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Is Your Faith Known?

In my last post, I talked about the need for a faith-coach. In sports, coaches are needed to overcome the challenges that an athlete faces during their competition. I believe it’s the same in our Christian walk. It’s how we’ve been coached that gets us through our challenges.

Paul tells the Thessalonian church the reason he was sending Timothy to coach them…

…so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.
1 Thessalonians 3:3-5

First of all, let me say that I’m not particularly thrilled with this passage. Paul makes it clear that it’s an undeniable fact of life that we will certainly face trials. Both of the words he uses – trials and persecution – mean pressure, narrow spaces, and challenges.

The Good News is not that we have an easy life with Christ. Instead, the Lord strengthens us to overcome in all of our trials.

This is why Paul wants them to be coached. In our trials, we should never be unsettled. That word literally means to wag – like a dog wags his tail.

Too often we, as Christians, end up simply reacting to our trials. We don’t expect them. Worse than that, we don’t know how to correctly operate in faith to walk through them. God has a better way for us. Listen to what He said to Israel when He taught them the law.

The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.
Deuteronomy 28:13

The Lord never wants us to be wagged – to simply react – to the challenges of life. We have been given the Holy Spirit so that we can be ready for anything that comes our way. By watching others overcome, we can be equipped for the same victories.

Unfortunately, many refuse God’s mentoring system. They end up learning to overcome by trial and error. Personally, I want to know the strategy before I enter the heat of battle.

Back in the verse from Thessalonians, Paul said that he wanted to find out about their faith – literally he wanted to know their faith. The fact is, that true faith can be seen and known by those around you.

Trials and challenges – the pressures of life – serve an important purpose. They come so that the faith that you have on the inside can become evident on the outside.

Listen to how Peter describes the result of trials in our lives.

These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:7

Do what needs to be done in order to prepare your faith. Then when the trials come, as you know they will, Christ will be revealed in you.

Question: How has watching other believers prepared you for your trials?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Get a Faith-Coach

I’ve been posting about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. I’m now starting to look at chapter three. We now begin to see Paul’s desire for their continued growth.

So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith…
1 Thessalonians 3:1-2

If you remember, Paul had to leave Thessalonica before he had a chance to establish the church in his usual way. He had been worrying about their spiritual health as he traveled through the area. Now that things had quieted down a little, he could check up on them.

He decided to send his spiritual son, Timothy, to see how they were doing. With Paul as his mentor, Timothy had grown to a seasoned minister in his own right. Paul even calls him a co-worker in the Gospel. Having Timothy show up in their church was like having Paul, himself.

But the real question is; why did Paul feel the need to send anyone? After all, there are many in the body of Christ today who don’t feel the need to sit under any teaching. What was it that Paul was trying to accomplish?

Why didn’t Paul just encourage them to make sure they were reading the Bible? Okay, so they didn’t have a Bible. This letter was the second book of the New Testament that was written. And the only copy of the Old Testament in Thessalonica was in the synagogue, where most of the persecution was coming from.

If you’ve been following this blog through the book of First Thessalonians, then you know that one of the themes Paul talks about is the principle of imitation. The fact is that we all need spiritual mentors to look up to. I would say that 80% of our growth comes from how we see others living for Christ.

Timothy was given two specific assignments in regard to the people. Paul wanted to position them for growth and maturity. These are the same things that we need from those we find ourselves under in the church.

The first thing Timothy was to do is strengthening them in their faith. This word has a couple of different uses. It means to establish or set fast. We need to be rooted in our faith. Trusting God is not something we can do today and forget about tomorrow. It must be a consistent part of our life.

This word also means to turn resolutely in a certain direction. Faith always has a direction. Faith never wanders around looking for the right path. When I know where God’s leading, I can walk with the assurance that I’ll come to my destiny in Christ.

Timothy’s other job was to encourage them in their faith. That’s a word that means to call alongside. It’s the job description of a coach. A coach is someone who’s walked that way before, and can bring you there quicker than you could have done it by yourself.

Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
1 Corinthians 4:16-17

This verse describes perfectly what’s happening with the Thessalonians. The word urge is the same word that means to coach. There’s no doubt about it. We need to place ourselves under faith-coaches in the body of Christ.

It might be a pastor or a teacher that God has brought into your life. Whether we think we need it or not, these faith-coaches will keep us from getting stuck in our Christian walk.

