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Category Archives: Ministry

The Value-Added Gospel

If you ask the world what the church is all about, you may get some surprising answers. Many times I’ve heard the statement, “They only want your money.” Unfortunately, for so many people to have that attitude, it must be true in some cases.

As God’s people, we have to be very careful not to portray this type of greediness to those around us. We can’t play into the devil’s hand.

Of course, I do understand that the Gospel needs to be financed. I also see the huge amounts of money that pours into the entertainment and professional sports empires. I’ve heard some make the case that all these venues want is your money.

What makes the difference? Why do people spend incredible amounts on sports and entertainment, while at the same time they begrudge giving anything to the church?

The Apostle Paul had an interesting take on this issue.

You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed — God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.
1 Thessalonians 2:5-8

I would imagine that Paul had quite a ministry team. When he traveled, it was never by himself. Timothy, Silas, and Titus are just some of the men that traveled with him.

Think of the logistics involved. Going from city to city around the Mediterranean. He needed to constantly be thinking about food, transportation, lodging, and clothing expenses.

Yet, in spite of all that, he never came across as simply looking for their money. The reason is in the fact that he was willing to pour himself into the lives of the people he ministered to. People received something tangible from Paul’s ministry.

When I go away on vacation, I usually find a local place to worship on Sunday morning. I always approach the church, wondering what it would be like if I didn’t know about Christ. How would this church minister to me?

Most of the time, I’ve found wonderful churches that are doing a great work for Christ. But there are times that I walk into the church, and it’s as if I entered a 1970’s time bubble. People, who look like they don’t want to be there, are singing songs that don’t move anyone.

Then a soloist gets up and sounds like they haven’t ever practiced the song. Someone gives a speech that’s totally irrelevant to what anybody is facing right now. But when it’s time for the offering – the appeal is heartfelt – we’re told to give sacrificially.

Now please don’t get mad at me for this stereotype. We have to understand that this is how the world sees us. Remember, the average person is comparing us to the other places they go.

Earlier, I talked about sports and entertainment. Here’s the reason. The athletes that people pay millions to see give their all on the field. The actors we like literally pour themselves into their roles.

How can we give anything less for Christ? When we talk about how much Christ has done for us, and how much He means to us; our lives should show it.

Like Paul said, we don’t just give the Gospel message. We have to put ourselves into it. We have to lose ourselves in our ministry for Christ. Only then will people see the value in the Gospel.

Question: How have you shared yourself with the Gospel to someone else?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Three Symptoms of a Lack of Power

Compared to the early church, we live in a generation that barely sees the power of God at work. As a result, we need to use other methods to promote God’s kingdom. Do you know what these powerless methods look like?

I believe that if God’s people would spend time with the Holy Spirit, and then obey what they hear, we would see society changed. Instead, we rely on human plans to try and do God’s work. It’s sad, but I think that we’ve simply gotten used to ministry without power.

A few posts ago I talked about how Paul’s view of the Gospel was a demonstration of the power of God. Now he explains what it’s not…

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.
1 Thessalonians 2:3

Without operating in the power of the Spirit, leaders must find other ways of getting people to serve God. Paul lists three of them here. I think you’ll be surprised at what he says to us.

The first word he uses is error, which means wandering. This word literally means to stray because you’ve left the right way and are now simply roaming around.

It’s very easy to leave the right path if I never seek God’s will to begin with. Ministries with this problem are always trying something new, because they saw it work somewhere else. They wander from new program to new program, hoping for something that works.

For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:25

The goal should be to seek the Lord’s will for my life, then walk in it. That will keep me from wandering around, hoping to someday stumble upon God’s plan for me.

The next issue is that of impure motives. The reason behind the ministry is as important as the ministry itself. There are some ministries that seem like their only goal is to exalt themselves.

We live in a society where many of the advertising and political campaigns are based upon negativity. It’s not about what I’m trying to do, but what you’re doing wrong. Unfortunately we’ve carried this kind of thinking into the church.

I believe that I should be able to do what God has called me to do without having to put down any other ministry. The fact is that making someone else look bad, doesn’t make me look any better.

