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Our Declaration of Independence

I’m now going to begin posting from the third of the foundational books of the New Testament – Galatians.  It was written by Paul at the same time and place that he wrote 1 Thessalonians (Click here for review).

Just to remind you; James was written as a Christian primer for new believers and 1 Thessalonians was an encouragement to a new church.  Now, with Galatians, we’ll see how Paul handles a long-standing church that was beginning to fall into legalism.

Many call the book of Galatians our spiritual Declaration of Independence.  In it, Paul lays out the true relationship between the Law of Moses and God’s will for the church.  There are many believers who fail to recognize the total package that Christ purchased for us on the cross.

It’s the principles in this letter that sets Christianity apart from all other religions.  We’re not just a sect of Judaism.  Christ is doing a whole new thing in the church.

Paul, an apostle — sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia…
Galatians 1:1-2

This opening line is the key to understanding Paul’s mission and authority.  Becoming an apostle was not his idea.  It wasn’t something he studied and trained for.  He had no MDiv.  He never stood before a denominational ordination committee.

Think about how far we’ve fallen from those days.  In many circles, becoming a pastor or preacher is simply a career choice based on personal preference.  You go to school, get a degree, and then get ordained.  Next, you candidate at a church for the position of pastor, they vote, and you’re elected.

Yes, I realize that a great number of ministers are there because of the clear call of God on their lives and I’m one of them.  But for too many, it’s just a choice they made to pursue a career that they liked the sound of.

Please understand that the ministry to the body of Christ is not something to enter into lightly.  It’s a spiritual battleground that can destroy you if you’re not prepared.  Each year, hundreds of pastors and leaders drop out of the ministry because of this fact.  I personally have had many minister friends who are now selling cars or insurance because they couldn’t handle the pressures or demands.

When we read Paul’s letters, we’re not just reading the suggestions of an intelligent teacher.  We’re hearing God’s heartbeat for the church.  This is something Paul learned by spending years at the feet of the Holy Spirit – listening and obeying what he heard.

The book of Galatians is saturated with the Word of freedom to the church.  Serving Christ was never meant to be about following a set of rules.  God never intended us to figure it out on our own.  The Holy Spirit is our Guide to lead us into His truth.

Hopefully, as we go through this study of Galatians you’ll find a spiritual freedom that you never knew existed.  It’s my prayer that it will cause you to rise to a new level of faith and power in Christ.

Question: What does spiritual freedom mean to you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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The Quiet Life

Is your life quiet and at rest? As believers, we should have an understanding of what it means to live in the peace of God. As I continue looking at Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we’ll see how the apostle deals with this issue.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Paul taught his churches about the benefits of living a quiet life. But just what does that mean to us? Am I supposed to go through life never speaking up for myself? I don’t think that’s what Paul or the Lord intends for us.

Let me start by explaining that I’m the father of three young women. When they were children, the noise level of our house was usually not described as quiet. And, actually, the word quiet in the above passage doesn’t refer to the level of noise in your surroundings.

The meaning of this word is to be settled, secure, and at peace with where you are. This is an important attribute to cultivate in your Christian walk. As a matter of fact, it’s something we have to fight for in this generation. It actually goes counter to the world’s way of doing things.

I believe that in the next phrase, Paul describes exactly what he means by this quiet life. Let me give you my personal translation of the Greek words used in that sentence.

Using your own hands to perform repeatedly and habitually that which is yours to do.

This is the key to enjoying your life and work. It’s also something that the world has no concept of. First of all, you need to know exactly what it is that you’re called to be working on.

In our society we’ve become transfixed on what everybody else is doing. How much money are they making? What shows are they watching? What are they learning? What activities are they involved in?

Even on our jobs, we’re never satisfied where we’re at. We’re taught to always keep our resume up to date. Living like this keeps you in a constant state of unrest.

This is just the opposite of what Paul was teaching his people. We need to settle down into the life that we know we’re called to.

But that requires me to spend time in the Lord’s presence seeking His will for my life. Many of us are afraid to do that because we would lose control of our destiny. Personally, I prefer God’s destiny for my life over anything I could come up with on my own.

