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True Success

How do you measure success or failure? Is it based upon your obvious victories and accomplishments? What about some things that aren’t so readily apparent?

Paul made some observations about this to the Thessalonian church.

You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure.
1 Thessalonians 2:1

Paul makes this simple, clear statement of fact. But what was he talking about? Surely the great Apostle Paul didn’t have any major setbacks in his ministry.

Fortunately for us, the people recorded in the Bible had the same types of challenges that we face. That way we can see how they trusted God to bring them through victoriously. It turns out that Paul’s visit to Thessalonica was a major temptation for him to feel like a failure.

In order to see the whole story, you can read Acts 17:1-10. But I’ll review the basic story line here.

Paul was on one of his missionary trips. He had just left Philippi, where he was temporarily thrown in jail. He arrives at Thessalonica, and is allowed to teach in the synagogue for three Sabbaths in a row.

Of course, he preaches Jesus Christ as Messiah. He talks about the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection.

As a result, some of the Jews and a large number of Gentiles trust in Jesus for their salvation. Because the number of Christians was increasing, the Jews started to become jealous. They wanted to shut down Paul’s ministry.

So, what these hateful people did was to round up some unsavory characters from the marketplace. The Jews then paid them to start trouble and cause a riot. They tried to find Paul and his team, but weren’t able to locate them.

Instead, they grabbed some of the new believers, and dragged them off to the magistrates. They then began to accuse them of criminal activity. The city was in an uproar.

Fearing for Paul’s life, the believers made him leave the city immediately. Because of this, Paul and Silas, his partner in ministry, were not able to fully establish this church in the usual way. They had to trust God for the church’s continued survival.

It wasn’t until months later that Paul sent Timothy to check on the Thessalonians. Not only did they survive, they were flourishing as followers of Christ.

We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.
1 Thessalonians 2:2

When it came to evangelizing the Thessalonians, Paul went from one trouble to the next. Yet in spite of it all, he could boldly declare that his visit was not a failure.

We need to learn that lesson. It would go a long way to giving us a better attitude.

Remember this – Just because things don’t go according to our plan, doesn’t mean it’s a failure. The fact is that we rarely ever see everything that God is doing behind the scenes. He sees the end from the beginning, we only see the surface.

Paul only knew that it was God’s plan to bring the Gospel to this region. He did his part, and then he had to trust the Lord for the results.

Many were saved. The church was established on a firm foundation. And – miracle of miracles – the Holy Spirit was able to accomplish it without all of Paul’s expertise.

Do what God has called you to do. Then leave the results in His hands. That’s the basis of true success.

Question: What is something you originally thought was a failure; but God turned it into a success?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Patiently Complaining?

In my last post we saw what James taught about the Second Coming of the Lord. It will require us to be patient. At this point it’s taken about 2000 years for the fulfillment.

But there is still more to learn about patience.

Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
James 5:9

James tells us to wait patiently without grumbling. Now, that word grumbling was a colloquial term that meant to sigh, to murmur or to say something inaudibly.

It’s just like when someone gets you mad and you speak under your breath.

“I don’t know about that person … I don’t want to do it his way … who does he think he is.”

Many of us act that way, but the Word says that we shouldn’t get caught up in that type of attitude. We shouldn’t be grumbling and complaining about one another.

Why not? “Because the Judge is at the door.” We enjoy the ability we have of always judging everybody else and then walking away.   We’ve always got something to say about somebody.

I know that in my own life it’s so much easier to give myself the benefit of the doubt. But when someone else does something I don’t like – they have no excuse. It may be human nature to see things in that way, but it’s not Christ-like.

Be careful, because the Lord sees everything, and He’s the One who’ll make the final, righteous judgment on the case.

Jesus, especially in these Last Days, wants us to walk in unity of spirit. And so He wants us to be careful not to be found grumbling and judging each other because we know that the real Judge is at the door. We’ve got to be found doing the work that He’s called us to do and not mistreating one another.

There’s one more aspect of patience that James deals with.

Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
James 5:10-11

Especially in these last days, we need to be patient in the face of suffering. Please understand, that word suffering literally means suffering evil. It about the patience we need to be salt in our current evil society.

I have to understand that unsaved people are going to do evil. It’s all a part of their human nature passed down through their DNA. It’s not my place to judge them or tell them what they’re doing is wrong.

I must be praying for them. While God is at work, I need to be patient with them. Then, as I live openly for Christ, I expect the Holy Spirit to convict them and open their heart to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It doesn’t take any character to gripe and complain about everything that people are doing wrong in our society. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit wait patiently for an opportunity to be a true witness for Christ.

The fact is that people don’t get saved because you tell them how bad and sinful they are. They seek salvation when they see how good and loving the Savior is. The key is that the only place they’re going to see Christ’s goodness is in us.

Question: When have you had to be patient in the face of evil?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Legalism, Return of Christ, The Gospel

 

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Hurtful Words

I’ve been looking at how we need to keep a tight rein on our tongue. This is what much of the book of James is about. It’s from our tongues that we can see our faith and maturity – or lack of them.

Your tongue also shows how well you’re able to relate in the body of Christ.

Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you — who are you to judge your neighbor?
James 4:11-12

James is telling us not to speak against our brothers and sisters. That means it’s all about attitude. Where is your heart focused on?

I’ve heard people speaking evil things in regards to someone. When challenged about it they say, “I’m not gossiping. Everything I’m saying is the truth.”

According to James, truth is not the issue. The question is whether you’re saying something that will hurt that person. What’s the goal of your statements? Are to trying to make them look good or bad in the eyes of others?

The greater context of James gives us more insight into this. When he says that speaking against your brother is speaking against the law, he’s not talking about the Old Testament. In this book, James keeps referring to the perfect law that gives freedom.

When you slander your brother, you’re speaking against the grace of Christ Jesus. When you stand in judgment over someone, you’re saying that God’s grace is ineffective in their life. You’re taking on the role of the Holy Spirit and that’s a dangerous place to be.

James tells us that there’s only one qualified Judge. But in this case, He’s the same one who saves. His blood not only forgives, but can change someone from the inside out. Instead of talking against this person, you should be praying for their growth and blessing.

But there’s a greater danger that you enter when you use your words to hurt others.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Luke 6:37-38

I think it’s funny that we use these words of Jesus to apply to our money most of the time. Especially since it’s obvious that Jesus used them in relation to our words. He is giving us a warning in light of the law of sowing and reaping.

It’s clear that the Lord is talking about our words in this section. The same words you give will be given back to you – good measure, shaken together, and running over. This is true whether it’s words of judgment, condemnation, or forgiveness.

If you walk in grace and mercy toward others, you’ll find that you receive more in your daily life. When you sow grace, you receive grace. By your words you can set yourself up for the blessing of God. Just make sure your words are a blessing to others.

Question: How have you spoken a blessing into the lives of others?

Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2017 in Fellowship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Money and Humility

Fake MoneyThey say that the grass is always greener in the next yard. But is that the truth? What should our attitude be towards wealth?

If we want to do our best work for the Lord, then we need to deal with the issue of money. In our society you can’t function real well without it. So, we need to understand the Scriptural view. James had something to say about it.

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.
James 1:9-10

The first thing that we understand from this verse is that James is not saying that we all need to be poor. He doesn’t contrast poor vs. rich, which references how much money you have. Instead, he’s dealing with humble vs. rich, which tells me that he’s talking about our attitudes.

I believe that God wants to provide abundantly for His children. But what I’ve learned is that He works with us individually. What I mean is this; abundant provision in the United States will look differently than abundance in Indonesia. Yet, in both places, the Lord blesses His people in order for them to be a blessing to others.

The problem is not about how much money you have, it’s your attitude towards it that makes the difference. I’ve seen people who have no real money – everything they own is on credit. Yet they act arrogantly as if they own the world and are better than everyone else.

I’ve also seen people who don’t have a lot, but they’re constantly blessing others. As a result, God is always continuing to provide for them.

