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Monthly Archives: March 2017

Does Your Tongue Lead a Double Life?

Are you living a double life? That’s the question James asks us in his small book. I’ve been posting about how our tongue shows publically what’s going on in our heart.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
James 3:9-12

There’s a self-deception sometimes, over how far along we are in our spiritual maturity. We like to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. This is especially true when we find ourselves in a Christian meeting, praising God along with everyone else.

James gives us a more accurate picture. He starts with what it looks like by observation. Praise and cursing coming from the same mouth. “Lord I love you” with one breath, and telling someone “you’re no good” with the next. It looks like you can do both – unless you see God’s perspective.

That’s why James asks these questions. He knows the answer. Jesus answered them with His disciples. I’m sure that James heard Jesus say it on more than one occasion.

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
Luke 6:43-45

It’s obvious that James hasn’t changed the subject. He’s still talking about controlling the tongue by what you put in your heart.

More than that, he’s saying what sounds like praise to us, is not always praise to God. If your heart is overflowing with things other than the Word, then your so-called praise is not acceptable to God. It may look like fresh water to all those around, but to God it’s a salt spring.

A life that’s consistently producing bad fruit is a sign of a heart without much of the Word of God. What about the praise that’s going up to God? Isn’t that a sign of a good heart?

I wish it were. Unfortunately, praising God is not a fruit of the spirit. I’ve even heard some ungodly people exclaim, “Praise the Lord” or “Hallelujah” at times. That’s not the sign of maturity.

The fruit of the spirit and maturity are things that can’t be forced or pretended. They have to be grown into. That’s why there must be a consistent walk with the Lord. The more of the Word we receive – both the written and spoken Word of God – the more our hearts overflow with the right things.

Take love, for an example. The world looks at the emotion. As the fruit of a mature spiritual life, love is a choice we make. It goes against our human nature to choose to love people we don’t even like. That’s why we need the power of the spirit working in us.

The sign of our maturity is not a random act of kindness once in a long while. It’s the consistent production of mature fruit on a daily basis. That’s the sign of a life spent in the presence of the Lord.

Question: What fruit of the spirit have been evident in your life lately?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on March 31, 2017 in Prayer, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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From Heart to Mouth

In my last post I talked about controlling the tongue, by putting the Word of God in our hearts. This was because it’s from the overflow of what we store in our heart that the mouth speaks. James goes on to give us more detail about this.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.
James 3:3-4

It doesn’t take much to steer a horse or a ship. Bits and rudders are relatively small in comparison to the whole animal or ship. Yet, if we have control of that small piece, we can set the direction we want to go.

I’ve heard people take this verse and say that this is why we need to speak out what we want to receive from life. They say that your speaking will set the direction you’re heading. But that’s not the whole truth.

If you read the two chapters of James leading up to this, you’ll find that this is more about planting the right things in your heart. In order to be in continual control of your tongue, you need to be continually planting the right things in your heart.

The fact is that it’s possible to recite Scripture without letting it change your heart. That’s the same as only grabbing the rudder of a ship and controlling it for five minutes a day. You’ll never get to your destination like that. You must take continual control.

We need to heed the warning of Proverbs.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
Proverbs 4:23

This verse literally says that your heart contains the source of your life. Everything you receive comes through your heart first. It’s what you plant in your heart that eventually dictates what your life becomes.

When the Word of God flows from your heart to your mouth, your life starts heading in that direction. If not, then nothing you do can stop the natural progression that James warns us about in the next verses.

Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
James 3:5-8

This is the outcome of a heart without the Word being planted. Our mouth is a part of our flesh. Trying to control it for ten minutes a day is not enough. Without the constant supply of the Word to our hearts, there’s no control to where our lives are heading.

It’s clear from Scripture that the progression of a spiritual life is – Word of God, heart, mouth, and then life. If that’s not how we work it, then it’s like we’re on the ocean without holding the rudder. Take control of your life. Plant the Word of God into your heart.

Question: How have you seen the Word bring forth fruit in your Life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2017 in Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Mature Talk

In my last post I started looking at how the book of James dealt with the speaking of our faith. Our words and actions need to line up with what we believe. Our words make visible the faith – or doubt – that’s in our heart.

But did you know that our words also indicate our level of spiritual maturity? Too often we like to think of ourselves as being more mature than we actually are. It’s our words that truly show how far along we are.

I believe that most of us want to experience the walk of maturity and the blessings that come with it. Here’s the problem. We know what it should look like. But many are trying to do it without growing up.

We’re always on the lookout for some new teaching or “move of God” that will give us our breakthrough. We want the Six Steps to Prosperity or the Ten Confessions that bring Healing. We’re trying to get the freedom and resources of maturity while desperately hanging on to our childhood.

This is never going to happen. It’s only when we attain to the goal of spiritual adulthood that we’ll see these things accomplished in us.