Paul concludes this by showing the benefits of a life well lived. The first is a respectable or well-formed life. It’s the kind of life that causes the unsaved to ask why you seem to be more fulfilled than they are. It’s a witness to the grace of God.

The other benefit is described as not being dependent on anybody. In the Greek, it reads lacking nothing. In the book of James, the first Scripture recorded, it talks about the trying of our faith bringing us to the place where we lack nothing (James 1:2-4). Here, Paul adds to our knowledge by showing that it’s knowing and working at God’s will that brings about no lack.

I can’t think of a better combination that I want active in my life. A witness to unbelievers and having no lack. That’s the joy of a life settled in God’s plan.

Question: How have you experienced resting in God’s will?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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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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Your Calling – Unique to You

DifferentIn my last post I started talking about how Christ called Philip to be His disciple. Just like Andrew, who went and found his brother Peter, Philip immediately goes out and tells someone.

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
John 1:45

When Andrew went to Peter, he proclaimed that they had found the Messiah. What does Philip announce? His message is a little different. He doesn’t mention the Messiah.

Philip was looking for a different sign from God. He was trusting God for the One Moses wrote about…

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.
Deuteronomy 18:15

Moses also recorded the prophecy about Christ that was given by Jacob to his son, Judah.

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.
Genesis 49:10

This is who Philip was looking for. Jesus went personally to call Philip. Why didn’t the Lord send Andrew to Philip? Simply put; because that wouldn’t have worked. It wouldn’t have worked for Nathaniel either.

There are times when God lays someone on your heart to share Christ with them. The Holy Spirit does this because you’re uniquely qualified to reach them. I can’t do it; it’s got to be you.

There is another thing we know about Philip. He knew a lot about Jesus. Mary’s husband, Joseph had passed away by this point, yet Philip knew who Jesus’ adopted father was. He also knew where Jesus came from, even though Nazareth was on the other side of the lake.

Immediately upon becoming a disciple, Philip goes to his friend Nathaniel. Now we meet another unique individual. Who was he?

The name Nathaniel means, the Gift of God. Usually you get that name because your parents had trouble bearing children. When they were finally able to have a child, they see him as God’s gift to them.

That probably means that Nathaniel was an only child. We’ll find out later that he was chilling under a tree when Philip found him. That in itself tells us something.

Here it is in the middle of the day. Nathaniel should be out working somewhere. Instead, we find him relaxing in the shade of a tree. This might mean that his parents were spoiling him rotten.

In my next post we’ll see the encounter between this new follower of Christ, and his friend under the tree with a bad attitude.

Question: What kinds of people have you shared the Gospel of Christ with?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2016 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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One Jesus – Different Calls

Different AnointingI like reading about the disciples in the Bible. They’re recorded as real people. They’re not shown to us like some kind of spiritual superheroes, but people just like us. I want to take some time to talk about a couple of them and their first encounter with Jesus.

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
John 1:43-45

In the past I’ve talked about how Andrew came to Christ. Then he went off and called his brother, Peter.

Today I want to introduce you to some new people. That’s because everyone is different.   Everybody’s story is different.

Why and how they come to Jesus is always unique to that person. So we have to realize that disciples of Christ are all different. Each of us is special in our own way. You cannot be me and I cannot be you.

It’s interesting to see that Jesus sought Philip out – Jesus went to Philip and literally said, “Walk my road.”

It turns out that Philip was from the same town as Andrew and Peter. They were from a place called Bethsaida, which means house of fish or fishing house. Think about what kind of a place would have a name like that? Who comes from there? We know that Peter and Andrew, as well as James and John were all fishermen.

Philip didn’t fit that mold. The name Philip means horse lover. Obviously Philip was his own person. He was different and he didn’t care. Yet, even though he was different, his response to Jesus was the same.

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
John 1:45

“I have to tell someone.”

When it came to Andrew, he went to Peter to tell him what he had found. This is absolutely amazing because Scripture clearly says that in this case, Jesus found Philip. This tells me a truth that we all need to understand.

Christ calls everyone differently. He made us all different, and attracts us to Himself in different ways. The Lord told Peter, “I’ll make you a fisher of men.” How do you fish? Do you use the same technique or bait for everything?

