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Category Archives: Encouragement

Encouraged to Grow

As Paul nears the end of his first letter to the Corinthian church, he gives a series of exhortations.  I think that we would do well to live by them.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.  Do everything in love.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

These five simple statements are the foundation for a growing walk with the Lord.  If we would make it a point to see these activated in our lives, we’d be a lot better off.

Be on your guard.  This literally means to stay awake.  I think that too many Christians are spiritually asleep in this generation.  What do I mean by this?

When you’re asleep, you’re unaware of what’s happening around you.  Spiritual sleep is the same.  There are Christians who are totally unaware of the spiritual aspects of their life.

They think that everything revolves around what they see in the natural.  It’s all about satisfying their wants and desires.  They never ask, “What’s God’s will for my life?”

I need to seek what God has destined me for.  Then, with His strength, I can start heading in that direction.  I want my spiritual eyes to be open.

Stand firm in the faith.  This simply means that once you know what God’s Word says, you don’t waver or move from believing it.

Believing means taking action.  If I believe something is true, then I’ll act on it.  If I believe that a chair is strong enough to hold me, then I’ll sit on it.  If I believe that God’s my Provider, then I’ll move forward in what He’s called me to do.

Be men of courage.  This is the second step of faith.  If I believe that something’s true, then I won’t be afraid to let people know that I believe it.  I think that all too often, courage is the missing ingredient in many of our lives.

We are a part of a culture that tells us that it’s offensive to believe in Jesus Christ as a Savior.  So in order to accommodate them, we keep silent.  At the same time, every other belief is allowed to take center stage.

We need to be vocal about what we believe, while at the same time being sensitive to walk in love.

Be strong.  This actually means to be strengthened.  We shouldn’t be stagnant in our spiritual growth.  There are things we can be doing to build ourselves up.

Prayer in the spirit, meditation on the Word, and fasting are just a few ways to become stronger.  Just like in the physical, we can’t neglect our spiritual health.  If we do, then the consequences could be devastating.

Do everything in love.  This is the one that ties everything else together.  Our lives should reflect the love of Christ in all that we do.

This is the agape-love.  It’s the non-emotional desire to treat others as if you like them, no matter how you actually feel about them.  And also, whether you know them or not.

This love is a choice that we make to walk like Jesus did.  Our love is what will draw people to the cross.  That should be the goal of all that we do.

Question: How well is each of these characteristics visible in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Grace of Undetached Missions Giving

As Paul writes to the Corinthian church, he encourages them to give to the starving saints in Jerusalem.  Israel was experiencing famine at this time.  Paul was calling on the Greek churches to help them.

His words to the church should inspire us to adopt a whole new mindset concerning our missions giving.

Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do.  On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.  Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.  If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.
1 Corinthians 16:1-4

The first thing that I see is that Paul’s exhortation was not something special for the Corinthian church.  He had prescribed this manner of giving for all the churches under his ministry.  In his command, I see four major truths associated with missions giving.

Missions giving is for everyone.  At least with these gentile churches, they met the first day of every week.  It was during this meeting that EVERYONE was to seek God and give according to how they were prospering.

Please note that this collection was not the tithe that went to the upkeep of the local church.  This was a special collection to be stored up for when it would be released to the specified missions project.

This is not just an exhortation for the well to do.  It’s for everyone, rich and poor alike.  God doesn’t look at the size of the gift, but the condition of the heart.  We give because we want to be a blessing to someone else.

How much you give is based upon how thankful you are.  This goes right along with what I have been saying.  It’s not about the quantity of the gift.

I have to look at my life and take inventory.  How has the Lord been blessing me?  Am I thankful for His blessing?  Do I want to be a blessing to others?

The fact is that when you pass on a blessing to others, you’re making room for a blessing in your life.  There are those who say that it’s wrong for me to teach this.  “We should give with no thought of receiving a blessing.”  If that’s the case, then Jesus is wrong, because He was the first one to tell us this truth (Luke 6:38).

