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Category Archives: Fellowship

The Church Together

How do you feel about church?  There are many believers who’ve written it off.  Their church is on TV.  Either that or they spend an hour on Sunday morning and that’s their investment for the week.

As I see it from Scripture we need the gathering together of real-life flesh and blood believers.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6:10

As I read the life of King David, I see a lot of parallels with our present generation. In waiting for God to fulfill His promise to make him king, it seemed like everything was going against him. But it was at this time in David’s life that God started to bring people to his aid.

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.
1 Samuel 22:1-2

This is one of the lowest points in David’s life. God had called to be king in place of Saul. He had accomplished victories over giants and armies.

Yet, at this time he was being pursued by King Saul – hunted like an animal. His calling was to restore Israel to greatness, yet he was alone and outcast.

Many in Israel had no clue about the issues that were occurring throughout their nation. It was almost like the church in the USA right now. We are badly in need of an awakening.

So David decided to go to a place called Adullam. It was a cave in the side of a cliff, surrounded by wilderness. It was near a cool, clear spring so there was plenty of water. It had a system of caverns that could hold 1000 men comfortably. Eventually, 400 to 600 would come and join with David here.

In the same way, it’s time for God’s people to rally together. So many believers are “serving God” yet going nowhere. Where do we start?

Maybe where God starts. In David’s life, it was his father’s household, his immediate family. That’s us – the church.

The work God wants to be accomplished in our generation starts with us. God is calling the church family together.

But it also says his brothers. The Hebrew word used is relatives in the most general term. There are many people who are a part of the body of Christ who have distanced themselves from their churches. It has been for various reasons. It might have been the results of hurts, laziness, disappointment, offense, or any number of issues.

For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
1 Peter 4:17

The word judgment in this verse is simply the word decision. It’s time for decisions to begin here, among God’s people. We want the world to decide for Christ. How about if we decide first. It’s time to give up the excuses.

I’ve been in church for my whole life. My deepest hurts have come from church people. Even as a pastor I’ve endured hurts, betrayals, and other problems. Yet on the lowest day of my life, I would choose God’s people over the world.

Just like in David’s day, God is calling His people to do a great work in our generation. But it won’t be accomplished by big names or televangelists. It will be normal, everyday people who have heard and obeyed the call of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Question: What’s your place in the Body of Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on November 13, 2017 in Fellowship, Revival, The Church

 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Peace

I’m continuing to look at the Fruit of the Spirit – today’s fruit is peace.  I’ve heard people talk about the fruit of peace in the past, but sometimes they misunderstand it.

The problem is that the Greek language has a couple of different words that are translated as peace in English.  I’ve heard people teach that it’s calm, quietness – like when Jesus said, “Peace. Be still”; and He calmed the storm.  This isn’t that Greek word.

The word used for the fruit means harmony between two parties.  In other words, it’s the opposite of war.  This is something that can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit.

One of the biggest divisions in history, and in the Bible, was between Jews and Gentiles.  Bringing both sides together into the body of Christ had to be a supernatural work of God.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.  His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace…
Ephesians 2:14-15

By fulfilling the requirements of the Law, the family of God was now open to the Gentiles.  But that doesn’t mean that the Jews would be happy about sharing their Messiah.  There needed to be a change of heart.

It wasn’t enough to take the requirements of the Law out of the way.  The Lord had to go even further to deal with the hostility.  Ingrained hatred is one of the hardest things to change in our flesh.

That’s what’s so powerful about the fruit of peace.  It changes the hearts of those affected by it.  Of course, that’s why there are many who refuse to yield to the Holy Spirit.  They’re afraid of the changes that may take place in them.

The fruit of peace abolishes things like bigotry, hatred, racism, or chauvinism.  It compels you to love and work with those that through your life, and even your heritage, you grew up hating.  Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit working in you, there’s not much else that can accomplish such a change.

Refusing to let his peace reign in you is refusing God’s plan for your life.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:3

There are many people who pray for unity in the church.  I think that in some cases, we don’t really know what we’re praying for.  We sometimes think that unity means that everyone thinks and acts like us.

That’s not true unity.  Unity built upon the bond of peace takes very different people and puts them together into one, perfectly functioning organism.  It’s what Jesus did with His disciples.

He brought working class people like Peter, James, and John, and put them with a spoiled rich kid like Judas.  He took Simon the Zealot – an anti-Roman terrorist – and placed him with Matthew, who collected taxes for the Roman government.  Only the Holy Spirit can do such a huge work.

But as good as this is, there’s an even greater work this peace can do in us.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

The peace of God even takes away the spirit of competition between us.  We’re not competing for God’s blessings.  I don’t have to worry that if the Lord answers your prayer, then He may not have the resources to answer mine.  He has an unlimited supply of grace.

Allow the Holy Spirit to work His peace in you.  It will change your whole outlook on life.

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

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Love

Probably one of the most misunderstood concepts among Christians is love.  Of course, that’s to be expected in our society.  The media throws that word around with no clue as to what they’re talking about.

