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Category Archives: Faith

Called to Glory

I’m continuing to look at Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian church.  After talking to them about the second coming of Christ, he now starts to close with some words of encouragement.

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.  He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

This is a very important message which our generation of the church needs to hear.  Even though the Thessalonian church was only recently established, they had grown quickly in their spirituality.

This fact is brought out in how the Apostle describes them.  Paul literally says that God took them for Himself from the firstfruits.  In Paul’s mind, this was a “firstfruits” church.

There was a point in Paul’s ministry when he received a dream from the Lord that sent him into the region of Macedonia.  Thessalonica was the first city in that region where he was able to preach in a synagogue.

Because of that, this church was always the firstfruits of Macedonia in Paul’s mind.  But there was something they needed to do in order to claim that status.  They had to believe the Word that was preached to them and then submit to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

Their goal was not only to have their sins forgiven but to become what God wanted them to be.  This made them fully aware of the calling that was placed upon their lives.  It’s what we need to understand as well.

There’s more to being a Christian than just getting into Heaven.  We’re all called to a higher walk.  The Good News is that God wants us to share in the glory of Christ.

But please notice the important word in that passage.  It’s the word “might”.

This is not something you receive simply by praying the Sinner’s Prayer.  It’s what you have to move forward to obtain.  Yes, that’s the word translated by, share, in that Scripture.  It means to obtain and surround yourself with.

I believe that this glory is not reserved for the sweet by and by.  It’s something the Lord wants His church to walk in right now.  If the world would see the glory of Christ surrounding us, they would be drawn to His saving grace.

What does that say to us?  Paul is not trying to teach something new here.  We’re called through the Gospel that we might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we need to stand firm and hold on to the teachings we’ve been given.

Then, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to complete His work in us.  That means spending quality time in His presence.  Time spent in the Spirit will cause us to obtain and surround ourselves in the glory of Christ.

Let that be your spiritual goal.

Question: What’s the next step you need to take to press into your calling?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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The Rise of Lawlessness

In our study of Second Thessalonians, we’ve been talking about the lawlessness of mankind being uncovered in the Last Days.

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?  And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time.  For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.
II Thessalonians 2:5-7

It’s clear from this section that Paul’s merely reminding them of the things he taught when he was with them.  He apparently told them what was holding back the lawlessness.

It’s also clear that the secret power of lawlessness was already at work 2,000 years ago.  What Paul literally says is that the secret power of lawlessness was already energized.

I’m reminded of a parable of Jesus (Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43).  He said that the church and the world were going to grow up together.  These two kingdoms would grow in power and mature side by side throughout history.  The seeds that were planted by the enemy already had lawlessness working in them.

According to Paul, there’s something holding back the full force of this lawlessness.  Most of the modern translations add a lot of preconceived ideas to the text.  What Paul literally said in verse 7 is the restraining will continue until it is removed from the midst.

I believe he’s talking about the laws that govern us.  Back then; they had a system of government where if you disobeyed the law, you paid the penalty for your actions.  But more and more, around the world, it now seems that laws don’t mean anything.  The lawmakers tell us that it’s how you interpret that law that matters.

My wife, Cheryl, was called for jury duty a number of years ago.  She was selected to hear a drunk driving case.  It was clear from the testimony that the man was drunk, and he was driving.  He could have very easily killed somebody.  Thank God, he was caught before he did any damage to himself or others.

As they were discussing the case in the jury room, an interesting thing started to happen.  All of these jurors started seeing themselves on the stand.

“Well, I drink sometimes, and I’d hate to have a policeman take away my license because I got caught.”

“Maybe we should let this guy go because nothing happened and nobody was hurt.  After all, there was no accident and no damage.”

Those who know Cheryl understand that she has a very prophetic ministry.  If you can imagine how Elijah would’ve responded to all this, you’d be pretty close to what actually happened.

Cheryl’s response was that the question is not what we would do.  It’s not even about what we would want to happen if we were caught driving under the influence of alcohol.

The question is; was he drunk?   Was he driving?  If so, then he’s guilty, whether or not you do it as well.

They did find him guilty.  But please understand that if there wasn’t a Christian on the jury, then the outcome might have been very different.

Lawless man says, “I know what the law is, but I wouldn’t like that law if I were the one driving.”  What we will find is that this what it’s going to be like more and more in the last days.

Yes, there might be laws, but they’re going to be followed less and less.  Paul is saying that lawless man is going to be uncovered for what he really is.  In the last days, we’re going to see an increase in lawlessness the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

That’s why, more than ever, we need to trust the Lord for our safety, protection, and provision.

