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Monthly Archives: January 2019

Tricky, Tricky

We’re continuing our look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  The church had broken into factions over following their favorite teachers.  In dealing with this, Paul is showing them that the wisdom of God is far superior to human wisdom.

Do not deceive yourselves.  If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise.
1 Corinthians 3:18

This is actually a very scary verse of Scripture.  It troubles me to think that I could possibly trick myself into believing a lie.

Of course, we know that it’s a very easy thing to do.  On more than one occasion I’ve used the arguments that I heard in society around me.  I then convinced myself that I could do something completely opposite to what I knew to be correct.

As Christians, we need to understand that what the world calls wisdom, is not always the truth.  It may seem to work for a season, but eventually, it will produce death in us.

My goal should be to operate in the wisdom of God; that which I receive from the Spirit.  Then I know that I’m headed in the direction of Life.  Unfortunately, in the eyes of the world, this sometimes appears to be foolishness.

Paul goes on to explain the differences.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.  As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”
1 Corinthians 3:19-20

When we reject God’s wisdom in favor of the world’s, we’ve chosen the path of deception.  We’re now opening up our lives for the problems that come from foolish decisions.

The phrase, catches the wise in their craftiness, is very descriptive in the Greek.  The word, catch, means to entrap like when a snake hypnotizes its prey by rocking back and forth.

The word picture shows us that we become fascinated by our own trickery.  We deceive ourselves to believe the world’s way of doing things and then we become obsessed with it.

I’ve seen it happen many times.  A believer does something totally out of character for a follower of Christ.  You then hear them explaining it over and over to everyone they meet.

“I deserved to do that.  It’s my turn now.  I have the right to be happy.  I have to think about myself; no one else will.”

We become obsessed and fascinated by our self-deception.  In the end, it will ruin us if we continue in it.

Paul’s second quote is just as important.  The word, thoughts, literally means an internal dialogue.

Have you ever had these discussions taking place within yourself?  You know the right thing to do, but you keep repeating the world’s wisdom to convince yourself to go another way.

The verse says that God knows these internal discussions are empty and profitless.  It could also mean that it will get to the point of idolatry.

Not that you’ll worship a statue of wood or metal.  It’s more deceptive than that.  We actually place the wisdom of this age as the ruler of our lives.  We give the world our attention instead of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t fall into the trap of self-deception.  Take stock of whose wisdom you listen to.  Seek time in the Lord’s presence to hear His voice.  Then follow it over and above anything that the world will try and convince you of.

Question: Why is the world’s wisdom so attractive to us?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Are You a Home-wrecker?

In my last post, we saw that our bodies are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.  When you think about it, that’s an incredible gift.  But it’s also an awesome responsibility.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17

We need to live with the understanding that our whole life is a temple dedicated to God.  That’s even more so when God’s people gather together.

The physical building is not the “house of God”, even though we refer to it like that sometimes.  On the contrary, it’s the in the gathering of believers that the Holy Spirit makes His presence known.

The word for destroy, in the above passage, means the process of withering or spoiling.  It’s not instantaneous destruction.  If someone corrupts God’s people, they begin a withering process that will affect their own lives.

God’s passion for His Temple was illustrated in the life of Christ.

In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
John 2:14-16

We need to understand what was making Jesus so upset.  It was all about greed on the part of the priests.

There were some provisions in the law to make it easier for the people to tithe.  If I lived far away from Jerusalem, I could sell the sheep I was bringing for a tithe.  Then I travel to Jerusalem with the money and buy more sheep when I get there.  In that way, it was less of a burden on the people.

Unfortunately, religion changed all that.  The priests made a rule that you could only buy specially inspected animals at the Temple for an inflated price.

On top of that, you could only use specially minted Temple coins to buy these animals.  These coins were purchased from the money-changers at a high rate of exchange.

The result was that if I started at home with 100 sheep as a tithe; by the time I was through with this process I might only be able to afford 50 to offer at the Temple.  So the priests and salespeople were getting rich while the people and God were being robbed.  Jesus was reacting to the thievery that He was witnessing.

But the real question is; how does this apply to us?  In the above Scripture, Jesus said to take this stuff out of the Temple area.  More importantly, My Father’s house is not an emporium.

That’s why it’s important to know that a church building is not my Father’s house.  Right now – I am my Father’s house and you are too.  We are the dwelling place of God’s Spirit.

Are we truly the house of God; a place of worship?  Can people see by our lives that our whole fellowship is devoted to the worship of the Lord?  Do all the parts revolve around Him?

His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
John 2:17

Do you hear what the Holy Spirit is saying?  Zeal for YOUR HOUSE will CONSUME ME.  Our zeal to be a place of worship should consume all that we are.  Think about that in relation to our lives.

This should be the attitude of all believers. I’m not all about the temporary, material things of this world. I must maintain the integrity of the living temple where God reigns supreme.