Question: How have godly leaders helped your growth in the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2017 in Faith, Leadership, Spiritual Walk

 

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Never Enough

Where do we get our fulfillment from? Many in our generation would like to tell us that we’re fulfilled by our accomplishments. If that’s the case, then why are so many accomplished people miserable, depressed, and even suicidal?

I’ve been posting about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. In it, he gives us some insight into this question.

But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you — certainly I, Paul, did, again and again — but Satan stopped us. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
1 Thessalonians 2:17-20

But first, before I talk about our fulfillment, I want to deal with the translation problem in this verse. Satan can’t stop us. The word Paul used in that verse literally means to cut in front of. It means to hinder or detain. So Satan didn’t stop Paul, and he can’t stop us, either!

Now, back to my main topic. In this small passage, Paul used four different words to describe what he received from the church at Thessalonica.

He says that he has hope – the expectation of great things – because of their faith. He was also filled with joy at the thought of what they were doing for Christ.

Paul then used the word glory, which means weight or importance. By looking at this church, Paul knew that what he was doing was important – it really mattered. He wasn’t just filling time.

These are all wonderful things, but what I really want to focus on is the crown Paul talks about. In the literal Greek, Paul calls it the crown of boasting. What makes this strange is that he is going to have this boasting in the presence of the Lord. Actually, there is a good kind of boasting.

But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Here Paul tells us that our boasting should not be about what we’ve accomplished. Instead, it should be about what God has accomplished through us. Understanding the difference will determine whether you’re fulfilled or not.

The principle that we need to learn is that we were not created to accomplish anything on our own. We’re made as vessels for God to work through. My purpose is only fulfilled by what the Lord does in and through me.

That’s why when I look at what I’ve done; it never seems to be enough. There’s always something missing. No matter how great the accomplishment, I look at it and say, “Is that it?”

I am made to do the works of God by His Spirit. Anything less will never satisfy the inner longing. That’s why there are so many unsatisfied Christians. Even our salvation, all by itself, doesn’t quench that thirst. We must allow the Lord to accomplish His plan through us. Anything less will never bring us fulfillment.

Question: What has God done through you that you can boast about in Him?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Imitation – The Path to Greatness

In my last post, I talked about how the Thessalonian believers accepted the Word of God. It changed them. It brought them to a new way of life.

But even though it created a desire for change in them, something else was needed. You may have the desire and the power to change, but without a proper example, you won’t know how to live a new life.

For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.
1 Thessalonians 2:14-16

The word imitation keeps popping up in this letter. That’s because it’s an important concept for growing Christians. More than ever, we need leaders who are worthy of imitation.

I don’t know where I’d be today if weren’t for the pastors and teachers who I watched and copied along the way. By watching their examples, I learned how to love others, to pray for those in need of God’s touch, and how to witness to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

We were never meant to serve God on our own. It’s not God’s plan for us to figure everything out all by ourselves. We need to follow in the footsteps of those who have walked this path before.

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7

We sometimes get the idea that the great men and women of God were somehow born into their positions of honor. We see the work that they’re doing now and can’t grasp that they ever had to struggle with their Christian walk.

The fact is that every believer – whether they’re a leader or not – has to wrestle with the same problems and challenges. The important thought in this verse is to consider how their lives turned out.

That word, consider, means to look again. We need to take a second look at our leaders. See how they got from salvation to their present position. Then, we should imitate the positive way that they trusted and served Christ.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
Hebrews 6:12

Here’s the key. When we look at those who are leaders in the body of Christ, we must always understand the road that they took.

There’s no easy way. It’s not just about faith. Inheriting the promise comes through both faith and patience.

We think that we can simply start trusting God and walk in a ministry like those who’ve been trusting the Lord for years. It doesn’t work like that.

Imitation doesn’t only mean that I minister the way they do right now. It means that I follow the same path that they took to get there. I have to learn the same lessons and fight some of the same battles.

The good news is that if they could come through victoriously, then I can too. God is no respecter of persons. If I’m willing to listen to, trust, and obey God the way others do, then I’ll receive the same inheritance.

Question: What blessings are in your life as a result of godly examples?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2017 in Faith, Leadership, Spiritual Walk

 

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Planting the Word

Our Supply in GodI’ve been posting from First Thessalonians. In my last article we saw how Paul was a spiritual father to those he ministered to. Because of that, the people were more willing to receive from his ministry.

