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Spiritual Planning

As we continue through Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, we see an interesting admission.  Paul has to apologize to them for not being able to complete a visit that he had scheduled with them.

I think that it can be a lesson to us all.

Because I was confident of this, I planned to visit you first so that you might benefit twice.  I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea.  When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, “Yes, yes” and “No, no”?  But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.”
2 Corinthians 1:15-18

Paul had to clear up this misunderstanding so that the church would understand the difference between his plans and his message.  The word, planned, in the above verse actually means to be willing.

So Paul is saying that he was confident about his ability to get there and he was willing to go as well.  His goal was to visit them twice as he traveled to and from Macedonia.

Paul makes it clear that he doesn’t plan his trips lightly.  He takes everything into consideration.

Even more than that, he literally says that he does not make plans in a fleshly manner.  Paul always strove to operate in the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  He had made this planned visit after much prayer.

He didn’t approach his ministry with a frivolous attitude.  He didn’t think, “I’ll tell them I’m coming for a visit, but I’ll play it by ear.  We’ll see while we’re on the road whether I want to go there or not.”

We need to learn the lesson of submitting our plans to the Lord.  It’s not a matter of making our plans first, then asking God to bless it.  It’s all about finding God will first.  Then we know the plan is blessed already.

James understood this and wrote about it.

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.  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.
James 4:13-16

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 by the Holy Spirit.

Question: What plan has the Holy Spirit given you as you’ve spent time in His presence?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2020 in Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Gift of Prayer

In my last post, I talked about how God watches over us in challenging times.  Paul continues this thought as we move forward in Second Corinthians.

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.  Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
2 Corinthians 1:10-11

Paul starts with a testimony and a faith statement.  He declares that God has delivered them and will continue to deliver them.  This is an important attitude that we all need to cultivate.

He goes on from there to explain why he has such faith.  He bases it on the fact that he knows who’s supporting him and his ministry.

“…as you help us by your prayers.”

Paul knew that his ministry was being upheld by the prayers of many believers throughout the area.   As he had ministered to them, they were now helping him.

This is something that’s left out of many Christians’ daily routines.  We need to be praying for others.  We need to know the ministers, missionaries, and ministries that we support.  Then, we need to be praying for them regularly.

This is something we learned when we studied the book of James – the first book of the New Testament to be given to the church.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
James 5:16

We need to be uplifting each other in prayer.  It’s not just a job for those who are called to be intercessors.  Every believer should have a list of people and ministries that they regularly bring before the Lord.

Paul’s final statement gives us the reason why this is so important.  He says that many will see God’s grace at work, and give thanks for His faithfulness.  That’s the result we’re looking for.

The power of God at work in our lives is an awesome testimony to those around us.  It gives them something to think about.  It empowers the saints and convicts the unbelievers.

I love the way this verse reads in the original Greek.  Paul says that because of the prayers of many, this gift was bestowed upon us.

Do you realize that when you pray for someone, you’re actually giving them a gift?  You might not be able to give money or a physical item to everyone.  But your prayers are more valuable than material possessions.

Please don’t get me wrong.  If the Lord prompts you to give an offering or a gift to some ministry, you need to do so.  But apart from that, we can have a lifestyle of blessing and supporting ministries every day of our lives.

If you don’t already have this habit in place, you need to make a list of all the people and ministries that God has placed before you.  Then, even if you only pray for one a day, start giving them the gift of prayer support.

By the way, while you’re at it, put my name on that list as well.  I thank God for all those who faithfully uplift me, my family, and my ministry in prayer.

Question: Who is on your prayer support list?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2020 in Ministry, Missions, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Coach it Forward

I’m continuing my look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  He was talking about the way we can help one another in the same way that we were helped in our troubles.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:5-7

The first thing Paul tells us is that Christ suffered the same challenges that we face.  The Lord is aware of what we’re going through.

The important thing to know is that through Christ we have an abundance of comfort.  But just what does that mean?  The word, comfort, means a lot of things to different people.

Usually, when people think of comfort, they’re talking about something soft and familiar – like a favorite easy chair.  Unfortunately, soft and comfortable is not what this word means.

Comfort, in Scripture, usually comes from a Greek word that means to call alongside.  It’s what a coach does when he or she is dealing with their athletes.

A good coach is not concerned with how comfortable the athletes are.  Instead, their goal is to make sure that they’re successfully completing their training routine.

Actually, that’s the job of the Holy Spirit in our lives right now

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 14:26

Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will be our Counselor.  That word, counselor, is the same as comfort in the above verse.  In other words, the Holy Spirit is to be our Life-Coach.

It’s His job to come alongside us and call out the instructions we need to victoriously face the challenges that come our way.  We need to be listening for His voice.

So, as we receive coaching from the Holy Spirit, we can pass on what we’ve learned.  When we see others in that same situation, we can share what our Coach told us.

