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Category Archives: Power of God

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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What is the Gospel – Really?

In my last post we began looking at the second Word that the Holy Spirit gave to the church. It was Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Today we’ll look at an important “first”.

It’s always good to note the first time a word is used in the Scripture. It helps us to understand what the Holy Spirit means when He uses it elsewhere in the Bible. Sometimes preachers call it the “law of first use.”

Do you have any idea the first place in the New Testament when the word Gospel is used? I’ll give you a hint; it’s not in the Gospels. That’s because the Gospels weren’t the first books written. The Gospel of Mark was probably the fourth book written; which is close, but not the first to use that word.

Actually, the word Gospel is first used in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. This was the first of Paul’s epistles. He was writing to a young church he started with only a brief stay in the city of Thessalonica. Here’s what he wrote them in the opening verses of his letter.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.
1 Thessalonians 1:4-5

That’s a very interesting comment to make. The first time the word Gospel is used in the Scripture, it means more than just words. It’s a complete presentation of the power of Christ. Paul is very clear in saying that it’s not just words, but also includes power, the Holy Spirit, and conviction.

It’s unfortunate that in our day there are those who think the Gospel is simply a cleverly crafted message designed to convince a sinner to get saved. When we believe that, we’re only working with a small part of the Gospel. For it to be the true Gospel of Jesus Christ there must also be a demonstration of power.

If I’m going to demonstrate something, then I need to know what it is. In natural terms, power is the ability of something to produce change. If nothing changes, then there’s no power.

Paul tells us here that when the true Gospel came forth – things changed. It’s not like many of our meetings today where we say, “That was a powerful message.” By we simply meant that we were stirred emotionally or felt goose bumps.

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

As you can see, I’m not using some isolated verse without context. This teaching runs throughout the New Testament. The Good News must be demonstrated. That demonstration can only be energized by the power of God.

I fear that too many Christians allow their faith to rest on man’s wisdom, because they’ve never seen a demonstration of the power of God.

There are so many believers that have never seen a healing or a miracle. As a result, the Good News, in many cases, has merely become an intellectual debate. Sometimes, what we call the Gospel today, is void of any power to change the direction of a life impacted by it.

The Gospel has to be a Word from God, not just a convincing argument. When I speak what God is saying, then the Holy Spirit is free to confirm the message. People are convicted by the Word and their lives are forever changed.

We need to get back to being a people who spend time listening to their God. Then, once we’ve heard His voice, we need to step out and speak what He’s saying to us. This is the true essence of the Gospel. This is what will change our society for Christ.

Question: What would church look like where the true Gospel was preached?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

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Are You Wandering?

The last exhortation from the book of James is very important. He deals with an issue that’s prevalent in our generation. It’s about those who wander from the truth.

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
James 5:19-20

James is dealing with a number of issues in this passage. The first is the fact that a Christian can wander from the truth. The word, wander means to roam or rove around.

In the natural, wandering takes place when we get distracted by something. When I’ve gone hiking, there have been times when I’ve gotten distracted and missed a turn in the trail. A couple of times I had to do a fair amount of backtracking before I got to where I should have been.

That’s why this Greek word can also mean deception.   Deceit is when I knowingly try to distract you from the truth. The question is; how does this wandering manifest itself in a spiritual setting?

One day, Jesus explained this very concept to the Sadducees, who were trying to prove to the Lord that there would be no resurrection.

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
Matthew 22:29

The word, error, in this verse is the same word wander that James used. Jesus was telling these priests that they had wandered from the truth because of two problems. They’re the same two things that cause modern believers to miss out on God’s best.

The first, was not knowing the Scriptures. This was an interesting thing to say to the Sadducees, since they had huge portions of Scripture memorized. They had to know all the books of Moses by heart just to qualify for the priesthood.

The problem was that they only knew about the Scripture. The word that Jesus used was a knowing by experience. These priests knew what the Bible said, they just didn’t want to apply it to their lives. Without the application of Scripture, we’re merely wandering around hoping to stumble upon God’s best for us.

The second thing that causes us to wander is not knowing the power of God. That’s probably the greatest hindrance in our generation. In many church circles we’re relying upon secular corporate models or clever programming to grow our churches.

In many cases, if the Holy Spirit showed up on Sunday morning, we wouldn’t know what to do with Him. In some churches He’d be escorted out the door, in others He’d be told to sit quietly in the corner. The last thing they want is to see the power of God active in their services.