Question: How have you seen a rise in lawlessness over your lifetime?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2018 in Faith, Return of Christ

 

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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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The Signs

I’m continuing to look at Mark’s Gospel.  We’re now in the last chapter.  To many people, it’s a very controversial place.

Some versions of the Bible leave out Mark 16:9-20 altogether.  Others set them apart with a note that tells us that some of the most reliable manuscripts don’t have these verses.

Here’s my take on it, for what it’s worth.  Maybe I’m naïve or looking at the issue too simply.  I believe that if God is not powerful enough to protect His Word and keep it pure, then how can I trust Him to protect and watch over my life?

I see it as a matter of faith.  I believe that whatever the circumstances were that brought this section of Scripture to us; it was what God wanted to be recorded.  He could have stopped it from being placed there, but He didn’t.  So, I choose to believe that this was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

I know; there are some who take it out of context and use it as an excuse to do some strange things in the name of their religion.  But that doesn’t negate the truth of what’s written.

Jesus has just told His disciples to go out and proclaim the Good News of salvation to the world.  Some will not believe them, but others will, and they’ll be saved.

Now the Lord describes the signs that surround those who do believe.

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Mark 16:17-18

The problem is that if you don’t believe God works miracles through the church, you’ll have to find a way to get rid of this verse.  I believe that God wants to show His power through us as much today as in the early church.  We just need to position ourselves correctly.

The key phrase is “in my name.”  In other words, Jesus is telling them that they will do these miracles in His place.  If it’s something that the Lord would have done, then His followers could do it.

But there’s a catch.  How did Christ perform miracles?  He was clear that He only did what He saw of the Father.

This means that I can’t just decide on my own to pick up a snake, drink poison, or even heal the sick without hearing from the Father.  I need to spend time with the Holy Spirit.  I must develop a sensitivity to His voice.  Then, if I operate in obedience to what the Lord tells me, I’ll truly be functioning “in His name.”

That’s important.  I can’t just do what I want and tack “In Jesus’ name” to the end of it.  That gets me nothing.  I have to be operating under the authority and direction of the Lord to see the miraculous.

Do you want to see the signs, wonders, and miracles of those who believe?  Then spend quality time with the Holy Spirit.  He’ll train you to walk the way Jesus did.

Question: Why don’t we see miracles in our churches today as they did in the early church?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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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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The Triumph of the Cross

For the last few posts, I’ve been talking about the crucifixion of Christ.  It always amazes me what He went through to purchase our salvation.  You may want to read Mark 15:25-39 before continuing with this post.

In this passage of Scripture, we see Jesus hanging on the cross.  The Messiah and true King of Israel, dying for the sins of mankind.

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So!  You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” 
In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves.  “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself!  Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”  Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
Mark 15:29-32

This scene holds an important truth.  The religious leaders are taunting and insulting the Lord.  They think that His desire is not to die.  After all, that would be the natural reaction of anyone being put to death.

The fact that Christ was enduring this with a greater goal in mind never figured into their thinking.  They were looking for Him to try and escape death.  The Lord saw His death as a means to an end.

This should speak to us.  When we know that God has called us to accomplish something, there will always be those who doubt and ridicule.  If we stand on God’s Word, however, these people can’t hinder our progress.

Scripture is clear that those who only think in the natural can never understand those who walk according to the Spirit.  The natural walk involves feelings and logic.  These don’t always work in bringing about God’s will.

At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”- which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
Mark 15:33-35

It’s clear that the religious leaders don’t even understand what He’s saying.  The Lord quotes a Messianic Psalm (Psalm 22:1) and they think He’s asking Elijah for help.  But in spite of the ridicule, unbelief, and pain, Christ endured it all to the final victory.

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
Mark 15:37-39

The power that was released because of Christ’s obedience is beyond comprehension.  You need to realize that the curtain in the Temple was not a mere piece of cloth.  It was made of leather panels stitched together.  It was tested by placing it between two teams of oxen.  If they couldn’t tear it, then it was ready for the Temple.

In the same way, the power of God is released in us when we walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit.  There may be trials along the way.  There may even be people who ridicule and tell us we’re wrong to trust God.

Have faith in God’s Word and do what you’re called to do, then see the hand of God work mightily in your life!

Question: How have you been ridiculed for your faith in God’s Word?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2018 in Faith, Ministry, Power of God, Spiritual Warfare

 

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