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Category Archives: Ministry

A Teaching Testimonial

As we come near the end of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he begins to give some short exhortations.  I find this next one to be of particular importance.

Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
Galatians 6:6

I’m obviously partial to this one because I’m an instructor in the Word of God.  Many times teachers never find out the effects that they have on someone’s life.

That’s because teaching is a cumulative process.  Changes in those being instructed don’t happen overnight.  Each new concept received, brings a tiny step forward.

Over time, these little pieces add up to a life that’s been brought to a new place in Christ.  That’s why we need to periodically take stock of where we are in our Christian walk.  Then, when we see where we are in our progress, we take note of where we learned these things from.

This verse tells us to communicate the good things we see in our lives with the ones who instructed us.  In that way, the teachers will be encouraged that their work was not in vain.

I remember my Sunday School teachers from when I was young.  One of them, Brother Jerry Citro, had a great impact upon my life.

I had just “graduated” into the Junior High Boys’ class.  We were a group known for always clowning around.  But Bro. Jerry loved us and worked with us.

One Sunday morning, he made an announcement to the class.  He told us that for the next few weeks, he wouldn’t be teaching us.  Instead, we would each take a turn teaching to our peers.  It should go without saying that this got quite a negative reaction from the class, but that’s the way it would be.

For the next few weeks, the class was pretty boring, to say the least.  The students either didn’t remember that it was their turn, or didn’t care.  I remember sitting in class listening to students reading the workbook to us.

Then it came to my turn.  I made a decision that I didn’t want to look foolish by not preparing anything.  So at some point during the week I read the lesson and wrote down some notes.  I also prayed for God’s help, since I had never done anything like this before.

That’s when it happened.  I got up in front of the class to teach.  My stomach was in knots.  But at least I had prepared something.

I don’t remember anything I said or taught that day.  I do remember that Bro. Jerry had a big smile as he thanked me for teaching at the end of the class.  I also remember that a couple of my friends came to me afterward and told me how much they enjoyed my talk.

As I look back on this experience, I realize it was that day when I first had the thought that maybe God wants me to teach.  If Bro Jerry had not made us participate, would I even have made it to where I am today?

Brother Jerry has since gone on to his reward in Heaven.  I have no doubt that he heard the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

But there’s something that brings me joy in all of this.  That’s the fact that on more than one occasion, I was able to communicate to him just how big a role he played in my ministry.  Every life I affected with the Word of God can be traced back to his faithfulness.

We need to be aware of the “Brother Jerry’s” in our lives.  I’ve had many more teachers that changed my life.  All of them should be thanked and made to understand their effect on us.  Don’t neglect this vital part of receiving God’s Word.

Question: Who are the teachers that have affected your life the most?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on November 6, 2017 in Encouragement, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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What’s Driving You?

If you’ve been following my posts, then you know that we should be driven by the Holy Spirit.  Time in His presence should be strengthening us on the inside and propelling us forward.  That’s how we fulfill our destiny in Christ.

But as we continue our study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we see that there’s another driving force that could be detrimental to our spiritual walk.

Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Galatians 5:26

The word translated as conceited in this verse means that someone is after vain or empty glory.  To understand this we must first understand what glory is.  We use that word a lot, especially about God.  In spite of that, most Christians don’t really know what it means.

Glory is the amount of weight that you assign to someone’s opinion.  To give God glory means that we place what He says higher than anyone else’s word.  That means that what God says about me is more important than the word of the doctors, reporters, financial advisors, or even the voice of my past.

But this verse is talking about empty glory.  That means that I place my opinion higher than anyone else’s.  The reason it’s empty is that it’s usually based on what I perceive as my high level of spiritual performance.

Empty glory is all about me.  It’s how great I’m doing and I want you to know about it.  I want you to acknowledge that I’m more spiritual than you.  This kind of thinking is empty because my walk with God has nothing to do with my abilities and everything to do with the power of the Holy Spirit.

According to Paul, there are two factors involved in this empty glory.  The first is that we provoke each other.  That literally means to call someone out or to challenge them.

I’ve seen this even in ministry circles.  When I was a new pastor it used to annoy me, but now I’m just amused by it.  With some ministers, the first thing they ask when they initially meet you is, “What seminary did you graduate from?”

Then, based upon your answer, they decide how much value they’ll place upon your beliefs.  It has nothing to do with the anointing of God on your life or ministry.  (For the record – I haven’t completed seminary yet.  I’ll let you assign a value to my opinions based on my posts.)

