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Category Archives: Spiritual Walk

Spiritual Planning

As we continue through Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, we see an interesting admission.  Paul has to apologize to them for not being able to complete a visit that he had scheduled with them.

I think that it can be a lesson to us all.

Because I was confident of this, I planned to visit you first so that you might benefit twice.  I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea.  When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, “Yes, yes” and “No, no”?  But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.”
2 Corinthians 1:15-18

Paul had to clear up this misunderstanding so that the church would understand the difference between his plans and his message.  The word, planned, in the above verse actually means to be willing.

So Paul is saying that he was confident about his ability to get there and he was willing to go as well.  His goal was to visit them twice as he traveled to and from Macedonia.

Paul makes it clear that he doesn’t plan his trips lightly.  He takes everything into consideration.

Even more than that, he literally says that he does not make plans in a fleshly manner.  Paul always strove to operate in the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  He had made this planned visit after much prayer.

He didn’t approach his ministry with a frivolous attitude.  He didn’t think, “I’ll tell them I’m coming for a visit, but I’ll play it by ear.  We’ll see while we’re on the road whether I want to go there or not.”

We need to learn the lesson of submitting our plans to the Lord.  It’s not a matter of making our plans first, then asking God to bless it.  It’s all about finding God will first.  Then we know the plan is blessed already.

James understood this and wrote about it.

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.  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.
James 4:13-16

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 by the Holy Spirit.

Question: What plan has the Holy Spirit given you as you’ve spent time in His presence?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2020 in Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Gift of Prayer

In my last post, I talked about how God watches over us in challenging times.  Paul continues this thought as we move forward in Second Corinthians.

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.  Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
2 Corinthians 1:10-11

Paul starts with a testimony and a faith statement.  He declares that God has delivered them and will continue to deliver them.  This is an important attitude that we all need to cultivate.

He goes on from there to explain why he has such faith.  He bases it on the fact that he knows who’s supporting him and his ministry.

“…as you help us by your prayers.”

Paul knew that his ministry was being upheld by the prayers of many believers throughout the area.   As he had ministered to them, they were now helping him.

This is something that’s left out of many Christians’ daily routines.  We need to be praying for others.  We need to know the ministers, missionaries, and ministries that we support.  Then, we need to be praying for them regularly.

This is something we learned when we studied the book of James – the first book of the New Testament to be given to the church.

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

We need to be uplifting each other in prayer.  It’s not just a job for those who are called to be intercessors.  Every believer should have a list of people and ministries that they regularly bring before the Lord.

Paul’s final statement gives us the reason why this is so important.  He says that many will see God’s grace at work, and give thanks for His faithfulness.  That’s the result we’re looking for.

The power of God at work in our lives is an awesome testimony to those around us.  It gives them something to think about.  It empowers the saints and convicts the unbelievers.

I love the way this verse reads in the original Greek.  Paul says that because of the prayers of many, this gift was bestowed upon us.

Do you realize that when you pray for someone, you’re actually giving them a gift?  You might not be able to give money or a physical item to everyone.  But your prayers are more valuable than material possessions.

Please don’t get me wrong.  If the Lord prompts you to give an offering or a gift to some ministry, you need to do so.  But apart from that, we can have a lifestyle of blessing and supporting ministries every day of our lives.

If you don’t already have this habit in place, you need to make a list of all the people and ministries that God has placed before you.  Then, even if you only pray for one a day, start giving them the gift of prayer support.

By the way, while you’re at it, put my name on that list as well.  I thank God for all those who faithfully uplift me, my family, and my ministry in prayer.

Question: Who is on your prayer support list?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2020 in Ministry, Missions, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Coach it Forward

I’m continuing my look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  He was talking about the way we can help one another in the same way that we were helped in our troubles.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:5-7

The first thing Paul tells us is that Christ suffered the same challenges that we face.  The Lord is aware of what we’re going through.

The important thing to know is that through Christ we have an abundance of comfort.  But just what does that mean?  The word, comfort, means a lot of things to different people.

Usually, when people think of comfort, they’re talking about something soft and familiar – like a favorite easy chair.  Unfortunately, soft and comfortable is not what this word means.

Comfort, in Scripture, usually comes from a Greek word that means to call alongside.  It’s what a coach does when he or she is dealing with their athletes.

A good coach is not concerned with how comfortable the athletes are.  Instead, their goal is to make sure that they’re successfully completing their training routine.

Actually, that’s the job of the Holy Spirit in our lives right now

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 14:26

Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will be our Counselor.  That word, counselor, is the same as comfort in the above verse.  In other words, the Holy Spirit is to be our Life-Coach.

It’s His job to come alongside us and call out the instructions we need to victoriously face the challenges that come our way.  We need to be listening for His voice.