The final issue Paul talked about was trickery. It’s believed that this Greek word means to set up a decoy or bait in hunting. It’s unfortunate that there are ministries that view believers as prey.

To make things worse, the decoy or bait they use, is the Scripture. Please understand me; I’m not saying that all televangelists are bad. Most of them are trying to do God’s will. But there are some who, I believe, only study the Bible in order to find a Scripture verse that will convince you to take money out of your wallet and put it into theirs.

Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
2 Corinthians 4:2

I truly believe that if I’m doing God’s will, then God will provide my needs. Yes, He will use people to give into my ministry. But I won’t need to make them feel guilty or use any other form of trickery or deceit.

We need to be looking at the fruit of the ministries that we want to support. We should only give into those works that are proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ.

Question: What do you think are the marks of a ministry of integrity?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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True Success

How do you measure success or failure? Is it based upon your obvious victories and accomplishments? What about some things that aren’t so readily apparent?

Paul made some observations about this to the Thessalonian church.

You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure.
1 Thessalonians 2:1

Paul makes this simple, clear statement of fact. But what was he talking about? Surely the great Apostle Paul didn’t have any major setbacks in his ministry.

Fortunately for us, the people recorded in the Bible had the same types of challenges that we face. That way we can see how they trusted God to bring them through victoriously. It turns out that Paul’s visit to Thessalonica was a major temptation for him to feel like a failure.

In order to see the whole story, you can read Acts 17:1-10. But I’ll review the basic story line here.

Paul was on one of his missionary trips. He had just left Philippi, where he was temporarily thrown in jail. He arrives at Thessalonica, and is allowed to teach in the synagogue for three Sabbaths in a row.

Of course, he preaches Jesus Christ as Messiah. He talks about the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection.

As a result, some of the Jews and a large number of Gentiles trust in Jesus for their salvation. Because the number of Christians was increasing, the Jews started to become jealous. They wanted to shut down Paul’s ministry.

So, what these hateful people did was to round up some unsavory characters from the marketplace. The Jews then paid them to start trouble and cause a riot. They tried to find Paul and his team, but weren’t able to locate them.

Instead, they grabbed some of the new believers, and dragged them off to the magistrates. They then began to accuse them of criminal activity. The city was in an uproar.

Fearing for Paul’s life, the believers made him leave the city immediately. Because of this, Paul and Silas, his partner in ministry, were not able to fully establish this church in the usual way. They had to trust God for the church’s continued survival.

It wasn’t until months later that Paul sent Timothy to check on the Thessalonians. Not only did they survive, they were flourishing as followers of Christ.

We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.
1 Thessalonians 2:2

When it came to evangelizing the Thessalonians, Paul went from one trouble to the next. Yet in spite of it all, he could boldly declare that his visit was not a failure.

We need to learn that lesson. It would go a long way to giving us a better attitude.

Remember this – Just because things don’t go according to our plan, doesn’t mean it’s a failure. The fact is that we rarely ever see everything that God is doing behind the scenes. He sees the end from the beginning, we only see the surface.

Paul only knew that it was God’s plan to bring the Gospel to this region. He did his part, and then he had to trust the Lord for the results.

Many were saved. The church was established on a firm foundation. And – miracle of miracles – the Holy Spirit was able to accomplish it without all of Paul’s expertise.

Do what God has called you to do. Then leave the results in His hands. That’s the basis of true success.

Question: What is something you originally thought was a failure; but God turned it into a success?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Imitation and Leadership

I’ve been sharing about First Thessalonians. In my last post we saw how the Gospel is more than just words. It’s the power of God demonstrated to those around us.

Paul made a statement that I want to go back to. It was at the end of the verse we looked at last time.

You know how we lived among you for your sake.
1 Thessalonians 1:5b

This verse shows us an important part of our spiritual growth. It’s something that we don’t think about too often these days. That is; how do my actions affect you?

Immaturity will say, “I don’t care what you think, I’m going to do what I want anyway.” But as we grow in Christ we realize that what we do has an effect upon those who see us.

Please understand that I’m not saying to compromise the Gospel in order not to offend. What I am saying is that in all my decisions I need to take into account the needs and understanding of those around me.

