the Word of Truth.

It’s through this Word, Christ Himself, that we’ve been given new birth – if we’ve accepted the free gift of His salvation.

He did this so that He could begin the renovation of the human race in us. That’s what the last part of this verse is all about. The firstfruits of all He created.

This is the beginning of the kingdom of God manifest on earth. Right now it’s difficult to see. It’s taking root in the hearts of men and women throughout the world. But they’re changing, becoming what God intended them to be. His Kingdom is starting in us.

As we let the clear, consistent light of God’s Word shine on us, it will transform us. It won’t take us in random circles, always searching for something better. It will bring us forward from glory to glory as the Holy Spirit works God’s will in us.

The more time I spend in the presence of that Word, the more I become like Him. Don’t ever take the presence of the Lord for granted. It’s a privilege to have access to the throne room of God. It was paid for by the precious blood of Christ. Let the living Word do the work in you that only He can do.

Question: What are some changes that the Word has accomplished in you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Do You Know the Two Kinds of Testing?

ClimberWe all go through challenging times in our lives. The Bible calls them trials or tests. None of us are exempt, so we need to be aware of how they function.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

Notice that James is not saying that the trial is a blessing. Our blessing is the result of coming through the test victoriously. If you remember from the first post in this series; it’s our faith that’s tried. This trial then brings perseverance and results in our faith being approved as genuine.

But what exactly are these tests all about? James goes on to explain it to us.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James 1:13-15

First, we must understand the words being used. In the English Bible, the words temptation, test, and trial all mean different things to us. In the original Greek they’re all the same word. The translators used these different English words depending upon the context.

In this verse, James is only referring to one kind of testing – testing by evil. In this post I want to talk about the two kinds that are spoken of in Scripture.

The first I want to share about is testing by evil. This is usually called temptation by the translators. This is when we are given the opportunity to do something against God’s law or human law. It could also be troublesome, injurious, or destructive to us or others.

In thinking about testing, it’s important that we don’t get our theology from cartoons. There isn’t any little demon or angel sitting on our shoulder, whispering into our ears!

James makes it clear that usually the devil is not even involved. I think that we give him too much credit. It’s actually our own flesh that brings on the temptations that we face. We are tempted when our sin nature wants something that’s not God’s best for us. The only way to overcome consistantly is by a lifestyle of fasting and prayer in the spirit. (For more detail on these, click fasting or prayer)

The second kind is testing by God. James only says that God doesn’t use evil to test us, but there is a test that He sets up for us. This happened a lot with Jesus and His disciples.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
John 6:5-6

In this kind of testing, the Lord brings opportunities before us. Their purpose is to show forth the faith that has been produced in us as a result of hearing His Word. He wants us and others to see the growth that’s taking place in us. The result should bring glory to Christ working in us.

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

Knowing these two types of trials will help us to be victorious no matter what challenges we face. As we rely upon the Holy Spirit, we can become mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Question: How has the testing process worked maturity in your Christian walk?

©Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Money and Humility

Fake MoneyThey say that the grass is always greener in the next yard. But is that the truth? What should our attitude be towards wealth?

If we want to do our best work for the Lord, then we need to deal with the issue of money. In our society you can’t function real well without it. So, we need to understand the Scriptural view. James had something to say about it.

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.
James 1:9-10

The first thing that we understand from this verse is that James is not saying that we all need to be poor. He doesn’t contrast poor vs. rich, which references how much money you have. Instead, he’s dealing with humble vs. rich, which tells me that he’s talking about our attitudes.

I believe that God wants to provide abundantly for His children. But what I’ve learned is that He works with us individually. What I mean is this; abundant provision in the United States will look differently than abundance in Indonesia. Yet, in both places, the Lord blesses His people in order for them to be a blessing to others.

The problem is not about how much money you have, it’s your attitude towards it that makes the difference. I’ve seen people who have no real money – everything they own is on credit. Yet they act arrogantly as if they own the world and are better than everyone else.

I’ve also seen people who don’t have a lot, but they’re constantly blessing others. As a result, God is always continuing to provide for them.

We need to learn the lesson of attitudes. It’s never about how much money you have. There needs to be a walk of humility.

But what is humility? Some think that it means you have to see yourself as a nobody. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

At one point Paul told Titus to show true humility toward all men (Titus 3:2). The fact is that true humility is always directed at others and never at us. It’s how I need to view those around me.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3

Humility never puts itself down. Instead, it lifts others up. Okay, but what does that have to do with money?

If you think that your money makes you great and important, then you need an attitude adjustment. Money is a tool that we use to provide for our needs and to bless others. Having it doesn’t make you any better than you were without it.

James makes it clear in his next statement.

