RSS

Category Archives: Encouragement

Not Surprised

I’m looking at Paul’s teaching in his first letter to the Thessalonians. In this section, he’s answering their questions about the Second Coming of Christ. Now, Paul is going to move on to answer the next question posed by the church – when is it all going to happen?

Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

Paul’s talking here about those that aren’t prepared. Jesus used different words to convey the same meaning. The Lord said that to those not ready, He was going to come like a thief in the night. But He also said that the saints weren’t going to be caught unprepared. Even the way Paul describes it shows this truth.

Paul said that it was going to come suddenly like labor pains on a pregnant woman. Please realize that most women make it to the hospital in time. A mother-to-be knows that there’s a baby on the way. She even knows, within a few weeks, when the baby will arrive.

The woman can feel that there are things happening in her body. Sometimes they can even say, “It’s only a day or two now.” Why? Because she can feel within her that something is going on.

And then finally, when the labor pains arrive, she knows that it’s time to get to the hospital. She can feel them mounting. She knew what to expect, and it didn’t take her by surprise. Very few women experience labor so quickly that they don’t make it to the hospital.

That’s what it’s going to be like for us. We know what to expect. We’ll not be taken by surprise. The labor pains may come upon the world quickly and unexpectedly, but the delivery – the coming of the Lord – will not be a surprise to the church.

But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.
1 Thessalonians 5:4

That’s why we, as believers, should not be worried or anxious about all we see happening around us. We have the light of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. We know what’s coming.

We should be living for Christ with the knowledge that God is bringing all things to the fulfillment of His will. This should cause us to be excited about the future, not worried.

We know how the Book ends – WE WIN!!

Question: What is your anticipation level when you think about the return of the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

NOTE – If you want a more detailed look at the Second Coming of Christ, then click here to read about my new book.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 28, 2017 in Encouragement, Faith, Return of Christ

 

Tags: , , , , ,

The Hope of Resurrection

I’m continuing with my look at First Thessalonians. As I’ve said before, Paul had sent Timothy to that Church to see how they were doing. Timothy returned with a good report of their growth. He also brought some questions that the church had asked during his visit. Now we’re going to see Paul’s answers.

One of the questions they asked was this: When Christians die, does that mean they’re going to miss out on the Second Coming of Christ? That’s a good question. Let’s see the apostle’s answer.

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.
I Thessalonians 4:13

Please realize that the term ignorant was not being used in a bad sense. Paul means that he didn’t want them to be without knowledge. He didn’t want them to be lacking in their teaching on the Lord.

He also uses the term fall asleep. The early church used this to signify that someone was dead. They realized that when a believer dies, they don’t cease to exist but rather enter the presence of the Lord. Their body, however, looks like it’s sleeping.

His first instruction to them is that they’re not to grieve as the world does. We’re not to act as people who don’t have any hope. We have an eternal hope.

We know about the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day. Because of this knowledge, funerals don’t hold the same fear over us that the rest of the world has. We shouldn’t act like we’re never going to see the departed Christian again.

Yes, I realize that there’s a parting process. You’re not going to see that person for a long time – so there’s going to be that kind of grief. But don’t grieve as if you’ve lost them forever. Don’t mourn like somebody who has no hope.

We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
I Thessalonians 4:14

Because of the foundation of the teaching of Jesus Christ Himself, we know that Paul is talking about the day when Jesus returns. He’s speaking here about the Last Day, the Day of the Lord.

We remember how Jesus taught that on that day, when He returns, every eye shall see Him. This passage reminds us that on this day, He’s going to bring with Him those who have died in the Lord. All the saints that Jesus referred to as being gathered from one end of heaven to the other will be there.

According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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.
I Thessalonians 4:15-18

In other words, those who have already died in Christ have a better place in the resurrection than we do because they’re the first to be called. The Scripture says here that we’re not going to precede those who’ve died in the Lord. There’s a divine order to the resurrection.

Obviously, it’s going to take place in an instant. It’s not like we’re going to have to wait around for an hour. But in that instant, when we’re resurrected, the dead in Christ are going to be resurrected first.

Paul is calming their fears that those brothers and sisters who have passed on before us will not be missing out on anything.   They have a good place in the resurrection.

This should be an encouragement to each of us. What we see of the material world is not all that there is. We have a hope that goes beyond the natural. We should be looking through an eternal perspective.

Question: How should our future hope affect our present way of living?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

NOTE – If you want a more detailed look at the Second Coming of Christ, then click here to read about my new book.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 26, 2017 in Encouragement, Faith, Return of Christ

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Never Enough

Where do we get our fulfillment from? Many in our generation would like to tell us that we’re fulfilled by our accomplishments. If that’s the case, then why are so many accomplished people miserable, depressed, and even suicidal?

I’ve been posting about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. In it, he gives us some insight into this question.

But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you — certainly I, Paul, did, again and again — but Satan stopped us. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
1 Thessalonians 2:17-20

But first, before I talk about our fulfillment, I want to deal with the translation problem in this verse. Satan can’t stop us. The word Paul used in that verse literally means to cut in front of. It means to hinder or detain. So Satan didn’t stop Paul, and he can’t stop us, either!

