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Category Archives: Encouragement

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Today is the eve of the Thanksgiving Holiday.  So I’ve been reading and meditating on giving thanks to God.  Then I came across a verse that really struck me.

When you sacrifice a thank offering to the Lord, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on your behalf.  It must be eaten that same day; leave none of it till morning. I am the Lord.
Leviticus 22:29-30

In the Old Testament, the thanksgiving offering was to be eaten in one day.  There was to be nothing leftover.  I thought that was funny.  That’s because, in our generation, Thanksgiving is known for having the most leftovers.

This spoke to me of how we should thank God.

We thank God for His daily provision.  Think about the Israelites in the desert.  God provided manna for them.  He told them to only gather enough for the day.

Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”  However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.  So Moses was angry with them.
Exodus 16:19-20

It’s amazing how much things stay the same.  God tells us to trust Him.  “Give us this day our daily bread.”  We want all of our provision – today.  God wants to provide step by step – so we must look to Him in faith.

Our walk with God is step by step.  We want to know the whole plan.  I need to thank God for what I know and trust Him for what I don’t know yet.  That’s a lesson of faith.

We may know where He’s bringing us to, but not the exact path.

When it comes to our blessings from God, we like to keep the leftovers.  Think about all of the things we’ve prayed for.  Then think about all the answers to those prayers.  My first thought is, “They belong to me!”

No – they belong to God.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10

We want to keep everything God gives us for ourselves.  But that’s pretty selfish.

God’s grace to us is for others as well.  We want to keep it all for ourselves.  God wants to bless us AND make us a blessing.  We want to store it all up for our own usage.

That’s the difference between a river and a swamp.  The Israelites learned it when their extra manna got smelly and full of maggots.

Finally, our thankfulness prompts others to thank God.  God desires our thankfulness to overflow into the lives of others.  It’s like a river of blessing flowing into those around us.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 4:15

This is God’s will for us.  To overflow by the spirit.  We may still have leftovers this year.  But as we thank God remember not to hang on to the blessings that He wants you to move along.

Question: What are some blessings you can pass on to others?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

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Joyfully Thankful

In my last post, I finished my series on the book of Galatians.  Since we’re now approaching the Thanksgiving holiday, I feel like posting some things that would prepare our hearts.

At one point, the Apostle Paul prayed for the Colossian believers to have a knowledge of God’s will with spiritual wisdom and understanding.

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Colossians 1:10-12

That’s a long sentence, but it has a great message for us.  We’re told that we should live a life worthy of the Lord.  Our lives should reflect His character since we’re called to live as His ambassadors.  But how is that to be accomplished?

It also says that we should please Him in every way.  This is the only place in Scripture that particular word is used.  It means to have the desire to please someone – to want to make them happy.

I realize that sometimes we make big mistakes and fall short of this goal.  It’s good to know that if the desire’s there, then the Lord is pleased with us.

However, it can’t just end with the desire to please Him.  This desire is not just an internal part of me; it has to be manifested in how I live.

According to Paul, it’s shown forth as I bear fruit, growing, and allowing His power to work in me.  And right along with this, I need to be joyfully giving thanks to the Lord.

Please understand that there are two ways we view life when faced with challenges that we can’t change.  The first is to tolerate them with grumbling and complaining.  The other is to come at them with the knowledge that God has full dominion over everything and everybody.

Looking at life’s problems in this last way allows us to rejoice that God’s power will work in us.  Then it will be evident to the world around us that God is still on the throne.

I love that phrase, “…joyfully giving thanks to the Father…”  Thanking God with joy is what we need in in the challenging situations that we face all the time.

But this kind of response will only happen as we spend time with Him.  Being in His presence allows us to be strengthened by His Spirit.  It gives us the knowledge and faith that Christ is in control.

The word translated giving thanks is a part of speech that indicates Paul is not just talking about Thanksgiving Day.  It’s all about a lifestyle of giving thanks to God continually.

Keep your thankfulness to God going throughout the year.  It will change your whole outlook on life.

