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Category Archives: The Church

Three Symptoms of a Lack of Power

Compared to the early church, we live in a generation that barely sees the power of God at work. As a result, we need to use other methods to promote God’s kingdom. Do you know what these powerless methods look like?

I believe that if God’s people would spend time with the Holy Spirit, and then obey what they hear, we would see society changed. Instead, we rely on human plans to try and do God’s work. It’s sad, but I think that we’ve simply gotten used to ministry without power.

A few posts ago I talked about how Paul’s view of the Gospel was a demonstration of the power of God. Now he explains what it’s not…

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.
1 Thessalonians 2:3

Without operating in the power of the Spirit, leaders must find other ways of getting people to serve God. Paul lists three of them here. I think you’ll be surprised at what he says to us.

The first word he uses is error, which means wandering. This word literally means to stray because you’ve left the right way and are now simply roaming around.

It’s very easy to leave the right path if I never seek God’s will to begin with. Ministries with this problem are always trying something new, because they saw it work somewhere else. They wander from new program to new program, hoping for something that works.

For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:25

The goal should be to seek the Lord’s will for my life, then walk in it. That will keep me from wandering around, hoping to someday stumble upon God’s plan for me.

The next issue is that of impure motives. The reason behind the ministry is as important as the ministry itself. There are some ministries that seem like their only goal is to exalt themselves.

We live in a society where many of the advertising and political campaigns are based upon negativity. It’s not about what I’m trying to do, but what you’re doing wrong. Unfortunately we’ve carried this kind of thinking into the church.

I believe that I should be able to do what God has called me to do without having to put down any other ministry. The fact is that making someone else look bad, doesn’t make me look any better.

The final issue Paul talked about was trickery. It’s believed that this Greek word means to set up a decoy or bait in hunting. It’s unfortunate that there are ministries that view believers as prey.

To make things worse, the decoy or bait they use, is the Scripture. Please understand me; I’m not saying that all televangelists are bad. Most of them are trying to do God’s will. But there are some who, I believe, only study the Bible in order to find a Scripture verse that will convince you to take money out of your wallet and put it into theirs.

Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
2 Corinthians 4:2

I truly believe that if I’m doing God’s will, then God will provide my needs. Yes, He will use people to give into my ministry. But I won’t need to make them feel guilty or use any other form of trickery or deceit.

We need to be looking at the fruit of the ministries that we want to support. We should only give into those works that are proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ.

Question: What do you think are the marks of a ministry of integrity?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Counter Culture

Is the church called to run contrary to the world? If so, then where are we missing it? I want us to think about our walk as Christians in America. This topic actually isn’t that new. James wrote about it long ago.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
James 4:4

Those are some strong words he uses. He called them an adulterous people. What does cheating on your spouse have to do with the spiritual condition of a generation? The answer is found in the verse just preceding this one. It explains his choice of words. As he talked about asking for things in prayer, he wrote…

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

Here’s the problem that James is describing as adultery. They asked God for things so that they could then spend those things on their pleasures. It literally says that their motives in seeking God, was so that they could become consumers of pleasures.

That sounds a little too familiar.

“God, please help me to get a better job.”

Then, as our blessings increase, we get more things and push God further into the background. After all, now that I have more stuff, I have less time for “church”.

Here’s the problem from God’s perspective. It says in verse 4, above, that trying to make friends with the world is an act of hostility toward God. To make a friend, you need to try to please them or be like them in some way.

Remember, we’re not talking about the people, but the world system. You can make friends with people without buying into the system.

There’s a word we use for the world’s system of order. It’s the word culture. Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary defines culture as, the sum total of the attainments and activities of any…people, including their implements, handcrafts, agriculture, economics, music, arts, religious beliefs, tradition, language and story.

In other words, the American culture is our entire way of life. It’s how we live and what we expect. It’s what we strive for as well as what we accept as “normal”.

When I think about the mainstream of life in the United States, I get a picture of the system at work here. Then, when I see the lifestyle we’re called to as followers of Christ, I get a whole different picture. There are some areas where the two cultures are drastically different.

How do we live in both worlds? As believers, we must live in the world without operating according to its system. That makes us a part of a counter-culture.

Many of the ways of God run contrary to how the world does things. When we seek acceptance from society by trying to fit in with them, we run the risk of compromising our beliefs. We must always live as a part of God’s kingdom no matter where we are.

Question: What are some areas you see where the church is too friendly with the world system?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2017 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Favoritism

Do you show favoritism? What does that even mean? As Christians we need to be aware of the correct way to treat people that we meet.

According to James, we need to be careful of our attitudes towards others.

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.
James 2:1

This verse implies that faith and favoritism don’t go together. But that brings up some questions. When we hear the word favoritism in our society, we think of something unfair. The King James Version of the Bible translates it as being a respecter of persons.

The Bible also says that God doesn’t act this way. Yet we know that some people are under His grace – His favor – and others are not. So in actuality, the word favoritism is not a good description of what’s being talked about here.

