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Category Archives: Encouragement

Faith Experiments

As we continue through First Corinthians, Paul is still laying down principles for handling the “grey areas” of sin.  These are the things in society that the Bible doesn’t specifically speak about as being right or wrong.

Paul makes an interesting observation.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
1 Corinthians 10:13

In order to understand what Paul’s saying here, we need to grasp the concept of temptation.  I think that we misunderstand this sometimes.

The Greek word translated as tempt and temptation has a few different English words associated with it.  In other passages of Scripture, it’s translated as test and trial.  It literally means putting to proof by experiment.

This tells me that temptation is simply a faith experiment.  It’s a test designed to see if you really believe what you say that you believe.

James, chapter 1, tells us that it’s these faith experiments that develop godly character in us.  They’re things that we all go through.  God allows things to cross our path that will bring out and expose our faith in Him.

James also tells us that God doesn’t use evil to test us.  It’s the enemy that tries to get us to fall into sin by putting evil across our paths.

You probably don’t look forward to trials and temptations.  I don’t.  But they’re going to be a part of our lives until the Lord returns.

Paul’s statement above is a bright ray of hope.  It’s a promise we can cling to.  God will not allow me to go through anything that He and I can’t handle together.  The key is that I need to be looking for the exit door.

That’s the reason for his next statement.

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.
1 Corinthians 10:14

Idolatry is anything that you place above God in your life.  Whatever or whoever you’re willing to rearrange your life or your schedule for is the one you’re serving.  Make sure that it’s Christ.

That’s an important key for testing these grey areas.  It might not specifically be called sin in Scripture.  But if it’s keeping you from serving God wholeheartedly, then you need to flee from it.  Or at least put it in its proper place in subjection to Christ.

We need to take inventory of our lives.  Just because something isn’t evil doesn’t mean that it’s not hindering your walk with the Lord.

Paul tells us that God gives you the ability to put your life into order.  You’re able to overcome the trials and tests in your life.  Allow the work of the Holy Spirit to bring you to your destiny in Christ

Question: What areas of testing and temptation are you going through right now?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on May 13, 2019 in Encouragement, Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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Ministry Support

We’re continuing our look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  We’re at the point where Paul is discussing his role as an apostle of Christ.  This is within the greater context of the principles surrounding the “grey areas” of sin.

This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me.  Don’t we have the right to food and drink?  Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?  Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?
1 Corinthians 9:3-6

He makes it clear that because of his ministry to the church, he should expect to be supported by those churches.  He shows this by comparing his ministry to others that they knew of.

This was the practice of the day.  Apostles and ministers were given some sort of income.  It could have been monetary, food, lodging, or other things that they needed.

Paul explains that this is only common sense.  If you work, you should be making your living from that work.

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense?  Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes?  Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?
1 Corinthians 9:7

I think that it’s interesting to hear the words that Paul uses.  Nobody serves, plants, or tends without expecting to make a living from it.  These are all a big part of church work.  Why do some people think it’s so wrong for ministers to make a living from their ministry?

Paul shows that the Bible itself proves his point.

Do I say this merely from a human point of view?  Doesn’t the Law say the same thing?  For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”  Is it about oxen that God is concerned?  Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he?  Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.
1 Corinthians 9:8-10

Paul uses this Old Testament law to bring out a New Testament truth.   Ministers are worthy of being supported.  The apostle concludes this by using a very clear statement.

If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?  If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
1 Corinthians 9:11-12

We want our ministers and pastors to be there for us.  We want them to pray for us when we’re in trouble, visit us when we’re sick, and encourage us when they preach.  Yet in many churches, they want all this and more while the minister has to work extra jobs just to feed his or her family.

There are others we look to in this way.  We want the Fire, Police, and hospitals to be ready to serve us at a moment’s notice.  So we pay their salaries accordingly.  How much more should we support those who keep watch over our souls?

