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Category Archives: Encouragement

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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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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