For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.
James 1:11

One way or another we’re going to learn that the external is not what life’s all about. Either you develop the spiritual strengths that bring a mature walk or you find out that the material things you’re relying on are never enough.

If you put your hope in a big bank account, then it will fail you. Your willingness to trust God and bless others is what will see you through the challenges of life.

Question: How have you experienced that trusting God is better than a big bank account?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2017 in Faith, God's Provision, Spiritual Walk

 

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Double Minded

WaveIn my last post we saw that maturity requires the wisdom of God. Without His wisdom, there will be areas of lack in our lives.

James tells us that all we need to do is ask God, and He’ll give us His wisdom in abundance. But there’s a requirement for us to receive it.

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

According to Scripture, there must not be any doubt that God will provide. This passage is actually a very detailed look at what doubt is and how it functions.

First, the word doubt in the Greek actually means to thoroughly judge, discern or discriminate in the decision making process. As a matter of fact, this word could be good or bad in Scripture, depending upon the context.

Jesus said that we should discern the signs of the times (Matthew 16:2-3). We should be able to judge disputes between believers (1 Corinthians 6:5). We must discern the Lord’s body during communion (1 Corinthians 11:29). Prophecy should be judged by the listeners (1 Corinthians 14:29).

The problem comes in when we try to judge God’s Word. It’s not up to us to decide whether God means what He says or not. His Word is truth. It doesn’t matter what things look like from our perspective.

The next thing I see is that the person who doubts is like a wave on the ocean. But it’s not just any wave. It’s a wave that’s specifically formed by the wind blowing across the water. That kind of wave only moves in the direction that the wind is blowing.

If I only trust God when the wind of circumstance is blowing in a favorable direction, that’s a very shallow faith. It’s up to random chance whether it will take me to God’s best or not. Most likely, you’ll never get there.

This person is also called double-minded, or literally double souled. It’s like you have a split personality. When you’re around God’s people it seems like nothing’s impossible. But in the middle of the struggle, you lose all hope.

According to James, this person is unstable in all he does. That literally means that the road he’s taking has no permanent direction.

Think about it. What if the road I took to work each day comes out at a different place each time I drove on it. That’s what life is like as a doubter. You never know where you’re going to end up, spiritually speaking.

We need to trust God’s Word no matter what things look like around us. Abraham learned this lesson, and he saw God’s power at work.

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
Romans 4:20-21

So if you need God’s wisdom – if you lack in any area of your life – then you can trust Him for it with all your heart. Don’t try to decide whether it’s for you or not. Jesus Christ already paid the price for it. Receive God’s wisdom without any doubt.

Question: What are some doubts that you’ve had to overcome in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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What You Really Lack

Question MarkI’ve been looking at the path to maturity in the book of James. I want to talk in a little more detail about the result.

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:4

This is obviously something that James believes that we can attain to. But in understanding the words that he uses, it goes against what many people preach.

I believe that God’s Word is truth. That means that no matter what people say, I have to trust that God’s way is correct.

What do I mean by all this? Simply that the word James uses for complete is a compound word. It means having your whole allotment. It speaks about everything that God has for us.

God wants us to be mature, receiving everything that Jesus paid for on the cross. But James doesn’t leave it at that. He goes on to repeat himself by coming at it from the opposite direction.

He says that as a mature believer you lack nothing. That literally means that there is not even one thing missing.

As I said in the first post of this series, the Book of James was the first Scripture that the Holy Spirit gave to the church. I find this amazing. The very first thing that the Spirit reveals to His church is that He wants us mature…AND…that there’s no lack in the walk of maturity.

Why is it that so many Christians seem to be missing out on God’s best? I think that it’s because we don’t know what we’re really lacking. We’re under the impression that we need things, or money. But that’s not the lack – according to Scripture.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
James 1:5

Immediately after telling us that we should lack nothing, James tells us what to pray for. If there’s an area of need in our lives, then the deficiency is in our wisdom. At the point where we lack wisdom, there will be a material need.

This is clear from what Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote.

Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
Proverbs 3:13-16

You can sum up this passage by saying that if you possess Godly wisdom, then you don’t need anything else. Finances, a home, a good job, friends, and much more will be available to you if you can walk in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

The reason should be obvious. Wisdom is the ability to make the right choices based upon the knowledge you’ve received.

We live in an age where we have all the knowledge we need, right at our fingertips. We can search out any answer we require on Google. The problem is that knowledge by itself doesn’t guarantee our success. You need to know what to do with it. That’s why God promises us His wisdom.

I’m so glad that there’s no qualification on the Lord’s promise of wisdom. Anytime, anywhere, I can ask Him and receive the wisdom I need.

If you lack anything, then it’s time for a new strategy. Instead of praying for “stuff”, ask God for the wisdom you need. Then be listening for His voice to guide you in the right paths.