So, as we receive coaching from the Holy Spirit, we can pass on what we’ve learned.  When we see others in that same situation, we can share what our Coach told us.

According to Paul, the result is patient endurance.  It’s the ability to remain in your calling without giving up.  That comes from the expectation that God will work through you for His glory.

Then, as we pass on this coaching, the body of Christ will be built up.  This is especially what we need in our generation.

In the world, there’s so much uncertainty right now.  But in Christ, we know that the Lord is working out all things for our good.

Question: How has the Holy Spirit coached you recently?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2020 in Encouragement, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Help Given and Received

For the past couple of years, I have been posting systematically through the New Testament.  I’ve been going book by book in the order that they were revealed to the church through the Holy Spirit.

Recently, I put that on pause because I felt led to do a series on spiritual warfare.  I’m now going back to where I left off in the original series.  I had just finished 1 Corinthians at that time, so I’ll now begin with 2 Corinthians.

Paul wrote his first letter, and sent it off with Titus to Corinth during the two years he spent at Ephesus (Acts chapter 19).  He then had to leave because of the rioting.  He went to Macedonia and waited for Titus to return with a report of his visit.

It turned out that many in Corinth received the epistle favorably.  However, there were still some who rejected Paul’s authority and teaching.  So Paul sends off another letter to respond to what he’s heard.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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 1:1-4

The word trouble in this passage is actually the Greek word for pressure.  I don’t know about you, but personally, I dislike pressure.  I try my best to avoid it.

In actuality, we’ll never be exempt from the challenges and pressures of life.  But there is a positive outcome that it can bring us.

Pressure qualifies us for ministry. When we learn to endure pressure, we can help others who are undergoing the same things.

Most of us like to be helped.  When facing a difficult challenge, even a word of encouragement can go a long way.

If you’re like most people, then you’ve relied upon help at one time or another.  Scripture teaches us that part of showing gratefulness is taking the blessing you received and passing it on to someone else.

It can be anything – a kind word, food, a ride, or a helping hand carrying things.  If it’s done in obedience to God’s Word, it’s powerful and life-changing.

What we need to start realizing is that even though all these good things came through the people around us, God originated them.  All the blessings that we receive come from the Lord’s hand.  It’s in thankfulness to Him that we’re willing to pass a blessing on to someone else.

So when we help someone else in their pressure, it’s the Lord who’s actually helping them through us.  We become a channel of God’s love reaching out to those around us.

Look for an opportunity, today, to be a blessing to someone.  Do something unexpected.  Take the good things you’ve received from God and pass them on to someone around you.  The Lord will see to it that someday, in some way, you’ll be rewarded for your act of gratefulness to Him.

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

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2020 in Encouragement, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Spiritual Warfare – The Final Challenge

This will be my last post in the series about spiritual warfare.  I’m looking at Christ as our example.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Matthew 4:8-9

This was probably the greatest attack the enemy could have aimed at the Lord.  Jesus knew that God’s plan called Him to buy the world with His blood on the cross.  This would be an easy way out of that suffering.  But if He took the deal He would have lost it all.

It’s clear that the final attack is aimed at the world.  Why the world?  Remember the goal…our goal is not personal comfort or the safety of the church.  What we’re fighting for is to set the captives free.

That’s why we pick up the shield and advance forward toward the enemy’s camp.  It’s to save souls.

The battle must go from personal to the kingdom.  What I talked about in my last two posts was just a defensive battle.  Now you’re at hell’s gates.  Now you’re taking something from the enemy.

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Matthew 4:10

Jesus saw through the devil’s deception.  It was all about worship.  The Lord was being tempted to pay homage to the ruler of the world.

We fall into that trap when we decide that we want to impress the world.  You can’t do both; you can’t impress them and free them at the same time.

We are here to impose God’s freedom on the enemy’s kingdom.  But we lack understanding if we think it’s like opening up a jail or a prison camp.  It’s not like that.  It’s more like an opium den.  The people we’re trying to set free are all addicts to sin, just like you and I were.  It’s destroying them, but they don’t want freedom.

By the power of God, the church is out to break down the strongholds of the enemy.  In the eyes of the world, it’s like we’re removing their supply of drugs.  It’s the sin they’re addicted to that we’re attacking.  That’s why we’re so hated much of the time.

But that’s why we’re in the battle.  It’s to save lives.  The real question of all this is; are you willing?  Are you ready and able to go to spiritual war?  This generation of America is at stake.

The Lord is looking for the faithful.  He’s calling to assemble His army.  You’re needed on the front lines.

