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Category Archives: Encouragement

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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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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The Battlefield of the Mind

In my last post, I started talking about the war that we wage against our own flesh – our sin nature.  We saw that the flesh wages war against our soul.

Your soul is your mind.  It’s who you are.  It’s your soul that decides your course of action.  So, if your flesh can gain victory over it, you’ll carry out the desires of that nature.

Scripture clearly teaches that this is where the first battle is fought.

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Romans 13:11

Before we ever commit a sin, we begin thinking about it.  That’s where we start losing ground.  It all rests upon our thought-life.

I know from experience that it’s nearly impossible to simply stop thinking about something.  Actually, the more you try to “not think about it”, the more you do.

Instead, I’ve found it more effective to start thinking about something different.  The Apostle Paul agrees.

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
Romans 8:5

Where you set your mind determines the direction that you head toward.  The word, set, in this verse means to be mentally disposed toward or to interest yourself in.

The direction of your life is determined by the direction of your thoughts.  While you probably won’t be able to stop thinking about something, you can replace it with other thoughts.  You can start thinking in a new direction.

There are so many things to think about.  We need to start disciplining our thought-life.  Stop obsessing over tonight’s basketball game.  Instead, think about what God’s done for you, a Scripture you’ve memorized, or what you expect the Lord to bring about in your life.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

The Bible is very positive.  It usually doesn’t tell you to stop doing something without giving you something to replace it with.  In this case, it’s applied to our thoughts.

There are enough good things to think about without opening our minds to the desires of our sin nature.  However, this requires discipline.  And disciplining ourselves is not usually something we enjoy doing.

The battle against the flesh starts in our minds.  This is the first area of conflict because it’s where the flesh strikes first.  If my old man can get my mind on his side, then that sets the course of my life.

We need to take control of our thought-life.  It may be difficult at first, but it is doable.

From there we can go on to the offensive strikes against the flesh.  I’ll be posting about them as we continue this series.

Question: What do you see as a difficulty in controlling your thought life?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Guess Who’s Coming to Town

Today is Christmas around the world.  I want to take a post to give you something to think about this holiday.  I’ll get back to the anointing in my next post.

The countdown started well before Thanksgiving and with each passing day, the excitement and preparations for its arrival have been accelerating.  Lights and decorations have been put up, stores are full, and music is filling the air.

A lot of people, especially children, were eagerly anticipating a very special event that takes place today! Truly, it’s a very busy time of the year!

And it’s all in preparation for what?  Well, any child can tell you – “A visit from Santa Claus, of course!”

And remember, “He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake! You better not pout, you better not cry – you better watch out, I’m telling you why – Santa Claus is coming to town!”

Well, maybe for some, but not for me.

The One I’m waiting for won’t be coming from the North Pole and riding in a sleigh.  Instead, He’s coming from Heaven, and arriving on the clouds of the sky!  Millions all over the world are waiting.  And He’s got gifts based not on how good I’ve been, but His grace.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage each other with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

Take the time today to consider Jesus…to get excited about His coming.  Children are excited about the coming of a round man in a red suit with toys tucked under his arm.  You and I can be excited about the coming of our King dressed in all His radiance and riding the clouds of heaven.

In 2 Peter 3:11-12 we’re told to look forward to the Lord’s return.  The Apostle also asks; what kind of people should we be?  We should have a childlike enthusiasm and excitement.

I’m excited for you this Christmas because many of you will get what you want.  But I can assure you of one thing, whatever you get is going to wear out.  It may wear out because you use it a lot.  It may wear out because you get bored with it and never pick it up.  But I assure you that everything you get this Christmas is going to wear out.

When Jesus gives gifts they never wear out.  He has come to give us eternal life, the privilege of sharing eternity before His glorious throne for all time.

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited that He is coming to town.  I don’t know the hour or the day.  But there’s one thing I know – He’s coming to town!

He’s coming back for those who’ve received Him as King and Lord of their life.  When He comes back there’ll be no mistaking Him.  He won’t be riding on a sleigh with eight tiny reindeer, He’ll be riding the clouds of Heaven and His radiance will flood the universe.

Where is your excitement level this Christmas?  Are you overburdened by your list of things “to do” which seems twice as long as your children’s “wish list?”  Are you excited about seeing what you’ll find under the tree on Christmas morning?  Are you excited to see family & friends that you haven’t seen in some time?

Question: Are you excited because the Lord is coming to town?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2019 in Encouragement, Return of Christ

 

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Thanksgiving Victory

Today in the USA, it’s the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday.  So, I’m writing this post to talk about thankfulness.  In my next post, I’ll continue talking about our spiritual armor.

As believers, we need to live a life of thankfulness to God.  What most people don’t realize is that walking in thankfulness actually places you in a position of spiritual power.

…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:20

This is actually a poor translation of what the Apostle was saying.  Paul literally said we should be always giving thanks…OVER everything.  We need to understand that in the name of Christ we are over the situation.

This verse tells me that giving thanks raises me over any situation that I happen to be in right now.  We see the problems and they look so big.

It’s just like the Israelites who spied out the land.  Most of the spies only saw that there were giants living there.  They announced to Israel, “We were grasshoppers in our eyes.”

But Joshua and Caleb, on the other hand, were looking through eyes of thankfulness.  They were thanking God for giving them the land.  Their attitude was, “Thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory.”

It doesn’t matter how big the mountain is.  Thankfulness puts you over it.  How does that work?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6

You’re told not to worry about the situation you see before you.  Listen to the response of God’s will.  We are to go before God’s presence, then we bare our hearts before Him, and finally, we lay our needs at His feet.

Look at the outcome that’s promised to us.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7

When you offer up thanksgiving in a worrisome situation, then the peace of God will begin its work in you.  This verse says that it transcends your understanding.  Do you know what that means?

The actual Greek word is Huperecho.  It literally means to hold oneself above.  So, when you present these challenging situations to God, with thanksgiving, God’s peace will hold you above all your human understanding.

This same peace of God will also be a guard, like sentries, around you.  We need to see that it’s the peace OF GOD that will hold you above the circumstance.

But it’s the giving of thanks which results in the peace of God.  Then, that peace is activated to hold you above the circumstance.

This holiday season, allow the peace of God to work in you.  Yes, thank God for all that He’s done in your life.  But don’t stop there.  If there’s anything that you’re facing that’s challenging or causing you to worry, thank God for the victory over it.

In faith, take the high ground this Thanksgiving.

Question: What future victories do you need to thank God for right now?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2019 in Encouragement, Faith, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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