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The Church Garden

I’m continuing my series through First Corinthians.  In my last post, we saw that Paul warned against being politically attached to people and personalities.  Instead, we are to be seeking to please the Lord.

Now Paul gives his reasoning for this.

What, after all, is Apollos?  And what is Paul?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe — as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
1 Corinthians 3:5-7

According to this passage, the goal should be growth.  That means both personal growth for the believer and corporate growth for the church.  They are intertwined; you can’t have one without the other.

Also, multiple ministries are needed for growth.  Just one is not enough, no matter how much you like that minister.

As the Senior Pastor of a local church, I was fully aware of this truth.  I would frequently invite guest speakers who I knew had different giftings than my own.  I wanted our church to get all the things needed for growth.

Of course, there were always those who complained about certain ones.

“I’m not partial to his ministry.  I may stay home that week.”

That’s one of the problems in the church.  On the farm, the garden can’t pick and choose who does the work.  It’s obvious that people will love the ones that water more than the ones that identify and pull up the weeds.

All of the ministry gifts are needed if we’re to experience God’s best.  The ones who refuse to sit under certain types of ministries will suffer for it.  Their growth may be stunted…or nonexistent.

On the other side of the coin, each one does his or her job, but we can’t make people grow.  That part of the equation belongs to God.  That’s the same thing that Jesus taught His disciples in a parable.

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like.  A man scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.  All by itself the soil produces grain – first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.  As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
Mark 4:26-29

That might be one of the hardest things to learn as a minister of the Gospel.  Nothing I do will bring about the growth of that seed, once it has been planted.  From then on it’s out of my control.  After the planting it’s time to wait – and that can be the hardest part.

Sometimes we want to force them to produce fruit.  We try to convince and coerce.  That’s usually when we start to push them further away.  We need to learn to plant, then step back and let God provide the increase.

The Word of God, by its very nature, begins to grow below the surface.  It can’t be stopped, but neither can it be hurried along.  It goes at the pace God has set for it.  One thing is certain; it will produce the harvest that God intended it to bring forth.

We all have our part to play in the Kingdom of God.  Some of us plant the seed and some water it.  None of us can make it grow, that’s God’s department.

Question: Have you ever caused bigger problems by trying to force the Word of God to grow in someone’s life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on January 16, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Paul and Denominations

I’ve been posting about Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s rebuking them for using church politics instead of listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?
1 Corinthians 3:4

This is the sign that they’re acting just like the world.  In our self-serving society, we find the person who best represents our opinion.  Then we back them with our agreement and resources.

That’s not how it’s supposed to work in the body of Christ.  Paul and Apollos may have different types of ministry, but both are preaching the Word of God.

“I follow Paul.”  “I follow Apollos.”

To me, that sounds like the start of denominations.  It’s something that Paul didn’t want to happen in the church.  Our goal should be that everyone follows the example of Christ.

As a matter of fact, Jesus had to deal with this issue when teaching His disciples.  I posted about it at the beginning of last year, but it bears repeating.

At one point He was teaching them about welcoming people into the kingdom.  That brought up a question.

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
Mark 9:38

The disciples remember telling someone to stop driving out demons in the name of Jesus.  But their reasoning is important to us.  The Greek verse literally says that the disciples told him to stop because he did not follow us.

Notice that it wasn’t because he didn’t follow Christ, but that he didn’t follow the disciples.  From reading the Gospels, we know that they had a high opinion of themselves.  After all, they gave up everything to follow Christ.  This man, who was driving out demons, didn’t.

On the other hand, even though he didn’t give up everything to follow Jesus, he had the evidence of the power of God operating in his ministry.  He also must have understood a lot of the Lord’s teachings.  People were being delivered as he preached Christ.

This is where we are at our point in history.  Many Christian denominations are a part of the spiritual landscape before us.  What did the Lord say about this?

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said.  “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.  I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”
Mark 9:39-41

By saying this, Jesus has settled the matter of denominations.  Do all of them follow Christ to the same degree?  Obviously not.  But that’s not the issue.  The question is; are they operating in the name of Jesus?

The Lord is telling His disciples that you don’t have to be a super-apostle, trained by Jesus Christ, Himself, in order to get a reward.  If you’ve trusted Christ for your salvation, and your calling is as simple as giving water to someone, you’ll have a reward for fulfilling that calling.

We may not all be in the same denomination, but we must all receive each other in the name of Jesus Christ.  It doesn’t matter who you follow – Luther, Wesley, the Pope, or any other Christian leader.  The goal is that our ultimate standard is Christ.

Question: How have you learned to respect other believers who don’t worship as you do?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2019 in Fellowship, Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Weakness – Qualified for a Miracle

I’m posting from the first letter to the Corinthians.  We’ve been seeing that the message of the cross – Christ crucified – is a message of God’s power and wisdom for the church.  It’s something that needs to be a greater part of our spiritual walk.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
1 Corinthians 1:25

Is God ever foolish or weak?  Absolutely not!  But it does appear that way sometimes.  When Christ went to the cross, it did appear to be a weak and foolish move on His part.  Of course, that was only until the resurrection, when the full wisdom and power of God was revealed.