The literal Greek translation of the word being used in the above verse is face-accepter. It’s when we judge someone simply by their appearance. God’s ways are very different from ours.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

Psychologists tell us that our attitudes about people are formed within the first five minutes of meeting them. Usually it’s based upon zero facts. It’s all about the impression we get when we look at them.

Sometimes we pick up attitudes for no reason. We think someone is lazy and dumb without ever getting to know them. Then there are others we want to be around, knowing nothing substantial about them. That’s what James is talking about. Look at his description.

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
James 2:2-4

It’s obvious that this is about looking at people’s outward appearance and making a judgment based on sight alone. James tells us that if we approach people in that way, then we aren’t walking in faith.

That word discriminate means to separate in order to make a distinction. When we treat people in this way, it’s because we’re looking at their possible value in what they could give to us.

That’s the evil thoughts that this is talking about. Relationships based upon what I can get out of it.

Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?
James 2:5-7

The word insulted in this verse means to render valueless. That’s the true problem. When we see someone as having no value simply based upon their appearance, we’re not operating in faith. I’m glad that God placed such a high value on us that Christ went to the cross for us.

We need to follow His example. He went to those that society had written off. We need to do the same.

Question: How do you judge people when you first meet them?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2017 in Faith, Fellowship, Ministry, The Church

 

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Are You Religious?

What comes to your mind when you hear the word religious? Do you think about someone who goes to church, reads the Bible, and prays a lot? The Bible has a very different definition of what religious should be.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:26-27

The word religious in this passage comes from a Greek word that means ceremonial observances. That means that you do things out of tradition. So to understand it, we need to realize that this doesn’t apply to our spiritual walk with Christ.

Being spiritual is all about relationship, not religion. I come to Christ in prayer, in the church, and in the Scripture, not because it’s tradition or ceremony. I come to Him because I want to know Him better as a person.

The better I relate to Christ, the more growth I experience in my Christian walk. I do know that there are many Christians who treat their walk with God in a religious way. However, in my opinion, it’s much better to cultivate a relationship with Christ, then to simply follow religious observances.

What, then, does this Scripture want us to be religious about? I can see three things that we need to observe as a tradition in our lives.

First of all, we need to religiously control our tongues. James goes so far as to say that if you don’t control your tongue, you’re deceiving yourself as to your maturity. It doesn’t matter what else you do, it’s all worthless without bringing the tongue under control.

That’s because our mouth doesn’t speak on its own.

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45

Control of the tongue is about controlling what you put into your heart. So if you’re not constantly filling your heart with the Word, your tongue will declare it publically.

The next part of good religion is to help those in distress. We don’t just live for ourselves. There’s a world of hurting people around us. Orphans, widows, single parents, and those in prison all need encouragement and help. There are many more than just those groups.

If we truly want to start a tradition, it should be one of helping others in their need. More than any other group, Christians should be the ones that help those no one else cares about. After all, that’s what Jesus did in His ministry.

The final part is to keep yourself from being polluted by the world. That’s a tough assignment. The Scripture literally says to keep from becoming spotted or stained by the world.

Every day, as we work and interact with those around us, the dirt from society is coming at us. If we’re not careful, we can start picking up some of the same attitudes. This will greatly hinder our walk with God.

We need to be in the pattern, the tradition, of going to God daily for repentance. As the Holy Spirit prompts us that we need to be cleaned of something, we need to be quick to respond. In that way we’ll be free of the stains of the world.

If you want to be religious about something, these are the things you should major on; and keep your walk with Christ as a growing relationship.

Question: What are the religious traditions in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2017 in Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Indonesian Testimony – Part 4

img_2010This will be the last in a series of posts about my recent trip to the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. As you could see from the last three, it was a very eventful project.

After our time in the area of Sibolga, we flew back to the Medan airport to wait for our flight home. Little did we know that the best was yet to come.

As we reflected about our time on Sumatra, we hadn’t made any earth-shaking discoveries. We learned about the culture. We were made to understand the spiritual climate and the needs of the people.

Apart from the learning curve of the mission field, everything went as expected. We met with missionaries, pastors and church planters who were doing the work of the ministry. We saw the depth of lostness in the regions we visited. We heard about the needs, desires, and vision of the work being done there.

All of this gave us a clear picture of the role we could play in helping them in their mission. We now knew about the teams that would need to be sent to aid in their evangelism. We understood the need they had for finances and other resources. This is normal for a vision trip to a mission field.

Then it happened. Something so far from our experience, that it totally took us by surprise.

A pastor from a church in the Medan area gave us an envelope. We opened it. He explained that after our visit, his church took a vote. They decided to give us a seed offering of 1,000,000 rupiahs toward the church planting work being done in the Boston area.

And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.
2 Corinthians 8:1-4

This verse could have been written about the church in Medan. We viewed them as a mission field – in need of our support. Yet they understood a spiritual truth that many churches in the USA need to learn.

They feel called of God to win the lost and plant churches in the unreached areas of their country. In order to accomplish that, they’ll need God’s power, provision, and ability. They understood the concept that if they plant good seed in good soil – even though that soil might be on the other side of the world – it will bring in a harvest for them.