Question: What role do you play in this war to set the captives free from their bondage to sin?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Spiritual Warfare – It’s Bigger than Me

I’m posting about the spiritual battle that we have to contend with as believers.  I’m using Christ as our example.  In my last post, I talked about the devil attacking who we are in Christ.  The next attack is more subtle.

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Matthew 4:5-6

Remember that I said it’s not about mindlessly quoting the Bible.  That doesn’t bring about the victory.  In this verse, we see the reason for that.  The devil has the Bible memorized.  He can quote it better than we can sometimes.

What is this attack?  By using the Bible, Satan is trying to attack the church.  He wants to go through you to bring down other believers.

If you’re a warrior, then the enemy needs to bring you down so that he can attack the church. That’s what the verse meant that said that the battle entails persistency and petition around all the saints. (Ephesians 6:17-18)

Other Christians aren’t really watching the battle.  Many times they’re off in “praise land,” never realizing that they’re being protected.  There are those whose ministry is interceding for them – protecting them.

Why would the devil have told Christ to jump from the temple?  The angels would have protected Him and it would have fulfilled a prophecy from Malachi.

“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
Malachi 3:1

Had He jumped off the roof, Christ would have appeared suddenly in the Temple.  The people would have flocked to Him.  But what would they be following?  In a word – sensationalism.

God doesn’t want us following the spectacular.

“He’s on TV, he must be spiritual.”

This attack asks; am I going to build God’s kingdom?  Am I going to protect God’s people?  Or am I going to live for self?  This attack happens after a victory in another area.  I’ve overcome the temptation to sin, now I want the fame, recognition, and money that I deserve.

This attack is all about whether I want to advance myself or God’s kingdom.  Many choose to exalt themselves.  The body of Christ is not a place for self-advancement.  It’s got to be the Lord who exalts us.  Christ’s answer to this attack was simple.

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Matthew 4:7

This is making God the focus of our examination.  The fact is, God doesn’t have to prove He’s going to bless me before I serve Him.  I obey Him because He’s God.  He’s done so much for me already; the Lord has nothing He needs to prove to me.

It’s when we need something more than what Christ has already provided that we fall victim to this trap.  Instead of testing God, our goal should be simply to hear and obey Him.

Question: What are some of the things we chase after that are unneeded in our Christian walk?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Spiritual Warfare – Battle Tested

I’m taking a few posts to talk about the example Christ is to us as we fight this spiritual battle.  I believe that the church needs to develop a warrior mentality.  In the natural world, soldiers don’t live with civilians.  They live set apart, and they see themselves as set apart.

By looking at the example of Christ, we can see what this battle is all about.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
Matthew 4:1

In my last post, we saw that we’re to fight this spiritual battle with all persistency and petition around all the saints.  The fight is not in the center of the saints where the “praise party” is going on.  It’s on the edges – in the prayer closet – in the private places.

Notice that Jesus was not in the city or with His disciples when the devil attacked.  It was in the place of prayer and fasting.  That’s the true place of warfare.

So often I’ve heard worship leaders, in the midst of a great time of praise and worship, proclaim, “We’ve got the enemy on the run!”  Far from it.  During those times the church is in the mess hall, far from the battle.  Warfare occurs when we’re in private.

The Scripture is clear that Jesus was tempted by the devil.  It’s important to know what this means.  We think of tempting as Satan trying to get us to fail.  The actual Greek word means a test, proof, or examination.

The temptation is merely asking, “Are you the real thing?”  When you pick up the shield of faith, are you for real?  Are you just repeating something you heard, or does it come from your heart?

This is important for believers to understand. Whenever we grasp a new concept in Christ it must be added to our faith. It can’t simply be something we give lip service to.  We have to be willing to live it out.

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 4:3-4

We need to see that the first attack is personal.  Who are you in Christ?  Are you going to cater to your flesh or to the spirit?

This is why you need your helmet and sword.  You have to walk in the authority of your position in Christ.  You must understand the power of the Word of God in you.  That’s the only thing that will counter this attack.

That’s why you need to know who you are in Christ.  What’s your calling in the kingdom of God?  The battle is all about who you’re going to trust for your needs.  Of course, that means we know the difference between wants and needs.

Jesus could have answered “Yes” to the devil’s challenge.  The question is; where did the Lord’s response come from?  Was it the Bible that said “no”?  Was Jesus merely quoting Scripture?

No, this came up from His Spirit.  It was the overflow of a heart that was full of God’s Word.  That’s where we get the strength for overcoming the enemy’s schemes.

The fact is the Word is more important than bread.  We have to come to grips with this.  What’s the Word more important than in your life?  It might not be a bad thing that you have to push aside in place of the Word of God to you.  It’s this response from our heart that proves we’re the “real thing” during the times of testing.

Question: How have you been tested lately?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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