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Are We Listening?

This is my last post which will look at the first of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians.  In his conclusion, the apostle encourages them in their spiritual walk.  He gives a few exhortations that are just as applicable today.

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-20

These verses literally say don’t quench, put out, the Spirit and don’t act like prophecy doesn’t exist.  I believe that this sentence gets at the heart of one of the biggest problems in the church today.  A large segment of the modern church totally ignores the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

When we bow our knee to Christ as our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us.  But that’s not just for show.  He lives in us in order to lead and guide us into the Lord’s plan for our lives.

The Biblical term for ignoring the Holy Spirit’s work is godlessness.  To be godless doesn’t mean that you’re an atheist, or even unsaved.  Godlessness is living as if there’s no God, or as if God’s plan doesn’t really matter to you.

It’s so unfortunate that many believers try to figure out on their own how they want to live.  They come up with the plan of what they’ll do for God and what they’ll do for themselves.  They act as if God doesn’t speak to His people anymore.

Personally, I don’t know how anyone could live for Christ without spending time in His presence.  That’s where we truly learn to live life to the fullest.

Test everything.  Hold on to the good.  Avoid every kind of evil.  May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Brothers, pray for us.  Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.  I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
1 Thessalonians 5:21-28

When you’re walking with the Holy Spirit, you can test, or literally approve, everything that comes your way.  Some things are for you to get involved in – the good, and others are not for you – the evil.

We get into trouble because of our skewed concept of good and evil.  We think that just because something isn’t intrinsically evil, then it’s okay for us to get involved in it.  I’ve had so many people ask me, “What’s wrong with…?”

The point isn’t whether something is right or wrong.  It’s all about whether or not it’s a part of God’s plan for your life.  That’s why time in the Lord’s presence, listening to His Spirit is so important.  There may be something that looks good, that God doesn’t want me to waste my time on.

On the other hand, just because something is not for me, doesn’t mean that it’s not in God’s plan for your life.  I can’t make you walk within the boundaries that God has set for my life.

Now please realize that in all this discussion I’m not talking about those things that the Bible calls sin.  Sin is sin, and it’s never God’s will for us to fall into it.

I’m talking about the normal day to day decisions of life.  God wants to be involved in all of our planning.  That includes our time, money, career, family and educational choices.  When we ignore God’s voice in these matters, we’re quenching the Spirit and treating prophecy with contempt.

The important thing to see is that Paul wanted this read to everyone, not just the leadership.  We all need to be listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice and following His leading.

Question: What’s the last instruction you’ve heard from the Holy Spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2017 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Focus Determines Attitude

What does your mind dwell on when it’s free to wander?  You need to realize that the things you focus your attention on go into your heart, and eventually, if not taken care of, will come out in your actions.

We’re now getting to the concluding thoughts in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.  There are some simple truths that we all need to follow.  No matter what our calling, these are all a part of God’s will for us.

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.  Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:15-18

The first is to treat others correctly.  Our human nature wants to retaliate when we’re wronged.  But that’s not the way of the Spirit.

The Greek language of this verse says to watch or stare at so that nobody pays back wrong for wrong.  It’s all about what you focus on.  If you stare at and rehearse what’s been done to you, then you’ll eventually try to “even the score”.

The problem with this is that it doesn’t solve anything.  The retaliation will simply get passed back and forth like a bad potato.  It’s God’s will for us to bring peace into these types of situations.  Only then will people notice that there’s a different Spirit in us than what’s normally in the world.

We’re also encouraged to always be joyful.  It’s a word that simply means to be glad.  Again, it’s all about what you focus your attention on.

There are those who say that they can’t be cheerful because they’ve had such a hard life.  We need to realize that very few people get through life with no pain.  Those who are miserable about their lives are focusing on the struggle.

Please understand, you may have had a hard life.  But the key word is LIFE.  You’re alive.  And in Christ, you have the hope of a great future.  Scripture is very clear that in Christ our past never determines our future – no matter how bad it looks.  You need to be dwelling upon God’s Word, His promises to you, and His ability fulfill His plan in you.

The next is to pray continually.  Paul is actually telling us to worship uninterrupted.  I think that this is one of the most important parts of being cheerful.

Paul doesn’t mean for us to continually be asking God for things.  That’s not the spirit of worshipful prayer.  He’s talking about being conscious of the fact that the Holy Spirit is constantly with us.

It’s like being with a close friend.  In a close relationship, nobody dominates the conversation.  And sometimes you don’t need to talk at all, you’re just glad that you’re experiencing something together.  That’s what true, uninterrupted worship is all about.

Finally, we’re to always be thankful.  Remember, we don’t have to thank God FOR everything, but IN everything there’s always something to be thankful for.  It might be as simple as thanking God for His presence with you.  If we focus on finding something to be thankful about, we’ll have a much better attitude about our situation.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9

It’s clear from Scripture that what we dwell on will determine our attitude, and what we receive from life.