Don’t simply send your missions giving, take it personally.  This is one of those areas where I think that the modern church has missed it.  We collect money for missions and then send out a check every month.  It’s neat, clean, and detached.

According to Paul, there should be a missions team in each church that goes to visit the missionaries.  They are the representatives of the church on the mission field.  American Christians would gain a whole new perspective if they could see what was required to serve God in other parts of the world.

Missions giving is an act of grace.  When we give to missions, we’re an extension of the arms of Christ.  We’re giving more than just money, especially if we bring it personally.

We’re giving love, encouragement, and fellowship to those who are in need of it the most.  In many cases, those in the field are away from family and friends for years at a time.  You may be that taste of home that gives them the strength to continue victoriously.

Please take Paul’s message to heart.  Be an active part of missions.  Give what you can.  Then, don’t let it end there, but trust God to bring you an opportunity to travel and visit a missionary.  It will be one of the best experiences of your life.

Question: How have you involved yourself in missions?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2019 in Encouragement, Missions, The Church

 

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The Great Change – Earthly to Heavenly

In my last post, we saw the two different perspectives that we can have as believers.  You can live for the world with the dirt mentality.  You can live for Christ with an eternal focus.  That’s an important choice because the material things of this earth are not transferrable to the heavenly kingdom.

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
1 Corinthians 15:50

As we exist right now, with our body made of dirt, we cannot inherit God’s kingdom.  That’s a problem.  But if you’re in Christ, there’s no need to worry about it.  God has the solution.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52

There’s coming a day when everything changes.  When the passage says that we will not all sleep, he’s talking about the sleep of death.  We’re not all going to die.

There are some of us who will be alive at the Second Coming of Christ.  At that moment, we will be changed.  Our soulish bodies will be immediately converted into new, spiritual bodies.

If you remember what Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church, the dead are not left out.  As a matter of fact, those who die in Christ are the first to receive their new bodies.  Then, we get ours.

That’s good news.  I can’t enter into my eternal life in God’s kingdom with my present fleshly body.  So God arranged to have it changed into a heavenly body.  It’s something I could have never hoped for apart from the work of Christ on the cross.

I love Paul’s description of this change.

For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
1 Corinthians 15:53

The word perishable means that right now we are subject to decay.  The older we get, the more things don’t work the way they used to.

For instance, in high school, I was a powerlifter.  Now that I’m over 60, I can’t lift what I could back then.  It’s a part of the decay process.

But this verse tells us that there’s a day when we will be clothed with an inability to decay.  Even better than that, we’ll be given an inability to die.  That’s a day to look forward to!

It’s all because of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross.  He won a great victory that day.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:54-55

The Lord Jesus Christ defeated death.  The Good News is that now, in Him, we reap the benefits of this victory.

As believers, we know that there’s nothing to fear in death.  Even more than that, we don’t need to fear the aging process.  In Christ, it’s 100% reversible.  When Christ returns I’ll be young again – forever!

Question: How do you keep the Return of Christ in focus?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2019 in Encouragement, Power of God, Return of Christ

 

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I Am what I Am

When you take inventory of your life, how do you see yourself?  Do you feel like you have nothing to offer God?  Do you feel unworthy of His calling?

The Apostle Paul had to deal with these feelings because of his past.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
1 Corinthians 15:9-10

If Paul wasn’t far enough along to walk in this power, then there’s no chance for us.  Yet the important part of this issue is all summed up in the words but by the grace of God.

There are many in Scripture who’ve felt like this.  Another example is the Centurion who wanted Jesus to heal his servant.  He sent messengers to the Lord asking His help.

So Jesus went with them.  He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.  But say the word, and my servant will be healed.
Luke 7:6-7

Paul used the Greek word, hikanos when he said he didn’t even deserve to be called an apostle.  When the centurion said he was not worthy, he used that same Greek word.  It literally means not far enough along.

There are many Christians who believe that they haven’t walked with the Lord long enough to see the manifestation of the power of God in their lives.  There’s a big fallacy with this kind of thinking.  The very notion that they’re not far enough along implies that there will be a time when they’re mature enough to merit this power.

