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Category Archives: Encouragement

Blessed with Abraham

Do you expect the same blessing that was on Abraham’s life?  You should.  In the book of Galatians, one of the foundational writings of the New Testament, Paul explains it with great clarity.

Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Galatians 3:6

He starts by explaining the basis of Abraham’s blessing.  It had nothing to do with Abraham’s good works, and everything to do with faith.  Abraham was declared righteous simply because he believed God.  That’s why God could bless his life abundantly – he was walking in God’s righteousness and not his own.

Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.
Galatians 3:7

This is one of the greatest promises of Scripture.  If I believe God – just like Abraham – I can receive his family blessing.  Please understand that on our side of the cross, trusting God means that we believe and act on the fact that salvation is only through the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Now, once I’ve acted on this faith, I’ve been miraculously placed into Abraham’s family.

“Wait a minute, Nick, I’m not Jewish.  How could I possibly get in on the blessing of Abraham?”

The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”  So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Galatians 3:8-9

This is the Good News.  Way back, in Abraham’s day, God announced to him that the Gentiles would be able to receive the same righteousness that was available to the Jews.  What at one time could only be given to Abraham’s bloodline was now open to all nations.

That’s something I’m particularly glad about.  My ancestors are from Italy, not Israel.  But because of Christ and His work on the cross, God treats me as a son of Abraham.

It’s hard for us to see just how powerful this promise is because of the translations.  If you look at what was promised to Abraham, in both the Old and New Testaments, it puts it in a whole new light.  The promise literally reads; all nations will be blessed in you.

When this was given to Abraham, the entire DNA that would make up Jesus’ earthly body was in Abraham.  Since it’s in Christ that we receive this blessing, God could tell Abraham that we would be blessed in him.

That’s an important truth.  When I bowed my knee to Christ, God didn’t give me a separate blessing that was not quite the same as Abraham’s.  Because I’m blessed in Abraham, it’s the exact same blessing that he received.

That thought is repeated in the next sentence of the verse above.  The Holy Spirit clearly reveals to us that those of the same faith are blessed with Abraham.  It’s not a different blessing.  It’s the same one that God bestowed upon the first man of faith.

Please don’t get the idea that all God wanted to do was to save you and get you on the road to heaven.  He has much more planned for you.  You need to live each day with the expectation that God is at work in you, the same way He worked with Abraham.

And just to give you a “heads up,” as we continue through the book of Galatians, Paul will present this truth in even greater detail.

Question: What is your expectation for God’s grace in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Encouragement, Faith, Legalism, The Gospel

 

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Leaders Care

I’m posting about First Thessalonians, one of the foundational writings of the New Testament.  At the end of the letter, Paul is giving some final principles that will help their growth.

And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
1 Thessalonians 5:14

It’s obvious that Paul is talking to the church leadership in this section.  The word, warn, in this verse is the same word admonish, that was used in the previous verse.  (I talked about it in my last post.)

These are things that true leaders should be watchful over.  The problem is that in our generation, so many people don’t want their leaders to be looking out for them.  We want to live however we choose with no accountability for our choices.

Then, if a leader truly cares about us, and warns us of the dangers of our lifestyle, we get upset and leave the church.  If God’s people are going to become a great spiritual force, then we need to listen to the exhortation of our leaders.

The first thing Paul says that a leader must do is to warn the idle.  This literally means to warn those who are out of order or unruly.

We know that the Lord we serve is a God of order.  The church, as well as our private lives, needs to be arranged according to His plan.  When we start deviating from His order, then we need to be warned of the trouble we’re getting ourselves into.

The next thing Paul tells us is to encourage the timid.  This is actually a very important part of being a leader.  The phrase literally means to relate near to the weak-souled.  The Greek word for relating near to someone implies telling your story to them.

A lot of times those who are weak in the faith think that those in leadership were born into it.  They don’t know the struggles, challenges, failures, or insecurities of those who lead.  When we share our stories with them, they begin to see what God can do through anyone who’s willing to follow the leading of the Spirit.

Another part of leadership is to help the weak.  This means to stand next to, and hold up the unestablished.  There are those in the body of Christ who haven’t put their roots down deep yet.  We need to be there to help those people to stand strong.

In a garden, there are times when you have to tie a young plant to a pole, to keep it stable, until its roots are deep enough to sustain it.  It’s the same with God’s people.  Many need the support and encouragement of a stable believer until they can stand firm on their own.  Too often we’re guilty of letting young believers fall away because we assume they know how to live for Christ right from the start.

The final part of leadership is to be patient with everyone.  Now that’s the tough one.  I’ve heard people say that they’re praying for patience.  That’s actually not the best way to become patient.

The reason for this is because patience is not a commodity you can receive; it’s a choice you have to make.  Patience is a choice to be willing to wait for God’s perfect timing in a matter.  It involves seeing things from God’s perspective and knowing that the final chapter of someone’s life hasn’t been written yet.

These are all important goals in the ministry of church leadership.  We, as leaders in the body of Christ, need to realize the truth that the Lord is looking for these qualities in us.  We aren’t judged on their response, only on our willingness to care for and encourage those under us.

Question: What growth have you seen in the lives of people who you’ve encouraged?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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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.

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

 

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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.

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

 

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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

 
 

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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

 

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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

 

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