According to Paul, the result is patient endurance.  It’s the ability to remain in your calling without giving up.  That comes from the expectation that God will work through you for His glory.

Then, as we pass on this coaching, the body of Christ will be built up.  This is especially what we need in our generation.

In the world, there’s so much uncertainty right now.  But in Christ, we know that the Lord is working out all things for our good.

Question: How has the Holy Spirit coached you recently?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2020 in Encouragement, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Help Given and Received

For the past couple of years, I have been posting systematically through the New Testament.  I’ve been going book by book in the order that they were revealed to the church through the Holy Spirit.

Recently, I put that on pause because I felt led to do a series on spiritual warfare.  I’m now going back to where I left off in the original series.  I had just finished 1 Corinthians at that time, so I’ll now begin with 2 Corinthians.

Paul wrote his first letter, and sent it off with Titus to Corinth during the two years he spent at Ephesus (Acts chapter 19).  He then had to leave because of the rioting.  He went to Macedonia and waited for Titus to return with a report of his visit.

It turned out that many in Corinth received the epistle favorably.  However, there were still some who rejected Paul’s authority and teaching.  So Paul sends off another letter to respond to what he’s heard.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
2 Corinthians 1:1-4

The word trouble in this passage is actually the Greek word for pressure.  I don’t know about you, but personally, I dislike pressure.  I try my best to avoid it.

In actuality, we’ll never be exempt from the challenges and pressures of life.  But there is a positive outcome that it can bring us.

Pressure qualifies us for ministry. When we learn to endure pressure, we can help others who are undergoing the same things.

Most of us like to be helped.  When facing a difficult challenge, even a word of encouragement can go a long way.

If you’re like most people, then you’ve relied upon help at one time or another.  Scripture teaches us that part of showing gratefulness is taking the blessing you received and passing it on to someone else.

It can be anything – a kind word, food, a ride, or a helping hand carrying things.  If it’s done in obedience to God’s Word, it’s powerful and life-changing.

What we need to start realizing is that even though all these good things came through the people around us, God originated them.  All the blessings that we receive come from the Lord’s hand.  It’s in thankfulness to Him that we’re willing to pass a blessing on to someone else.

So when we help someone else in their pressure, it’s the Lord who’s actually helping them through us.  We become a channel of God’s love reaching out to those around us.

Look for an opportunity, today, to be a blessing to someone.  Do something unexpected.  Take the good things you’ve received from God and pass them on to someone around you.  The Lord will see to it that someday, in some way, you’ll be rewarded for your act of gratefulness to Him.

Question: What are some pressures that God has given you the victory over?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2020 in Encouragement, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Spiritual Warfare – The Final Challenge

This will be my last post in the series about spiritual warfare.  I’m looking at Christ as our example.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Matthew 4:8-9

This was probably the greatest attack the enemy could have aimed at the Lord.  Jesus knew that God’s plan called Him to buy the world with His blood on the cross.  This would be an easy way out of that suffering.  But if He took the deal He would have lost it all.

It’s clear that the final attack is aimed at the world.  Why the world?  Remember the goal…our goal is not personal comfort or the safety of the church.  What we’re fighting for is to set the captives free.

That’s why we pick up the shield and advance forward toward the enemy’s camp.  It’s to save souls.

The battle must go from personal to the kingdom.  What I talked about in my last two posts was just a defensive battle.  Now you’re at hell’s gates.  Now you’re taking something from the enemy.

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Matthew 4:10

Jesus saw through the devil’s deception.  It was all about worship.  The Lord was being tempted to pay homage to the ruler of the world.

We fall into that trap when we decide that we want to impress the world.  You can’t do both; you can’t impress them and free them at the same time.

We are here to impose God’s freedom on the enemy’s kingdom.  But we lack understanding if we think it’s like opening up a jail or a prison camp.  It’s not like that.  It’s more like an opium den.  The people we’re trying to set free are all addicts to sin, just like you and I were.  It’s destroying them, but they don’t want freedom.

By the power of God, the church is out to break down the strongholds of the enemy.  In the eyes of the world, it’s like we’re removing their supply of drugs.  It’s the sin they’re addicted to that we’re attacking.  That’s why we’re so hated much of the time.

But that’s why we’re in the battle.  It’s to save lives.  The real question of all this is; are you willing?  Are you ready and able to go to spiritual war?  This generation of America is at stake.

The Lord is looking for the faithful.  He’s calling to assemble His army.  You’re needed on the front lines.

Question: What role do you play in this war to set the captives free from their bondage to sin?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Spiritual Battle #1 – The Flesh

The spiritual war that we find ourselves in has many fronts.  Over the next few posts, I want to talk about them.  The first, and probably the fiercest, is the battle against our own flesh.