I’m here to tell you that will never happen on this side of eternity.  In actuality, the centurion had it right.  “…but just say the word.”

Paul understood this concept.  He evangelized most of the Roman Empire.  Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote most of the New Testament.

The simple truth is that you’ll never be good enough.  It’s only by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ that we may stand in His power and authority.

I’ll never be good enough or far enough along to deserve the title of son.  I’ll never be worthy of His power based upon my own merits.  But by the grace of God, I am what I am.

It’s this thinking that drives me to work for the Lord.  It’s the foundation for serving Him in the correct way.  When I start to think that I can make myself more worthy I miss the whole concept of His grace.

Many times this is what keeps us from experiencing the power of God in the church today.  If I think like a child – that if I just work harder to be worthy, then I’ve lost it at the start.  If I let sin go unrepentant and refuse intimacy with God then I short circuit the power.

It’s time for us to understand that it’s not my ability to be good that gets me anything.  It’s God’s grace working in me that allows me to manifest the power of God.

Question: What’s the role of good works in the life of the believer?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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How to Build Yourself Up

Many people ask why prayer in the spirit is so important.  Very often, it’s used as a spiritual toy that we only take out to play with on Sunday mornings.  Scripture lets us know that it’s much more than that.

But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.
1 Corinthians 14:3-4

I’ve heard others talk about this passage of Scripture.  As I’ve said before, some think it means, “Prophecy good, tongues bad.”  The truth of the matter is that these are two totally different gifts that are to be used for two totally different purposes.

The reason God gives you the gift of this spiritual language is to edify you!  The word, edify, literally means to build up.  I can’t serve God without constantly being built up on the inside.  One of the most important reasons that God has given us this gift is so that we can regularly strengthen ourselves by the spirit.

Look at what Paul says further down in this chapter.

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.
1 Corinthians 14:14

This verse tells us that it’s our spirit, not our mouth that’s doing the praying.  My mind doesn’t understand what’s taking place.  This is because the communication that’s going on is spiritual.  At one point the Lord gave me an excellent illustration to emphasize this truth.

During a sermon when I was speaking on this topic, I asked my Assistant Pastor to come up front to help me demonstrate.  I gave him no prior warning as to what would be happening.  I then gave him a CD player and told him to place the earphones on.

I told him and the congregation, that when I press the play button, my assistant would hear a pastor preaching a salvation message.  What I wanted my assistant to do was to speak out loud exactly what the pastor on the CD was saying, word for word.  The result got quite a reaction.  This was because the pastor on the CD was preaching in the Korean language!

This is a beautiful picture of what happens when we pray in the spirit.  Your mind hears your spirit praying in a language it doesn’t recognize – the language of the spirit.  It tries to mimic it with your mouth but only ends up sounding unintelligible.

This is why what we hear coming out of someone’s mouth doesn’t always parallel what’s said by the gift of interpretation.  Your spirit might be interceding for a need, while your mouth is merely saying “Praise the Lord” over and over again in Russian.

It’s interesting to note here exactly what the gift of interpretation is as mentioned in the Bible.  The word the Apostle used means to put into words.  Basically, this means that the message we hear by the gift of interpretation was not in words until it was interpreted.  This goes right along with the truth that it’s our spirit praying and not our mouth.

This is also why the gift of tongues will cease after the resurrection.  The only reason that we speak this way during the use of the gift is that our minds don’t grasp what’s taking place in our spirit.  After the resurrection, we’ll still communicate with God in the spirit, but because our mind and body will be perfected, it will not have this outward effect anymore.

Question: How have you been built up by praying in the spirit?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Interdependent Body

We’ve been looking at Paul’s description of the body of Christ in his first letter to the Corinthian church.  In my last post, we saw how we were all uniquely made for God’s purpose.  But we need to see that being unique doesn’t mean we’re independent.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!”  And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
1 Corinthians 12:21-22

We were all created for a different purpose.  Therefore, we all need each other.  This is true whether you know it or not.