We need to learn the lesson of attitudes. It’s never about how much money you have. There needs to be a walk of humility.

But what is humility? Some think that it means you have to see yourself as a nobody. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

At one point Paul told Titus to show true humility toward all men (Titus 3:2). The fact is that true humility is always directed at others and never at us. It’s how I need to view those around me.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3

Humility never puts itself down. Instead, it lifts others up. Okay, but what does that have to do with money?

If you think that your money makes you great and important, then you need an attitude adjustment. Money is a tool that we use to provide for our needs and to bless others. Having it doesn’t make you any better than you were without it.

James makes it clear in his next statement.

For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.
James 1:11

One way or another we’re going to learn that the external is not what life’s all about. Either you develop the spiritual strengths that bring a mature walk or you find out that the material things you’re relying on are never enough.

If you put your hope in a big bank account, then it will fail you. Your willingness to trust God and bless others is what will see you through the challenges of life.

Question: How have you experienced that trusting God is better than a big bank account?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2017 in Faith, God's Provision, Spiritual Walk

 

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Has Your Faith Been Approved?

ApproveStarting with this post, I’m going to do things a little differently. I usually talk about issues dealing with revival, church leadership, God’s power or the return of Christ. But up until now I haven’t really followed any plan.

Lately I’ve been feeling that I need to write in a more systematic way. Over the past couple of years the Holy Spirit has been teaching me a lot by having me read through the New Testament in the order that it was given to the church.

In that way you can see how some of these themes were expanded upon as the Spirit revealed more and more to His people. I want to take that same approach to the teachings in this blog.

Of course, if the Lord gives me a message to share that will benefit you; I can always follow His leading at any time. I can post it when I receive it and then pick right back up where I left off.

I believe that the book of James was the first Scripture to be recorded for the church. So that’s where I’ll begin.

It was written by a pastor to give his congregation the foundation they needed in serving Christ. James was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. His words are as applicable today as they were when he first wrote them.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
James 1:2-3

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time identifying with James when he equates trials with joy. And he’s not the only one. The Apostle Peter says the same thing in his letters. It’s not that I don’t want to grow, but I would prefer not going through trials – they just don’t feel good to me.

On the other hand, I realize that they’re a part of life. There’s never going to be a time when we’re not faced with something challenging. Nobody is exempt from this. The world is full of problems, and people who cause them. I’ve even been known to bring them upon myself from time to time.

The real issue is what I do with the trial once I’m in it. They can’t be avoided, so I might as well make the best of it. James is explaining to us the attitude best suited to overcome our trials. He doesn’t say to be joyful because you’re being tested. He says to count it pure joy because of what you know.

It’s our knowledge of what the trial produces the gives us joy during the hard times. What is it that I know? If you read this section in the original Greek, you find that James says that it’s the “approved part of our faith” that produces perseverance – the ability to come through a challenge victoriously.

Everyone says that they have faith. The question asked by this verse is – Is that faith approved? Has it been tested and found to be genuine? It’s easy to say that I trust God, yet give up in the hard times. It’s the genuine, approved faith that carries us through.

It’s like the song that says, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Well, I know that the Lord won’t allow the test to kill me. But as it tries my faith, it will strengthen me to trust God in a greater way.

So the joy is not that I’m being tried, but that I’m growing stronger. My faith is being proved, and I’ll be able to stand in it. I may never look forward to tests and hardships, but at least I know that they provide a vital part of my growth in Christ.

Question: What have you gone through that has increased your faith?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Called to be Mighty

strongTough times call for tough people. That’s especially true in the body of Christ. More than ever we need to draw upon the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about God’s plan in our nation.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Ephesians 6:10

I am prompted to meditate on David and the men who were drawn to him as he was being hunted by King Saul. It was quite a group who joined him.

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.
1 Samuel 22:1-2

According to the Bible, the men who came to David were basically fed up with the way things were. They were distressed, in debt, and discontent.

The fact is that God is still looking for some angry people. He needs people with attitude.

“This is not the way it should be.”