No! Depending upon where you’re fishing, or what you’re trying to catch, there are many different kinds of bait, lures, and techniques.

We have to remember this in our walk with the Lord. Everyone responds differently to the Gospel message. That’s why we need to be led by the Spirit. In that way, each individual can see Christ as their PERSONAL Savior.

Question: What first attracted you to come to Jesus?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2016 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Calling the Pressured

PressureI’m posting about how God gathered the mighty men around King David in the Old Testament. There are many parallels to what God is doing in the church today. In my last article I talked about getting over the hurts of the past and moving forward in Christ.

In the book of Acts, chapter 6, we’re told of a daily food distribution to widows. The Greek speaking widows were being left out. What was the result? Did they get offended and leave the church?

No, it became the start of a new ministry. An offence is simply a ministry that someone isn’t doing. In our generation, it seems that we find it easier to leave, than work things out. It’s time to get over your offence and decide to SERVE CHRIST.

Who were the people who showed up to help David?

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 22:2

There are others – Christians all around us who are not living up to their potential in Christ. We should be calling them back to fruitfulness. They’re not going anywhere and not accomplishing anything for the Lord.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Who are these people that God brought to David? The first thing that the Scripture says about them is that they were in distress. That literally means that they were in a narrow place, pressured.

There are Christians under pressure right now. It’s keeping them from going to church. It’s time to be bold. We must go to these believers.

“God wants you strong in spirit.”

“It’s time to hear a Word from heaven.”

We need an influx of spiritual warriors – this is where it starts. God is calling believers who are under pressure. There’s no better time than now to find them.

Why do we want them in ministry?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The word trouble in this passage is actually the Greek word for pressure. Pressure qualifies us for ministry. When we can endure pressure, we can help others who are undergoing the same things.

We must call them in. God can and will restore them.

Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight.
Psalm 119:143

David knew the secret to victory in times of pressure. We need to stay in the Word. That’s where we get the strength to overcome.

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

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2016 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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A Call to the Mighty

ClockAs I read the life of King David, I see a lot of parallels with our present generation. In waiting for God to fulfill His promise to make him king, it seemed like everything was going against him. But it was at this time in David’s life that God started to bring people to his aid.

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

This is one of the lowest points in David’s life. God had called to be king in place of Saul. He had accomplished victories over giants and armies.

Yet, at this time he was being pursued by King Saul – hunted like animal. His calling was to restore Israel to greatness, yet he was alone and outcast.

Many in Israel had no clue about the issues that were occurring throughout their nation. It was almost like the church in USA right now. We are badly in need of an awakening.

So David decided to go to a place called Adullam. It was a cave in the side of a cliff, surrounded by wilderness. It was near a cool, clear spring so there was plenty of water. It had a system of caverns that could hold 1000 men comfortably. Eventually 400 to 600 would come and join with David here.

In the same way, it’s time for God’s people to rally together. So many believers are “serving God” yet going nowhere. Where do we start?

Maybe where God starts. In David’s life it was his father’s household, his immediate family. That’s us – the church.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6:10

The work God wants accomplished in our generation starts with us. God is calling the church family together.

But it also says his brothers. The Hebrew word used is relatives in the most general term. There are many people who are a part of the body of Christ who have distanced themselves from their churches. It has been for various reasons. It might have been the results of hurts, laziness, disappointment, offence, or any number of issues.

For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
1 Peter 4:17

The word judgment is simply the word decision. It’s time for decisions to begin here, among God’s people. We want the world to decide for Christ. How about if we decide first. It’s time to give up the excuses.

I’ve been in church for my whole life. My deepest hurts have come from church people. Even as a pastor I’ve endured hurts, betrayals, and other problems. Yet on the lowest day of my life, I would choose God’s people over the world.

I want to take a few posts to show how David’s mighty men came together. God brought people to David to bring about His plan for Israel.

In the same way God is calling His people to do a great work in our generation. But it won’t be accomplished by big names or televangelists. It will be normal, everyday people who have heard and obeyed the call of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Question: What is your place in the Body of Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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