That’s one of the tough facts of being part of a body.  Each part has an effect on all the others.  Sometimes you don’t even know what that effect is on the surface.

You can’t just look at what someone is doing for God and say, “That’s not needed.”  It all works together to bring about God’s plan.

On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.  And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.
1 Corinthians 12:22-24a

Even those who are weak in the Lord have a role to play.  This was brought home to me a couple of years ago when I had an accident.

While walking in the woods, I had climbed a rock and coming down from it I landed awkwardly.  I felt a sharp pain in my knee.  It turns out that I tore my ACL and bruised my meniscus.  I didn’t even know those parts existed until I heard the doctor’s diagnosis.

Part of the healing process was occupational therapy.  I was told to stand on one leg.  To my surprise, I couldn’t balance on one leg.  That’s because one of the jobs of these parts is to provide balance.  So, these two weak, unknown parts were actually doing something that I considered very important.

It’s like that in the body of Christ as well.  You may think that this weak Christian is just a nuisance.  Instead, they may be providing an opportunity for the growth and strengthening of others in the body.

Of course, there’s always the unpresentable parts – the ones that need to be covered.  I may be judgmental, but there are believers that shouldn’t let anyone know that they’re a Christian.  They’re actions do more harm than good for the Gospel.

But does that mean that they’re unneeded in the body of Christ?  Absolutely not!  Every believer is required for the church to function as God desires.  There’s a place for everyone; even if it’s not always front and center.

But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
1 Corinthians 12:24b-26

The simple fact is that we’re all in this together.  We’re interdependent upon each other.  Even though it may not be obvious on the surface – I need you and you need me.

It takes the whole body, functioning as a unit, to complete God’s plan for the church.  That’s why prayer for each other is so important.

We wonder why we don’t see the miraculous like we feel we should.  I believe it’s because God wants to work through the body and not simply through individuals.  As we all grow in our callings together, we will see the hand of God more and more working through us.

Question: What are some unseen functions of believers that have a great effect on the church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2019 in Encouragement, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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Body Envy

Have you ever looked at what somebody else is doing for God and it made you feel inadequate?  Are you intimidated by those in a leadership position?  That’s not God’s perspective.  Your place in the body of Christ is a unique one.

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.
1 Corinthians 12:14-16

Paul uses parts of the body to illustrate this point.  What if the members of your natural body could think for themselves and communicate?  What would they say?

Look at your feet and hands, for instance.  They both have similar bone and muscle structures.  They both are placed at the end of your limbs.

What if your foot felt inferior to your hands?  Your toes are too short compared to your fingers.  After all, they can’t grasp or pick up much of anything.  And they’re too far away from your mouth to be able to feed you.

Does all that mean your foot really doesn’t belong to the body?  Absolutely not!  Your foot wasn’t created to do the things that your hand was.

Your feet were designed to bear the weight of your entire body.  In conjunction with your legs, they can move your body around from place to place.

In the same way, you can’t look at how someone else operates and conclude that you’re of no value.  You were created for your own unique calling.

Paul also talks about the eyes and ears.  They live very close to one another on the head.  They’re both set onto holes mad just for them.

But they do very different things.  Your eyes are in holes that allow light to come in.  Your ears, on the other hand, only receive sound waves.  Your ears were not made to respond to images.  Your eyes were not made to see sounds.

“Brother Jones is so sensitive to the needs of those around him.  He really shows the love of Christ.  I don’t know why I’m so useless in that area.”

That’s foolish thinking.  We all receive from the Lord in different ways.  That’s why Peter could respond to God while he was praying and Paul had to be knocked off his horse to get his attention.  God uses us the way we are without comparing us to other people.

We’re all designed with different purposes in the mind of God.  The church would be a pretty boring place if we were all the same.  Paul put it this way…

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
1 Corinthians 12:17-20

You need to rejoice in the unique way that God made you.  Find that place in Him where you belong.  Then fulfill your personal calling without comparing your walk to anyone else but Christ.

Question: Where do you fit into the body of Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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