As I said in my last post, I want to talk about each of the Fruit of the Spirit in detail.  Today, I’ll start with love.  It’s the Greek word, agape, which has a very specific meaning.

As it turns out, the Greek language has a number of words that are translated as love in English.  In this post, I’m only going to be talking about the word Paul uses as one of the fruit.  As you’ll see, this is not something that you can just do by accident.  It has to be a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

Probably the best description given was by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13.  If you’re able, you should read through it before continuing with this blog.  Let me quote a small section for you.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Think about what this passage is saying.  Especially in the light of what Jesus told us.  He commanded us, as His disciples to love one another (John 13:34-35).  That statement alone should show us the fallacy of the world’s view of love.

This kind of love has nothing at all to do with our emotions.  It’s purely a choice that we make in our treatment of others.  It also includes action.  It’s impossible to love this way by simply saying it or thinking it.  God’s kind of love has to be visible.

But what do I really have to do to show love to someone?  By looking at the above verse, it’s clear that there’s a group of people I actually want to treat like this.  They’re my friends.  I want to show them how much I like them.

There you have it; love means that you treat everyone as if you like them, whether you do or not.  After all, isn’t that the teaching that Jesus left us with?

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Luke 6:27-28

This is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit operating in us.  Loving our enemies is not natural to our human make-up.

“I love them, but I just don’t like them.”

Wait a minute.  I didn’t tell you the best part of all this.  Not only do you have to treat everyone as if you like them – even your enemies, there’s more.  You have to treat them this way whether they’re physically present or not.

After all, you wouldn’t gossip, slander, or speak evil about a friend of yours.  Love deals with the total package of how we treat others.  Whether they know about it or not isn’t the issue.  The God kind of love is a lifestyle.

That’s why Paul calls it one of the fruit.  It grows naturally from a life that spends time in the Father’s presence.  It’s one of the visible changes that we see as a life matures in Christ.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 4:12

Spend time in the Father’s presence.  Let Him complete His love in you.

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

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2017 in Fellowship, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Religion – An Easy Trap to Fall Into

Why do you serve God the way you do?  Because people are watching you; or because you’re trying to please God?  Religion wants you to look at what people think.  It can make you do some strange things under the pretense of serving God.

I’m glad that when the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible, He didn’t whitewash the lives of the apostles.  We see them as they were – with all their faults and challenges.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he recounts a confrontation between the Apostle Peter and himself.  It all had to do with religious observances and trying to please men.

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.  Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles.  But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.  The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
Galatians 2:11-13

According to ancient Jewish customs, it was not proper for a Jew to enter the home of a Gentile or to eat with them.  But now that we’re in Christ, these outward appearances should hold no sway over who we fellowship with.

There were those in Jerusalem, however, who felt that these customs needed to be carried over into Christianity.  These were the Judaizers that I talked about in a previous post.

At this point in his life, Peter had already understood that he was free to fellowship with Gentiles.  The Lord revealed it to him and then sent him to a Gentile home to preach the Gospel of Christ.  (Acts chapter 10)

When he first arrived at Antioch, the site of the first largely Gentile church, Peter had no problem fellowshipping with the believers in their homes.  But when those of the Judaizers arrived, he wanted to stay on their good side and stopped eating with Gentiles.

What’s important to see is that even though Peter didn’t believe that it was necessary to separate himself from Gentiles, he was sucked into a religious observance.  Religion places customs above faith.  When that happens, we alienate people.

Paul understood that it needed to be stopped before any permanent damage was done to relationships.

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.  How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?”
Galatians 2:14

The truth of the Gospel is that we’re all one in Christ Jesus.  Who’s house I enter, or who I eat with doesn’t make me any more or less holy.  The outside observances only serve to impress people (or push them away).

We need to be able to take a step back and question our own motives.  Why do we do what we’re doing?

Please understand that I realize there are many different styles of worship.  Some services are highly formal and ritualistic while others seem to have no structure at all.  It doesn’t matter what style you’re comfortable with, as long as you don’t invalidate those you’re not comfortable with.

Don’t let religion control who you fellowship with.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can do something to make God love you more.  In Christ, you’re already loved more than you could ever imagine.

Question: How have you seen religion alienate people?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Growing Love

We all know that we’re supposed to love one another. The question is; how do we get to that point? Paul talks about it in his first letter to the Thessalonian church.

Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-10

Above all else, we should be cultivating our love-walk. Without love, our faith is worthless.

In this passage, Paul talks about two different kinds of love. The first is the Greek word philadelphia, which refers to a brotherly or family type love. The other is agape; this is a choice to love someone, with or without the emotion.

I’ve heard people teach about them in the past. But it’s the relationship between the two that’s the important thing.

Paul starts by saying that he doesn’t need to talk to them about brotherly love. Of course not. That’s something that grows naturally out of a sense of family.

It’s that close feeling we get from spending time with others. The more time spent together, the closer the bond. It’s not just about family. It can be developed in the workplace, school, and most importantly, in the church.