Question: How have you been helped by a minister who was there in your time of need?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2019 in Encouragement, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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Everything Changes

I’ve been posting from First Corinthians, Chapter 7.  Paul is dealing with romantic relationships.  In my last article Paul advised that because of persecution that was starting, they needed to consider carefully if they were looking to marry.

Now Paul explains these principles in a little more detail.

What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short.  From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none…
1 Corinthians 7:29

We have to understand that Paul is not saying to leave your wife.  What he means is that whatever happens, keep your walk with the Lord your priority.

At any time your spouse might be arrested, imprisoned, or even martyred for your faith in Christ.  If that’s the case, then you can’t let it affect your service to the Lord.  That’s why God gives a special kind of grace to those undergoing persecution.

Many have come to me and said, “Pastor, I hope persecution never comes to America because I don’t think I could handle it.”  I tell them that if we’re called to that kind of life, then we’ll be given the grace to withstand it victoriously.

Paul goes on to explain the underlying truth.

…those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.  For this world in its present form is passing away.
1 Corinthians 7:30-31

The thing that Paul is trying to get across to us is that everything is subject to change.  The world doesn’t get it.  They think that a single event brings a permanent change.

If they go through a devastating loss, they think their life is over forever.  On the other hand, they think that if they can just win the lottery, they’ll be happy forever.  Neither of those two statements is true.  Change is constant.

So as believers, we’re told not to look at any phase of life as permanent.  Even if we get a new device that we’ve always wanted – we realize that it’s not ours to keep.  It will wear out, break, or become obsolete.

We’re literally told that we can use the systems of the world, but don’t overuse or misuse them.  The way society works is constantly changing.  The strategies that made people successful 50 years ago, won’t work today.

The present form of the world – the way things work – is fading away.  Society is always changing.  The way people learn, interact and do business is always evolving.  We can’t get engrossed in one way of doing things.

But here’s the good news.  God’s kingdom works the same yesterday, today and forever.

It’s all about spending time in the Lord’s presence hearing from the Holy Spirit.  Then we do what He’s leading us to do.  It’s this obedience that makes us successful.

If somebody had told me as a teen, that one day I would sit in my den and explain Biblical truth to people across the country and around the world, I wouldn’t have believed them.  It’s become a different world now.

The bottom line is that change will be constant and that listening to the voice of God is the only thing that will keep us on course.

Question: How has the Holy Spirit helped you to weather the changes in society?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2019 in Encouragement, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Marriage is Not an Escape

In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul gives advice about our romantic relationships.  As we continue looking at these, he now talks about those who have never been married (virgins).

Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.  Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are.  Are you married?  Do not seek a divorce.  Are you unmarried?  Do not look for a wife.  But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned.  But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
1 Corinthians 7:25-28

You may think, from reading this passage, that Paul was against marriage.  That’s not the case.  This is referencing a certain situation that was happening in his day.

Persecution was beginning to break out against the church in some locations.  That’s what he meant by this present crisis.  He wanted them to weigh their decision carefully because of the uncertain future.

This is a very important concept for us to understand in our generation.  As a pastor, I’ve had the privilege of bringing many couples through the pre-marital counseling process.  It gives a lot of insight into what Paul is talking about here.

Let me explain.  In talking with couples, I ask them to give reasons why this marriage is right for them.  I’ve heard many answers.  There are some that don’t sit well with me.

“I want to get married now because this is the first person that has ever shown any interest in me and I don’t want to lose him.”

That’s not a reason to pledge your life to someone.  God is able to bring the right person along at the right time.  You can’t make a life altering decision, based only on someone’s availability and your desire to be married.

There are other issues as well.  I’ve seen people who are single but are in a bad family situation.  Their parents have an addiction problem or are very abusive.  They see marriage as an easy escape from their home environment.

This can end up making a bad situation even worse.  Marriage is not an escape from your problems.  If anything, it brings you a whole new set of problems.

I say this not at all getting down on marriage.  I’ve been married to my wife for almost 40 years.  I wouldn’t want any other life.  I love everything about our times together.