The truth is that our flesh puts a ceiling on what we can do for God.  It doesn’t matter how much you want to do God’s will.  Your flesh is your greatest hindrance.

Too many Christians want to take on the devil before they even have a victory on their home turf.  I believe that the enemy gets blamed for some things that we bring on ourselves.  This is the first struggle that we need to face.

Look at how the Apostle Peter describes it.

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
1 Peter 2:11

This is actually a verse that’s rich in description.  We miss it in the English translation.  It literally reads, hold yourself away from the longings of the flesh which is on a military campaign against your soul.

This verse says a lot.  The first thing I see is that my flesh has a will, with desires and longings.  As a matter of fact all the parts of my being – body, soul, and spirit – have a will of their own.

“But I’m not a bad person.  I don’t have any evil intentions.”

Please understand that evil is not the big problem.  That’s not all there is to this struggle.

For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
Galatians 5:17

Your spirit wants to serve and please God.  It wants the Lord’s best for you.  Your spirit desires to see you do great things in the name of Christ.

Your flesh wants just the opposite.  It doesn’t necessarily want you to do evil.  It only wants you to keep from fulfilling God’s plan for your life.  Distraction is one of its chief weapons.

Another thing I learn from Peter’s letter is that my flesh is actually on a military campaign.  Why exactly do you go to war?  Simply put, to win a victory; to dominate and crush your enemy.  That’s the goal of our flesh in regard to our spirit.

But even more than that, a military campaign speaks of something bigger than just a simple “hit and run” exchange.  My flesh is in it for the long haul.  I have to realize that this war is not going away until I receive my resurrected body at the return of Christ.

Too often we get complacent because we see a momentary victory over the flesh.  We think we have everything under control so we get a little lazy.  We stop doing the things that brought us to this level.  We quickly find out that the flesh wasn’t gone, just waiting for a better opportunity to rise up.

How do we overcome in this struggle?  First, I can tell you from experience what doesn’t work.  I’ve tried will-power, New Year’s resolutions, guilt, and self-discipline to tame the flesh.  These are all wasted efforts.

If we’re going to truly walk in victory over our sinful, human nature, then we have to understand the strategy.  Scripture is clear about how this is accomplished.  If we’re going to walk in freedom, then we have to do it God’s way.

Beginning in my next post, I’ll outline the scriptural way to attack and overcome the flesh.  But don’t expect a one-time, do it and forget it solution.  This battle must be fought with consistency for your whole life.

Question: What methods have you tried to overcome the desires of your flesh?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Path to the Anointing

This is the last post in a series I’m writing to explain what walking in the anointing of God means.  It seems that the church is under the impression that just because we have the Holy Spirit in us, we have the same anointing as Jesus.

Hopefully, based upon my last few posts, you understand why that’s not the case unless you go through the same process He went through.  We need to seek God’s approval to walk in His power.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15

We’re now in a position to understand what Paul was telling Timothy in this verse.  Do your bestbe diligent – to present yourself to God as one anointed.  When you’re approved before God there’s no need to be ashamed.

This is a big problem among God’s people in our generation.  We’re full of boldness when we’re in praise and worship.  But on the job or at school it’s a different story.  We keep our faith inside, not wanting to “offend” anyone.  That’s foolishness since every other group will openly declare what they believe to be true.

It all comes down to power.  I want to say to those I work with, “God loves you.  He’ll change your life.  He’ll heal you and bless you.”  But I worry that if they let me pray with them, nothing will happen.

Furthermore, what if I’m not healed and my life isn’t blessed?  What if they ask me about that?  I’d rather just keep quiet and avoid the embarrassment.

The church needs to be on its knees seeking approval for ministry.  Then, when the anointing is upon us, we’ll not worry about what the world or our friends think.

I believe that the next great revival will involve the church coming to an understanding of this truth.  But we’ll have to attain a certain level of intimacy before the Lord will manifest His anointing in us.  This is probably going to be the hardest move for the church to enter into.

I don’t think it will come as a wave, but as individuals begin paying the price for God’s approval.  Then, they must show up at the place and time of their anointing.  It could be a big or small meeting.  It won’t matter as long as it’s God’s appointed place.

Do what it takes to secure your anointing.  Follow the example of Christ.  Seek intimacy with the Father.  Then, as the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart, walk in obedience to His voice.

Understanding this truth gives us more insight into the spiritual battles we face.  We need this approval in order to wear the helmet and wield the sword.  Too many Christians are entering this struggle with no spiritual weapons.

It’s time for God’s people to submit under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.  We need to allow Him to bring us through His training program.

It’s only when we can correctly handle God’s Word that we’ll be entrusted with true power.  Over the next few posts, I’ll talk about this in more detail.  My desire is to see the church rise to the level God is calling us to.

Question: What could happen if the whole church walked in the anointing of the Lord?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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