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Monthly Archives: April 2017

Resistance is not Futile

I’m continuing to post from the book of James. He’s been telling us about how to humble ourselves before the Lord. This is important, especially when confronted by the enemy.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:7

Causing the devil to run away sounds great. But I’ve had people come to me and tell me, “I tried resisting and the enemy kept pestering me. This verse doesn’t work.”

Things like that happen because we take things out of context. The enemy doesn’t flee simply because you resist. There’s more going on in this verse that you need to apply.

The first thing James says is for us to submit ourselves to God. That word, submit, means to place under. Its usage is like what happens in the military when a soldier takes his orders from a superior officer.

When we find our place in the kingdom of God, under submission to Christ – our Commander in Chief – we can then resist effectively. The devil flees because heaven is backing me up, not because I’m resisting on my own.

The Apostle Paul tells us pretty much the same thing.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Ephesians 6:13

The word stand in this verse is the same word as resist that James used. We need to stand our ground and resist the devil. We’re told that if we do this, in submission to the Lord, the enemy will flee. But I’ve found that it’s the time frame between the resisting and the fleeing that gives us the most problem.

Why would the devil ever flee from us? After all, we’re not that strong compared to him.

This is a great lesson that the church needs to hear. So many people give up when things get hard. Some of us are under the impression that working for God should be all hearts and flowers.

Why then does Paul use the analogy of a warrior, fully armed, and dressed for battle? The fact is that there are spiritual forces that don’t want us to succeed in our service to the Lord. The victory comes from knowing that it’s the Holy Spirit giving you strength, and not giving up.

We need to learn how to stand in the center of opposition. The ancient Romans knew how to do this. It was the secret to the success of their army. Each of the Roman soldiers was taught how to defend a 3-foot square of ground from an invading army. When they fought together, there was no way to break through their lines.

We need to get it into our heads that the only way to victory is to move forward in the Lord. Backing up WILL NOT get you out of the battle. It will only make you have to fight to regain that ground later.

But the thing about this verse that gives me the most trouble is when Paul says, “when the day of evil comes.” Not “if”, not “there might come a time when problems arise”. He tells us in a straight forward way that this day is coming whether you’re ready or not. So the best thing to do is prepare now.

The word that both James and Paul used for stand literally means to stand in opposition to. We must be prepared for the enemy to oppose us.

The phrase after you have done everything actually translates after you have fully accomplished your work. When you have done everything you were assigned to do by the Lord, then it’s time for the Holy Spirit to take over. One thing I’m certain about. The enemy is no match for the God I serve!

So, being forewarned with the knowledge that the day of evil is coming, we need to be ready. We must be fully armed and prepared to stand our ground in Christ. Then we will see the victory of God manifest in our situation.

Question: What are you going through right now that will require you to stand your ground?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Pride – Know the Symptoms

Are you walking in pride? Do you know what to look for? Many are self-deceived and don’t even know they’re headed for problems in this area.

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6

By understanding pride, we can make sure that we haven’t put ourselves in a position of opposing God. That’s a no-win situation. We need to steer clear of that trap.

Scripture records some events that surrounded Christ’s birth. The following principals are gleaned from Luke’s Gospel and the birth announcements of both John the Baptist and Jesus. These are found in Luke 1:5-38. You may want to read this passage before continuing with this article.

By comparing the responses of Zechariah and Mary, we can see how to recognize pride. It’s clear in Luke’s Gospel that Zechariah was rebuked, while Mary was commended. How you answer the following questions will show your spiritual attitude in relation to pride.

Are you walking in fear? Right from the start, Zechariah was terrified, while Mary was troubled. Even though it may sound the same on the surface, there’s a world of difference.

The word troubled literally means to be mixed up or uncomfortable. This is a normal reaction to a spiritual encounter.

When new opportunities arise to serve God, there’s always a level of discomfort and uncertainty. On the other hand, if the thought of doing something new for Christ is terrifying to you, that’s a sign that pride is at work in your life.

Do you need proof of the outcome before you do something for God? Zechariah’s first question was, “How can I be sure of this?” Mary simply asked for a clarification of how it would happen. When given a new assignment from the Lord, do you insist that you know how it will turn out BEFORE you act on it?

Praying for wisdom and direction to complete your service to Christ is the right way to go. Needing proof that it will turn out the way you want it to, is a sign of pride in your heart.

Do you see your title as important to God? Two different people stood before the angel Gabriel – God’s designated messenger. Mary’s response was, “I am the Lord’s servant.” That’s the best way of viewing ourselves. What God wants accomplished in me is my priority.