Of course, this happens with church people as well.

“How many chapters a day do you read?  I read through the whole Bible every year.”

“How many hours a day do you spend in prayer?  I get up at 4 AM every morning to seek God.”

We call people out so that we can brag about our great spiritual accomplishments.  Fortunately, the move of the Holy Spirit in our lives isn’t based upon how many chapters a day that we read, or what time we wake up.

The second part of empty glory is envy or jealousy.  This is also used so we can feel better about ourselves.

It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.
Philippians 1:15

There are those who witness for Christ out of rivalry.  It’s like they’re placing another notch on their spiritual gun when they lead someone to Christ.  Then they try to make you feel bad because you don’t witness to others the way they do.

Of course, even Paul had to concede that preaching Christ is a good thing, no matter the motive.  (Philippians 1:18)  But if it’s more about how great I am than it is about Christ, that’s what makes it vain and hollow.

Watch your attitudes and let the Holy Spirit be the driving force in your life and ministry.

Question: How can you be a better encouragement to others in the body of Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2017 in Legalism, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Gentleness

In today’s post, I’ll be talking about the fruit of gentleness as found in Galatians 5:23.   Many people associate gentleness with weakness.  In actuality, just the opposite is true.  According to Scripture, it’s impossible to be gentle if you’re weak.  You must be walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I don’t think anyone would accuse Jesus of being weak.  He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  Yet this is what it says about Him as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey…

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'”
Matthew 21:4-5

The question is; was that the best the Lord could come up with to ride into Jerusalem?  If it was…if all He could come up with was a donkey, then He was pretty weak.  The fact is that Jesus had the power to break through the heavens, coming down from the clouds on a white stallion.

Even though the Lord has great power, He chose not to use it on that occasion.  This is the true spirit of gentleness.  Look at how it operated in the Apostle Paul’s life.

There were some people in the Corinthian church who were opposing Paul’s authority.  He gave them an interesting choice in his letter to them.

What do you prefer?  Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?
1 Corinthians 4:21

There would be no reason for Paul to threaten them with the “whip” of apostolic authority if he didn’t have any.  The truth is that the apostle had the authority needed to put them in their place.  Yet, his desire was to not have to use it.

So if we were to define gentleness according to its use in Scripture, I’d say that it’s placing my power, under God’s control.

This is the hardest thing to do sometimes.  That’s especially true when I know that I’m in the right.  I want to bring the full weight of my scriptural authority down on their heads.  Unfortunately, that’s usually not the best idea.  I need to be led by the Holy Spirit in my responses to people.

This is why I must spend time in the spirit.  I need to be able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in all the situations I’m going through.  This is true for all church leaders.

Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:25-26

That’s because the goal is not to prove that I’m right or that you’re wrong.  The ultimate objective is a life that is turned around for God’s glory.  Many times, by our arrogance, we win the battle, yet lose the war for the hearts of people.

We may have proved our case, but they were never set free from the devil’s bondage.  True gentleness allows for the working of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives.  So we need to listen and obey His voice, even when our tendency is to defend ourselves.

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
Galatians 6:1

This teaching is found throughout the Scriptures.  Gentleness brings restoration.  When you cultivate the spirit of gentleness, you’re participating in drawing someone back to Christ.  Spend time with the Holy Spirit and allow Him to produce this fruit in you.

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

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Freedom and the Flesh

We’ve been given perfect freedom in Christ.  But just how far does that freedom allow us to go?  There are many who preach the Law so that Christians won’t live for themselves.  What’s the Biblical view?

You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Galatians 5:13

In order to understand our freedom, we need to see the greater context of Scripture.  There’s a flow to how the Holy Spirit revealed the Word to the church.  Knowing this will give us added insight.

The first mention of our liberty in Christ was when the Holy Spirit revealed it to James.  In his book, he simply referred to the Word of God as the perfect law that gives liberty (James 1:25).  But it’s in the letter to the Galatians that we see the first explanation of that freedom.

Actually, in this verse, we see the first revelation of how freedom and the flesh relate together.  So this gives us the foundational truth we need to understand.

The first thing I see is that we are called to be free.  That’s important.  Our freedom in Christ is a positional freedom.  That means I have to respond to it if I want to see the manifestation in my life.

If I want to walk in freedom, I need to cultivate my relationship with the Holy Spirit.  He’s the One that will turn my position of freedom into something I can experience on a daily basis.

