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Monthly Archives: March 2020

From Promises to Legalism

What’s your view of the promises of God?  Do you expect them to be fulfilled in your life?  How are they accomplished in us?

I’ve found through the Scripture, that if you’re not careful, trying to “claim the promises” might trap you in legalism.  There are some who are bound by the idea that unless I perform certain actions, God won’t bless me.

That was my thinking at one point in my life.  I was bound by the attitude that I HAD TO tithe in order for God to bless my finances.

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.”  For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.  And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 1:19-20

One day, as I was in prayer, the Lord showed me that when I decided to tithe in order for God to rebuke the devourer (Malachi 3:10-11), I was appealing to the law for my financial blessing.

Through the gentle leading of the Spirit, I came to the realization that I had placed myself under the commandment.  I now understand that my trying to fulfill the requirements of the promises is a form of legalism.

What I had forgotten was this:

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
James 2:10

By placing my hope in keeping the tithe law, I was missing the rest of the puzzle.  Here’s what I had neglected.  The passage in Malachi showed me the conditions to rebuke the devourer.  But there are 20 other verses that deal with things I can do that allows the devourer to get my stuff.

They talk about everything from hiring prostitutes to neglecting the needs of the church.  So in effect, when I tithed, God rebuked the devourer.  Then, if I neglected the church, I was calling the devourer back so he could continue his work.

I became more and more aware of the fact that trying to fulfill the requirements of the promises actually puts me under the law.  So I did a study of promises in the New Testament to see how they’re used under the New Covenant.

I was surprised at what the Scripture had to say.  Nowhere did I find it taught that we have to fulfill the requirements.  As a matter of fact, it was just the opposite.  The reason for this is the finished work of Christ on the cross.  He even told us that was why He came to the earth.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Matthew 5:17

In this statement, Jesus tells us the whole foundation for walking in the blessings of the Word.  Part of His work was to fulfill everything written in the Old Covenant.

The word, fulfill means to cram full, to fill in the holes.  All of the open-ended requirements needed to “claim” the promises have been filled in by Christ.

This means that we are exempt from the requirements unless we voluntarily place ourselves under the law.  In that case, the kingdom of the enemy has the right to use its power against us on the same level.

God caused me to mature in how I view the promises.  I still tithe, because I know that it’s the spiritually mature thing to do.  God blesses my finances because, in Christ, I have already received this blessing.

Question: What promises have you turned into laws in your life?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2020 in Faith, God's Provision, Spiritual Walk

 

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Spiritual Planning

As we continue through Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, we see an interesting admission.  Paul has to apologize to them for not being able to complete a visit that he had scheduled with them.

I think that it can be a lesson to us all.

Because I was confident of this, I planned to visit you first so that you might benefit twice.  I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea.  When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, “Yes, yes” and “No, no”?  But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.”
2 Corinthians 1:15-18

Paul had to clear up this misunderstanding so that the church would understand the difference between his plans and his message.  The word, planned, in the above verse actually means to be willing.

So Paul is saying that he was confident about his ability to get there and he was willing to go as well.  His goal was to visit them twice as he traveled to and from Macedonia.

Paul makes it clear that he doesn’t plan his trips lightly.  He takes everything into consideration.

Even more than that, he literally says that he does not make plans in a fleshly manner.  Paul always strove to operate in the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  He had made this planned visit after much prayer.

He didn’t approach his ministry with a frivolous attitude.  He didn’t think, “I’ll tell them I’m coming for a visit, but I’ll play it by ear.  We’ll see while we’re on the road whether I want to go there or not.”

We need to learn the lesson of submitting our plans to the Lord.  It’s not a matter of making our plans first, then asking God to bless it.  It’s all about finding God will first.  Then we know the plan is blessed already.

James understood this and wrote about it.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast and brag.  All such boasting is evil.
James 4:13-16

When James says that you boast and brag, it literally means that you rejoice in your self-confidence.  That’s the key to what he’s speaking of; SELF-confidence.  When we’re confident in what we can achieve, we usually forget about God and His desire for our lives.

One of the problems in translating is that there’s not much punctuation in the original Greek.  There’s sometimes more than one way to read a verse depending on which word you emphasize.

I believe that, in the context of what James is saying here, a better way of reading the first line is, “Instead, you ought to speak if it’s the Lord’s will, and live, and do this or that.”

It’s all about spending time with the Lord, knowing His will, and then speaking about what He’s told us to do.  If you’re going to do something, do it because you feel led by the Holy Spirit.

Question: What plan has the Holy Spirit given you as you’ve spent time in His presence?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2020 in Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Relating to Scripture

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s been sharing about his ministry.  Through his words, we can see his attitude.

Now he begins to talk about how he views the church.  We get some insight into why he writes these epistles.

I don’t think Paul knew that his writings were going to become Scripture.  He probably didn’t realize that people would be reading, studying and memorizing them 2000 years after he sent them off.

But God knew!  As the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle to write these words, He was looking forward to all who would believe and accept the Gospel of Christ.

Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God.  We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.
2 Corinthians 1:12

I understand that in the context of Paul’s writing, he’s addressing his comments to the Corinthian church.  He’s reminding them of his way of ministering.

But in the greater agenda of the Holy Spirit, he’s also speaking to us.  Even though he wasn’t aware of it, Paul is explaining to us how he wants us to relate to what he’s writing.

There are two things that he received from God that he wants to shine through in what he writes.  The first is translated as holiness.  This is not the normal Greek word for holiness.  It actually means singleness; without any hidden agenda.

He also says that he writes with sincerity.  It’s a word that means clear and pure.  Paul wants to say what the Spirit is saying.

The only way he could do this was by the grace of God operating in his life.  The wisdom of the world would never give the Word that the Lord wanted to impart to the church.

Look at how Paul describes his writings.  We need to hear this as if it was written to us personally.

For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand.  And I hope that, as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.
2 Corinthians 1:13-14

This is the key to the Holy Spirit’s plan in giving us the Scripture.  He gave us a written Word that we could both read and understand.

The word, read, is very interesting.  It literally means to know again.  It assumes that what is written will be reread and reviewed over and over again.

That’s the foundation for our understanding of God’s Word to us.  As we continue to read it, we begin to understand it in the way that the Lord intended us to.  The Spirit of God can bring us into the full understanding of the Scripture.

Paul ends this passage by looking forward to the coming of Christ.  When the Lord returns, there will be a great reunion.  Paul says that he will boast about God’s work in the Corinthian church on that day.

Little did he know that not only will the Corinthians boast about him, but we will boast about his work in us.  Because of Paul’s faithfulness to the Spirit, we have a clear testimony to the grace of God.

Paul’s instructions have not only affected the people of his day but have touched and changed our lives as well.

Question: How has your life been changed by studying God’s Word?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Gift of Prayer

In my last post, I talked about how God watches over us in challenging times.  Paul continues this thought as we move forward in Second Corinthians.

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.  Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
2 Corinthians 1:10-11

Paul starts with a testimony and a faith statement.  He declares that God has delivered them and will continue to deliver them.  This is an important attitude that we all need to cultivate.

He goes on from there to explain why he has such faith.  He bases it on the fact that he knows who’s supporting him and his ministry.

“…as you help us by your prayers.”

Paul knew that his ministry was being upheld by the prayers of many believers throughout the area.   As he had ministered to them, they were now helping him.

This is something that’s left out of many Christians’ daily routines.  We need to be praying for others.  We need to know the ministers, missionaries, and ministries that we support.  Then, we need to be praying for them regularly.

This is something we learned when we studied the book of James – the first book of the New Testament to be given to the church.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
James 5:16

We need to be uplifting each other in prayer.  It’s not just a job for those who are called to be intercessors.  Every believer should have a list of people and ministries that they regularly bring before the Lord.

Paul’s final statement gives us the reason why this is so important.  He says that many will see God’s grace at work, and give thanks for His faithfulness.  That’s the result we’re looking for.

The power of God at work in our lives is an awesome testimony to those around us.  It gives them something to think about.  It empowers the saints and convicts the unbelievers.

I love the way this verse reads in the original Greek.  Paul says that because of the prayers of many, this gift was bestowed upon us.

Do you realize that when you pray for someone, you’re actually giving them a gift?  You might not be able to give money or a physical item to everyone.  But your prayers are more valuable than material possessions.

Please don’t get me wrong.  If the Lord prompts you to give an offering or a gift to some ministry, you need to do so.  But apart from that, we can have a lifestyle of blessing and supporting ministries every day of our lives.

If you don’t already have this habit in place, you need to make a list of all the people and ministries that God has placed before you.  Then, even if you only pray for one a day, start giving them the gift of prayer support.

By the way, while you’re at it, put my name on that list as well.  I thank God for all those who faithfully uplift me, my family, and my ministry in prayer.

Question: Who is on your prayer support list?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2020 in Ministry, Missions, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Grace Under Pressure

Right now, the world is reeling under the threat of the Corona Virus.  People are scared.  Whole sections of grocery stores are sold out.  All public venues are closed down.  How do we respond to all of this?

The Apostle Paul had pressures in his day as well.  Listen to his insights.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.  We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.
2 Corinthians 1:8-10

It’s my hope and prayer that you’re never in a life-threatening situation.  I’m also trusting God to keep us safe and healthy in spite of all that’s going on around us.

I know, however, that weather, accidents, and natural disasters can come when least expected.  It seems like every day there’s something going on in the United States that could have tragic results.  If and when that occurs, you will be faced with a choice – do you despair and give up or do you continue to put your hope in God?

I’ve been in that kind of situation.  I know what it feels like to be trapped by an unforeseen incident with no way out and no help in sight.

At one point, I was on a solo hike in the backwoods of Maine.  I had an accident that resulted in a severe sprain.  I could barely walk and I was miles from the nearest road.

