RSS

Category Archives: Encouragement

Transmitting the Truth

In my last post, we saw how the Thessalonian church pressed into a mature walk with Christ.  It’s something that we need to learn in our present generation.  Paul commends them for it and exhorts them to continue.

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
2 Thessalonians 2:15

Paul tells these believers to stand firm and unmovable in the truth that they’ve received.  The word translated, teachings, is a special word.  It means something that’s been transmitted or passed down from one to another.

The things that they were taught were not invented by Paul.  They were transmitted from God the Father to Christ, then Christ to His apostles, and finally from the apostles to the church.

The unfortunate thing is that, in many cases, we’ve either stopped teaching them or watered them down in our generation.  Personally, I want to see them restored in our lifetime.  That’s the goal behind this blog and my ministry.

Notice that this passage tells us that the church received this through both the spoken and written Word.  This will require us to spend time in the Lord’s presence.  As great as the Scripture is, we need both God’s written and spoken Word to fulfill our calling in Christ.

I like the encouragement that Paul gives at the close of this passage.

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

We’re told that if we stand firm in the Lord’s grace, we have eternal encouragement.  That’s important.  It’s speaking about the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

The word, encouragement, is the same word Jesus used in calling the Holy Spirit the Comforter.  In our modern terminology, it means to be a coach.  If we remain in God’s presence, we have an eternal Life-Coach.

Here’s some more good news.  This Coach does not only deal with your physical life, but He can coach your heart as well.  I don’t know about you, but I need the internal coaching more than the outer.

Because of this, our words and our actions will be produced by an overflow of God’s grace working through us.  I believe this is what the world desperately needs to see in the church.

This is what will draw people to the cross of Christ.  It’s only when the Holy Spirit is active in us that the Gospel is energized to that extent.  We need to get back to the pattern that was originally transmitted to the church.

Question: What differences do you see between the early church and our modern church experience?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 12, 2018 in Encouragement, Prayer, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Paul Explains the Second Coming

We’re continuing to look at Christ’s return, explained by Paul in 2 Thessalonians.  In my last post, we saw that his reason for writing this is to spur us on in our work for the Lord.

Paul goes on from there and starts to give the Thessalonian church some more information regarding the Last Days.

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.  Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.
II Thessalonians 2:1-3

We need to understand what Paul is saying here.  The first thing we see is that he uses three different terms for the same thing.  He calls it the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, our being gathered to him, and then, later on, he calls it the day of the Lord.

It’s easy to see that Paul isn’t saying that the Lord’s coming is one time and the gathering up the saints is another.  On the contrary, our being gathered to the Lord and the coming of the Lord is all the same in Paul’s mind.

He then goes on to tell the church not to let anyone deceive them in any way.  He doesn’t want anybody to push them off track and out of the truth.

He shares that they haven’t missed the coming of the Lord.  Certain things must happen before the return of Christ.

As an apostle, Paul knew that it wasn’t even going to be in his lifetime, because Jesus had already told this to His apostles, and Paul was in contact with them.  I have no doubt that he knew Jesus’ teaching on this subject.  Jesus had taught His apostles that they wouldn’t be alive on the earth at the time of His return.  (Luke 17:22-25)

Without even checking into it, he could tell that the letter that was causing all of the fuss in Thessalonica was a false teaching.  It was not to be taken seriously.

The question most of us want to ask is; “What kind of things will happen before Christ appears?”  The answer to that question will help us to see how close we are to the end.

He says, first of all, that there’s going to be a rebellion that occurs.  So we must ask ourselves; what’s the rebellion?

The Greek word there literally means a defection from the truth.  We’re not in the Last Days until people turn away from the truth.  Personally, I believe this has been fulfilled already.  I believe the defection from the truth is what we look back on now and call the Dark Ages.

At that point, the true Church was just a little, tiny flicker of a spark.  During that time in history, there was a great falling away from the truth.  But, since then, God has been restoring the things that were lost.

The Lord has started restoring evangelism, teaching on healing, tongues, and faith to the Church.  That’s why I believe that we have already gone through that falling away and are preparing for the final harvest.

Question: How close do you think we are to the return of Christ?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 24, 2018 in Encouragement, Return of Christ, Revival

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Faith + Love = Growth

I recently finished my series on the Gospel of Mark.  I had been systematically going through the New Testament in the order that the Holy Spirit revealed it to the church.

I started with the four foundational books – James, First Thessalonians, Galatians, and Mark.  It’s interesting to note that the next thing on the Holy Spirit’s agenda was to inspire books that dealt with our personal walk with the Lord.

These books include Second Thessalonians, First and Second Corinthians, Romans, and Luke.  In this post, I want to start on Second Thessalonians.

This letter was written to a church in confusion.  They were a young congregation facing much persecution.  They were looking forward to the return of Christ.

The turmoil started when someone pretended they were Paul and wrote them a letter saying that Christ had already returned.  They were upset that they had missed it.

Paul had to write this epistle to bring them back to order with the truth.  The main theme of this book is how to live for Christ with His return in view.

Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:1-2

Even the way Paul starts the letter shows the apostle’s care for them.  He wants the grace and peace of the Lord to overshadow them.  He wants them to walk in assurance, knowing that they’re secure in Christ.

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.
2 Thessalonians 1:3

Even though this is a young church, Paul commends them because their faith is growing.  We know that the only way for faith to increase is by time spent with the Spirit – hearing God’s Word.  This was a church with a rich spiritual prayer life.

But they didn’t just keep it on the inside.  They lived it out.  Individually, each one of them showed a true love for all of the others in their body of believers.

Faith and love are the two non-optional commodities that the Lord looks for in His people.  They are the true measure of spiritual growth in the kingdom of God.  These people showed by their lives that they were growing in maturity.

Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
2 Thessalonians 1:4

Scripture makes it clear that the trying of our faith develops perseverance.  All three are mentioned in this verse.  This church is headed in the right direction.

Now they just need the truth to dispel their confusion about the return of Christ.  In my next post, we’ll start to see how the Apostle Paul deals with this subject.

Question: If faith and love are the measure of maturity, where are you in your spiritual development?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 17, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith

 

Tags: , , , , ,

I Can’t Believe It!

Why do we find it so hard to believe God’s Word sometimes?  We trust Him for our salvation.  But what about other things like healing, provision, and protection?  Why do some obstacles look bigger than others?

When Jesus rose from the dead, we find that the disciples struggled with the same issues that we do.  You may want to read Mark 16:1-14 before continuing with this post.

The morning that Jesus rose from the dead, some women went to the tomb to finish the embalming process.  When they arrived, they found that the stone was rolled away from the entrance.  Even more astounding was the angel that was sitting inside the tomb, apparently waiting for them.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said.  “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'”
Mark 16:6-7

They received one of the most glorious messages in history.  But instead of the joy it should have brought them, it only made them afraid.  As a matter of fact, the next 6 verses tell of the most doubt-filled, unbelieving time in the lives of the Lord’s followers.

The women, themselves, were too afraid to tell anybody about what the angels had told them.  Mary Magdalene actually saw and talked to the risen Lord.  Yet no one would believe her.  Others saw and spoke to the risen Christ, but nobody believed them either.

Why is it so hard to believe that God can do the impossible?  It’s probably because we look at things through the eyes of our experiences.  That’s why we find it easy to believe God to heal our headache, but cancer seems too big an issue.

The Lord had something to say about it to the disciples.

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
Mark 16:14

Jesus rebuked them for two things.  The first was unbelief.  That’s normal for us as humans.  There will always be a level of unbelief that resides in our flesh – even when we’re trusting God.

The key is in the next word that Jesus used.  The phrase, stubborn refusal is literally hard-hearted in the Greek.  They had closed their hearts to the truth.

We know that faith comes by hearing God’s Word.  The problem was that when they heard the Word of testimony from those who saw Christ, they refused to let that truth enter their heart.  If they had, it would have produced the faith that could overcome their unbelief.

We need to learn this lesson.  Open your heart to God’s Word.  Even if it sounds impossible.  Even if your experience tells you that there’s no way for God to accomplish it.  Put that Word into your heart and let it grow and produce the fruit of faith in your life.

Our God can do the impossible – we simply have to trust Him for it.

Question: What have you seen God do for you that you originally thought was impossible?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 12, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Setup

We’re continuing to look at the crucifixion of Christ as recorded in Mark’s Gospel.  In my last post, Jesus breathed His last and the curtain in the Temple was torn in two.  Now we see the witnesses around the cross.

And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Some women were watching from a distance.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.  In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs.  Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
Mark 15:39-41

This was not something that was done in secret.  There were many people surrounding the cross.  They watched as He gave His life.

Many of these people had placed their hopes in Christ.  Now that dream was gone.

Maybe they were all praying for a miracle as they watched everything taking place.  They could have hoped that at the last moment, angels would swoop down and take Jesus off the cross.  They watched and waited, but the Messiah stayed on the cross.

Now it was over.  There was nothing left to do but to take care of the body.  A member of the Sanhedrin stepped up and came out of the shadows.

It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath).  So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.  Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead.  Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died.  When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.
Mark 15:42-45

Joseph was a man who was highly respected.  He could have remained as a secret follower of Christ.  Instead, he summoned his inner strength and received the body of Jesus.

So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock.  Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
Mark 15:46-47

Joseph did what he could to prepare the body for burial.  He even gave the Lord his own tomb that had never been used.  Once the body was laid to rest, the tomb was sealed.  It was finished.

At least that’s what everybody thought.  What went through their minds as they tried to sleep that night?  It seemed like God had failed them.

It’s like us sometimes.  We give God a time limit.  We think He needs to answer us by this time.  Then, when nothing happens, we get upset with God.

“Lord, I trusted You.  Why didn’t You answer my prayer?”

What we miss sometimes, is that God isn’t bound by our limits and weaknesses.  He can bring about His plan even after we think it’s too late.

The people of Scripture thought the same way as us.  Jesus is dead and buried in the ground.  There’s no way that He can save Israel now.