Question: What can we do to keep our Temple a place of worship?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Place of Worship

Worship is a word that we use a lot as Christians.  Do we really understand what it means?  We call church buildings “place of worship.”  But that’s not entirely correct.  Actually, there are many churches where there hasn’t been any real worship for years, yet they still call what they’re doing “worship services.”
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, the apostle is dealing with people who have lost sight of their spiritual identity.  They don’t really know who they are in Christ.  Consequently, their worship has become a set of rules.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
1 Corinthians 3:16

The Bible is clear that for us, the temple is not a physical building.  We find this thought in more than one spot in the Word.  When we’re told that you are the temple, sometimes the you is singular and sometimes it’s plural.

Regardless of the tense that’s used, the meaning is clear.  Worship takes place in people.  It’s not about a special location.  It takes place in me or in us.

But what is this place of worship that we’re called to?  Throughout the book of Hebrews, the writer uses the term, draw near, only for worship.

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.  You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.  You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Hebrews 12:22-24

The true place of worship is around the throne of God; for He’s the only one worthy to be worshiped.  The Apostle John had a vision of the majesty of this place.

Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders.  They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.  From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder.  Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing.  These are the seven spirits of God.  Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
Revelation 4:4-6

True worship takes place around the throne of God.  The fact is that when we worship, we’re transported, in the spirit, to God’s throne.  That’s because worship is a supernatural encounter with God.  It has nothing to do with our flesh, but everything to do with our spirit.

In talking to the woman at the well, Jesus spoke about this truth.

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
John 4:24

When you pray in the spirit, you’re brought into the very presence of God.  Your spirit is there with others in God’s throne room.

That’s why it surprises me that there are those who simply ignore this awesome opportunity that we’ve been given.  We’re allowed instant access into the place of worship in the throne room of the Sovereign of the universe.  Take advantage of this great invitation that we’ve been given.

Question: How often do you worship in spirit?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Final Exam

As we continue to go through our study of First Corinthians, Paul is explaining to the church about the importance of God’s calling.  The Lord’s work is different in each of us.  He deals with us all as individuals.

Our rewards are based upon what we’ve done.  My work isn’t compared to yours.  It’s judged against what God’s plan for my life required.

God desires to continually bring about changes in us to get us to where we need to be.  As I submit to these changes, I fulfill more of my calling.

But what happens if I don’t allow God to continue with His plan to renew my life?  Paul gives us some insight into the question.  In the letter to the Corinthian church, Paul is addressing a group of mostly baby Christians.  According to the Apostle, they’re not babies because they lack experience, but because they chose not to grow up.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it.  But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15

When we were initially saved we were placed onto the foundation of Christ.  It’s afterward that the building program begins.  We have the choice to build for ourselves – wood, hay, and straw.

Think about it in the natural.  All over the world wood, hay, and straw are normal building materials.  They’re used because they’re readily available and easy to build with.

It’s a lot more difficult to build with gold, silver or costly stones.  They speak of what’s built by the spirit.  If we submit to the will of God for our lives, then we’ll see a beautiful structure arise.  Not only that, but it will be beyond our expectations for what we could have ever accomplished on our own.

The good news is that we’re told how it will all turn out.  We’re not in the dark.  We know what we’ll be judged on.  The test is fire.

You can build some elaborate and beautiful houses with wood, hay, and straw.  I’ve seen some grandiose mansions around the country.  Here’s the problem, they’re not going to be judged on how high they were built or how ornate they are.  They’re going to be doused with gasoline and lit up.

Think about what’s important to you right now.  The test is not how high you climbed up the corporate ladder.  It’s not how much money you accumulated.  It’s not even about how many good deeds you did or how many friends you have on Facebook.

The judgment will be based upon how close you stuck to the plan of God for your life.  Did you allow the Holy Spirit to work His changes in you?  The final exam is how close your life came to God’s will for you.

That’s what will matter the most to you in the end.

Question: How high on your priority list is knowing and accomplishing God’s will for your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2019 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Christ – The Foundation

In my last post, I talked about the way that the Lord rewards us for fulfilling our callings.  They’re based on what Christ has planned for us.  Paul then explains how his ministry relates to the church.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:9

Paul understands that as a part of the 5-fold ministry, he can’t complete his calling by himself.  It will require supernatural assistance.  He sees himself as a co-worker with God.

But what’s the work which he and God are busy at?  He talks about two parts of church ministry.  The church is God’s field – that’s the production of fruit for the kingdom.  But the church is also God’s building.  I believe that’s talking about the growth of its structure.

We must have both if we’re going to be the witness the Lord wants us to be.  We must have both spiritual and numerical increase.

However, there’s one thing that Paul is very clear about.  It’s the basis of every function of the church.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it.  But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:10-11

We’ve turned our lives over to the Lordship of Christ.  We’re in His hands.  He’s our foundation.  Without that groundwork, nothing we build will succeed.  It has to be based upon the work of Christ in us.

But how many Christians are actually building?  And what exactly is it that we’re supposed to build?

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8

Wow!  That sounds like a daunting task.  But remember, we’re building.  It doesn’t come together in an instant.  It’s worked on over time.

I’ve seen many impressive buildings in some of the cities that I’ve visited.  Some of them took years of planning and construction to complete their structures.  Don’t get upset that you aren’t perfect yet.