Paul’s reasoning is made clear in the next verse.

You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 1:6

What we need to be aware of, is the principle of imitation. A mature believer understands that they’re going to be an example to those who are younger in the faith.

Example and imitation is a big part of our growth in the Lord. According to Paul, by imitating him, they were actually imitating Christ – to the extent that Paul was following the Lord.

We should all aspire to leadership in the body of Christ. The role of a leader is, by its very nature, an example to others. This is found throughout the Scripture.

When Paul was preaching the Gospel in Thessalonica, he didn’t take up an offering for his expenses. He worked as a tent-maker to support himself. Listen to his reasoning.

We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.
2 Thessalonians 3:9

The word follow in this verse is the same word, imitate that we’ve been talking about. Paul wanted his life to accurately portray what it meant to live for Christ. In that way, those who were looking to him as a leader would be able to see the mature lifestyle lived out.

I need to live with this thought in mind. My actions are either spurring someone on to greater growth in Christ; or giving them permission to walk in the flesh. You may not like it, but that’s what leadership is all about.

It should be our goal, as godly leaders, to have the same mindset as Paul.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1

Be that mature role-model that others can look to and follow.

Question: How have you seen your example positively affecting the lives of others?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Walking in Faith, Hope & Love

In my last post we finished looking at the book of James, the first epistle given by the Holy Spirit to the church. During that time, a man named Saul of Tarsus was persecuting the believers.

After an encounter with Christ Himself, Saul became a Christian and his life was totally changed. He was eventually called to preach and became a missionary to the gentiles. The next revelation of God’s Word to the church was through this man, who changed his name to Paul.

On one of his journeys, Paul went to the city of Thessalonica and many were saved. (These events can be read in more detail in Acts 16-18.) Because of intense persecution, Paul had to leave quickly. This immediate exit caused him to be concerned about the health of the newly formed church.

Paul eventually traveled to Corinth, where he stayed for over a year. During that time, he sent Timothy to check-up on the church at Thessalonica. Timothy brought back a good report that the young believers were standing in the truth.

The letter of First Thessalonians was written to encourage this church, after Paul listened to Timothy’s report.

Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-3

Paul opens the letter by remembering their faith, hope, and love. These are the three things that the Bible says will be with us eternally. Too often we think about them only in spiritual terms.

We sometimes get the idea that they’re just good feelings that Christians should enjoy. Some believers act like they’re wonderful gifts that should be tucked quietly away in our hearts.

NO WAY!!! According to Paul, faith, hope, and love are the sparks that ignite our ministry before God. There are three different things that happen in us as a result of their influence upon us.

First, faith produces our work. That word literally means your assignment. It’s the task that God has given you. As you go before God in faith, He gives you grace for the calling He’s placed upon your life. As I trust God more and more, I learn to follow His ways. Eventually I start to understand why He wanted me in His kingdom. Faith causes me to stand in my assignment.

Then comes love – it prompts us to labor. That word labor, means to use up your strength in performing a task. Without the love of God, we’ll never pour ourselves into the calling He’s placed upon us. We’re called to work with all of our strength. Without love, that will never happen.

Finally, hope inspires endurance. It’s easy to start out strong, but it’s how we finish that matters the most. Hope is the biblical word for expectation. If I do my part, then I can expect God to show up and do His part.

That’s what keeps me going even when I don’t feel like it. I know what God says in His Word. Because I place my expectation on Him, I can continue to live for the Lord. Hope gives you the endurance to persevere to the end.

Let faith, hope, and love give you more than just a warm feeling. Let them spur you on to accomplishing your destiny in the Lord’s Kingdom.

Question: How have you seen faith, hope and love at work in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2017 in Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Last Days’ Finances

What’s your attitude toward money? Is there a different view we need to take because we’re living in the last-days? James has something to tell us about this.

Because the book of James was the first book written in the New Testament, the following passage is the first mention of the last-days.

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.
James 5:1-3

Please understand that James is not condemning you simply because you have a lot of money. It’s the attitude that’s wrong. There are certain key words that give us a clue.