Question: How has your thought life affected your attitude – both good and bad?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2017 in Prayer, Spiritual Walk, Worship

 

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The Leader’s Prayer

I’m continuing to post about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church. He’s been very encouraged by the reports he heard about their strong walk with the Lord. It’s Paul’s desire to visit them again in the future.

Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
1 Thessalonians 3:10

According to Paul, it’s his constant, earnest, prayer that he would see them again. But I want you to notice that it’s not just about friendship. As great as their Christian walk is now, the apostle wants to see them increase their effectiveness.

They may be strong in their faith, but they’re not perfect. Paul wanted to spend the time necessary to impart what they need. It’s interesting to see that he included an example of how he’s praying for them.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

There are three specific things that Paul is praying about. First – he wants the Lord to open up a way for him to return to Thessalonica.

This is an important truth. I don’t decide what I want to do for God. My schedule doesn’t belong to me. My time is the Lord’s and I use it as He directs. Paul wanted to be in the center of God’s will; hoping that it would lead him back to this church.

The second request that Paul prayed about, was that their love would increase. He already commended them on the fact that their faith and love were actively seen. Now Paul wants their love to increase to the point where it’s overflowing.

This is something that should be a prayer of our heart. This overflowing love literally means that you have excess or too much love than there are people to share it with. When you operate at this level, you’re truly walking in the love of Christ.

The final prayer that Paul has for this church is that their hearts would be established, immovable, and set fast in one direction. In that way he would know that they were able to go the distance in their faith.

That should be the desire of our hearts as well. That we stand strong in all the will of God.

I want to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when I come before the throne of the Lord. To do that, I must have a heart that’s firmly established in Christ. No looking to the right or left. Never wondering what I may be missing out on in the world.

This prayer of Paul is even more important to serve as an example to us as church leaders. We need to have a heart for our people. It’s not just about teaching and preaching to them. Our desire should be for them to grow in maturity and to be able to stand strong in the Lord.

Never lose your vision for others; for their strength and establishment. Make that your prayer, just like the apostle Paul. Be a leader who sees their people through the eyes of Christ.

Question: What prayers do you bring before God for those in your care?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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Memorial Day – For Those Who Protect Us

Since today is Memorial Day, I want to interrupt my blogging from Thessalonians to talk about the holiday. I believe that the USA is still the best nation on earth.

It was founded upon Christian principles. But are we truly a “Christian Nation” anymore? Does a Christian nation tell you not to pray in public? Does it warn you not to show Christian symbols in public?

The fact is that although many Christians live in this nation – the nation itself is no longer Christian. In the past, there were many blessings that we enjoyed because we followed the Lord’s principles.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.
Psalm 33:12

God will bless a nation that follows His ways. But there comes a time when the past no longer affects us.

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.
Proverbs 14:34

To the extent that America followed God’s ways – we were blessed and exalted. We saw the abundance of God, and then thanked Him for it. Our people had wisdom to create wealth, inventions, and new innovations that the world took notice of.

But there came a time when we started to leave God’s path. Because of this, we should heed the warning that God gave to Israel.

…for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.
Leviticus 18:27-28

Please understand what this verse means. When a people no longer choose to follow God’s plan for them, it’s not God cursing the nation. It’s the nation cursing itself. By going our own way, we’re inviting the enemies’ attack.

I believe that currently, America is a defiled land. Much of the trouble that we’re facing has been brought on by our own choices. God has not cursed us; but we have removed our nation from under His blessing.

…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

That’s why this verse has been so important in America since the sixties. Believers need to be interceding for our country.

That brings me back to Memorial Day. This is the day when we remember those who have given their lives to defend this nation. That should stir us up to action.

More than ever we need to be thankful for our military as well as all of our first responders. Because of the increase of violence, we need to be interceding for their safety, wisdom, and ability.

I believe that a move of God is imminent, but we must remain spiritually vigilant. We need to be on the front lines in the spiritual battle for the heart of America. In that way we will be truly honoring the sacrifices that were made by so many.

May God richly continue to bless you this Memorial Day.

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2017 in Prayer, Spiritual Warfare

 

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The Prayer of Faith for Healing

In my last post I talked about James’ view of divine healing in James 5:13-15. It’s clear that somewhere in that first few generations after Christ, something was lost. We’ve come a long way since then.

We’ve seen many men and women of God who were trusting God and speaking life yet died prematurely.

Now we seem to be resigned to the thought that when we pray over the sick, they’ll probably not be healed. Well, I for one am not content with the status quo. I want to see a new move of God in my lifetime. I believe that it’s here.