Question: What are you thankful for this season?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Encouragement, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Advice for the Journey

It’s so easy to give up when times are tough.  That’s the difference between surface Christians and overcomers.  Which kind are you?  Only you can make the choice to keep going forward.  This is what it takes to make it to your destiny in God.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

There are times that I’ve felt like giving up.  Problems started closing in and it seemed like there was no way out.  But what I came to find out is that God never took His hand off of my life.  He was with me through the problems and brought me through them victoriously.  Here are some things I learned along the way.  I hope they’ll be a blessing to you.

Realize that God has a good plan for your life.  Whether we know it or not, God has us walking a good path.  He wants the best for us.  He knows what will fulfill us better than we do.  But we must continue to the end if we’re going to enter our destiny.

Know that everything worth having requires effort to obtain.  Sometimes the road we’re on seems rough and steep.  That shouldn’t stop us, however.  Struggles are a part of life.  If it were easy, everyone would be walking in the blessings of God.  It takes an attitude of perseverance to make it over the hills of life.

Keep your eyes on the finish line.  Don’t let your present hardship become the focus of your attention.  Keep your vision upon Christ and His plan for your life.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:2-3

That’s what can sustain you during the difficulties that you encounter.  If you can see the goal, then you know that it’s not over yet.  God will have the final word in your life.

Keep moving forward, no matter what happens.  I love to go out hiking.  But it doesn’t always turn out well.  There have been times that I’ve been injured on a hike.  It would have been very easy for me to let weariness and despair take over.  I felt very much like lying down on the ground and giving up.  I had to keep telling myself, “Keep putting one foot in front of the other – you’ll eventually come to the end.”

Understand that moving slowly is better than standing still.  This is probably the best advice I could give you.  No matter how slow you think you’re going, don’t give up.  You will make it!  Never look at your life in terms of a sprint to the finish.  You need to see yourself as being in it for the long haul.  The victorious finish of your race depends on it.

Maybe you’re going through a seemingly impossible situation right now.  Give it over to God in prayer, if you haven’t already done so.  It could be that you’ve taken the responsibility for the problem back to yourself.  Let go of it and allow God give you the strength you need to see it through.

Questions: Have you ever felt like giving up?  How have you found the strength to continue on?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2017 in Encouragement, Faith, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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A Teaching Testimonial

As we come near the end of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he begins to give some short exhortations.  I find this next one to be of particular importance.

Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
Galatians 6:6

I’m obviously partial to this one because I’m an instructor in the Word of God.  Many times teachers never find out the effects that they have on someone’s life.

That’s because teaching is a cumulative process.  Changes in those being instructed don’t happen overnight.  Each new concept received, brings a tiny step forward.

Over time, these little pieces add up to a life that’s been brought to a new place in Christ.  That’s why we need to periodically take stock of where we are in our Christian walk.  Then, when we see where we are in our progress, we take note of where we learned these things from.

This verse tells us to communicate the good things we see in our lives with the ones who instructed us.  In that way, the teachers will be encouraged that their work was not in vain.

I remember my Sunday School teachers from when I was young.  One of them, Brother Jerry Citro, had a great impact upon my life.

I had just “graduated” into the Junior High Boys’ class.  We were a group known for always clowning around.  But Bro. Jerry loved us and worked with us.

One Sunday morning, he made an announcement to the class.  He told us that for the next few weeks, he wouldn’t be teaching us.  Instead, we would each take a turn teaching to our peers.  It should go without saying that this got quite a negative reaction from the class, but that’s the way it would be.

For the next few weeks, the class was pretty boring, to say the least.  The students either didn’t remember that it was their turn, or didn’t care.  I remember sitting in class listening to students reading the workbook to us.

Then it came to my turn.  I made a decision that I didn’t want to look foolish by not preparing anything.  So at some point during the week I read the lesson and wrote down some notes.  I also prayed for God’s help, since I had never done anything like this before.