Understand this.  God always has a bigger plan than we can see.  It’s never too late for the Lord to turn things around.  Put your trust in Him and never waver in your faith.

We know how the story will finish!

Question: When has God answered your prayer even when you thought it was too late?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 10, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Pain of the Cross

Before He ever went to His cross, Jesus told us that we each need to carry our own cross.  What does that mean to us?  I believe that the events surrounding His crucifixion, give us some insights.

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.
Mark 15:21

The first thing we see is that in His weakened state, the Lord was physically unable to carry the full weight of His cross.  So a man named Simon was made to carry it.

Nobody volunteers to carry a cross.  He had to be forced to do it, and it wasn’t even Simon’s cross.

We may not want to do it, but carrying our cross is a choice every believer has to make.  It’s a daily decision.  It’s not some situation that we find ourselves in.

I’ve heard some women say about their husband, “You’re my cross that I have to bear.”  That’s absolutely not what’s meant by carrying the cross.  It’s all about a daily choice to deny the flesh and follow the leading of the Spirit.

They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).  Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.
Mark 15:22-23

The next thing I see is that the cross involves pain.  Besides its other uses, myrrh was a painkiller.  Condemned criminals were given it to take the edge off of the pain they were about to endure.  Jesus refused it, taking the full pain of punishment for us.

The fact is that when we deny the flesh, there’s pain involved.  Maybe not physical pain, but there is a great discomfort in refusing the way of the “old man”.  A large part of that is the knowledge that at any point we could choose to stop the discomfort and give in to the temptation of sin.

To my knowledge, there’s no painkiller available to stop the discomfort of denying the flesh.  I wish that there was.  I believe that Christ refused the myrrh to identify with our suffering.

And they crucified him.  Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
Mark 15:24

Finally, the cross involves loss.  Jesus had to watch while others took things that belonged to Him.  That’s also a part of what happens when we deny the flesh.

Our present generation has recently coined a new term – FOMO.  It stands for a Fear Of Missing Out.  In our age of everyone being connected to each other – we constantly know what all our friends are doing.  We know where they are, what they’re eating, and what they’re feeling.

When we decide to deny the flesh and follow the Spirit, it always comes with the fear that we’re going to miss out on the enjoyment of the world.  If I follow Jesus, then I’m not going to have as much fun as my friends.

That’s a choice you have to make.  It depends on whether you want fun or fulfillment.  Do you want a life you can look back on and say, “That was worth living!”?

Please understand; I’m not saying that there’s no fun as a believer.  My life is full of good times.  But the good times in Christ come without the baggage of regret.  Sometimes the hardest choices bring the greatest rewards.

Carrying your cross – it goes against human nature – but you’ll find that it’s worth the pain.

Question: What does carrying your cross mean to you?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 5, 2018 in Encouragement, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Focused on the Cross

In today’s post, I’ll continue looking at the Gospel of Mark.  A few weeks ago we left off as Christ was on trial.  Now He’s brought before Pontius Pilate for the Roman decision on His case..  You may want to read Mark 15:1-20 before proceeding with this post.

As we saw when Jesus was before the elders of Israel, He was not led by the Holy Spirit to answer the charges being brought against Him.  They were brought by false witnesses who didn’t even agree with each other.

These leaders decided that the Lord was worthy of death.  Actually, they simply wanted Him dead whether He was worthy of it or not.  So they bring Jesus before Pilate, who was the only person who could legally pronounce a death penalty.

Of all the things the Pharisees accused Jesus of; one, in particular, caught Pilate’s attention.

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
Mark 15:2

The Lord was willing to testify concerning the truth about who He was.  But why didn’t He elaborate?  I would have probably gone on to say, “Not only am I the king of the Jews but Lord of Heaven and earth as well.  I am the Creator of the universe. “

Of course, that’s the human reaction.  We have to remember; the Lord’s goal was not to be worshipped but to die on the cross for the sins of the world.  In that respect, He simply answered the question as it had been asked.

The rest of the accusations were of no consequence to Him.

The chief priests accused him of many things.  So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer?  See how many things they are accusing you of.”
But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
Mark 15:3-5

Pilate was not used to this.  Usually, a person in Jesus’ position would be vigorously claiming their innocence.  The Lord saw no need for it.  And neither did Pilate, as he later testified when the crowd was crying for crucifixion.

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Mark 15:14

I praise God that Jesus was single-minded in His determination to complete the work set before Him.  At many points, the Lord could have done something or said something that would have secured His release.  But His focus was unbreakable.  His mind was fixed upon winning our salvation.

We need the Holy Spirit to work that same attitude in us.  Too often we get distracted by side issues.  We feel the need to justify ourselves or to prove our right to do what we want.

We need to be seeking the Father for His will for our lives.  Then, with the strength of the Spirit, we move forward with unstoppable passion.  This should be our prayer for the church in our generation.

Question: Why are the distractions so tempting to us?

© Nick Zaccardi 2018

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 3, 2018 in Encouragement, Ministry, The Gospel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,