The Greek word, add, in the above Scripture means to choreograph over.  I think that’s a pretty interesting way to put it.  How do we build?  By choreographing or lives in deeper and deeper patterns.

It’s like a dancer learning all the moves needed for their recital.  Faith – goodness – knowledge – self-control – perseverance – godliness – brotherly kindness – love.

We have to transform our lifestyle into a more intricate choreography.  This takes the wisdom and the strength of God, especially when it involves many people working together.  That’s why we need the proper foundation.

The work of this building process is beyond our limited capabilities.  We need to yield to the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit within us.  That’s how we can begin building by faith.

In my next post, I’ll continue by talking about the final test of this spiritual building process.  If you haven’t yet done so, I encourage you to subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss any of the articles.

Question: How far along in the building process are you?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Different Callings – One Purpose

In my last post, Paul talked about the need for different types of ministries in order for God’s people to grow.  Now Paul continues with that thought.

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.
1 Corinthians 3:7-8

This is one of those passages that gives me great joy as a minister of the Gospel.  It helps to keep me in line with God’s calling upon my life.

It tells me that all the various ministries in the body of Christ have one purpose.  That’s to make known the riches of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

That’s good, but the second half is even better.  Everyone will be rewarded according to his own labor.  That’s a great statement.  I’m not going to be judged based on what you did, but my own unique calling.

We all have different personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and challenges.  Praise God!!  He judges me as an individual.  That’s good news.  We’re each rewarded for our own work in Christ.

The Lord made mention of this with His disciples.  It was during the time when He met with the woman at the well.

Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’?  I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest.  Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.
John 4:35-36

One question that needs to be asked when we read this verse is; who’s the reaper that’s receiving his wages?  The answer should be obvious – it’s Christ!

Usually, we think of this reward for our labor as in the future.  But we need to look carefully at what Jesus said.  The reaper IS RECEIVING His wages.  I HAVE food you don’t know about.  The sower and the reaper can be happy together.

It sounds to me like there’s a reward, in this life, for fulfilling the Lord’s will.  That’s something we need to think about.

Who was the sower that Jesus referenced?  I believe that He was talking about the woman.  Listen to what the townspeople said about her.

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”
John 4:39

They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
John 4:42

What was her reward?  I don’t really know.  It might have been children or a stable family of her own.  We have to wait to find out about her in Heaven.

The fact is, that there’s no need to get jealous about ministry among God’s people.  It’s all about the Kingdom of God increasing.  Everything in our lives is all directly related to the principle of sowing and reaping.

The bottom line is that the Samaritans ultimately believed because they heard Jesus speak.  It’s our job to bring people to a personal encounter with Christ in the unique way God has called us to do it.  That’s where we receive great rewards.

Question: What are some Gospel seeds you have planted?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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The Church Garden

I’m continuing my series through First Corinthians.  In my last post, we saw that Paul warned against being politically attached to people and personalities.  Instead, we are to be seeking to please the Lord.

Now Paul gives his reasoning for this.

What, after all, is Apollos?  And what is Paul?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe — as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
1 Corinthians 3:5-7

According to this passage, the goal should be growth.  That means both personal growth for the believer and corporate growth for the church.  They are intertwined; you can’t have one without the other.

Also, multiple ministries are needed for growth.  Just one is not enough, no matter how much you like that minister.

As the Senior Pastor of a local church, I was fully aware of this truth.  I would frequently invite guest speakers who I knew had different giftings than my own.  I wanted our church to get all the things needed for growth.

Of course, there were always those who complained about certain ones.

“I’m not partial to his ministry.  I may stay home that week.”

That’s one of the problems in the church.  On the farm, the garden can’t pick and choose who does the work.  It’s obvious that people will love the ones that water more than the ones that identify and pull up the weeds.

All of the ministry gifts are needed if we’re to experience God’s best.  The ones who refuse to sit under certain types of ministries will suffer for it.  Their growth may be stunted…or nonexistent.

On the other side of the coin, each one does his or her job, but we can’t make people grow.  That part of the equation belongs to God.  That’s the same thing that Jesus taught His disciples in a parable.

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like.  A man scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.  All by itself the soil produces grain – first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.  As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
Mark 4:26-29

That might be one of the hardest things to learn as a minister of the Gospel.  Nothing I do will bring about the growth of that seed, once it has been planted.  From then on it’s out of my control.  After the planting it’s time to wait – and that can be the hardest part.

Sometimes we want to force them to produce fruit.  We try to convince and coerce.  That’s usually when we start to push them further away.  We need to learn to plant, then step back and let God provide the increase.

The Word of God, by its very nature, begins to grow below the surface.  It can’t be stopped, but neither can it be hurried along.  It goes at the pace God has set for it.  One thing is certain; it will produce the harvest that God intended it to bring forth.

We all have our part to play in the Kingdom of God.  Some of us plant the seed and some water it.  None of us can make it grow, that’s God’s department.

Question: Have you ever caused bigger problems by trying to force the Word of God to grow in someone’s life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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