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Category Archives: Spiritual Walk

Grey Areas

How do you handle issues that the Bible doesn’t speak about?  Usually, these activities create controversy in the church.  Many believers argue about things like gambling, tattoos, drinking alcohol, or buying lottery tickets.

In Paul’s day, the issue was about buying meat that had been sacrificed at a pagan temple.  It was the best meat in the marketplace.  But there were many who said that it was a sin to eat it.

In chapters 8 through 10 of his letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle gives some guiding principles.

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.  For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
1 Corinthians 8:4-6

I find this to be an amazing passage of Scripture.  Here you have a former Pharisee looking at the issue and not immediately saying, “It’s a sin, don’t do it.”

Instead, Paul takes a step back and looks at it in logical terms.  What’s an idol?  It’s nothing at all.  A statue made of metal or wood.  It has no power or ability to do anything.

I think that our problem in dealing with these “hot button” activities is that we get emotionally invested in our conclusions.  We have a definite opinion about whether something is sin or not.  Usually, that’s the case even though the Bible is silent about it.

There are many activities that God clearly defines as sin.  There are lists in the Bible that tell us what God hates and instructs us not to participate.  There’s no question – these things are not God’s will for us.

The problem comes about in these grey areas.  Many of these activities existed since the times of the Patriarchs.  Yet the Lord chose not to speak about them.  If that’s the case, then why do we get so worked up about them?

We need to take a lesson from Paul.  Step back, get rid of the emotional attachments, and look at it from a purely Biblical perspective.  He starts at the bottom line.  Idols are nothing, God is everything.

In all areas of life, we have to look at our relationship with God as the overriding factor.  Everything that I do should revolve around Christ.  We seem to forget that sometimes.

With Paul, that’s the starting point.  We begin with a desire to please Christ.  It’s not about proving that I’m right.

So often, when it comes to these grey areas, it’s a matter of checking our motives.  In many cases, I’ve been approached by Christian teens asking if a certain activity was a sin.  They were trying to get me to override their parents.

“Pastor Nick says that it’s not a sin, so why won’t you let me do it?”

In those cases, I bring it around to the true issue.  It’s always a sin to disrespect your parents.  As long as you’re under their authority, you need to abide by their decisions, even if you think that they’re wrong.

Usually, it’s not as simple as asking if something is a sin.  There are many things in life that are not a sin, but they are also not God’s will for me to take part in.  I have to consider that as well.

Our walk with God is the top priority.  We should be trying, with all of our heart, to please the Lord in all that we do.  That’s the start of a pure walk with God.

Question: What are some special limits that God has placed upon your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on April 17, 2019 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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Knowledge vs. Love

In my last post, I concluded the section of First Corinthians that dealt with romantic relationships.  Now the Apostle Paul is starting a new subject.

The Corinthian church had sent him a letter asking whether or not they could eat meat that had been sacrificed at a pagan temple.  You may think that this doesn’t apply to us, but I assure you, it does.  You’ll find out why as we go through chapter 8 of Paul’s letter.

In his society, the people of his day would look for any advantage they could get.  They would seek the blessing of an idol so they would bring an animal for sacrifice to the pagan temple.  Usually, they would bring their very best for this purpose.

The pagan priests who ran the temples would then take this meat from the sacrificed animals and sell it in the market to raise money for their support.  Because of its source, it was usually the best meat available.  So the question of whether a Christian could purchase this meat was a valid one.

How would this apply to us?  The problem of Paul’s day was that there was no Old Testament Scripture that directly talked about this issue.  So there were some believers who said it was a sin while others thought it was perfectly fine.

There are issues that we deal with in the church today that are like that.  Things that the Bible doesn’t mention, yet we have opinions about.  We ask are they sin or not.  I’m talking about things like dancing, drinking alcohol, going to a casino, getting a tattoo, or playing the lottery.

We need to hear Paul’s answer if we’re to walk correctly before God.  He starts by laying down some important principles.