Now, back to my main topic. In this small passage, Paul used four different words to describe what he received from the church at Thessalonica.

He says that he has hope – the expectation of great things – because of their faith. He was also filled with joy at the thought of what they were doing for Christ.

Paul then used the word glory, which means weight or importance. By looking at this church, Paul knew that what he was doing was important – it really mattered. He wasn’t just filling time.

These are all wonderful things, but what I really want to focus on is the crown Paul talks about. In the literal Greek, Paul calls it the crown of boasting. What makes this strange is that he is going to have this boasting in the presence of the Lord. Actually, there is a good kind of boasting.

But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Here Paul tells us that our boasting should not be about what we’ve accomplished. Instead, it should be about what God has accomplished through us. Understanding the difference will determine whether you’re fulfilled or not.

The principle that we need to learn is that we were not created to accomplish anything on our own. We’re made as vessels for God to work through. My purpose is only fulfilled by what the Lord does in and through me.

That’s why when I look at what I’ve done; it never seems to be enough. There’s always something missing. No matter how great the accomplishment, I look at it and say, “Is that it?”

I am made to do the works of God by His Spirit. Anything less will never satisfy the inner longing. That’s why there are so many unsatisfied Christians. Even our salvation, all by itself, doesn’t quench that thirst. We must allow the Lord to accomplish His plan through us. Anything less will never bring us fulfillment.

Question: What has God done through you that you can boast about in Him?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

Tags: , , , , , ,

To Tell the Truth

We live in an age where we’re told that truth is relative. It’s not the same for everyone. When this is the norm, lies are a regular part of our society.

Think about the internet. Anyone can say whatever they want – about any subject they like. It can be true or untrue with seemingly no consequences.

“Of course it’s true; I read it on the internet.”

I’ve heard people say that; and maybe you have too. We laugh and roll our eyes, because we know that if it’s on the internet, you have to check it out from more than one source.

That makes for a very skeptical society. It makes me wonder how we, as believers, need to handle the truth. James had something to say about it almost 2000 years ago.

Above all, my brothers, do not swear — not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.
James 5:12

It seems that every day we have to sift through lies and half-truths. It’s like the call I get regularly to inform me that my name was selected to receive a free vacation. Even though I know that I didn’t enter any drawing. The good news is that it would have only cost me $600 to claim my “free” vacation. Lucky me!

Even the media is falling into this type of hype. The accusations of “fake news” seem to be a regular occurrence. Personally, I like watching the weather reports. People laugh at me because I’ll keep one of the weather networks on in the background sometimes.

You would think that weather reporting is above this type of accusation. Not anymore. Throughout the evening, the teaser for the nightly news is, “Can we be expecting another big blizzard?” So I watch the news only to find out that the answer is, “No, the storm’s going out to sea.”

Why am I saying all of this? Am I just some old guy complaining about society? Absolutely not! It’s a warning to us that we can’t let these types of lies, half-truths, and hype be a part of our walk with God.

When we speak, it needs to be the truth. So much so, that we don’t feel the need to convince others to trust us. God’s people should have a reputation of speaking the truth.

Jesus said the same thing to His followers.

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
Matthew 5:33-37

The enemy has to go to great lengths to convince people to believe a lie. When we do the same with the truth, it makes people question whether they should believe us or not.

Don’t make the truth you’re speaking sound like a lie. Testify for Christ honestly, and with integrity. Then allow the Holy Spirit to do the convincing and convicting. I’ve found that this is the best way to present the truth.

Question: How have you seen people present the truth in a form that sounds untrue?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A Promise for the New Year

ReflectionThere’s a lot of unrest in the world today. Even in the United States there’s more apprehension over the new president than ever before. What should our attitude be, as believers?

Jesus made a statement to His disciples just before going to the cross. I believe that we need to take it to heart in these last days.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
John 14:1-3

There was a very good reason why the disciple’s hearts were troubled. If you read chapter 13 of the book of John, the chapter just before this passage, you’ll see Jesus warning them that He was going to be denied, betrayed, and killed.

At this point Jesus starts to sense their anxiety and tells them, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. You trust in God. Trust in Me.”

In verse two He tells them why they can be free from fear. The King James Version reads, in my Father’s house are many mansions. Well, is it a mansion or is it a room? That makes a big difference to me. I want to know whether I am getting a room or a mansion.

The Greek literally says, “In my Father’s house (or residence) are many places.” The word that Jesus uses is the Greek word for place.

Now, place could be a mansion. Place could be a room. Place could be a chair. There are many different kinds of places. But the one thing I’m sure about is that we’ll not be disappointed with the accommodations given us.

I’ve seen some good accommodations on earth, and I know God outdoes anything that we could have here. I don’t care what you call it. Whatever He gives me, I’m going to be thrilled with it. I am satisfied just knowing that He has a Place prepared for me.

He then tells the disciples in verse three that He’s going to get things ready. And if He goes through all the work needed to prepare a place, then they can rest assured that He will indeed return to take them to that place. That’s the promise that we can hold on to. He’s going to return. No matter what the world looks like. No matter how rotten things get.