That’s what God is doing in the church right now. He’s cultivating this attitude. This nation needs to change. The church needs to change. I need to change.

I want to take a couple of posts to look at some of the men who came to David. The ones termed his mighty men.

Of course, that was for a physical battle. Right now we’re in a spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of those around us. It goes without saying that the Lord needs mighty women as well.

By the way, maybe you disagree with that statement – and don’t believe that it’s a woman’s place to be mighty. If that’s you, then please note that in Proverbs 31, the word usually translated virtuous, is the exact word mighty used with David’s men.

Out of the 600 or so men who eventually joined with David, only 30 were called mighty. Think about it; 600 people knew what God was doing in Israel. 600 aligned themselves with God’s plan. These men joined David’s fight, and committed themselves to see God’s will carried out.

But of all those men, only 5% were termed mighty. When it comes to God’s kingdom, I want to be on the cutting edge. I want to be in the mighty category. It’s my hope that you want that distinction as well.

Most of Israel was clueless as to what was happening around them at that time. It’s the same in our generation. Much of the church has no idea about the spiritual climate, or what God is planning on doing.

Then again, many are like the 600. They’re onboard with what God is doing, but they’re just following orders. Then there were the 30 mighty men; but even with them we mostly only know their names.

We’re only told the details about five of these men. That’s less than 1%. That’s where we should desire to be. We should strive to be in the upper echelon of God’s warriors.

When my time on earth is done, I want my angels to talk about me. I want them to have some exciting war stories to share with their friends.

“Let me tell you about the guy we were watching. More than once we had a fight on our hands. It was always exciting being with him.”

In my next post I’m going to begin talking about what it takes to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Who are these mighty men, and what did it take for them to accomplish great things?

Question: How far are you willing to go to advance the cause of Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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A Promise for the New Year

ReflectionThere’s a lot of unrest in the world today. Even in the United States there’s more apprehension over the new president than ever before. What should our attitude be, as believers?

Jesus made a statement to His disciples just before going to the cross. I believe that we need to take it to heart in these last days.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
John 14:1-3

There was a very good reason why the disciple’s hearts were troubled. If you read chapter 13 of the book of John, the chapter just before this passage, you’ll see Jesus warning them that He was going to be denied, betrayed, and killed.

At this point Jesus starts to sense their anxiety and tells them, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. You trust in God. Trust in Me.”

In verse two He tells them why they can be free from fear. The King James Version reads, in my Father’s house are many mansions. Well, is it a mansion or is it a room? That makes a big difference to me. I want to know whether I am getting a room or a mansion.

The Greek literally says, “In my Father’s house (or residence) are many places.” The word that Jesus uses is the Greek word for place.

Now, place could be a mansion. Place could be a room. Place could be a chair. There are many different kinds of places. But the one thing I’m sure about is that we’ll not be disappointed with the accommodations given us.

I’ve seen some good accommodations on earth, and I know God outdoes anything that we could have here. I don’t care what you call it. Whatever He gives me, I’m going to be thrilled with it. I am satisfied just knowing that He has a Place prepared for me.

He then tells the disciples in verse three that He’s going to get things ready. And if He goes through all the work needed to prepare a place, then they can rest assured that He will indeed return to take them to that place. That’s the promise that we can hold on to. He’s going to return. No matter what the world looks like. No matter how rotten things get.

We know the truth. The Church is going to come into fruition. But right along with that – as the wheat buds, the weeds are also going to come to fruition as well. The world is going to get worse and worse as it bears the fruit planted by the enemy.

But don’t worry, the Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the world, and He’s going to come back at the right time, at the end of this present age, and receive us to Himself. With a promise like that to hold on to, there’s no need to worry.

What’s going to happen next week or next year? What will the economy do? What about the crime rate? These are all things we need to watch and be mindful of. But the bottom line is that because of Christ, these things shouldn’t trouble us.

We need to keep our eyes fixed upon Christ and His Word. That will take us victoriously through anything that comes our way in the future.

Question: How has God brought you through a big problem in the past?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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