It’s the same with us.  Sometimes we feel like we have nothing to offer to God.  We don’t have the strength, resources, or wisdom to do the work we’ve been called to do.  But that’s okay, our limitations don’t affect God’s calling on us.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called.  Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Paul is bringing this message to normal people, just like you and me.  We have our weaknesses and struggles.  But that puts us in a good place.  We’re now candidates for a move of God’s power in us.

If you’re feeling unqualified to serve the Lord, then I have a message for you…

“God wants you strong in spirit.”

“It’s time to hear a Word from heaven.”

Right now, the church needs an influx of spiritual warriors – and this is where it starts.  God is calling believers who feel like they don’t measure up.  Maybe you look at your past and think that you have too much baggage.

Why would God ever want someone like that in ministry?

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 1:3-4

The word trouble in this passage is actually the Greek word for pressure.  Pressure qualifies us for ministry.  When we can endure pressure, we can help others who are undergoing the same things.

Whatever you’re going through, God can and will bring restoration.  Then, He’ll use the experiences that you’ve had, both good and bad, to help others.

That’s the wisdom and power of God.  Jesus Christ went through the cross, the burial, and the resurrection.  Sometimes you may feel like your life is over.  All your plans are dead and buried.  All that means is that you’re in a position to see the resurrection power of God manifest in your life.

Then, you can use what you’ve gone through to bring others into that place of power.  You just have to walk by faith, trusting that God will complete His plan in you.  Remember that it’s not about what you have to offer to God, but what He’s already done for you.

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

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2018 in Faith, Ministry, Power of God

 

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Wisdom is not Enough

In my last post, we saw that in the message of the cross of Christ we find the power to live for God.  When we try to do things in our own power, we end up short-circuiting God’s plan for us.  Look at how Paul describes it.

For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise man?  Where is the scholar?  Where is the philosopher of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
1 Corinthians 1:19-20

Scripture makes it clear that we have to leave man’s wisdom out of the equation.  I hate to say it, but many of our church methods in this generation are man-made.  I think that’s why we see a church with a split personality.

On one hand, many churches are growing and have deep, meaningful worship times.  Preaching is as powerful as it’s ever been.  Yet in spite of all this, God’s people seem to be having almost no impact on the society around us.

That’s because the power that results in change is resident in the message of the cross.  Without that Word, everything remains at the comfort level of the world.

The above passage mentions three kinds of people.  There’s the wise man.  That’s the person who is well versed in human wisdom.

Then there’s the scholar.  The literal word that Paul used for this is a scribe.  They were the professional writers of that day.

Finally, he talks about the philosopher.  The Greek word for this means a debater.  These were people who merely discussed things for a living.

Together, this is a lethal combination for the church.  When those who follow the current thinking and trends of society, professional writers, and debaters come together to give direction to the church, then we’re headed for trouble.

Please understand – none of these things are evil in and of themselves.  But when we ignore the leading of the Holy Spirit and totally rely on our wisdom, the kingdom of God will not advance.

In the above passage, Paul quoted a verse from Isaiah the prophet.  I think it’s important to note the verse just before the one he gave us.

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”
Isaiah 29:13

I can look at society and see the trends and wisdom of corporate America.  Then, I can logically come up with a plan to reach the lost, based upon this information.  But without the Holy Spirit’s guidance, I simply have “rules taught by men.”

It’s time that the church moves away from the world’s methods.  Yes, we need to know what’s happening in society.  We need to understand the trends and changes around us.  (After all, I am working at an online ministry!)

However, without quality time spent in the presence of God – it will have no impact.  We need a Word from God – that’s where change takes place.  Allow the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to guide you in your ministry.

Question: What are some differences between God’s wisdom and the world’s?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Will Work for Food

In my last post, Paul gave the Thessalonian church the underlying principle of living an ordered life in Christ.  He also commanded them to avoid those who live in a way that’s outside of God’s order.

Now the apostle applies this truth to a specific case.

For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example.  We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it.  On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.  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.  For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
2 Thessalonians 3:7-10

If you remember, at the beginning of this letter, Paul had to set some things back in order.  The church was confused because of prophecies telling them Christ had already returned.

Because of this false teaching, there must have been some who had stopped working at their jobs in order to “wait for the Lord’s appearing.”  These people then went around expecting other Christians to provide for them while they waited.

Paul made it clear that there was no job description that had you do nothing while others took care of your needs.  Please understand that I’m not talking about those who are unable to work, or have lost their jobs and are in the process of seeking a new one.

Because this was a young church, Paul modeled this lifestyle – making tents to provide a living for himself.  He makes it clear that this wasn’t necessary.  As an apostle, he had the right to ask the church for offerings in support of his ministry.  But instead, he felt it important to be an example of a Christian in the workforce.