I’ve heard people complain that they feel closer to their work friends than they do to the church. These are the people who usually arrive late and leave right after the “amen”. How could you possibly feel close without spending time with others?

Feeling close to a church family is up to you, not the church. The more time you spend, the closer you’ll feel. Yes, there’ll be some bumps and bruises along the way, but none of us are perfect. We need to be increasing our brotherly love for other believers.

The reason it’s so important is that God uses this to teach us the next level – agape-love. This is the choice to love – to treat someone as a friend – whether you feel like it or not. Love also treats them this way whether they’re present or not.

We need to understand the progression from brotherly love to agape-love. This is very important in our spiritual growth. The apostle Peter talked about this in his epistle.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
2 Peter 1:5-7

It’s only when we truly love others that we’ve entered the mature spiritual walk. The road to culivating this love leads us through brotherly love. The only way this is formed is by time spent with other believers.

Allow God to work out His love-plan in your life. Be a close, functioning part of a local church. In this way you’ll be able to increase more and more in your love for others.

Question: How have you learned about God’s love by being part of a church?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2017 in Fellowship, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Hurtful Words

I’ve been looking at how we need to keep a tight rein on our tongue. This is what much of the book of James is about. It’s from our tongues that we can see our faith and maturity – or lack of them.

Your tongue also shows how well you’re able to relate in the body of Christ.

Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you — who are you to judge your neighbor?
James 4:11-12

James is telling us not to speak against our brothers and sisters. That means it’s all about attitude. Where is your heart focused on?

I’ve heard people speaking evil things in regards to someone. When challenged about it they say, “I’m not gossiping. Everything I’m saying is the truth.”

According to James, truth is not the issue. The question is whether you’re saying something that will hurt that person. What’s the goal of your statements? Are to trying to make them look good or bad in the eyes of others?

The greater context of James gives us more insight into this. When he says that speaking against your brother is speaking against the law, he’s not talking about the Old Testament. In this book, James keeps referring to the perfect law that gives freedom.

When you slander your brother, you’re speaking against the grace of Christ Jesus. When you stand in judgment over someone, you’re saying that God’s grace is ineffective in their life. You’re taking on the role of the Holy Spirit and that’s a dangerous place to be.

James tells us that there’s only one qualified Judge. But in this case, He’s the same one who saves. His blood not only forgives, but can change someone from the inside out. Instead of talking against this person, you should be praying for their growth and blessing.

But there’s a greater danger that you enter when you use your words to hurt others.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Luke 6:37-38

I think it’s funny that we use these words of Jesus to apply to our money most of the time. Especially since it’s obvious that Jesus used them in relation to our words. He is giving us a warning in light of the law of sowing and reaping.

It’s clear that the Lord is talking about our words in this section. The same words you give will be given back to you – good measure, shaken together, and running over. This is true whether it’s words of judgment, condemnation, or forgiveness.

If you walk in grace and mercy toward others, you’ll find that you receive more in your daily life. When you sow grace, you receive grace. By your words you can set yourself up for the blessing of God. Just make sure your words are a blessing to others.

Question: How have you spoken a blessing into the lives of others?

Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2017 in Fellowship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Fights and Quarrels

Are there people in your life that you just don’t get along with? Whenever you’re with them, an argument breaks out? Did you ever stop to think that it might not be totally their fault? At least that’s what James tells us in his book.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
James 4:1

James actually says that wars and fights start within us. They’re caused by our own desires that are not lined up with the will of God. When our flesh wants something, that’s when the trouble starts.

I would say that most of our trouble with others is caused by something that we desire. As I pastored over the years, I’ve counselled many people who were in conflict with others. They always thought they were in the right. And they’re reasoning always sounded the same.

“I expect to be treated like…”

“I deserve…”

“I expect them to…”

“Why don’t they just…”

In your quarrels with others, you can fill in the blanks for your particular situation. All of those statements revolve around unmet expectations. Expectation is simply another word for desire. It’s your unmet desires that start the problems.

Quarrels and fights are all about us not getting what we want. James goes on talking about it.

You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.
James 4:2

Our trouble is that we put our expectations in people. No matter how good that person is, they’ll let you down at some point. That’s because we’re all human. Any expectation – desire – you place on someone else, will eventually hurt you.

That’s why the only real expectations we should have must be towards God. He’s the only one who won’t let you down.

But wait a minute; it doesn’t end there. I’ve heard many people complain that God doesn’t give them what they want.

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James 4:3

The problem might have something to do with your motives. It’s all about your pleasure. What if your pleasure is not God’s will for you in this situation?

Throughout the book of James, so far, he’s been talking about hearing from God. We spend time in the Lord’s presence to hear a Word from Him. A Word that cleans us. A Word that gives us the wisdom of Heaven.

Do you even know if what you’re asking for is God’s will for you? If it is God’s will, do you know that this is the right timing for it? That’s what spending time with the Holy Spirit is all about. He changes us in His presence so that we desire what He desires. He also gives us His peace so that we accept His timetable.

That’s the basis of a stress free, and quarrel free, life.

Question: What are some blessings that you’ve received from the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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