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge.  Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.  But the man who loves God is known by God.
1 Corinthians 8:1-3

It all starts with our knowledge and love.  In all cases love trumps knowledge.  That’s because with knowledge comes pride.  We think that we’re somehow better than others because we possess more knowledge than them.

That’s not the case.  Knowledge is like air.  You can blow up a balloon, but there’s no substance to it.  In our society, people will spend years of their lives accumulating knowledge in universities.  They think that somehow they’re more valuable because of it.  In reality, the more love you possess, the better a person you become.

This is especially true when you think that you know something completely.  Paul is trying to get across to us that you can never know everything about a particular subject – especially when it deals with your walk with God.

Paul says that the man who loves God is known by God.  That phrase literally says that the one who loves God is known under God.  That tells me that the more you love God, the more you submit yourself under His control.

The more you love the Lord, the more people begin to see your submission to Him.  Then, your love for others will begin to increase.  The more you love, the more valuable you are to God and His kingdom.  It has no relationship to how much knowledge you possess.

Make it your goal to live a life of love, then you’ll be able to use your knowledge for the benefit of others.

Question: How have you seen the effect of knowledge bringing pride with it?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2019 in Fellowship, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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Family Distractions

As we continue looking at the first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul explains his reasons for enjoying the single life.

I would like you to be free from concern.
1 Corinthians 7:32a

The first thing he talks about is our concerns.  The Greek word he uses is an interesting one.  In our modern terminology, I could say that he wants us not to be overwhelmed by having too many things on our plates.

As I look around at our society, it seems that this is a big problem today.  Many people spend their time trying to handle too many things.  Between jobs, education, and recreational activities, we seem overloaded.

Paul goes on…

An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs — how he can please the Lord.  But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world — how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided.  An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.  But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world — how she can please her husband.
1 Corinthians 7:32-34

This is an important truth that needs to be dealt with very seriously.  It’s especially true with young Christian couples who are engaged to be married.

That’s why I require pre-marital counseling for any couple who wants me to perform their marriage.  There are topics which need to be covered and understood BEFORE the marriage.  This is a big one.

There’s a whole host of issues that need to be decided in my personal life.  These include prayer time, Bible reading, church attendance, my personal ministry calling, tithing, and many others.

These are the Lord’s affairs that I need to be concerned with.  In the same way, my future spouse has to deal with these same personal issues.

But now, as we come together, there’s a whole list of marital issues that we need to work out.  On top of that, we need to take our personal walks with God and get to the point where we serve God in unity.

It’s unfortunate, but I’ve talked to couples who didn’t even begin to work through these issues until after the marriage.  The problems this causes even made some couples question whether they should have gotten married at all.  That’s a really dangerous place to be in.

In some marriages, it becomes worse over time.  I’ve seen a person having to decide whether to do what God wanted or what the spouse wanted – but they couldn’t do both.

Paul wants the unmarried couples under his care to understand this before it’s too late to change course.  Think seriously about your life together.  How will your service to God fit with each other’s callings?  Is it God that’s bringing you to the marriage altar?  Or your own desires?

I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
1 Corinthians 7:35

Paul literally says that he’s not trying to put a noose around our neck.  He wants us to live our best for the Lord.

I can honestly say that my devotion to God and my service to Him increased dramatically when I met and married my wife.  She was God’s choice for me.  However, if we had not received the Godly counsel before marriage, it would have been a rocky path.

Make sure that you receive the best counsel available before you take that big step into married life.

Question: How did pre-marital counseling prepare you for life with your spouse?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2019 in Ministry, Relationships, Spiritual Walk

 

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Everything Changes

I’ve been posting from First Corinthians, Chapter 7.  Paul is dealing with romantic relationships.  In my last article Paul advised that because of persecution that was starting, they needed to consider carefully if they were looking to marry.

Now Paul explains these principles in a little more detail.

What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short.  From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none…
1 Corinthians 7:29

We have to understand that Paul is not saying to leave your wife.  What he means is that whatever happens, keep your walk with the Lord your priority.

At any time your spouse might be arrested, imprisoned, or even martyred for your faith in Christ.  If that’s the case, then you can’t let it affect your service to the Lord.  That’s why God gives a special kind of grace to those undergoing persecution.