But I can tell you this – there are problems we faced together that we would never have had as single people.  Marriage comes with its own unique set of challenges.  You have to be prepared for this as a couple.

If you’re single, don’t ever look to marriage as an escape from a bad situation.  You may dream about being married someday.  But being married is never better than being single – UNLESS – you marry the special person that God has chosen for you.

So, to all the singles out there, I’m telling you to put your hope in the Lord.  If you want to stay single, then do so without feeling guilty.  If you want to be married, then trust God to bring you the right person at just the right time.

God wants your life to be abundantly blessed.

Question: How have you trusted God in your relationships?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Bloom Where You’re Planted

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s now getting into some guiding principles as he talks about relationships in chapter 7.

Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.  This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.
1 Corinthians 7:17

The context of this verse is that you shouldn’t end your marriage just because you got saved.  If your partner wants to remain together, even though they might not be a Christian, then allow the Holy Spirit to work through your relationship.

This is a guideline that Paul teaches in all of his churches.  It literally says that whatever portion God has assigned to you when He calls you; remain in it.

The Lord doesn’t work like a steam roller.  He doesn’t come into your life and tear everything down.

Cults do that.  When you join a cult, many times they’ll tell you to leave your family and cut all ties with your friends.  That’s not how the Lord works.

Normally, the Holy Spirit will work on you from the inside out.  He wants the people who know you best to see the change as it’s happening.  Then it will be a witness to them of the power of God.

Paul uses an example of circumcision to make his point.

Was a man already circumcised when he was called?  He should not become uncircumcised.  Was a man uncircumcised when he was called?  He should not be circumcised.  Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing.  Keeping God’s commands is what counts.
1 Corinthians 7:18-19

The fact is that God can use anyone.  You don’t have to change who you are in order to serve Him faithfully.  The bottom line is that you hear and obey God’s voice.

He speaks to His people and we obey.  It’s a step by step process.  If there’s something in our lives that needs changing, then the Lord will provide the power to bring that about.

Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him.  Were you a slave when you were called?  Don’t let it trouble you — although if you can gain your freedom, do so.  For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave.
1 Corinthians 7:20-22

Paul talks about some situations that we find ourselves in that aren’t ideal.  Unfortunately, they’re not easy to get out of.  In this case, it’s slavery.  In those days it wasn’t all like the American version.  For some, slavery was a voluntary way to repay a debt.  For others, it was a penalty for a crime committed.

For us, it might be a massive amount of debt or multiple jobs in order to pay your bills.  Paul explains that in these types of situations, don’t worry about it.  Let God work through it.

But there is hope during those times.  We’re told the if we have the power to become free, then use it.  We don’t have to remain downtrodden.  Through prayer and obedience to the voice of God, our situation can and will improve.

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.  Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.
1 Corinthians 7:23-24

However, it’s important that we don’t knowingly place ourselves in these types of situations.  We want to be able to give our best for the Lord.

Question: How has God used your unique position in the past?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2019 in Encouragement, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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God’s Gifts – Married or Single

I’m now talking about First Corinthians, chapter 7.  That’s the section that talks about romantic relationships.  Paul now begins to speak to single people who were formerly married.

I wish that all men were as I am.  But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.  Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
1 Corinthians 7:7-9

I like the fact that Paul knows when he’s putting his own views into the teaching.  The word, wish, means a personal preference.  He was unmarried and preferred to stay that way.

You may be asking, why did I say that he’s talking about formerly married people?  The word he uses for unmarried usually means that they were married at one time, but now are single.  That’s in contrast to later in the chapter when he uses the word, virgin – someone who was never married.

Also, we know from Scripture that Paul was a Pharisee who came from a family of Pharisees.  His observance of tradition had been a source of pride before coming to Christ.  Jewish tradition was that a man needed to be married in his early twenties at the latest.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Paul was married at one time.  Traditionally, Pharisees needed to be married and it was a requirement for those who wanted to be a part of the Sanhedrin – the Jewish ruling body.