That’s when it happened.  I got up in front of the class to teach.  My stomach was in knots.  But at least I had prepared something.

I don’t remember anything I said or taught that day.  I do remember that Bro. Jerry had a big smile as he thanked me for teaching at the end of the class.  I also remember that a couple of my friends came to me afterward and told me how much they enjoyed my talk.

As I look back on this experience, I realize it was that day when I first had the thought that maybe God wants me to teach.  If Bro Jerry had not made us participate, would I even have made it to where I am today?

Brother Jerry has since gone on to his reward in Heaven.  I have no doubt that he heard the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

But there’s something that brings me joy in all of this.  That’s the fact that on more than one occasion, I was able to communicate to him just how big a role he played in my ministry.  Every life I affected with the Word of God can be traced back to his faithfulness.

We need to be aware of the “Brother Jerry’s” in our lives.  I’ve had many more teachers that changed my life.  All of them should be thanked and made to understand their effect on us.  Don’t neglect this vital part of receiving God’s Word.

Question: Who are the teachers that have affected your life the most?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2017 in Encouragement, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Spiritual Restoration

Toward the end of Paul’s letter to the Galatian church, he begins to talk about some important issues for dealing with people.  The first is working with people who aren’t perfect.  I think we forget, sometimes, that none of us walks in the clouds.

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
Galatians 6:1

Paul talks about someone who’s had a side-slip.  Whether intentional or not, we sometimes see our past sinful life try to make an appearance.  That’s why God has us doing life together.

The Lord’s desire is always for restoration.  It’s not about guilt or condemnation.  When we experience a failure, there’s usually enough self-condemnation, so that we don’t need to add any more from the outside.

I believe that’s why the Holy Spirit wants restoration to be accomplished only by those who are spiritual.  Notice that He didn’t say that those versed in psychology, or those who’ve never sinned, should work with them.

The qualification is for those who are spiritual.  They spend time listening to the Holy Spirit.  It’s evident from their lives that they consistently produce the Fruit of the Spirit.  They’re the ones uniquely qualified to bring restoration.

But even spiritual people aren’t above being tempted.  Tempted to do what?  Paul goes on to talk about this temptation.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  Each one should test his own actions.  Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
Galatians 6:2-5

In dealing with the weaknesses of others, there’s always a temptation to compare.  We end up comparing our strength with their weakness.  But that gives us an inflated view of ourselves.

It also makes it easier for us to begin judging others.  We start to criticize and condemn, instead of bringing the restoration of the Holy Spirit.

I think that an important part of this is understanding the difference between a burden and a load.  These are two very different words in the Greek.

The word burden simply means a weight – something heavy.  There are times where, because of what we’re going through, our life seems a little too tough to handle.  Spiritual people are a help during these times.  The law of Christ is their internal prompting by the Holy Spirit to bring encouragement during these times.

The word, load, on the other hand, speaks of an invoice or work-order.  That’s our God-given assignment.  No one can do that for us.  Mine is different than yours.  I can’t compare what I’ve been called to do with your calling.

There are people only you can reach and assignments only you can do the way the Lord wants them done.  So it’s not my job to take over because I think you’re inadequate.  If I truly am spiritual, then I’ll encourage and strengthen you so that you’re able to fulfill your unique destiny.

Comparison and condemnation have no place in the body of believers.  We’re here to fulfill the plan of Christ, not to please each other.

Spend time in the presence of the Lord and then be a blessing to those around you.

Question: What is a time that the Holy Spirit prompted you to be a help to someone else?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2017 in Encouragement, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Joy

I’m continuing my look at the Fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23.  Today we’re going to talk about joy.  It’s another word that we take for granted because of the world’s usage of the word.

When we think about being joyful, most people equate it with being happy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  True joy has no connection at all with being happy.

The words happy and happen come from the same root word.  When something just happens it’s a random occurrence.  We get happy because something good happens.  Joy, on the other hand, has nothing at all to do with what’s happening around us.

