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Category Archives: Faith

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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The Quiet Life

Is your life quiet and at rest? As believers, we should have an understanding of what it means to live in the peace of God. As I continue looking at Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we’ll see how the apostle deals with this issue.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Paul taught his churches about the benefits of living a quiet life. But just what does that mean to us? Am I supposed to go through life never speaking up for myself? I don’t think that’s what Paul or the Lord intends for us.

Let me start by explaining that I’m the father of three young women. When they were children, the noise level of our house was usually not described as quiet. And, actually, the word quiet in the above passage doesn’t refer to the level of noise in your surroundings.

The meaning of this word is to be settled, secure, and at peace with where you are. This is an important attribute to cultivate in your Christian walk. As a matter of fact, it’s something we have to fight for in this generation. It actually goes counter to the world’s way of doing things.

I believe that in the next phrase, Paul describes exactly what he means by this quiet life. Let me give you my personal translation of the Greek words used in that sentence.

Using your own hands to perform repeatedly and habitually that which is yours to do.

This is the key to enjoying your life and work. It’s also something that the world has no concept of. First of all, you need to know exactly what it is that you’re called to be working on.

In our society we’ve become transfixed on what everybody else is doing. How much money are they making? What shows are they watching? What are they learning? What activities are they involved in?

Even on our jobs, we’re never satisfied where we’re at. We’re taught to always keep our resume up to date. Living like this keeps you in a constant state of unrest.

This is just the opposite of what Paul was teaching his people. We need to settle down into the life that we know we’re called to.

But that requires me to spend time in the Lord’s presence seeking His will for my life. Many of us are afraid to do that because we would lose control of our destiny. Personally, I prefer God’s destiny for my life over anything I could come up with on my own.

Paul concludes this by showing the benefits of a life well lived. The first is a respectable or well-formed life. It’s the kind of life that causes the unsaved to ask why you seem to be more fulfilled than they are. It’s a witness to the grace of God.

The other benefit is described as not being dependent on anybody. In the Greek, it reads lacking nothing. In the book of James, the first Scripture recorded, it talks about the trying of our faith bringing us to the place where we lack nothing (James 1:2-4). Here, Paul adds to our knowledge by showing that it’s knowing and working at God’s will that brings about no lack.

I can’t think of a better combination that I want active in my life. A witness to unbelievers and having no lack. That’s the joy of a life settled in God’s plan.

Question: How have you experienced resting in God’s will?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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Is Your Faith Known?

In my last post, I talked about the need for a faith-coach. In sports, coaches are needed to overcome the challenges that an athlete faces during their competition. I believe it’s the same in our Christian walk. It’s how we’ve been coached that gets us through our challenges.

Paul tells the Thessalonian church the reason he was sending Timothy to coach them…

…so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.
1 Thessalonians 3:3-5

First of all, let me say that I’m not particularly thrilled with this passage. Paul makes it clear that it’s an undeniable fact of life that we will certainly face trials. Both of the words he uses – trials and persecution – mean pressure, narrow spaces, and challenges.

The Good News is not that we have an easy life with Christ. Instead, the Lord strengthens us to overcome in all of our trials.

This is why Paul wants them to be coached. In our trials, we should never be unsettled. That word literally means to wag – like a dog wags his tail.

Too often we, as Christians, end up simply reacting to our trials. We don’t expect them. Worse than that, we don’t know how to correctly operate in faith to walk through them. God has a better way for us. Listen to what He said to Israel when He taught them the law.

The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.
Deuteronomy 28:13

The Lord never wants us to be wagged – to simply react – to the challenges of life. We have been given the Holy Spirit so that we can be ready for anything that comes our way. By watching others overcome, we can be equipped for the same victories.

Unfortunately, many refuse God’s mentoring system. They end up learning to overcome by trial and error. Personally, I want to know the strategy before I enter the heat of battle.

Back in the verse from Thessalonians, Paul said that he wanted to find out about their faith – literally he wanted to know their faith. The fact is, that true faith can be seen and known by those around you.

Trials and challenges – the pressures of life – serve an important purpose. They come so that the faith that you have on the inside can become evident on the outside.

Listen to how Peter describes the result of trials in our lives.

These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:7

Do what needs to be done in order to prepare your faith. Then when the trials come, as you know they will, Christ will be revealed in you.

Question: How has watching other believers prepared you for your trials?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Get a Faith-Coach

I’ve been posting about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. I’m now starting to look at chapter three. We now begin to see Paul’s desire for their continued growth.

So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith…
1 Thessalonians 3:1-2

If you remember, Paul had to leave Thessalonica before he had a chance to establish the church in his usual way. He had been worrying about their spiritual health as he traveled through the area. Now that things had quieted down a little, he could check up on them.

He decided to send his spiritual son, Timothy, to see how they were doing. With Paul as his mentor, Timothy had grown to a seasoned minister in his own right. Paul even calls him a co-worker in the Gospel. Having Timothy show up in their church was like having Paul, himself.

But the real question is; why did Paul feel the need to send anyone? After all, there are many in the body of Christ today who don’t feel the need to sit under any teaching. What was it that Paul was trying to accomplish?

Why didn’t Paul just encourage them to make sure they were reading the Bible? Okay, so they didn’t have a Bible. This letter was the second book of the New Testament that was written. And the only copy of the Old Testament in Thessalonica was in the synagogue, where most of the persecution was coming from.

If you’ve been following this blog through the book of First Thessalonians, then you know that one of the themes Paul talks about is the principle of imitation. The fact is that we all need spiritual mentors to look up to. I would say that 80% of our growth comes from how we see others living for Christ.