WOW! To say that we were blown away by their gift would be an understatement. In spite of their need, they gave a sacrificial gift to us because they have a view of the global mission of the Gospel. I have absolutely no doubt that their faith will be rewarded.

I now have no reservations in working with these wonderful men and women of God. The Lord is definitely going to accomplish great things through the Sumatra-Boston partnership. I’m glad and grateful that I can be a part of it from the very foundation.

Please pray for the work and the workers in that part of the world.

Question: In what areas have you planted spiritual seed outside your normal circles?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2017 in Faith, God's Provision, Missions, The Church

 

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Indonesian Testimony – Part 3

img_1902I’ve been posting about what I saw and learned on my recent vision trip to Indonesia with a group of ministers. We went to see how Boston area churches could get involved in what God is doing there.

So far I talked about what happened in the big city of Medan on the western side of Sumatra. Halfway through the trip, we took a one-hour plane ride to the eastern side. We stayed in the town of Sibolga.

We were now in a part of Sumatra that few Westerners get to see. Let me give you an idea of what I mean. The 15 mile ride from the airport to the town took one full hour because of the conditions of the road.

Sibolga is a small town on the edge of the mountains. As a matter of fact, the first thing we did when we got there was to take the road into the mountains. There was a special site we wanted to get to.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that the roads we took looked like something taken from National Geographic magazine. They were narrow, winding roads, barely clinging to the sides of the mountain.

Two hours later we arrived at our destination. It was the place where the first missionaries to Sumatra (who were sent from Boston) were killed by the local Batak tribe. The Batak people now look back on that event with guilt and sadness. They have erected a memorial in honor of Lyman and Munson. That’s the picture at the top of this article.

But that brings me to the part we didn’t expect on this trip. This area is saturated with Batak churches. We came with the understanding that the area surrounding Sibolga needed the Gospel. So what was the problem?

We found that most of the local churches aren’t evangelizing the lost. A disconnect has formed between the churches and the missionaries. The local churches believe that it’s the missionaries’ job to win the lost, while it’s their job to build larger churches.

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
Mark 16:15

I believe that preaching the Good News of Christ to the lost is not optional for any believer. Whether it’s next door or around the world, we all have a part to play.

Upon learning about this spiritual dilemma in the work being done here, we made a decision. What we learned served to strengthen our resolve to support and encourage the new breed of church planters that God was raising up on Sumatra.

Their goal is to present the Gospel to the unreached people around them. It’s not in their agenda to fill their churches with pre-existing Christians. They passionately desire to see the Kingdom of God increase.

Along with that, I believe that God gave me a personal goal as well. I want to come back to the island with teams of 4-5 people who can help the missionaries in their evangelism projects. I can also be an encouragement to local ministers and theological students with practical training and teaching.

Pray for the church planters and missionaries who are reaching souls on Sumatra. Pray for the local churches to get God’s vision for reaching the lost around them.

Question: How have you reached out to those around you who need Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2017 in Ministry, Missions, The Church, The Gospel

 

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Indonesian Testimony – Part 2

img_1812In my last post I started to share about my recent trip to the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. I want to continue with this testimony.

We started our project by staying in the largest city on the island – Medan. We were met and taken around by a local church planting pastor. He’s a native of the area and a part of the Batak tribe. He wants to see God’s hand at work in his area.

He shared with us that the Batak people are very volatile. They’re known for having bad tempers. His was to the extreme. As a young man he was so aggressive that his village asked him to leave.

Later in his life he was looking for answers. At some point he received a copy of the Bible. He decided that he wanted to understand it so he read it from cover to cover.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23

As he was reading through the book of Romans, he became keenly aware of his need for Christ. Without any prompting from anyone other than the Holy Spirit, he prayed and surrendered his life to the Lord.

Because of his study of the Scripture, he knew that he needed to be baptized in water. He went to one church and they told them that they only sprinkled.

As he walked along, he saw a crowd of people by a lake. He saw that they were having a baptism service. He asked if he could join in and be baptized. After the pastor talked with him a while and saw that he was truly saved, they agreed to baptize him.

I recently heard a quote from David Platt. “There’s only one thing worse than being lost and that is being lost and having no one trying to find you.” This pastor is an amazing example of God’s grace.

In spite of the fact that Indonesia is a Moslem nation, there are many Christian churches. The problem we saw was that many of them are mainline denominational churches with no desire to win the lost. They’re content to simply minister to those of their own congregation, or trying to get believers to switch to their church. The kingdom doesn’t grow that way.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Luke 19:10

What we saw was that even some of the evangelical pastors of that area are becoming concerned with external issues. They want to be like the churches around them. They are discussing whether they should start preaching in robes, and what color they should be.

We made it our goal on this trip to only work with pastors who understood the mission. There are millions of lost souls that need to be reached. That will not happen if we cling to church as usual, or chase after being acceptable.

Pray for Indonesia. Pray for the churches of that nation to cultivate an outward focus on reaching the lost people around them. Pray for the churches who are reaching people; that they would be even more effective.

Question: How do you keep yourself “mission minded” to reach the lost?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2017 in Ministry, Missions, The Church, The Gospel

 

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