We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
James 3:2

There’s more to the mature walk than simply getting our needs met. This word perfect literally means mature and complete. When you reach this level in your Christian experience sin is the exception rather than the rule. It’s not about trying harder. It’s the Holy Spirit working in you to perfect you.

So much of our energy is spent on trying to “be good.” Many preachers are wasting their time using guilt and scare tactics to try and get their people to live a righteous life. That’s not the scriptural way to get there.

The reason James talks about this in relation to our speaking, is because this is one of the most obvious ways that we show our immaturity. You might look good on the outside, but as soon as you open your mouth, everybody knows where you’re at.

Jesus gives us the reason for this.

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45

The fact is that whatever is in your heart will eventually come out of your mouth. It’s not something that you can control simply by deciding “not to say anything.” Most of us have found out the impossibility of sticking to that statement.

Your mouth is merely a channel from your heart to the outside world. You can try plugging it up, but eventually the pressure will build until the contents flood out. Then we wish we could take it back. We tell people that we didn’t mean it. But the fact remains that if it wasn’t already in your heart, it wouldn’t have come out of your mouth.

That’s why we can’t concentrate on simply using self-control. The answer is to have a change of heart. If I can plant God’s Word in my heart, then I know the output of my mouth will be pure.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Psalms 119:11

This includes the sinful things that come out of our mouths. If I can keep my heart pure, then my mouth will follow.

Question: How has your mouth showed the good things in your heart?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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

 

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Faith and Opinions

We all have our opinions about things. But are there some times that we should keep our opinions to ourselves?

I’ve been posting from the book of James. He’s been telling us that our speaking and actions need to line up with our faith. Further; that faith must be born of the Holy Spirit’s work in us.

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
James 3:1

Sometimes the placement of the chapters and verses in the Bible cause us to miss important truths. This is one of those places. Because this is the start of a new chapter, we think it starts a new thought. It doesn’t.

James is still talking about our speaking that must line up with what the Holy Spirit speaks. The original Greek of this passage says that not many should make themselves to be teachers. It’s talking about when I presume that you need me to give you my opinion about the way things are.

This verse gives us the reason why we have to be very careful in how we give out our opinions. We need to ask ourselves if our opinions line up with the Holy Spirit’s opinion. Because His is the only one that matters. We are going to be judged on what we instruct others to do.

Jesus explained this very concept to His disciples when preparing them for His death.

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
John 14:25-26

Jesus explains to the disciples that the Holy Spirit will do two things – teach them and remind them. I want to deal with the teaching aspect of the Spirit. Jesus said that He will teach you everything.

That’s especially important for someone like me to understand. God has called me to be a teacher in the body of Christ. That means that my attitude must be pure before God. I’m teaching, but my hope is that at the same time the Holy Spirit is teaching you.

The problem is that some people prepare as if it’s them doing the teaching. That’s not the way it should be.

I know from the comments that I get from people, that I’m a good teacher. It’s a gift that God has given me. I’ve used this gift in the past to teach math, physics, hiking, and a number of other things.

But when it comes to teaching others how to live for Christ, I don’t want to be the one teaching you. I might be the one doing the talking or writing, but I want the Holy Spirit to do the teaching.

When I was young in the ministry, there was a prayer that I always prayed just before I got up to speak. I still do it from time to time, but I presume that the Holy Spirit knows that it’s always my desire. The prayer is, “Lord help me to remember what you want me to remember, and to forget what you want me to forget.”

You don’t know how freeing this is to me. There have been many times that I’ve forgotten things that I’ve wanted to share in my preaching. Later on I remember, but it doesn’t trouble me at all, because I know that it was the Holy Spirit that didn’t want it shared.

Other times I think of things, while I’m preaching, that I never prepared to say. I believe that it was God reminding me something He wanted said. Very often, that was the part of the message that touched people the most.

The truth is that if I take on the exclusive role as teacher, then the burden of responsibility is on me. I don’t want to be judged that strictly. I’m much more comfortable with the role of assistant teacher to the Holy Spirit.

Question: How do people use their opinions to teach others?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2017 in Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Football Faith

I’ve been posting about the need for our faith and actions to line up together. That’s where we see God’s power at work in us. It’s time for God’s people to start living out their faith.

We believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. That’s a great thing to trust in. But if you really believe it, then you’re going to let someone know that you feel that way.

I live in the Boston area. It’s no secret that the people around here believe that the New England Patriots are the greatest football team ever. Because of that, in the fall, on any given weekend, no matter where you go you’ll hear people talking about them. That’s what happens when you truly believe something. It affects how you act and speak.

You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
James 2:24

We are saved because we trust in Christ. His blood was shed for our sins. But is believing enough? What does the Scripture say?

…that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Romans 10:9-10

There has to be both the faith and the actions working together. Believing alone won’t save you. There has to be a confession, out loud, from your own lips.