Timothy was given two specific assignments in regard to the people. Paul wanted to position them for growth and maturity. These are the same things that we need from those we find ourselves under in the church.

The first thing Timothy was to do is strengthening them in their faith. This word has a couple of different uses. It means to establish or set fast. We need to be rooted in our faith. Trusting God is not something we can do today and forget about tomorrow. It must be a consistent part of our life.

This word also means to turn resolutely in a certain direction. Faith always has a direction. Faith never wanders around looking for the right path. When I know where God’s leading, I can walk with the assurance that I’ll come to my destiny in Christ.

Timothy’s other job was to encourage them in their faith. That’s a word that means to call alongside. It’s the job description of a coach. A coach is someone who’s walked that way before, and can bring you there quicker than you could have done it by yourself.

Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
1 Corinthians 4:16-17

This verse describes perfectly what’s happening with the Thessalonians. The word urge is the same word that means to coach. There’s no doubt about it. We need to place ourselves under faith-coaches in the body of Christ.

It might be a pastor or a teacher that God has brought into your life. Whether we think we need it or not, these faith-coaches will keep us from getting stuck in our Christian walk.

Question: How have godly leaders helped your growth in the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2017 in Faith, Leadership, Spiritual Walk

 

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Imitation – The Path to Greatness

In my last post, I talked about how the Thessalonian believers accepted the Word of God. It changed them. It brought them to a new way of life.

But even though it created a desire for change in them, something else was needed. You may have the desire and the power to change, but without a proper example, you won’t know how to live a new life.

For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.
1 Thessalonians 2:14-16

The word imitation keeps popping up in this letter. That’s because it’s an important concept for growing Christians. More than ever, we need leaders who are worthy of imitation.

I don’t know where I’d be today if weren’t for the pastors and teachers who I watched and copied along the way. By watching their examples, I learned how to love others, to pray for those in need of God’s touch, and how to witness to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

We were never meant to serve God on our own. It’s not God’s plan for us to figure everything out all by ourselves. We need to follow in the footsteps of those who have walked this path before.

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7

We sometimes get the idea that the great men and women of God were somehow born into their positions of honor. We see the work that they’re doing now and can’t grasp that they ever had to struggle with their Christian walk.

The fact is that every believer – whether they’re a leader or not – has to wrestle with the same problems and challenges. The important thought in this verse is to consider how their lives turned out.

That word, consider, means to look again. We need to take a second look at our leaders. See how they got from salvation to their present position. Then, we should imitate the positive way that they trusted and served Christ.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
Hebrews 6:12

Here’s the key. When we look at those who are leaders in the body of Christ, we must always understand the road that they took.

There’s no easy way. It’s not just about faith. Inheriting the promise comes through both faith and patience.

We think that we can simply start trusting God and walk in a ministry like those who’ve been trusting the Lord for years. It doesn’t work like that.

Imitation doesn’t only mean that I minister the way they do right now. It means that I follow the same path that they took to get there. I have to learn the same lessons and fight some of the same battles.

The good news is that if they could come through victoriously, then I can too. God is no respecter of persons. If I’m willing to listen to, trust, and obey God the way others do, then I’ll receive the same inheritance.

Question: What blessings are in your life as a result of godly examples?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2017 in Faith, Leadership, Spiritual Walk

 

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Planting the Word

Our Supply in GodI’ve been posting from First Thessalonians. In my last article we saw how Paul was a spiritual father to those he ministered to. Because of that, the people were more willing to receive from his ministry.

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.
1 Thessalonians 2:13

God is a co-worker with us and it’s His job to confirm His Word with signs and wonders. When receiving the Word of God, that’s the mindset I must bring with me. I want to hear from God. He’s using a human being to distribute this Word, but I want what God has for me.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.
2 Corinthians 9:10

This verse explains what God provides for us. Even though the context is talking about finances, Paul makes it clear that the scope is far greater by calling it the harvest of your righteousness.

One major principle is that God provides bread for food. That’s the logos of God. It’s the Word that can give you immediate benefit. It’s readily digestible and palatable.

There’s also another major truth found here. It deals with sowing. If you’re a sower – you want the long-term benefits of the Word of God – then you’re seeking rhema from God. God is willing and able to drop the grain of rhema into your spirit.

The key is that you must be seeking this blessing. It doesn’t happen by accident. You need the attitude that says, “Sure, I hear Pastor Nick preaching, but I want to receive a Word from God.”

God desires to give His Word in all of its forms to anyone that will listen and receive. By the power of His Spirit, He gives both at the same time. God sends the digestible logos of preaching right along with the raw rhema from the mouth of God Himself.

Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Galatians 3:5

This question that Paul asks summarizes the entire scope of this teaching. Paul literally asks how does God fully supply you with His Spirit and activate His miraculous power in you? That’s the question of the hour. It’s what the church desperately needs to learn and lay hold of. It’s what the world is dying to see in operation.

I believe that it’s this truth that will usher in the end time harvest of souls before the coming of the Lord. The answer that Paul gives is that the Spirit is given and His power is activated in you by the hearing of faith.

This is where the power of God resides. It’s not a work of the law. It only comes as I hear His voice and let it inspire faith in me. This is the foundation for the miraculous. God and I as co-workers.

He’s looking for someone who’ll listen for His voice. It’s time for the church to enter that intimate place with the Lord. Only then will we see the glory of God released through His people.

Question: What’s your mindset while hearing the Word preached or taught?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Word of God

 

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