We know the truth. The Church is going to come into fruition. But right along with that – as the wheat buds, the weeds are also going to come to fruition as well. The world is going to get worse and worse as it bears the fruit planted by the enemy.

But don’t worry, the Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the world, and He’s going to come back at the right time, at the end of this present age, and receive us to Himself. With a promise like that to hold on to, there’s no need to worry.

What’s going to happen next week or next year? What will the economy do? What about the crime rate? These are all things we need to watch and be mindful of. But the bottom line is that because of Christ, these things shouldn’t trouble us.

We need to keep our eyes fixed upon Christ and His Word. That will take us victoriously through anything that comes our way in the future.

Question: How has God brought you through a big problem in the past?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Getting Back on Track

FallenFor the past couple of posts I’ve been talking about the purposes of Scripture as recorded in II Timothy 3:16. In it, Paul shows us what the Bible should be used for. These are teaching, rebuking, correction, and training in righteousness. So far, I’ve talked about how the Scripture teaches and rebukes us.

In today’s article, we’ll look at the work of correcting that the Scripture brings into our lives. There are some misunderstandings about correction. So the first thing we need is to know what it means. It sounds a lot like rebuking, at least that’s what many people think.

There is, in fact, a subtle difference between rebuking and correcting. In my walk with God I need both. It’s interesting that the Greek word for correcting, in the verse from Second Timothy, is only used in this one place in the whole Bible. It literally means to straighten up again.

I need to be rebuked so that I’ll stop doing that which is not God’s will for my life. But the process can’t end there. If it did, then I’d be lost, out of God’s plan, and with no way to find my way back to where I should be. Praise the Lord! He doesn’t leave us in that condition.

While rebuking tells you to stop because you’re headed in a wrong direction, it’s correction that shows you the way back to the right path for your life. Correction changes your course so that you’re once again heading in the direction of the destiny God’s called you to.

What we need to realize is that true repentance requires both rebuke and correction. Just one is not enough. There are many believers who respond to the rebuke of Scripture – again and again. Week after week they’re seen weeping at the altar over their sin. Then they go right back to it, only to repeat the cycle over and over. This isn’t God’s way of repenting.

In their song, The Altar and the Door, Casting Crowns sings about this condition.

“O Lord I cry, like so many times before,
But my eyes are dry before I leave the floor,
O Lord I try,
But this time, Jesus, how can I be sure,
I will not lose my follow-through,
Between the altar and the door.”

Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
Revelation 2:5a

There are many times that we see this pattern in Scripture. It’s usually “repent and…” True repentance is not only a turning away from sin, but a turning to God’s best. Feeling sorry for my sin is not real repentance, even if it’s accompanied by great emotional distress.

True repentance takes place when I take the rebuke of Scripture and admit my fault to God. Then I must take the correction of the Word and start doing the right things that will replace the wrong. Only in this way will I have a greater chance for success in my walk with God.

Question: How have the rebuke and correction of the Word been helpful to you in the past?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Your Free Life Coach

weightsI’ve been posting about Scripture and the role it has in the lives of God’s people. We should be grateful that the Lord allowed His Word to be written down for our enrichment.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

Scripture was given to thoroughly equip us for the good works God has prepared for us. Accordingly, Scripture is useful profitable – for certain things that we need. The first thing Scripture is useful for is teaching.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Romans 15:4

We need to know who God is and how He operates. The Bible looks at people that the Lord has worked with in the past and how He dealt with them. It also shows us what the Lord likes and dislikes. That’s the place of Scripture. As I study its pages, I come to know who this God is, that I’m serving.

Endurance. The first thing that being teachable brings me is cheerful endurance. God has put certain things in writing so that I’ll know what to expect. I learn that as long as I’m in the world, there will be troubles and trials coming my way.

Because of this Word, I won’t be offended that the path before me isn’t an easy one. But I also know that God is with me, and He has already triumphed over my problems. All I have to do is keep walking forward in faith and trust in Him and I’ll see His deliverance manifest in my life.

Encouragement. The Scripture also encourages me. The closest concept we have to the Greek word for encouragement is coaching. The Bible is my life-coach.

I can see what others have done in my situation. I have the example of those who went their own way and lost out, as well as those who trusted God and were victorious. This gives me the strength to carry on even when I don’t feel like it. That’s what a coach does. It inspires me to a higher walk in the Lord.

Hope. The Scripture brings hope. It’s because of this endurance and encouragement that I can walk in the hope that only comes from knowing what God has promised to those who serve Him.

Please understand that the word hope in the Bible is not like the watered down version that the world uses. They say things like, “I hope it won’t rain tomorrow.” It’s more like wishful thinking. That’s not the hope found in the Scripture.

Our hope is fully expecting things to turn out the way God said it would. It means that I know in my heart that God doesn’t lie. It doesn’t matter what the situation looks like right now. It doesn’t even matter whether I can see a way out or not.

What I rely on is the fact that God said it, so therefore I expect it. That’s the hope that Scripture will equip us with if we let it be our teacher and life-coach.

Question: How has the Scripture helped you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,