RSS

Category Archives: Spirit of Excellence

Love Defined

In my last post, we saw that ministry without love, no matter how powerful, is not up to God’s standards.  Love must play a major role in all that we do.

But do we really understand what love is?  People have so many ideas.  Let’s see what God has to say.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Think about what this verse says – patient, kind, not rude, and not easily angered.  Are there any times during which we have a better chance of doing this – times when it feels more natural?

Of course, it’s when we’re around people that we like; when we’re with our friends.  I was first able to grasp this concept while reading the book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis.

Remember, this type of love carries with it no emotional attachment.  It’s purely based on decision and will.  True love cannot be based on emotion, it must be my choice.

I find that it’s easiest for me to treat people I like in this way.  Sometimes I choose to treat them correctly even if I don’t feel like it, simply because I like them.  This brings us to the definition of love that I first heard from C.S. Lewis.

The way of love is to treat people as if you like them – whether you do or not.  Also, I would add, whether you know them or not and whether you’re in their presence or not.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I Corinthians 13:7

This is the atmosphere that should surround a ministry of excellence.  When you’re ministering to people, all these aspects should be evident in your work.  Too often, we’re guilty of loving our ministry more than the people we’re called to perfect.  This verse tells us that we’re to always protect, trust in, hope for and persevere for THE PEOPLE.

The ministry is a good thing.  But it’s still a thing.  Things can never be more important than people.  Excellence will never develop in an atmosphere where you love what you’re doing to the extent that you don’t care for the people.

You’re not their Lord, Jesus is.  Your ministry is never more important than God’s plan for their individual lives.  If you’re walking in excellence, in the way of love, you’ll be able to balance the two.

Love for people must start with your family.  Too many Christians think that it’s noble to give up their family for “God’s work.”

I even heard a guest minister once prove how devoted he was to the ministry by saying that his children were not walking with the Lord.  It was a sacrifice he had to make for the ministry.  I never let him preach at our church again.  God has never accepted child sacrifice.  The Bible is clear that ministry begins at home.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

It’s clear from the life of Christ (and we probably don’t want to hear it) that the way of love sees everyone as our friends.  Jesus even laid down His life for those who were His sworn enemies.

If so, then He included the whole race of mankind into His list of “friends.”  We cannot use this verse for an excuse not to love.  Christ’s example stops us from doing this.

He laid down His life for the Pharisee and the Atheist, as well as the disciples.  When you walk in the love of Christ, you exhibit the same evidence of love that He did.

Question: What is the evidence of the love that can be seen in your life and ministry?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

<Note – This post was an excerpt from my book, Breaking Free from the Pack – How to Develop a Spirit of Excellence available on Amazon>

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Useless Without Love

How do you rate churches or ministries?  What criteria do you use in determining their impact or effectiveness?  Let’s see what the Scripture uses as a standard.

In my last post, the Apostle Paul introduced what he called a more excellent way of ministry.  That brings us to First Corinthians, chapter 13 – the Love Chapter.

The word used for love, is the Greek word, agape.  This word is very significant.

Agape-love has no emotion attached to its definition.  It’s purely an act of your will.  It’s a choice that you make in how you treat others.

We know that Jesus Christ, Himself, commanded us to love each other.  If it were based upon feelings, then He could never make such a request.

Keep this in mind as we go through this chapter over the next few posts.  It’s up to you how you choose to treat people.  You’ll either walk in love or choose to follow the leading of your flesh.

The first thing we see in this chapter, are three things that human religion would point to as excellence in ministry.  Unfortunately, they’re not what God’s rating system includes.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:1

The first area is that of your preaching and teaching ministry.  What if I had the command of every language on earth?  I could preach the Gospel anywhere I wanted to.

I could stand before thousands and proclaim Christ.  I could be God’s messenger to the world.  After all, that’s what the word, angel, means (messenger).

According to this verse, without love, I’m not ministering.  I’m simply making a noise that gets people’s attention.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:2

What about the flow of supernatural power.  Certainly, that would mean my ministry is on track with God’s plan.  Not necessarily.

Signs, wonders, and miracles are things that we point to as indicators of success.

“Look at my ministry.  The miracles are proof that I’m in the center of God’s will.  Send me your offering.”