The textbook definition of joy is to be calmly happy or well-off.  The fruit of joy goes a little further than that.

We need to understand God’s definition of joy.  Jesus talks about receiving His joy in John chapter 15.  It doesn’t take much reading to see that the main emphasis of that chapter was for us to remain in Christ.

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
John 15:4

Here Jesus talks about remaining in Him and bearing much fruit.  So the fruit of joy must be included in that.  But what, specifically, about remaining in Him brings us joy?  The Lord goes on to talk about it with His disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
John 15:9-11

It’s a wonderful thing to be in Christ.  But there’s another step to take if you want His joy.  You have to cultivate that love relationship with Him.  That’s remaining in His love.

When you’re in a relationship with someone, then you know your place in that love.  In a relationship, I love you, and I know that you love me.  That’s what this joy is all about.

The joy of the Lord is the assurance from the Holy Spirit of who I am in Christ.  It’s knowing who Christ is, and who I am in Him.  If I’m in the Healer, then I’m healed.  If I’m in the Provider, then I’m provided for.

It’s the sense of well-being that springs from knowing who I am in Christ.  It doesn’t matter what comes my way.  If something bad happens; that doesn’t change the fact that I’m in Christ and He’s already provided the answer for it.

James understood this fact.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
James 1:2-3

Why is a trial counted as joy?  Because it will show off the truth that I’m in Christ.  It will display who He is and why I trust Him.  What I’m going through will cause others to trust the Lord the way I do.

A great example of this was the Macedonian Christians that Paul bragged about.  When he was collecting an offering for the poor, he didn’t expect much from them, because they weren’t very wealthy.

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
2 Corinthians 8:2

Extreme poverty and rich generosity really shouldn’t be used to describe the same people.  That is unless they know who they are in Christ.  That makes all the difference.  That’s the fruit of Joy.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s joy operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2017 in Encouragement, Faith, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Religion is Slavery

Slavery is evil.  But when someone chooses to be a slave to an unworthy master, that’s just plain foolish.  It’s so unfortunate that this is the position many Christians find themselves in.

As we continue our look at Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he begins to talk about this problem.

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.
Galatians 4:8

Paul tells us here that before we experienced the true God, we were under the yoke of slavery.  Now, having come to Christ, we’ve learned the freedom that’s only available in Him.  Paul is perplexed about why anyone would ever want to go back to the old ways.

But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?  Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?
Galatians 4:9

Paul makes it clear that this slavery is not to a person.  We choose to be enslaved by certain principles.  And his description of these principles – this way of ordering our lives – makes it sound like it’s not worth serving under them.

He says that they’re weak, without any power.  I want my life to change, but trying to serve a set of rules doesn’t bring about that change.  I’m the same person I always was, but now I’m struggling to act differently than my natural desires.

He also calls these principles miserable.  The word he uses means a fearful, beggarly existence.  In other words, you want God’s blessing, but you’re so afraid that at any step you’ll do something wrong and lose it all.  You’re hoping that by your good works you’ll convince God that you’re worthy of His blessings.

I can tell you from experience that this is a miserable way to live.  And yet there are many who only serve God in this way.  They’re in constant fear of making God mad at them.  They’re in slavery to a no-win lifestyle.

You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!  I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
Galatians 4:10-11

The bottom line is that God isn’t pleased with us because of our rituals and observances.  He loves us because we’re in Christ.  He sees us under the blood – washed clean and delivered from our past.  It’s not about ritual but relationship that brings us closer to the Lord.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:10-11

Please understand what Paul is saying here.  It’s not that he wants to know about, read about, or learn about Christ.  He wants to know Christ deeper and deeper on a personal level.  The more he knows Christ, the more like Him Paul will become.

Instead of fearing that we’ll get God mad at us, we should be drawing on our relationship with Him.  Spend time in His presence.  Let the Holy Spirit work in you as He wills.  Don’t waste time by putting yourself back under a yoke of slavery.

Question: Why is relationship better than slavery?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2017 in Encouragement, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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