Many have come to me and said, “Pastor, I hope persecution never comes to America because I don’t think I could handle it.”  I tell them that if we’re called to that kind of life, then we’ll be given the grace to withstand it victoriously.

Paul goes on to explain the underlying truth.

…those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.  For this world in its present form is passing away.
1 Corinthians 7:30-31

The thing that Paul is trying to get across to us is that everything is subject to change.  The world doesn’t get it.  They think that a single event brings a permanent change.

If they go through a devastating loss, they think their life is over forever.  On the other hand, they think that if they can just win the lottery, they’ll be happy forever.  Neither of those two statements is true.  Change is constant.

So as believers, we’re told not to look at any phase of life as permanent.  Even if we get a new device that we’ve always wanted – we realize that it’s not ours to keep.  It will wear out, break, or become obsolete.

We’re literally told that we can use the systems of the world, but don’t overuse or misuse them.  The way society works is constantly changing.  The strategies that made people successful 50 years ago, won’t work today.

The present form of the world – the way things work – is fading away.  Society is always changing.  The way people learn, interact and do business is always evolving.  We can’t get engrossed in one way of doing things.

But here’s the good news.  God’s kingdom works the same yesterday, today and forever.

It’s all about spending time in the Lord’s presence hearing from the Holy Spirit.  Then we do what He’s leading us to do.  It’s this obedience that makes us successful.

If somebody had told me as a teen, that one day I would sit in my den and explain Biblical truth to people across the country and around the world, I wouldn’t have believed them.  It’s become a different world now.

The bottom line is that change will be constant and that listening to the voice of God is the only thing that will keep us on course.

Question: How has the Holy Spirit helped you to weather the changes in society?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2019 in Encouragement, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Marriage is Not an Escape

In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul gives advice about our romantic relationships.  As we continue looking at these, he now talks about those who have never been married (virgins).

Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.  Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are.  Are you married?  Do not seek a divorce.  Are you unmarried?  Do not look for a wife.  But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned.  But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
1 Corinthians 7:25-28

You may think, from reading this passage, that Paul was against marriage.  That’s not the case.  This is referencing a certain situation that was happening in his day.

Persecution was beginning to break out against the church in some locations.  That’s what he meant by this present crisis.  He wanted them to weigh their decision carefully because of the uncertain future.

This is a very important concept for us to understand in our generation.  As a pastor, I’ve had the privilege of bringing many couples through the pre-marital counseling process.  It gives a lot of insight into what Paul is talking about here.

Let me explain.  In talking with couples, I ask them to give reasons why this marriage is right for them.  I’ve heard many answers.  There are some that don’t sit well with me.

“I want to get married now because this is the first person that has ever shown any interest in me and I don’t want to lose him.”

That’s not a reason to pledge your life to someone.  God is able to bring the right person along at the right time.  You can’t make a life altering decision, based only on someone’s availability and your desire to be married.

There are other issues as well.  I’ve seen people who are single but are in a bad family situation.  Their parents have an addiction problem or are very abusive.  They see marriage as an easy escape from their home environment.

This can end up making a bad situation even worse.  Marriage is not an escape from your problems.  If anything, it brings you a whole new set of problems.

I say this not at all getting down on marriage.  I’ve been married to my wife for almost 40 years.  I wouldn’t want any other life.  I love everything about our times together.

But I can tell you this – there are problems we faced together that we would never have had as single people.  Marriage comes with its own unique set of challenges.  You have to be prepared for this as a couple.

If you’re single, don’t ever look to marriage as an escape from a bad situation.  You may dream about being married someday.  But being married is never better than being single – UNLESS – you marry the special person that God has chosen for you.

So, to all the singles out there, I’m telling you to put your hope in the Lord.  If you want to stay single, then do so without feeling guilty.  If you want to be married, then trust God to bring you the right person at just the right time.

God wants your life to be abundantly blessed.

Question: How have you trusted God in your relationships?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Bloom Where You’re Planted

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s now getting into some guiding principles as he talks about relationships in chapter 7.

Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.  This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.
1 Corinthians 7:17

The context of this verse is that you shouldn’t end your marriage just because you got saved.  If your partner wants to remain together, even though they might not be a Christian, then allow the Holy Spirit to work through your relationship.

This is a guideline that Paul teaches in all of his churches.  It literally says that whatever portion God has assigned to you when He calls you; remain in it.

The Lord doesn’t work like a steam roller.  He doesn’t come into your life and tear everything down.

Cults do that.  When you join a cult, many times they’ll tell you to leave your family and cut all ties with your friends.  That’s not how the Lord works.

Normally, the Holy Spirit will work on you from the inside out.  He wants the people who know you best to see the change as it’s happening.  Then it will be a witness to them of the power of God.

Paul uses an example of circumcision to make his point.

Was a man already circumcised when he was called?  He should not become uncircumcised.  Was a man uncircumcised when he was called?  He should not be circumcised.  Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing.  Keeping God’s commands is what counts.
1 Corinthians 7:18-19

The fact is that God can use anyone.  You don’t have to change who you are in order to serve Him faithfully.  The bottom line is that you hear and obey God’s voice.

He speaks to His people and we obey.  It’s a step by step process.  If there’s something in our lives that needs changing, then the Lord will provide the power to bring that about.

Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him.  Were you a slave when you were called?  Don’t let it trouble you — although if you can gain your freedom, do so.  For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave.
1 Corinthians 7:20-22

Paul talks about some situations that we find ourselves in that aren’t ideal.  Unfortunately, they’re not easy to get out of.  In this case, it’s slavery.  In those days it wasn’t all like the American version.  For some, slavery was a voluntary way to repay a debt.  For others, it was a penalty for a crime committed.

For us, it might be a massive amount of debt or multiple jobs in order to pay your bills.  Paul explains that in these types of situations, don’t worry about it.  Let God work through it.

But there is hope during those times.  We’re told the if we have the power to become free, then use it.  We don’t have to remain downtrodden.  Through prayer and obedience to the voice of God, our situation can and will improve.

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.  Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.
1 Corinthians 7:23-24

However, it’s important that we don’t knowingly place ourselves in these types of situations.  We want to be able to give our best for the Lord.

Question: How has God used your unique position in the past?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2019 in Encouragement, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Marriage Between Light and Dark

In my last post, we saw the Apostle Paul’s teaching on divorce between Christian couples.  Now he goes on to talk about marriages between a Christian and a non-Christian.

To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.  And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.
1 Corinthians 7:12-13

In this case, there’s a special set of circumstances.  You have two vastly different kingdoms living under the same roof.

It’s the problem of light and darkness coming together.  They don’t mix very well.  In many cases, the unbelieving spouse finds it very convicting as they live with a believer.  This is true even when the Christian isn’t actively trying to win them to Christ.

Because of this, Paul says that the decision should be left in the hands of the unbeliever.  If they’re willing to remain in the relationship, then the marriage should stay intact.

The reason it works this way is because of the influence of the Holy Spirit.  The Christian spouse brings a covenant blessing into the home because of their faith.

For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband.  Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
1 Corinthians 7:14

Please understand what Paul’s saying here.  The unbeliever is made clean in a ceremonial sense.  They’re not saved by the spouse.  A clean rock is still a rock.

God gives the unbeliever a position of cleanness.  This is so that the children can come under the covenant blessing.  Because of the believer, they’re covered by God’s promises.

God will always desire for the marriage to remain together.  That’s because the Holy Spirit has a chance to work on the heart of the unbeliever.

But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so.  A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.  How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?  Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
1 Corinthians 7:15-16

As in all things, the rule is peace.  God wants our homes to be a refuge of peace.  That’s why He will not keep a believer and an unbeliever bound together.  A battleground between light and dark is no place to live.

God’s desire is for our best.  He wants our homes to be a place of blessing for both parents and children.

Question: How can God work on the unbeliever even if they decide to leave the marriage?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2019 in Relationships, Spiritual Walk

 

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