We think the supernatural move of God is an indication that we’re someone special.  On the contrary, it only proves that we serve a great God.  Paul makes it clear that no matter how many miracles in my ministry, without love I’m a nobody in God’s kingdom.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:3

The third area is one we’d probably never think of.  Self-sacrifice for others.

The word for flames is actually the Greek word, glory.  In other words, I use up every ounce of my physical strength for the benefit of others.

We sometimes think that we’ll give to the poor because God wants us to.  Or maybe because we see it as sowing seeds for God’s blessing.

The problem is that if I don’t give out of love…a desire to see the recipient blessed by my giving, then I’ve gained nothing.  There’s no profit, physically or spiritually.

Love is the determining factor in how God rates a ministry.  Keep that in mind as you work for the Lord.

Question: How can you tell if love plays a role in what you do for Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A Passion for Greater Gifts

In my last post, I finished talking about the local church ministry gifts.  Paul concludes this section of his letter with an exhortation as well as an introduction to his next thought.

But eagerly desire the greater gifts.  And now I will show you the most excellent way.
1 Corinthians 12:31

The first thing that gets my attention is that Paul tells us to eagerly desire something.  That’s important.  The word he uses means to be passionate about it.  We’re to be emotionally invested in obtaining these gifts.

I feel bad when I see Christians who seem disinterested in walking in the power of God.  What greater witness could there be than to see a divine miracle take place in your life or the life of your loved one?  It’s the power of God that draws people to the cross.

However, there’s another aspect of this statement that’s often misunderstood.  I’ve heard teachers use this verse to say that some gifts are more important than others.  So they start comparing gifts.

“After all, speaking in tongues only builds up that believer; while prophecy builds up the church.  So it’s more important that you prophesy.”

That statement shows a lack of understanding concerning the gifts of the Spirit.  I’ve heard others explain that the greater gifts are the ones that you need right at the moment.  While that’s a little bit better, it doesn’t go far enough.

The word greater, in the Greek, is a special word.  It literally means larger or to a greater degree.  I don’t believe that Paul wants us to compare gifts and only be passionate about the better ones.  He’s telling us to be passionate about walking in God’s gifts to a greater degree.

There’s a verse of Scripture that will bear this out.  Look at how this same Greek word is used here.

But he gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6

More grace.  Do you think that the grace we have isn’t good enough?  So God has to give us better grace?  No!  God wants to give us His grace to a greater degree.

We need to be passionate about walking in God’s gifts, and His grace, to a greater degree than we now have.

But Paul isn’t finished yet.  He wants to show us the most excellent way of walking in the gifts of the Spirit.

The Greek word translated as excellent is hyperballo.   Hyperballo, literally means, to throw beyond.  The word picture being used is of an Olympic sport such as the javelin throw.

Everyone else has thrown it to a certain, average point.  You, however, get up and throw it beyond all the others.  That’s a picture of the concept of excellence.  When you throw beyond the normal or what’s expected, then you’ve entered the realm of the excellent.

When you serve Christ, you need to be going beyond the average or what’s expected.  That’s what will get people’s attention.

So starting in my next post, we’ll be looking at this most excellent way of ministry.  Of course, many of you already know that Paul is going to be talking about the way of love.  Hopefully, as we study it together, we’ll get some new insight into this amazing walk.

Questions: How passionate are you about walking in the Lord’s power to a greater degree?  How does it show?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Our Excellent God (Repost)

I’m taking a couple of weeks to do some hiking and praying off in the woods.  While I’m gone I’ve felt that I should repost my Top 10 most read articles.  Some of you have been following me long enough to have read them already.  If so, my prayer is that they will again be a blessing to you.

I believe that the word excellent is overused in our society.  Excellence doesn’t just mean good, or even great.  It means that what’s described is far ahead of everything else.  It’s not a word that should be used lightly.

It’s a descriptive word that should probably be reserved for God alone, and the things associated with Him.  We serve a God of excellence.  I just want to take a post to show the excellent God that we serve.

The very names that God uses about Himself point to the fact of His Excellency.  Here are some examples from the Old Testament:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1

In this verse, God is called the Most High.  This is a term of comparison.  There are many things in the universe that could be considered “high.”  But of all the high things and people that exist, God is the Most High.  This fits perfectly into the definition of excellence.

Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
Psalm 148:13

Exalted and above are also words of comparison.  They relate the Lord to His surroundings.  They show that He alone is in a position of supreme excellence.  There’s no other god that can even compare to our God.

My lover is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand.
Song of Songs 5:10

In the Song of Songs, written by Solomon, an allegory of the marriage between Christ and His church is put forward.  Christ is referred to here as outstanding among ten thousand.  This is an obvious comparison showing the excellence of Christ.

In the beginning God…
Genesis 1:1a

Before everything, there was God.  All of creation sprang from His Word.  He’s at the head of all He created.  That’s a perfect description of excellence.

When we use the word excellent, we should be careful to understand it.  We mustn’t water it down to simply describe something that pleases us.  We should always be aware that we serve a God who is the very definition of excellence.

Christ truly is the Excellent One.

Question: How would you describe the Excellency of our Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2018

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Prayer and Fasting – A Foundation for Faith

Did you know that waiting for a problem to arise before you strengthen your faith is a bad idea?  Too many people only press into God and His Word when their back is against the wall.  Jesus teaches that the time to prepare is well before you need a breakthrough.

In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 9 and verses 14-29, we see what happened as Jesus and His three closest disciples were coming down from the mountain of transfiguration.  You may want to read that passage in the Bible before continuing in this post.

It seems that they walked into a storm of controversy.  A crowd had formed around the other disciples.  Bedlam had broken out.

There was a demon possessed boy whose father had brought him to them for deliverance.  They tried everything they knew, yet the demon would not leave.  Jesus’ response to all of this is important for us to see.

“O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you?  How long shall I put up with you?  Bring the boy to me.”
Mark 9:19

The implication of what the Lord is saying here is, “How long will I have to be in this nation trying to turn you around?”  It sounds like Jesus is swimming against the flow, in a river of humanity.

The only way for Israel to get back on track is to trust in the Messiah.  Unfortunately, they want to continue in their unbelief.  Their “faith” is based on what they think is possible.

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered.  “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.  But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:21-24

Mark makes it clear that the main issue is about faith and unbelief.  It’s not about spiritual authority or how loud you can yell at the demon.  How deeply you trust the Lord is at the heart of the matter.

The Gospel writer wants us to see, through this event in the life of Christ, how to grow in our faith.  The point of this story is to understand how to overcome my unbelief.  That’s where the disciples are headed as the Lord continues His work with them.

Immediately, the Lord rebukes the demon and commands it to leave the boy.  The young man was delivered and set free from the demon from that day forward.  It seemed to be no problem for Jesus.

But the disciples still had some questions.

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”
Mark 9:28-29

Please understand that the demon doesn’t care whether or not you fast and pray.  Also, notice that Jesus didn’t tell the man, “Bring the boy to me in a week.  I need to fast and pray before I can deliver him.”

Jesus is answering the question of unbelief.  Fasting and prayer should be the lifestyle of a mature believer.  Fasting and prayer are what drives out the unbelief of our fleshly nature.  It opens us up to the manifestation of God’s supernatural power.

Follow the example of Jesus.  Walk before God by regularly setting times of fasting and prayer.  Then you’ll see your unbelief start to fade and a greater capacity for the miraculous.

Question: How have you seen the effects of fasting and prayer in your spiritual life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Fasting and Preparation

In my last post, I talked about Jesus’ view of fasting.  There was a change from the Old to the New Testament fast.  The Lord explained it in parable form.

Last time, we looked at the parable of the patches.  Christ also gave another parable concerning the difference between the Old and New Covenant fast.

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins.  If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined.  No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”
Mark 2:22

The Old Covenant is the old wineskins that the Lord is referring to.  It’s empty, used up, dry, and unyielding.  It has nothing on the inside to give life.

New wine is unfermented grape juice.  During the fermentation process, it produces gasses that pressurize the skins.  A dry and unyielding wineskin will burst under the pressure of this reaction.  You can’t live for God like that.

A new wineskin; unstretched, oiled, soft, and pliable, is ready to receive the new wine.  We get that new wine of the Holy Spirit in us when we’re saved.