Now we can go to Paul’s next statement.  He says that we must not use our freedom to indulge the sinful nature.  When I read this verse in the Greek language, I see an important truth.  Paul says; don’t start off in your liberty with the flesh as your goal.

Motivation is everything.  What’s your first thought when you hear the word, freedom.  Do you think, “Great! I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, and God won’t care!”?  If that’s your thinking, then you’re too immature to walk in God’s freedom.

The point of this liberty is that I’m free to serve God while He’s cleaning me up.  I don’t have to wait until I’m perfect.  I can listen for His call and obey Him.  As I’m serving the Lord, if I make a mistake I can repent and move on.

Freedom is knowing that I please God just as I am, right now.  As I grow and mature in Christ, I’ll continue to please God.  It’s not based on my performance, but on His work in me.

That brings me to Paul’s third point.  When I’m walking in freedom, I can serve God by serving others.  I’m not worried about how God sees me.  I can do what I’m called to do without any hindrance.

Because I know that I’m loved by God, I’m free to love others.  I don’t have to worry about whether they’ll accept me or not.  I’m already acceptable to the Lord.  That’s true liberty.

Trying to follow the law is just the opposite.

The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
Galatians 5:14-15

When I’m performing for acceptance from God, everything becomes a competition.  I have to prove that I’m better than you.  That means I have to pick on your faults and emphasize my strengths.  A group of people with those attitudes will never do anything great for God.

Choose freedom.  Cultivate your walk with the Spirit and let Him do His work in you.  And always remember that God loves who you are right now.

Question: How has God’s love changed your view of yourself?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Is there a “Glass Ceiling” in Christ?

Many people accuse the Apostles of being male chauvinists.  They say that in their writings they speak mostly to men and assign women to a lower position.  I believe that this is an inaccurate assessment based upon a mere surface reading of the Bible.

As we continue our study of the book of Galatians, Paul begins to talk about the concept of sonship in Christ.  It’s an important truth that all believers – both men and women – need to understand.

Let me start by saying that I’m not going into a detailed discussion of women in the ministry.  However, a careful reading of who Paul greeted in his letters, and how they were titled, shows that Paul ordained women as both pastors and apostles.

There’s no Scriptural “glass ceiling” that would keep a woman from attaining to any position or calling. It’s all based upon the will of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:26-29

What I really want to talk about is the use of the words son and sonship in Scripture.  Unlike what many teach, it was not the Apostles trying to make the church a Patriarchy.  In reality, it was just the opposite.

In the cultures of the day, which included Roman, Greek, and Middle Eastern peoples, the place of women were at the bottom of the social ladder.  At best, they were a piece of art to be seen and appreciated.  At worst, they were treated as property, slaves, or a family pet.

In Peter and Paul’s letters, this concept was totally done away with.   They elevate women to a new level of equality unheard of in their day.

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
1 Peter 3:7

Peter used a word in this passage that’s translated heirs with you.  It’s literally the word co-heirs.  This means that the wife is someone with an equal share and claim on the inheritance.  This was unheard of in those ancient cultures.

Women rarely, if ever, shared in their family inheritance.  But in the family of God, all this has changed.  Now women are considered of equal importance in the spiritual inheritance of the Lord.

In Christ, there’s no longer the differences and limitations placed upon us by society.  These have all been done away with at the cross.  In the first verse we looked at, Paul says that there is neither…male nor female. YOU ARE ALL SONS.

Why would the Apostle make such an absurd sounding statement?  He did it to emphasize the truth that in the Kingdom of God women have all the rights and privileges of a firstborn son.  God sees a woman on the same spiritual level as a man.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Romans 8:15-16

If you’re a woman of God, then never feel inferior or of less importance than a man.  You can go as high in ministry as the Holy Spirit will bring you.

Question: How has the ministry of women positively affected your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2017 in Encouragement, Ministry, Sonship, The Church

 

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Different but Effective

I don’t know about you, but in some circles, I’ve found Christianity to be very judgmental.  No, not about sin, but about other Christians.  I’ve heard so many believers commenting about a ministry they saw on TV.

“I don’t know if they’re really saved.  I’d never preach like that.”

As we go through Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we see that the apostles understood the Gospel.  The message will always be Jesus Christ – crucified, buried, risen, and ascended.  The methods we use to bring out the message will always change.