But what happened to Paul’s wife?  The Scripture doesn’t clearly tell us, so there’s some speculation.  In the above verse, he puts the two words together – unmarried males and female widows.  Also, there was no widely used Greek word for male widowers.

Because of this, the most likely possibility was that he was a widower.  The other is that his wife left him when he became a Christian.  In any case, at this point, he’s unmarried with no desire to become married.

In talking about people who’ve been in a marriage relationship, but are now single, he gives some important truth.  This is the foundation for a fulfilled life.  He talks about our giftings from God.

He makes it clear that the call to be single is a gift from God.  In the same way, the call to be married is also a gift from God.  The important thing is that we desire to walk in the center of the Lord’s will for us.

The big question is, how do I know whether I’m called to be married or to remain single?  To answer that, you need to check your heart.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.
Colossians 3:15

I believe that God gives us an internal compass that points to His will – peace.  If it’s your desire to serve God wholeheartedly, then the peace of God will direct you.

If you feel perfectly satisfied to remain single, and have no desire to be married again, then run with that.  Don’t let anyone pressure you to “test the field.”  In all likelihood, you’re called to the gift of a single life.

If, on the other hand, you don’t feel complete without a mate, and you desire to once again be in a marriage relationship, then go in that direction.  Seek God for His wisdom in finding the right one for you.  Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for desiring a mate.

The fact is that God loves us and wants the best for us if we simply pursue His will for our lives.

Question: How has the Lord confirmed His calling upon your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Final Judgment Fun

After my last post, you may not think that the words “judgment” and “fun” go together.  Trust me.  There is one point in the final judgment that I am absolutely looking forward to.

Do you not know that we will judge angels?  How much more the things of this life!
1 Corinthians 6:3

This one question that Paul asks is the basis for a lot of joy in my life.  Whenever a question starts with, do you not know, it means that you have to ask yourself whether you know it or not.

There are many believers who have no idea that we’ll be seated with Christ on His judgment seat.  (For more details on that, read my last post.)  During this time it’s not just humans who’ll be judged.  Angels will be coming before us as well.

It stands to reason that if an angel served God faithfully, then there would be no reason for them to be judged.  This is only referring to those angels who chose to side with Satan in his rebellion.  So we’re talking here about the judgment of the demonic kingdom.

Why does this make me happy?  Simply put, it’s the ultimate payback.

I can just picture that day.  A big old demon comes before the judge’s seat.  His list of offenses is read.  At that point, a realization dawns on me.

“So you’re the one who gave me that flat tire at the worst possible moment.  It was you who tried to hinder the answer to my prayer that God was sending my way.  And it was you who incited my co-worker to lie about me to my boss.”

I can imagine my joy as I shout out, “Guilty!  Take him away.”

There are times that we look back on our lives.  When we do, it usually centers around people and events that gave us tough challenges.  We don’t typically think of it in terms of a military campaign that’s being played out.

That’s why it’s so important to know the truth about this final judgment.  There will be a military tribunal where all the facts will come out.  We’ll see all the war crimes that have been committed against us and the perpetrators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

We know that there will be days when the enemy is giving us a hard time.  Take the opportunity to remind him about the judgment that’s coming.  The annoyances of the enemy will be paid for.

You may even find that a little smile will start to spread across your face.  You might even start praising God in the middle of the struggle.

We need to realize that the enemy’s kingdom is already defeated.  We’re not waiting for the victory.  The war has already been won; we’re simply in the clean-up phase, freeing the prisoners, right before the war trials.

Remember, at this point, the enemy is not trying to defeat you.  He simply wants to annoy or distract you to keep you from completing your mission in Christ.  Don’t let that happen.

Don’t let the problems and challenges of this life rob you of your joy in Christ.  Look to the eternal not the temporary.  Our future with the Lord is something to look forward to with great anticipation.  Keep your eyes on what the Lord has already accomplished in you.

Question: How have you seen the victory of Christ at work in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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