Zechariah’s response was a little different. Many translations quote him as saying, “I’m an old man.” What he actually said, in the original Greek, was, “I am an elder”.

It was as if he was somehow superior and needed the assurance that his position would not be compromised by this announcement. After all, he had a reputation to maintain.

If you can’t do what the Lord wants because it’s “beneath you” – that’s a symptom that pride has taken over. You have to realize that if God doesn’t do what He says He’ll do, He has more to lose than you do.

Don’t let pride mess up your walk with the Lord. If you find these symptoms in your life, then simply repent and move on in the grace of God.

Question: How have you found yourself wrestling with pride?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Jealous God

I believe that much of the church doesn’t treat the Holy Spirit as it should. We don’t fully understand the blessing we’ve been given. We have the Spirit of the living God residing in us.

We learn about who the Holy Spirit is through Scripture. Who wrote the Bible? Obviously THE HOLY SPIRIT! The Lord breathed His Word through individuals to bring us the Scripture.

I asked myself a question. What’s the first thing that the Holy Spirit says about Himself? After all, first impressions are the most important.

As I’ve said in this series, James was the first New Testament book to be written. This next verse is the first reference which speaks about the Holy Spirit.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?
James 4:4-5

We know that God the Holy Spirit wants to be your friend. But it’s interesting to see that the first thing He reveals about Himself is that you can’t be both His friend and the world’s friend.

Understand this – you can have friends in the world. But the Spirit of God doesn’t want you to be a friend of the world system. We can’t be chasing after the same things that the world does.

The Scripture above literally says that the Holy Spirit is intensely jealous. This is a destructive jealousy to the point where He actively seeks to destroy whatever would try to steal the heart of those He loves.

He knows that you love Him. He knows the plans He has for you. He wants to bring you prosperity and health. He has a hope and a future destiny for you.

But at the same time He sees someone trying to steal your heart. Someone who has plans to ruin your life. Someone with a desire to steal, kill, and destroy.

My question is; if that’s the first thing He says about Himself, how important is it to Him? Unfortunately, I believe that many of us have lost this sense of the Lord’s jealousy.

Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
Exodus 34:14

In this section of Scripture God is giving Israel the Law through Moses. As I read it I was taken by surprise to find out that His name is Jealous.

I’ve heard a lot of teachings about the names of God. He’s Jehovah-Rapha, the Healing God. He’s Jehovah-Tsidkinnu, God our Righteousness. All of these names don’t even scratch the surface.

But in all of these teachings that I’ve heard about the names of God I was never told about El Qanaa. The Jealous God. (Pronounced like El Kanaw)

For purposes of comparison I started counting. Jehovah Jireh, the God who Provides, is only used 1 time in Scripture. Abraham was inspired to use this name for God when He provided a ram for sacrifice in place of his son.

In contrast, God calls Himself El Qanaa 7 times in the Old Testament. I think this is a part of God’s character that shouldn’t be ignored.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Ephesians 4:30

This verse literally says do not make the Holy Spirit sad, mournful. I think we lose sight of the fact that He’s a person with feelings. How many times do we make Him feel rejected or ignored?

There’s a work that the Holy Spirit wants to accomplish in us. When we tell Him, “Not now. Come back later”, that makes Him sad. He knows the destiny He’s leading us to. We need an increased sensitivity to the Holy Spirit working within us.

Question: What has the Holy Spirit been working in you lately?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2017 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, Worship

 

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Counter Culture

Is the church called to run contrary to the world? If so, then where are we missing it? I want us to think about our walk as Christians in America. This topic actually isn’t that new. James wrote about it long ago.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
James 4:4

Those are some strong words he uses. He called them an adulterous people. What does cheating on your spouse have to do with the spiritual condition of a generation? The answer is found in the verse just preceding this one. It explains his choice of words. As he talked about asking for things in prayer, he wrote…

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James 4:3

Here’s the problem that James is describing as adultery. They asked God for things so that they could then spend those things on their pleasures. It literally says that their motives in seeking God, was so that they could become consumers of pleasures.

That sounds a little too familiar.

“God, please help me to get a better job.”

Then, as our blessings increase, we get more things and push God further into the background. After all, now that I have more stuff, I have less time for “church”.

Here’s the problem from God’s perspective. It says in verse 4, above, that trying to make friends with the world is an act of hostility toward God. To make a friend, you need to try to please them or be like them in some way.

Remember, we’re not talking about the people, but the world system. You can make friends with people without buying into the system.

There’s a word we use for the world’s system of order. It’s the word culture. Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary defines culture as, the sum total of the attainments and activities of any…people, including their implements, handcrafts, agriculture, economics, music, arts, religious beliefs, tradition, language and story.