As we spend time in the Lord’s presence, it starts to ferment; it creates a pressure on the inside, and we start to grow.  That’s the second part of this process.

Fasting increases the inner man.  There’s a spiritual pressure that builds up.  Because you’re quieting your flesh, you begin hearing from God.  Then, as you spend time with the Holy Spirit, something is being poured into you.

The pressure is building.  Now you have something to give that will cause God’s grace to flow through you.  Now you can pour out into someone else.

When you walk in your calling, the pressure released – for a little while.  Now you have something on the inside that stretches the outside.  I don’t know what God wants to do in the months and years ahead, but I want to be prepared to hear His voice.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Matthew 4:1-2

We find that just before Jesus started His public ministry He went through a time of tempting and testing.  What did He do to prepare for it?  He fasted.

Do you think you’ll be tested in the coming year?  What are you going to do?  How will you enter the test?  Prepared or unprepared?  How will you answer the enemy?

The fact is, fasting prepares us for the battle.  We don’t know what’s coming.  But I know this; the enemy is good at predicting it based upon what he sees lining up in the spirit world.

We don’t see it.  We have to rely on what we hear from God.  Are we going to have a Word from God for our generation?  That’s what’s needed.  I want to be prepared to face whatever lies ahead.  The blessings, the callings, the tests – everything.  So I’ll fast in order to hear from God more clearly.  I hope you will too.

Question: What are the things that God’s preparing you for in 2018?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 29, 2017 in Fasting, Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Disciples and Fasting

As we continue to look at the ministry of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, one thing we have to realize is that the Lord lived under the Old Covenant.  So there were times He had to make it clear that something new was coming.

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting.  Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
Mark 2:18

That was an interesting question for the Lord.  It’s clear from Scripture that Jesus fasted.  In Jesus’ ministry, He taught what to do “when you fast.”  Jesus assumed that fasting would be a normal part of our lives.  Why didn’t He make His disciples practice this discipline?

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?  They cannot, so long as they have him with them.  But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.”
Mark 2:19-20

The Lord was basically telling them that fasting would change from Old Testament to New Testament.  He wanted them to start the New Covenant fast after the resurrection.

Under the Old Covenant, fasting was a way to humble yourself in repentance.  Now, in Christ, we fast in order to put down the flesh so that we can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit more clearly.  For a more detailed teaching on this subject…click here.

At this point, Jesus gives a description of the differences in parable form.  Those listening to His explanation probably didn’t understand what the Lord was talking about, but looking back, we can.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment.  If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.”
Mark 2:21

The first thing He talks about is the outside – a garment.  In the ancient world, the way to repair your clothing was to take an old piece of cloth and use it to patch an old garment.

Under the Old Covenant, fasting was only a patch.  It was all about doing something to get God to listen to me.  I needed to patch things up.  So I humbled myself by fasting, wearing sackcloth, and covering my head with ashes.  I had to show how sorrowful I was for my sin.

There were times that people fasted just for show.  They wanted to look “holy”.  That’s when God would say things like, “Will I listen to you if you fast like that?”

According to Jesus, we don’t fast like the Pharisees or other Old Testament people.  Much of what they did was to impress people with their outward displays of religion.

If I try to patch things up with God under the New Covenant, I only make things worse.  It’s all about me being able to hear God’s voice clearly.

How, then, do I get God to hear me?  The truth is that I don’t.  In Christ, we have 24/7 access to the throne room of God.  There’s no condemnation; we can enter boldly into His presence.

Now, under grace, we’re a new garment and don’t need a patch.  But a new garment (back then) would always shrink with use.  Fasting under the New Covenant shrinks the outer garment.

That’s what we look for – the flesh to decrease.  As I fast, the voice of my flesh gets quieter.  So fasting forcefully puts down the flesh.

This is because under the New Covenant it’s about me hearing from God.  God hears me in Christ.  But I need to hear Him with my spirit when He speaks.

I don’t think it’s as much God not speaking, as me not listening.  Fasting helps drown out the noise of my flesh.  That’s why I believe that fasting should be a regular part of a Christian’s life.

Questions:  Do you fast?  How often?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 27, 2017 in Fasting, Spiritual Walk

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,