Of course, there are those who are of the opinion that ministers, pastors, and missionaries don’t do any work.  They think that prayer and the study of God’s Word isn’t real work.  A simple look at the percentage of believers who come out to a prayer meeting or Bible Study will make it clear that we’re doing what few others want to do.

The fact is that we’re all called to work at something.  Usually, if you’re fulfilling your calling, you’ll enjoy most of what you’re doing.  That’s why Paul summarized with a final command.

We hear that some among you are idle.  They are not busy; they are busybodies.  Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.
2 Thessalonians 3:11-12

We must all seek the Lord for the vocation He’s calling us to.  No matter what it is, whether religious or secular, it can all be done for the glory of Christ.

Question: What’s the work that the Lord has called you to do?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2018 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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To Be Continued…

In my last post, we saw how Paul encouraged the Thessalonian church to remember the way the Gospel was passed down to them.  He now wants them to think about others in need of the truth of Christ.

Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.
2 Thessalonians 3:1

The apostle asks the church to pray for a couple of things.  The first is that the Word of Christ may advance quickly.  He not only wants it to run forward, but to be honored by those who hear it.

That should be our prayer as well.  It’s wonderful that I heard and honored the Word.  I’m saved because of it.  But for me, it shouldn’t end there.  Others need to hear that same life-changing Word.

Paul goes on with his request.

And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.  But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.  We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command.  May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
2 Thessalonians 3:2-5

These two prayers must go hand in hand.  The spreading of the Gospel message, and the protection of those who are bringing it.

Whenever the Word of Christ is preached, there are always two responses.  Some will have faith to believe it.  But there may also be those who oppose it – sometimes violently.

Of course, in our generation, there are those who have gone in a different direction.  There are some who have watered down the message so there will be little chance of persecution.

In Paul’s mind, the number one goal was the spreading and advancement of the Gospel.  Then he would trust God for his personal safety.

In our society it’s different.  Many have set their first goal as the advancement of their own comfort, entertainment, and wealth.  Then, if they have any free time, they can do something for Christ – as long as it doesn’t negatively affect their status in the world.

We need to change our thinking.  We must get back to the original message of the Gospel.  We don’t go out of our way to offend others, but the truth of God’s Word must be our priority.

Then, we’ll find out the truth of Paul’s prayer request.  We pray that the Word of Christ will spread and increase.  We pray that many will accept it.  And we pray that those who deliver it will have God’s divine protection.

Question: Do you see any differences between the way the Gospel spread in the early church and how it spreads in our present experience?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2018 in Ministry, Prayer, Revival, The Gospel

 

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Have You Set Yourself Up as a God?

In my last post, I talked about lawless mankind setting himself up as a god in the church.  This is to happen in the Last Days, which I believe we are currently in.

He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
II Thessalonians 2:4

I mentioned that some believe this verse is talking about the Temple in Jerusalem.

Let me ask you a question.  What if you heard on the radio that the Jew’s just finished a secret reconstruction of the temple?  Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that they took over the whole Temple mount and expelled all of the Moslems who are now in control.

My question is this – would that be God’s Temple?  The answer is simple.  No, that would be the Jew’s Temple.  They could begin offering up sacrifices, but it would mean nothing to God.

No fire would fall from heaven to consume the sacrifice.  As far as God is concerned, it would be just another building.  It wouldn’t be God’s Temple.

What Paul is talking about here is that lawless man, who sets himself up against God, will even get into the Church.  I’m going to say something now that’s going to get some people mad at me.

Think about it, man setting himself up against God.  There are Churches across the country today who decide what to do as a Church by having a vote.

Did they pray about it to see what God wants them to do?  Do they say, “Let’s have fasting and prayer for wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit?”

No!!  What do they do?  “Let’s vote on it, and then we’ll submit it to the finance committee, and then the finance committee will vote on it.”

“Do you think we should have an evangelistic outreach in our neighborhood?”

“Well, I don’t know.  This church building could sure use another coat of paint on it.  Maybe we should do that first and then in a couple of years we’ll see about reaching our community.”

“Why don’t we pray about this?”

“No way!  I put my money into this building, and I’m going to decide what will happen to it.”

Sad to say, this is how many churches around the country are operating.  This is not what I read in Scripture as a Christ-centered church.  God wants a praying church where our goal is to hear God’s will.

It’s a church where the leadership has the freedom to seek God.  Then, as godly men and women (who are actually doing the work of the ministry) bind their hearts together seeking God, they’ll see the Spirit of the Lord leading and directing their steps.

That’s the way it should be, but there are churches over which man has become the head.  Mankind has set himself above God in God’s Holy Temple.  That’s a scary thought.

I don’t want to find myself in the position of telling God that I can run His Church better than He can.  I believe this is what Paul was talking about in the last days.  People are going to be running their church, the way they want to, giving no thought to what God says.

They have set themselves up in God’s Temple, effectively proclaiming themselves to be God.  I believe that many church people in the USA have placed themselves in a very dangerous position.

Question: How have you experienced man running the church in place of the Holy Spirit?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2018 in Ministry, Prayer, Return of Christ, The Church

 

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