Question: How has God’s wisdom helped you in the past?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2017 in God's Provision, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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On to Maturity

FinishIn my last post, James showed us that our faith has to be approved. We need this if we’re going to grow spiritually. The final piece he talks about is perseverance.

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:4

This goes right along with what Jesus taught His disciples.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:48

This word, perfect, is the same word mature that James used. This is God’s desire for His people. That we attain to the same level of maturity as Christ.

The unfortunate thing is that many teach that this is impossible. Over and over we’re told that to walk like Jesus is beyond our reach. I don’t buy into this type of reasoning.

When I see the lives of the Apostles in the book of Acts, I don’t get the idea that they’re immature. I see the same signs and wonders that were performed by the Lord. I see thousands of people drawn to, and changed by, the Word of God.

If it was possible for them, then the same is true for us. But we have to be willing to walk the same road they walked to get there.

One of the key ingredients to us reaching this level is the ministry gifts God has given to the body of Christ. In talking about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, Paul said that they were given as gifts to the church. They have a very clear purpose.

…to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:12-13

The goal of this five-fold ministry is the maturing of the saints. The level of that maturity is beyond question. It’s so that we would live and minister in the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Why would the Holy Spirit inspire Paul to write these words if it was impossible? We need to stop making excuses, and start working towards the walk of maturity.

Paul understood this aspect of his work as an apostle of Christ.

We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Colossians 1:28-29

That’s the goal of the ministry. We’re here to present everyone – not just a select few – perfect and mature in Christ. This requires supernatural strength and wisdom.

We cannot hope to perform this on a merely human level. As a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I need to yield to the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this great task.

The belief that this is impossible to achieve in our lifetime only serves to undermine the Lord’s goal for us. We need to recognize where He’s leading us to, and cooperate with the Lord’s program for our development. After all, He’s bringing us on an incredible spiritual journey.

But I want us to see the result of this work. What happens once you reach this mature walk?

In the first verse we looked at, James clearly states, from the Holy Spirit and his experience, that when you walk in maturity you lack nothing. Lacking nothing – that’s what the church is striving for in this generation.

If we’re going to operate at this level, then we need the spiritual walk of maturity.

Question: What would the ministry of a spiritually mature believer look like?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2017 in Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Has Your Faith Been Approved?

ApproveStarting with this post, I’m going to do things a little differently. I usually talk about issues dealing with revival, church leadership, God’s power or the return of Christ. But up until now I haven’t really followed any plan.

Lately I’ve been feeling that I need to write in a more systematic way. Over the past couple of years the Holy Spirit has been teaching me a lot by having me read through the New Testament in the order that it was given to the church.

In that way you can see how some of these themes were expanded upon as the Spirit revealed more and more to His people. I want to take that same approach to the teachings in this blog.

Of course, if the Lord gives me a message to share that will benefit you; I can always follow His leading at any time. I can post it when I receive it and then pick right back up where I left off.

I believe that the book of James was the first Scripture to be recorded for the church. So that’s where I’ll begin.

It was written by a pastor to give his congregation the foundation they needed in serving Christ. James was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. His words are as applicable today as they were when he first wrote them.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
James 1:2-3

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time identifying with James when he equates trials with joy. And he’s not the only one. The Apostle Peter says the same thing in his letters. It’s not that I don’t want to grow, but I would prefer not going through trials – they just don’t feel good to me.

On the other hand, I realize that they’re a part of life. There’s never going to be a time when we’re not faced with something challenging. Nobody is exempt from this. The world is full of problems, and people who cause them. I’ve even been known to bring them upon myself from time to time.

The real issue is what I do with the trial once I’m in it. They can’t be avoided, so I might as well make the best of it. James is explaining to us the attitude best suited to overcome our trials. He doesn’t say to be joyful because you’re being tested. He says to count it pure joy because of what you know.

It’s our knowledge of what the trial produces the gives us joy during the hard times. What is it that I know? If you read this section in the original Greek, you find that James says that it’s the “approved part of our faith” that produces perseverance – the ability to come through a challenge victoriously.

Everyone says that they have faith. The question asked by this verse is – Is that faith approved? Has it been tested and found to be genuine? It’s easy to say that I trust God, yet give up in the hard times. It’s the genuine, approved faith that carries us through.

It’s like the song that says, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Well, I know that the Lord won’t allow the test to kill me. But as it tries my faith, it will strengthen me to trust God in a greater way.

So the joy is not that I’m being tried, but that I’m growing stronger. My faith is being proved, and I’ll be able to stand in it. I may never look forward to tests and hardships, but at least I know that they provide a vital part of my growth in Christ.

Question: What have you gone through that has increased your faith?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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