I believe that the goal of God’s people is to see, and experience the power of God actively in their lives. In my opinion, that’s what the world needs to see. More than structures or programs, it’s the power of God that will bring them to repentance and salvation.

I want to see a new move of God in my generation. But for that to happen, we need to stop being distracted by the world around us. In other words, we need to stop wandering from the truth.

By focusing on experiencing the truth of Scripture and experiencing the presence of God we can once again see the Lord’s best manifest in us. As a result, there will be a great harvest of souls when they see the hand of God actively working in our lives.

Question: How much time do you spend actively applying Scripture to your life and seeking God’s presence?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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Healing for All

I believe that Jesus Christ paid the price for our healing. Yet we don’t see the full manifestation of it in the church right now. Why is that? James gives us some clear keys about how this grace operates.

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.
James 5:13-15

James is very bold in his declaration of the place of healing in the church. He asks, “Is any one of you sick?” This is not only for those who are strong in faith. It’s not limited to those who have been “confessing their healing” for months. This is clearly written to anyone who’s sick.

James leaves no wiggle room for doubt in God’s purpose. There’s no mention of God wanting to heal some and leaving others sick in order to teach them something. He states this in no uncertain terms. Not “maybe, sometimes, or in most cases”. He says, The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. He even repeats himself for emphasis, The Lord will raise him up.

More than that, he goes on to use the exact same wording for the forgiveness of God. Would anyone ever doubt the Lord’s forgiveness? Would you ever add “if it’s God’s will” to a prayer for forgiveness? You’d never entertain the thought that if someone confessed their sin to God, they may or might not be forgiven, depending on God’s will for their life.

Yet, in context, these two prayers are portrayed in the same light. The answer to a prayer for healing is exactly the same as an answer to a prayer for forgiveness.

It sounds to me, from his writings, that James had a 100% success rate in the area of divine healing. Without a doubt the early church had a higher walk than we do. The miraculous was an everyday occurrence.

But, if you think about it, that’s to be expected. If we look at the life of Jesus, we see the exact same thing. He had a 100% healing rate as well. There’s no hint, in the Gospel record, of anyone coming to Him for healing and leaving disappointed. We’re the ones who make excuses for not being healed.

“Maybe this is the only way God could teach me a lesson.”

There’s no record of Jesus ever refusing to heal someone because He wanted them to “learn something” they couldn’t get any other way. Praise God that you got closer to the Lord during your illness. We can learn many things during times of affliction. But to think that the reason you’re not healed was for the purpose of teaching you something goes against the clear Word of God.

From the Scripture we know that the disciples had a front row seat in observing the life of Christ. It’s not surprising, then, that the apostles of Christ also had a 100% healing rate in the Scriptures.

The power of the Lord manifesting through His people didn’t even end there. The next generation of believers – those first saved under the apostles – had the same success. Men like Paul, Philip, James and Jude walked in the power of the Spirit to a degree we can’t even imagine. Were they any different from us? Was their God different from our God? No way!

It wasn’t until the next generation of believers that we start to see a change taking place. In talking to the Corinthian church, Paul makes note of the fact that they were acting in carnality – like a bunch of spiritual babies. He then makes the following indictment.

That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 11:30

In my next post, James will show us what was lost and how to correct it.

Question: How have you experienced God’s divine healing in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
1 Comment

Posted by on May 3, 2017 in Faith, Healing, Power of God, Revival

 

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The Great Cover-Up

Are you involved in a cover-up? I’m not talking about spies, or corporate espionage. I’m referring to a spiritual cover-up.

Our society has made it so easy for us. We have access to more entertainment, sporting events, and educational opportunities than any other generation before us. These are all good things, unless…

Many people, Christians included, know that their lives aren’t what they should be. But instead of dealing with the problem, they hide in a sea of amusement. The word, amuse, a-muse, literally means to not think.

We will fill our lives with so much that we don’t have to think about and deal with the problems. James talks about this condition.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
James 4:8-10

Many people read this passage out of context and dismiss it as purely condemnation. They refuse to accept it as a word of warning to them.

The word sinner has become a bad word to us. It simply means someone who’s missing the mark – they’re not experiencing all that God has for them.