At about the same time, a huge thunderstorm hit the area.  I can tell you that at a time like this there’s a great temptation to just give up.

I praise God that the Holy Spirit within me was there to encourage me.  I continued on, even through the pain, and was miraculously brought safely out of the wilderness.  I say “miraculously” because this was before I had the use of a cell phone.

It’s truly in those times of need that God proves Himself faithful.  I can say, without hesitation, that God has never abandoned me to my problems.

We’re facing many challenges right now in our society.  The question is; how will we respond to the pressure?

The key to making it safely through a problem, either present or future, is to make the choice now, that whatever happens, you will not abandon your trust in God.  You’ll find that He’s always there with you to help you in your time of need.

The main thing that helped the apostle was the ability to look back and see how God had been faithful in the past.  As you remember what God already accomplished in you, it’s easier to trust Him with your future.  Because God showed Himself strong in my past challenges, I can expect Him to show up in my present situation.

In your prayer time today, reaffirm your trust in the Lord to take you through the hard times.  Place your life fully in His hands.

Question: What challenges has God already brought you through in the past?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2020 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God

 

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Coach it Forward

I’m continuing my look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  He was talking about the way we can help one another in the same way that we were helped in our troubles.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:5-7

The first thing Paul tells us is that Christ suffered the same challenges that we face.  The Lord is aware of what we’re going through.

The important thing to know is that through Christ we have an abundance of comfort.  But just what does that mean?  The word, comfort, means a lot of things to different people.

Usually, when people think of comfort, they’re talking about something soft and familiar – like a favorite easy chair.  Unfortunately, soft and comfortable is not what this word means.

Comfort, in Scripture, usually comes from a Greek word that means to call alongside.  It’s what a coach does when he or she is dealing with their athletes.

A good coach is not concerned with how comfortable the athletes are.  Instead, their goal is to make sure that they’re successfully completing their training routine.

Actually, that’s the job of the Holy Spirit in our lives right now

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 14:26

Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will be our Counselor.  That word, counselor, is the same as comfort in the above verse.  In other words, the Holy Spirit is to be our Life-Coach.

It’s His job to come alongside us and call out the instructions we need to victoriously face the challenges that come our way.  We need to be listening for His voice.

So, as we receive coaching from the Holy Spirit, we can pass on what we’ve learned.  When we see others in that same situation, we can share what our Coach told us.

According to Paul, the result is patient endurance.  It’s the ability to remain in your calling without giving up.  That comes from the expectation that God will work through you for His glory.

Then, as we pass on this coaching, the body of Christ will be built up.  This is especially what we need in our generation.

In the world, there’s so much uncertainty right now.  But in Christ, we know that the Lord is working out all things for our good.

Question: How has the Holy Spirit coached you recently?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2020 in Encouragement, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Help Given and Received

For the past couple of years, I have been posting systematically through the New Testament.  I’ve been going book by book in the order that they were revealed to the church through the Holy Spirit.

Recently, I put that on pause because I felt led to do a series on spiritual warfare.  I’m now going back to where I left off in the original series.  I had just finished 1 Corinthians at that time, so I’ll now begin with 2 Corinthians.

Paul wrote his first letter, and sent it off with Titus to Corinth during the two years he spent at Ephesus (Acts chapter 19).  He then had to leave because of the rioting.  He went to Macedonia and waited for Titus to return with a report of his visit.

It turned out that many in Corinth received the epistle favorably.  However, there were still some who rejected Paul’s authority and teaching.  So Paul sends off another letter to respond to what he’s heard.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
2 Corinthians 1:1-4

The word trouble in this passage is actually the Greek word for pressure.  I don’t know about you, but personally, I dislike pressure.  I try my best to avoid it.

In actuality, we’ll never be exempt from the challenges and pressures of life.  But there is a positive outcome that it can bring us.

Pressure qualifies us for ministry. When we learn to endure pressure, we can help others who are undergoing the same things.

Most of us like to be helped.  When facing a difficult challenge, even a word of encouragement can go a long way.

If you’re like most people, then you’ve relied upon help at one time or another.  Scripture teaches us that part of showing gratefulness is taking the blessing you received and passing it on to someone else.

It can be anything – a kind word, food, a ride, or a helping hand carrying things.  If it’s done in obedience to God’s Word, it’s powerful and life-changing.

What we need to start realizing is that even though all these good things came through the people around us, God originated them.  All the blessings that we receive come from the Lord’s hand.  It’s in thankfulness to Him that we’re willing to pass a blessing on to someone else.

So when we help someone else in their pressure, it’s the Lord who’s actually helping them through us.  We become a channel of God’s love reaching out to those around us.

Look for an opportunity, today, to be a blessing to someone.  Do something unexpected.  Take the good things you’ve received from God and pass them on to someone around you.  The Lord will see to it that someday, in some way, you’ll be rewarded for your act of gratefulness to Him.

Question: What are some pressures that God has given you the victory over?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2020 in Encouragement, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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