He keeps repeating the word “your” in this passage. Your wealth, your clothes, and your gold and silver. He explains that these were things that were amassed or reserved for your own use in the last-days.

This is in stark contrast to what the believer’s attitude toward wealth should truly be. Everything I own actually belongs to God – it’s all His property. He’s made me to be a steward over it while it’s in my possession.

The person who thinks that this wealth is all mine for me to do with as I please is acting according to their flesh. It’s selfish and has no place in the kingdom of God. That’s what James is speaking to. He takes it even further.

Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.
James 5:4

I believe that we’re very close to the coming of the Lord. I also believe that in our generation we’ll see a last great harvest of souls before Christ’s return. But the reality is that this harvest needs to be financed.

In the last days God is going to bring financial blessings into the lives of His people. But these riches are not for us to spend totally on our own pleasures. Much of it is to be used to preach the Gospel. We need to reach as many as we can before the end comes.

As a minister of the Gospel, I’m trusting the Lord for the finances I need to do my part in winning this generation. I have to admit, I’ve cried out to God, asking Him why there seems to be so many uncaring Christians. I’m talking about those who simply hoard up wealth with no thought toward missions giving, or even getting involved in any kind of outreach project.

You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.
James 5:5-6

That’s the problem. Not that they have money. But that they’re using it for luxury and self-indulgence. When we withhold money that God is calling us to use for outreach; men and women are condemned to eternity without God. Many of them could have been reached and saved if the Gospel was financed and presented to them.

Don’t fall victim to this trap. According to James’ prophecy in this passage you have a choice to make. If you hoard it up, with no though of God’s will, you’re going to lose it. If, on the other hand, you obey the Holy Spirit’s prompting on how to use it; you’ll have a rich reward now and waiting in eternity.

Question: How have you been blessed by financing the Gospel?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Knowing and Doing

I’ve been posting about how James exhorts us to keep watch over our speaking. Today we will deal with how submitted we are to God. It’s a passage of Scripture that, I think, is usually misunderstood.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
James 4:13-14

In order to understand this passage, you need to see the assumptions that James is making. He’s speaking to believers who have no care about God’s will for their life. How do I know this?

First of all, they say “we will” go there, we will buy and sell, and we will make money. They’re saying all of this without ever knowing what’s really going to happen. They didn’t go on this trip because they felt the Lord impressing them to go. It was all about their desire.

This is clear from the next verses.

Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
James 4:15-17

When James says that you boast and brag, it literally means that you rejoice in your self-confidence. That’s the key to what he’s speaking of; SELF confidence. When we’re confident in what we can achieve, we usually forget about God and His desire for our lives.

One of the problems in translating is that there’s not much punctuation in the original Greek. There’s sometimes more than one way to read a verse depending on which word you emphasize. I believe that, in the context of what James is saying here, a better way of reading the first line is, “Instead, you ought to speak if it’s the Lord’s will, and live, and do this or that.”

It’s all about spending time with the Lord, knowing His will, and then speaking about what He’s told us to do. If you’re going to do something, do it because you feel led of the Holy Spirit.

I think that makes more sense in light of the last sentence in the above passage. I don’t believe that James is just adding some random thought about doing good. It’s all a part of the same exhortation.

You need to know that you’re in the center of God’s will. Of course, that’s why many choose not to seek God’s will. They’re afraid that it won’t agree with what they want to do.

Once you’ve spent the time and effort to know God’s plan for your life, you can’t simply ignore it. The Holy Spirit would continue to remind you and draw to complete your calling. Some people feel that it’s better just to do what they want and never ask God.

Many people make doing their own thing sound holy. They say, “I’m going to do this, God willing.” What they mean is, “This is what I want to do and I hope God doesn’t stop me from doing it.” At least that’s what I meant when I used to say that.

The key is that we need to know what God wants us to do before we start doing it. If God wants it accomplished, then it’s blessed without me even asking for a blessing. If it’s not God’s will, it won’t be blessed no matter how hard I pray for it.

Spend quality time in God’s presence. In that way you’ll know that what you’re doing is of God. You can then walk in the assurance that everything you put your hand to will be blessed.

Question: What has the Lord called you to accomplish for Him?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2017 in Ministry, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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