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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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God’s Reward for Faithfulness

TrophyIn my last post I talked about leadership. Specifically how we as leaders should be faithful to the calling we’ve received. This assumes that I know both the what and the where of my calling.

In the same way, if I’m a member of a local church, and I know both what I’m called to do and that I’m where God called me to do it, then I can stand secure in my calling. I don’t run just because the work gets hard. I don’t get offended, even if nobody acknowledges me.

It doesn’t matter if someone looks at me cross-eyed. I’ll stay at the post God’s called me to. This is because I’m not serving men, but the God who calls and equips me for His service.

But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
Colossians 1:22-23

This is a big “if.” We all like to think that we’re unconditionally free from accusation. We quote that there is now no condemnation in Christ. But these verses are all contingent upon us fulfilling our call according to the plan of God. It’s not about me fulfilling my plan because I got some people to buy into it.

On the other hand, if you’re truly called, people will begin to see that calling. They’ll stand with you and surround you. But it will not be a private vision. It will be a corporate vision for the people God has given you to as a gift.

Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?
Proverbs 20:6

It’s easy to say that you love the people the Lord has brought you to. The real question is; are you faithfully carrying out your call? Remember that it’s the hireling who runs away when the pressure is on.

It doesn’t matter how spiritual you make it sound. God’s solution is never for you to run away. The only true sign of unconditional love is faithfulness to the plan God has set out for you. Apart from that, all your claims of “loving the flock” are merely empty words.

A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.
Proverbs 28:20

God rewards faithfulness. If all you’re after is to become a big name, then God will not support you. If you’re out to prove you can start a great ministry with lots of followers – go right ahead, but heaven has no obligation to back you up.

Too many ministers take churches as “stepping stones” as they “climb the ladder” to a more prestigious pastorate. We don’t do things as the world does. The church is not just a spiritual model of corporate America.

God’s people are a supernatural kingdom under the direct authority of a sovereign Lord. It’s not up to us to choose where and for how long we will work. It’s the King of kings who decides our destiny and, to tell you the truth, I have more faith in His ability to promote me than in my own.

What I need to do in the tough situations is to stand my ground and let the Lord work His will through me. Faithfulness will bring God’s reward.

Question: How has God promoted you in the past?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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Don’t Run Away

Different AnointingI want to deal with an issue that has severely stunted the growth of the body of Christ. If your goal is to stand firm in your calling, then you’ll find yourself in a leadership position in the church. This is important, because the excellence level of the church will only rise as high as the example of their leadership.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
II Corinthians 15:57-58

There is a dangerous trend in the body of Christ right now toward unfaithfulness in its ministers. The average pastorate is only about two and a half years. Unfortunately, this trickles down to the members.

It seems that church people don’t commit to the Lord’s work anymore. When something happens that they disagree with, they move on to another church. I believe that if someone is truly called, then there should not be this running from church to church.

We know that we have the victory in Christ. The above verse explains that because we have this knowledge we have the ability to stand firm (literally – sit firm). We are to be not moveable. We are to be always super-abounding in God’s effort.

How can we accomplish this? The verse is clear on that point – because we see that our toilthat which requires our strength – was not empty. If I’m going to pour my strength and life into something, then I need to see that it matters in eternity.

Too many leaders in the body of Christ give up because the work starts to get hard. They move on because the people “don’t share their vision.” Or maybe there’s a “personality conflict.” You’ll hear things like, “I have to find a place where God can fulfill His call upon me.”

We’ve bought into the lie that’s a part of corporate America today. Instead of loyalty, there’s trend toward self-promotion. If I can’t get a better pay or benefit package here, I’ll get it somewhere else.

That’s all foolishness. Those statements show a profound inability to grasp what the call of God is all about. That’s why it is of paramount importance that you find exactly where and to whom God is calling you.

A spirit of excellence will take nothing less than the fulfillment of the plan of God for His people. But I’ve found that even many ministers miss the point of their calling.

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13

We’ve heard this Scripture a thousand times, but do we really understand its implications? This verse, in context, is talking about the gifts that God has given to men. Many ministers get the wrong impression. These are gifts to the church. The church people are not a gift to us.

The reason why many leaders miss it is because they have the wrong perspective. They think that God has called them to a work, and now they have to find people to help them fulfill it.

As church leaders, we need to realize that the work of the ministry is not about us. We are called to a people. We are then given a vision for the work that we’re to lead them into. A leader is to receive God’s vision for the body of believers, then work to bring them into it.

Question: What’s your vision for the work God has called you to do?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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