When I began to meditate on these verses, I started to ask things like; do I really know what it means to ‘pray over’ someone like James did? What did James mean by the prayer offered in faith? Did it sound even close to what we pray?

I know that we try to put faith into our prayers. We quote Scripture, hoping to get God to see our faith and move on our behalf. But is that what James is speaking about in his book?

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

I read this passage and I realize that there’s something missing. I also believe that it’s the foundation of the next move of God – the restoration of power to His church. The key is recorded in this very passage we’re looking at. James goes on to illustrate the prayer of faith that he’s talking about.

Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
James 5:17-18

In these verses, James uses the prophet Elijah as an example to us. He tells us that this is the same type of prayer that will bring healing to the sick. Let’s take a look at the Scripture concerning Elijah’s prayer.

Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”
I Kings 17:1

James said that Elijah prayed and the rain stopped. This is the verse he was referring to. Have you ever prayed a prayer like this? Have you ever heard a prayer like this? As far as I can see, Elijah was talking to the king, not to God.

What was the prayer in this verse? We need to understand that not all prayers fit into the “dear God” category. In this encounter, even though Elijah was speaking to the king, he was invoking the name of the Lord over the situation. He was speaking in God’s place to the king.

How does this relate to healing the sick? Think about the ministry of Jesus. How did He pray for the sick? He worked the same way that we see the prayer of Elijah working. He didn’t ask for God to heal, instead He spoke to the sick.

“Pick up your mat and walk.”

“Go show yourself to the priest.”

“Go rinse your eyes in the pool.”

It was the same for the disciples. Remember how they prayed healing for the lame man at the temple gate. Peter said, “Silver and gold I don’t have. But what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus, walk!” They healed the sick in the same way that Elijah stopped the rain in Israel.

Please understand that I’m not saying to just go out there and speak healing to the sick. There are plenty who’ve tried that without 100% success. Instead, I’m talking about the assumption that’s present in all of these cases. It’s the necessary ingredient without which all of these examples would fall apart.

Think back to the prophet Elijah. What would cause him to speak in such a way to the king?

There’s an assumed chain of events that led to his standoff with the king. He was at home, in prayer, when suddenly he heard a Word from God. That’s the only explanation for the boldness he had before King Ahab. God spoke to him and said that the rain would stop when he delivered the message to the king.

This is the very example that James uses to illustrate healing prayer. The assumption is that to pray this kind of prayer, you must have heard from heaven. It’s based upon hearing a Word from God. That, my brothers and sisters, is the missing ingredient in our generation. We’ve lost our ability to hear from God on a regular basis.

I believe that the more time we spend in God’s presence, listening to His voice, the more healings and miracles will be seen in the church.

Question: What will it take for us to start hearing God’s voice again?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2017 in Faith, Healing, Prayer, Revival, Word of God

 

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Knowing and Doing

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

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

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

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

This is clear from the next verses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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

 

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Fights and Quarrels

Are there people in your life that you just don’t get along with? Whenever you’re with them, an argument breaks out? Did you ever stop to think that it might not be totally their fault? At least that’s what James tells us in his book.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
James 4:1

James actually says that wars and fights start within us. They’re caused by our own desires that are not lined up with the will of God. When our flesh wants something, that’s when the trouble starts.

I would say that most of our trouble with others is caused by something that we desire. As I pastored over the years, I’ve counselled many people who were in conflict with others. They always thought they were in the right. And they’re reasoning always sounded the same.

“I expect to be treated like…”

“I deserve…”

“I expect them to…”

“Why don’t they just…”

In your quarrels with others, you can fill in the blanks for your particular situation. All of those statements revolve around unmet expectations. Expectation is simply another word for desire. It’s your unmet desires that start the problems.

Quarrels and fights are all about us not getting what we want. James goes on talking about it.

You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.
James 4:2

Our trouble is that we put our expectations in people. No matter how good that person is, they’ll let you down at some point. That’s because we’re all human. Any expectation – desire – you place on someone else, will eventually hurt you.

That’s why the only real expectations we should have must be towards God. He’s the only one who won’t let you down.

But wait a minute; it doesn’t end there. I’ve heard many people complain that God doesn’t give them what they want.

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James 4:3

The problem might have something to do with your motives. It’s all about your pleasure. What if your pleasure is not God’s will for you in this situation?

Throughout the book of James, so far, he’s been talking about hearing from God. We spend time in the Lord’s presence to hear a Word from Him. A Word that cleans us. A Word that gives us the wisdom of Heaven.

Do you even know if what you’re asking for is God’s will for you? If it is God’s will, do you know that this is the right timing for it? That’s what spending time with the Holy Spirit is all about. He changes us in His presence so that we desire what He desires. He also gives us His peace so that we accept His timetable.

That’s the basis of a stress free, and quarrel free, life.

Question: What are some blessings that you’ve received from the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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