Here’s what Paul found when he met with the apostles in Jerusalem.

As for those who seemed to be important — whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance — those men added nothing to my message.  On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews.
Galatians 2:6-7

I think that it’s interesting to note what Paul had to overcome.  When he met with Peter, James, and John, he knew that formerly they were fishermen.  None of them had any Temple training like Paul did.  Yet he humbled himself and submitted his ministry to their scrutiny.

This is a sermon in itself.  There are times that God has us serving under people who aren’t as smart, trained, or experienced as us.  We have to watch our attitudes, stay humble, and be committed to our calling in Christ.

But what I really want to bring out is that in this meeting, the apostles understood that there was a Gentile method of preaching and a Jewish method of preaching.  They didn’t try to change one another.  They realized that there’s no cookie cutter for the ministry.

The methods may change depending on who you’re trying to reach with the Gospel.  I find that this alone causes a lot of strife in the body of Christ.

“I just visited a church where they let their people take coffee with them into the sanctuary.  I think that’s sacrilegious.”

“That pastor preaches in jeans and a t-shirt, how can he be a real minister?”

The simple fact is that my methods and personality will never speak to everyone.  If we want the world evangelized; different cultures, generations, and education levels; then we need to embrace the different ministries that are speaking to these people.

For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.  James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.  They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.  All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
Galatians 2:8-10

The bottom line is that in all of these methods, the Holy Spirit is at work.  People are being saved.  Lives are being changed by the power of God.

Yes, there may be some churches that I wouldn’t feel comfortable attending.  But that simply means that their method doesn’t speak to who I am.  It in no way invalidates that ministry.  I’m glad that the work of the Gospel is not limited to my comfort zone.

Question: How often do you pray for ministries that are very different from yours?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2017 in Ministry, The Church, The Gospel

 

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God Pleaser or Man Pleaser?

Who are you trying to please by your ministry?  That’s a question we all need to answer.  It determines your destiny in Christ.

I’m continuing my look at the book of Galatians.  It’s Paul’s letter combatting legalism.  He starts off by talking about his own walk with the Lord.  What was the Apostle’s motive toward the ministry?

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10

This verse deals with some key motivational attitudes.  What is it that you’re actively trying to accomplish in your ministry?  If your fulfillment isn’t coming from Christ, then there may be some course correction that’s needed.

The first important word in this verse is approval.  The phrase, trying to win the approval of men, means to convince men.

Are you trying to convince people that they need to serve God?  If you are, that’s the first sign of a man pleaser.  It’s not our job to convince people.

We’re called to hear from the Holy Spirit, then to speak the Word that we’ve heard.  It’s the job of the Holy Spirit to use the Word to convict and convince those listening.  This is something Paul was keenly aware of.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

The next important word is trying.  It means to desire and seek after.

Where are you seeking your validation from?  That may require some soul searching to truly answer the question.  Sometimes we don’t even realize that we’re looking to man.

You preach the Word.  Many lives are touched and blessed by the message.  One person comes up to you after the service and tells you they didn’t agree with you.  Suddenly you feel like a failure and want to quit the ministry.  That’s a sign that you’re seeking in the wrong direction.

It’s nice when our ministry has a positive effect on those who receive it.  But that’s not always a requirement of the assignment we’ve been given.  I’m glad that Christ didn’t rely upon the response of the Pharisees to continue His plan to save us.

The final phrase I want to look at is to please men.  That literally means to get an emotional response from people.

Are you trying to stir people’s emotions?  Emotionalism and hype are the mainstays of the entertainment industry.  In case you didn’t already know this, the ministry of the Word is NOT a form of entertainment.

It’s so unfortunate that many churches build their services around the American entertainment model.  Please understand; I know that we have to present the message of Christ in a way that’s relevant to our society.  In that sense, there will always be a measure of professionalism.

We want the music, the flow of the service, and the time investment to be welcoming to those attending.  It’s the motivation that needs to be examined.  What’s the goal?

Am I choreographing the service so that at one point people will stand to their feet and cheer?  Am I out to bring tears to peoples’ eyes?

According to Paul, my ultimate goal is to serve Christ.  I firmly believe that if I do that well; then emotions will be stirred.  But instead of a passing excitement, their lives will be changed by the power of God.

Like the Apostle Paul, we need to have the attitude of a God pleaser.

Question: When have you had to choose between pleasing God or man?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in Legalism, Ministry, The Church

 

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