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Category Archives: Encouragement

Christmas Eve Excitement

The countdown started well before Thanksgiving, and with each passing day, the excitement and preparations for its arrival have been accelerating.  Lights and decorations have been put up, stores are full, and music is filling the air.

A lot of people, especially children, are eagerly anticipating a very special event that will take place tonight.  Truly, it’s a very busy time of the year!

And it’s all in preparation for what?  Well, any child can tell you – “A visit from Santa Claus, of course!”

And remember, “He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake! You better not pout, you better not cry – you better watch out, I’m telling you why – Santa Claus is coming to town!”

Maybe some, but not me.

The One I’m waiting for won’t be coming from the North Pole and riding in a sleigh.  Instead, He’s coming from Heaven, and arriving on the clouds of the sky!  Millions all over the world are waiting for His arrival.

He will also be bringing gifts with Him.  The good news is that His gifts are not based on how good I’ve been, but by His grace.

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.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

Take the time today to consider Jesus…to get excited about His coming.

I think that it’s fun to watch the excitement grow on the faces of our children as Christmas approaches.  With each passing day the grins grow, the adrenaline level rises, and the expectation almost bursts from every pore.

We should be even more excited!  Children are excited about the coming of a round man in a red suit with toys tucked under his arm.  You and I can be excited about the coming of Jesus Christ, dressed in all His radiance and riding the clouds of heaven.

“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn.  They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.  And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”
Matthew 24:30-31

Every eye will see Him!  Not just a private return.  But when?  We know when the Christmas deadline is.  We like to be ready.

But with Christ, we only know that He’s coming, not when.  Actually – He told us that He’d arrive when we aren’t expecting Him.

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited that Jesus is coming to town.  I don’t know the hour or the day.  I don’t know much, but there’s one thing I do know – He’s coming to town!

He’s coming back for those who’ve received Him as King and Lord of their life.  When He comes back there’ll be no mistaking Him.  He won’t be riding on a sleigh with eight tiny reindeer.  He’ll be riding the clouds of Heaven and His radiance will flood the universe.

Where’s your excitement level this Christmas?  Are you overburdened by your list of things “to do” which seems twice as long as your children’s “wish list?”

Are you excited about seeing what you’ll find under the tree on Christmas morning?  Are you excited to see family and friends that you haven’t been with for some time?

Or…are you excited because the Lord is coming to town?

Have a blessed Christmas holiday!

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on December 24, 2018 in Encouragement, Return of Christ

 

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Thanksgiving and God’s Will

Here in the USA, tomorrow is a holiday devoted to Thanksgiving – at least that was the original intent.  I’ve been meditating on Thanksgiving lately.

I think about the age we’re living in.  I look around at all that’s happening in the society I’m a part of.

Many people seem to have the attitude, “What do I have to be thankful for?”

The truth is that we’ve rewritten history.  If you believe what they teach in most public schools, it started solely from the Pilgrims’ thankfulness to Native Americans for helping them.

That was definitely a big part of the original celebration.  The problem is that we’ve all but erased God from the picture.

The pilgrims arrived at the new world in the winter.  That first year almost half of them died.  Every family lost someone.  Yet, in spite of their hardships, they gave thanks to God for His blessings.

I think about the times we’re living in right now.  The world around us is so uncertain.  People are worried about finances, healthcare, government, crime, terrorists, the weather, and a host of other fears that seem to be hanging over our heads.

Society is on the edge of their seat.  How can we be thankful in a time like this?

But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57

As believers, we have the answer in Scripture.  The principle is that He gives us the victory…

That is a comforting thought.  He won the victory and then gives it to us.  How does that work?

It’s all about thankfulness.

…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

The Bible makes it very clear that giving thanks is God’s will.  It doesn’t matter what you’re going through.  You could be facing good or bad situations.  There might even be a cloud of uncertainty looming before you.  It’s always God’s will for us to be thankful.

Notice that He doesn’t say for all things.  He simply wants us to be thankful in all things.  What’s happening around us shouldn’t affect our thankful attitude towards our God.

Remember we’re not moved by the visible.  We must keep our eyes on the eternal.  The ups and downs of society around us are temporary conditions.  Everything is subject to change.

In any situation I find myself in, I can give thanks to God.  When I’m thankful, I know that I’m in the center of the will of God for me.

Be thankful and have a blest Thanksgiving!

Question: What are you thankful for right now?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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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

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

 

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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

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

 

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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

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith

 

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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

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

 

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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

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

 

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