That’s what happens when you’re double-minded; you haven’t fully committed to trust God’s plan over yours. You miss out on God’s best when you only trust Him part of the time.

The key word in all of this is, grieve. It doesn’t sound good, but it’s actually sound advice. It literally means to realize one’s own misery. There’s a point when you have to shut off the continual stream of entertainment and take stock of your life.

That’s why this verse has to be read in the context of the whole section it’s in. James is speaking to people who find themselves in the conditions he described in chapters 3 and 4. If you find that your life has disorder and evil that you can’t overcome. Or maybe you’ve been praying for things with no results. It could be that you’ve tried to resist the enemy and he doesn’t leave you alone.

These are the things that James is trying to get you to think about. Are you living up to God’s best plan for your life? At some point we all have to stop and think about it.

Please realize that the goal of all of this is NOT to ruin your fun. God is not intent on being the universal party-pooper. He wants you to enjoy the greatest fulfillment and potential that you could ever hope to achieve.

This is made clear by his last statement. If you’re willing to bring your life back into God’s order, then He will lift you up. The verse says that He wants to elevate you above the circumstances.

The choice is yours. You can continue to climb your own ladder of success. But if you do, you may get to the top only to find that you placed it against the wrong wall.

The other choice is to turn around and step into God’s elevator. Follow His plan for your life and let Him have complete responsibility for getting you to your destiny.

So rather than this verse being about judgment and condemnation, we need to see it as a call to stop the cover-up. If that’s for you, the answer is simple. It’s time to repent and start off in a new direction in Christ.

Question: How has God’s plan proven to be better than yours so far?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2017 in Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Resistance is not Futile

I’m continuing to post from the book of James. He’s been telling us about how to humble ourselves before the Lord. This is important, especially when confronted by the enemy.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:7

Causing the devil to run away sounds great. But I’ve had people come to me and tell me, “I tried resisting and the enemy kept pestering me. This verse doesn’t work.”

Things like that happen because we take things out of context. The enemy doesn’t flee simply because you resist. There’s more going on in this verse that you need to apply.

The first thing James says is for us to submit ourselves to God. That word, submit, means to place under. Its usage is like what happens in the military when a soldier takes his orders from a superior officer.

When we find our place in the kingdom of God, under submission to Christ – our Commander in Chief – we can then resist effectively. The devil flees because heaven is backing me up, not because I’m resisting on my own.

The Apostle Paul tells us pretty much the same thing.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Ephesians 6:13

The word stand in this verse is the same word as resist that James used. We need to stand our ground and resist the devil. We’re told that if we do this, in submission to the Lord, the enemy will flee. But I’ve found that it’s the time frame between the resisting and the fleeing that gives us the most problem.

Why would the devil ever flee from us? After all, we’re not that strong compared to him.

This is a great lesson that the church needs to hear. So many people give up when things get hard. Some of us are under the impression that working for God should be all hearts and flowers.

Why then does Paul use the analogy of a warrior, fully armed, and dressed for battle? The fact is that there are spiritual forces that don’t want us to succeed in our service to the Lord. The victory comes from knowing that it’s the Holy Spirit giving you strength, and not giving up.

We need to learn how to stand in the center of opposition. The ancient Romans knew how to do this. It was the secret to the success of their army. Each of the Roman soldiers was taught how to defend a 3-foot square of ground from an invading army. When they fought together, there was no way to break through their lines.

We need to get it into our heads that the only way to victory is to move forward in the Lord. Backing up WILL NOT get you out of the battle. It will only make you have to fight to regain that ground later.

But the thing about this verse that gives me the most trouble is when Paul says, “when the day of evil comes.” Not “if”, not “there might come a time when problems arise”. He tells us in a straight forward way that this day is coming whether you’re ready or not. So the best thing to do is prepare now.

The word that both James and Paul used for stand literally means to stand in opposition to. We must be prepared for the enemy to oppose us.

The phrase after you have done everything actually translates after you have fully accomplished your work. When you have done everything you were assigned to do by the Lord, then it’s time for the Holy Spirit to take over. One thing I’m certain about. The enemy is no match for the God I serve!

So, being forewarned with the knowledge that the day of evil is coming, we need to be ready. We must be fully armed and prepared to stand our ground in Christ. Then we will see the victory of God manifest in our situation.

Question: What are you going through right now that will require you to stand your ground?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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