In other words, the American culture is our entire way of life. It’s how we live and what we expect. It’s what we strive for as well as what we accept as “normal”.

When I think about the mainstream of life in the United States, I get a picture of the system at work here. Then, when I see the lifestyle we’re called to as followers of Christ, I get a whole different picture. There are some areas where the two cultures are drastically different.

How do we live in both worlds? As believers, we must live in the world without operating according to its system. That makes us a part of a counter-culture.

Many of the ways of God run contrary to how the world does things. When we seek acceptance from society by trying to fit in with them, we run the risk of compromising our beliefs. We must always live as a part of God’s kingdom no matter where we are.

Question: What are some areas you see where the church is too friendly with the world system?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2017 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Fights and Quarrels

Are there people in your life that you just don’t get along with? Whenever you’re with them, an argument breaks out? Did you ever stop to think that it might not be totally their fault? At least that’s what James tells us in his book.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
James 4:1

James actually says that wars and fights start within us. They’re caused by our own desires that are not lined up with the will of God. When our flesh wants something, that’s when the trouble starts.

I would say that most of our trouble with others is caused by something that we desire. As I pastored over the years, I’ve counselled many people who were in conflict with others. They always thought they were in the right. And they’re reasoning always sounded the same.

“I expect to be treated like…”

“I deserve…”

“I expect them to…”

“Why don’t they just…”

In your quarrels with others, you can fill in the blanks for your particular situation. All of those statements revolve around unmet expectations. Expectation is simply another word for desire. It’s your unmet desires that start the problems.

Quarrels and fights are all about us not getting what we want. James goes on talking about it.

You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.
James 4:2

Our trouble is that we put our expectations in people. No matter how good that person is, they’ll let you down at some point. That’s because we’re all human. Any expectation – desire – you place on someone else, will eventually hurt you.

That’s why the only real expectations we should have must be towards God. He’s the only one who won’t let you down.

But wait a minute; it doesn’t end there. I’ve heard many people complain that God doesn’t give them what they want.

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James 4:3

The problem might have something to do with your motives. It’s all about your pleasure. What if your pleasure is not God’s will for you in this situation?

Throughout the book of James, so far, he’s been talking about hearing from God. We spend time in the Lord’s presence to hear a Word from Him. A Word that cleans us. A Word that gives us the wisdom of Heaven.

Do you even know if what you’re asking for is God’s will for you? If it is God’s will, do you know that this is the right timing for it? That’s what spending time with the Holy Spirit is all about. He changes us in His presence so that we desire what He desires. He also gives us His peace so that we accept His timetable.

That’s the basis of a stress free, and quarrel free, life.

Question: What are some blessings that you’ve received from the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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The Two Kinds of Wisdom

Did you know that your life shows where your wisdom comes from? It either comes from Heaven, or the world and the devil. Do you know the difference?

The book of James explains it to us.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
James 3:13-16

We all want a good life. But do we want to do what it takes to receive the wisdom for it? And more than that; do we want to walk in the wisdom from heaven?

A good life shows that you’ve learned how to tap into Heaven’s resources. That means you’re spending time with the Lord. Then, you’re listening to and obeying the instructions of the Holy Spirit.

That’s what James means by the humility that comes from wisdom. You’ve humbled yourself before God, knowing that His plan for your life is better than yours. His destiny for you is worth whatever it takes to get there.

The wisdom of the devil – which is usually what the world operates in – is all about self-promotion. It sounds good in a logical way, but the focus is too narrow. It’s all about me; what’s best for me, what will make me happy, and how I can accumulate the most toys.

When we live a life that’s self-absorbed, we end up in disorder and doing things that we never thought we would – evil things. The word disorder literally means confusion. When I spend my life going after the things I want, I eventually learn that I didn’t really want what I thought I wanted. Now that’s confusing!

If we want a life that we’re pleased with – a good life – then we need to walk in the wisdom of God.

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
1 Corinthians 2:6-7

Here’s the problem. The wisdom of Heaven is hidden. You can’t find it by careful thought and study. It’s only found in God’s presence. Quality time with Him, listening to His voice, will impart it to us. Then, as we walk in what we’ve heard from God, things around us will start to change. It will become evident that we walk in God’s wisdom.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
James 3:17-18

These are the marks of a life walked out in God’s wisdom. To walk in God’s wisdom is to walk in peace. You can even walk into a situation where there’s all kinds of confusion and problems, and by the wisdom of the Lord, bring peace. That’s what it means by the word peacemaker.

Heaven’s wisdom changes the atmosphere around you. That’s a good life. Walking in wisdom and making peace wherever you go.

Question: How has God’s wisdom brought peace into your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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