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.
1 Thessalonians 2:13

God is a co-worker with us and it’s His job to confirm His Word with signs and wonders. When receiving the Word of God, that’s the mindset I must bring with me. I want to hear from God. He’s using a human being to distribute this Word, but I want what God has for me.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.
2 Corinthians 9:10

This verse explains what God provides for us. Even though the context is talking about finances, Paul makes it clear that the scope is far greater by calling it the harvest of your righteousness.

One major principle is that God provides bread for food. That’s the logos of God. It’s the Word that can give you immediate benefit. It’s readily digestible and palatable.

There’s also another major truth found here. It deals with sowing. If you’re a sower – you want the long-term benefits of the Word of God – then you’re seeking rhema from God. God is willing and able to drop the grain of rhema into your spirit.

The key is that you must be seeking this blessing. It doesn’t happen by accident. You need the attitude that says, “Sure, I hear Pastor Nick preaching, but I want to receive a Word from God.”

God desires to give His Word in all of its forms to anyone that will listen and receive. By the power of His Spirit, He gives both at the same time. God sends the digestible logos of preaching right along with the raw rhema from the mouth of God Himself.

Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Galatians 3:5

This question that Paul asks summarizes the entire scope of this teaching. Paul literally asks how does God fully supply you with His Spirit and activate His miraculous power in you? That’s the question of the hour. It’s what the church desperately needs to learn and lay hold of. It’s what the world is dying to see in operation.

I believe that it’s this truth that will usher in the end time harvest of souls before the coming of the Lord. The answer that Paul gives is that the Spirit is given and His power is activated in you by the hearing of faith.

This is where the power of God resides. It’s not a work of the law. It only comes as I hear His voice and let it inspire faith in me. This is the foundation for the miraculous. God and I as co-workers.

He’s looking for someone who’ll listen for His voice. It’s time for the church to enter that intimate place with the Lord. Only then will we see the glory of God released through His people.

Question: What’s your mindset while hearing the Word preached or taught?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Word of God

 

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Spiritual Parents

I’ve been blogging about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church. He’s reminding them of his original ministry in that city. He wants it to be an example for them to follow.

Without question, Paul was a spiritual father to many believers around this area. In his letter, we see why he was so effective. It should be an example for us as well.

Too often we don’t want to be in the position of leading by example. We want to do our own thing and simply tell others how they’re supposed to live. That’s the difference between merely being a teacher and actually being a spiritual father or mother.

Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.
1 Thessalonians 2:9-11

Last week I talked about the attitude of giving yourself away with the Gospel. Make no mistake, that kind of commitment is hard work. But it’s part of the mindset of a spiritual parent.

The next thing I see is that Paul lived under the realization that everything he did was being watched and examined. So his goal was to live a holy, righteous and blameless life.

No, he wasn’t a perfect model of the Christian walk. The literal translation of that phrase is; you are witnesses…of how holy, righteous, and blameless we became among you. The key is that he was still becoming these things.

Are you transparent enough for people to see your growth? Or do you pretend to have already made it to perfection? A good parent lets their children see the steps they’re taking toward maturity.

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

I think that one the problems of our modern society is that so many people have never seen an example of a godly parent. We usually have to get there by trial and error. Paul explains it to us here.

The first word he uses – encouraging – means to call near. It’s like what a coach does with his athletes. As a leader, we need to draw out the best from those that we lead. In my experience, they usually have more potential than they think.

The next way a leader functions as a spiritual parent is to comfort. No, it doesn’t mean to help you to feel good after you get hurt. It literally means to relate near. It deals with telling the stories of how we got to where we are.

Too often we look at leaders and assume that they were born into their positions. That’s very frustrating to those under us. They need to hear the stories of the battles, frustrations, challenges and victories that brought us to where we are.

They need to see that we faced the same things they’re going through. If God could bring us out, then He can work in them as well.

The final word is urging. It simply means to testify, like in a trial. We always need to be ready to speak up for how we have seen God’s truth displayed in our walk with Him.

Those young in the Lord face difficulties that cause them to wonder if God’s way truly is the best. They need to hear someone testify that, “Yes, I’ve seen the Lord confirm His Word in my life!”

Those of us that are called to a leadership position in the body of Christ need to learn how to be spiritual parents to those who follow. Only then will we see effective growth in their lives.

Questions: Who are the spiritual parents you look up to? How have they affected your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Memorial Day – For Those Who Protect Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God richly continue to bless you this Memorial Day.

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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

 

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