When the Holy Spirit works on your heart, He causes faith to arise in you. That’s actually what conviction is. It’s when you believe that something’s wrong with your life and there’s something you need to do to bring about a change.

When we come to Christ in repentance, we’re acting on what we believe. We need help, and the Lord is the only one who can give it to us.

But salvation is not the only area where faith and actions need to line up. Whenever we’re trusting God for something, we need to walk it out. Look at James’ example.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?
James 2:25

This is in reference to Israel defeating Jericho in battle. Before the fight, Israel sent spies into the city. This account is told in the book of Joshua, chapter 2.

If you read that chapter, you find out that everybody in the city believed that the God of Israel was the true God. They believed that God was going to give the whole land to Israel. But of all the people in Jericho, only Rahab acted on what she believed.

She hid the spies on her roof. By protecting them she secured safety and protection for her family. Her faith and her actions worked together for her good. That’s why James concludes this section with this summation.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
James 2:26

We need to be a people who operate with a living faith. That means that it’s not just in our hearts. It’s a faith that people can see by our actions and hear from our lips.

Question: What’s an example of how your faith and actions have worked together?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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Faith and the Word

In my last post I talked about our faith and our actions working together. James told us that without action, we only have a dead faith.

What kind of faith is James talking about here? Some ethereal faith, believing it will all turn out good in the end? Absolutely not!! It’s the kind of faith that sees things changing by the power of God.

Where do we get that kind of faith? Paul tells us the answer to that question.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17

This is one of those verses that everyone quotes, but few understand. The NIV uses the word message in its translation; but that word does not appear in the Greek original. It simply reads faith comes by hearing

The important thing is; what are you hearing? That’s why the Apostle Paul goes on to explain that this hearing is by the Word of Christ.

There are many who believe that this verse is talking about reading the Bible. Personally, I don’t believe that’s what it’s referring to. The Greek words being used here say that this faith comes from the rhema of Christ. That means Paul is talking about the Word we hear directly from the Holy Spirit.

For a detailed explanation of this aspect of the Word, click here.

This faith is not simply choosing to believe what the Bible says – as good as that is. It’s a faith that’s birthed on the inside of you by spending time in the Spirit. That’s the kind of faith that James is talking about.

How do I know this? Look at the example James gives to illustrate his point.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
James 2:20-23

According to James, Abraham believed God – had faith in His Word – and acted upon his faith. Because of his faith, Abraham took his only son up on a mountain to offer him as a sacrifice to God. When he stepped out in faith, God then looked upon him and credited righteousness to his account.

Why would Abraham do something like that? Because he had faith in God’s Word. What was the Word that inspired this faith? It couldn’t have been the Bible since it wasn’t even begun to be written yet. The truth is that Abraham heard a Word from God and it planted an unwavering faith on the inside of him.

James is telling us that if we want to have this living faith, then we must spend time in God’s presence, listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. The kind of faith that moves mountains, heals and delivers is only received in a Word from God.

I believe that this is why there’s so little manifestation of the power of God in our generation. Because of the proliferation of Scripture (a good thing), we have replaced intimate time in God’s presence with Bible reading.

Don’t misunderstand me – reading, memorizing, meditating on, and confession of the Scripture is vital for your growth as a believer. But time spent listening for a Word from God is just as important.

Question: What have you heard and obeyed from the Holy Spirit lately?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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Life-Changing Faith

In the beginning of his book, James talked about the approving of our faith. Now he wants to tell us about what true faith really is.

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
James 2:14-15

James asks a very important question. What’s the profit in merely talking about faith? True faith is shown by the actions that accompany it. A faith that brings God’s restoration and salvation into someone’s life will cause them to do something.

James uses a great illustration to prove his point.

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James 2:15-17

Talk, all by itself, does nothing to bring about a change of circumstances. I wish some Christians would learn this lesson. It seems to me that there are many in the body of Christ under the wrong impression. They think that talking or singing about their faith is the same as experiencing it.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.
1 Corinthians 4:20

Faith that heals, saves, or changes situations is more than just empty talk. The power of God is released when true, tested and approved faith is walked out. James goes as far as to say that if your faith has no actions, then it’s a dead faith.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.
James 2:18-19

James takes us right to the root of the problem. It’s this idea that faith and works are an either/or proposition. That’s a great error that many have fallen into. James has already showed us that faith without works is a dead faith. But what about our works?

What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.
Romans 9:30-32a

What we find is that there are two ditches you can get stuck in. The first is faith without works – a dead faith. But we find, through the example of Israel, that there can be works without faith – dead works.

The power of God is manifest when both our faith and actions are working together. That’s where we find signs, wonders and miracles.

Don’t get stalled out in the mire of either dead faith or dead works. Let God’s glory shine through all that you do. In that way your faith and your actions will line up to testify of the goodness of God.

Question: How has your faith in God changed the actions that you do?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2017 in Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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