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Divisions – Good and Bad

I’m continuing my series through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  At this point, the apostle begins a new subject.  He starts instructing them about their public meetings.

He opens this section with a statement that’s sure to get their attention.

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.
1 Corinthians 11:17-18

What a thing to say to a church.  You’re worse off when you meet together.  It sounds like he’s saying that if they continue this way, it would be better for them if they don’t meet.  What would cause Paul to say such a thing?

Over the next three and a half chapters, the apostle will explain it all to them…and us.  Let’s start at the beginning.

In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.  No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.
1 Corinthians 11:18-19

You might think that there were specific things that they were doing wrong.  There might also be some things that they should have been doing as a church but weren’t.  While these issues were definitely a part of it, the big problem was below the surface.

Paul uses an oxymoron to describe the situation.  What do I mean by that?  He said that when they come together…there are divisions.

On the surface, they’re all together.  They’re one church meeting in one place.  But under the surface they’re divided.  There are different groups and factions that happen to all be present at the same place.

They may seem like they’re acting together.  They pray, sing, and worship the same.  But within each grouping is a different perception and each has its own agenda.

Of course, Paul also makes it clear that not all differences are bad.  The phrase, differences among you, actually refers to differing choices.  Our character is manifest through the choices we make.

Jesus taught his disciples that they could discern people by their fruit.  The choices we make are the fruit that can be inspected.

It’s in this fruit that you can see the difference between someone who has God’s approval, versus those without it.  Unfortunately, God’s approval is something we don’t hear about very often these days.

God loves each of us unconditionally, but His approval is on a higher level.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15

The way we show God’s approval is how we handle the Word that God has entrusted to us.  Have we applied it to our lives?  Or is it just a good suggestion?

There are differences between those who walk in God’s approval and those who don’t.  We need to take what we’ve heard, and use it to make the choices that bring glory to God.  That’s the fruit of a life that’s submitted to Christ.

Boldness is a characteristic of an approved believer.  Strive to hear the Word and put it into practice.  That’s the group you want to be a part of.

Question: What are some choices that you’ve made to apply God’s Word in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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All for Christ

As we continue through First Corinthians, Paul is teaching the church about human wisdom versus that which is from God.  This is because they had developed factions based upon their favorite teachers.  Paul lets them know that this is a result of worldly thinking.

So then, no more boasting about men!  All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
1 Corinthians 3:21-23

Paul brings us to the bottom line of the discussion.  If you’re truly operating in the wisdom of God, then you will not be boasting about which teacher you like the best.

That’s because we need a multitude of teachers in order to understand the full counsel of God.  It takes a wide variety of personalities, styles, and ministries in order to bring the church to where it should be.

I’d like to think that my teaching has a lot to offer the body of Christ.  However, if I’m the only one you’re listening to, then you have a very poor and imbalanced spiritual diet.

The apostle explains that everyone God places before you has a role to play in your life and development.  They are yours.  They’re a gift from God to help you grow.

It’s not up to us to decide who we want to sit under.  To reject someone that God has sent is to reject the work of the Holy Spirit in you.  I’ve received some great blessings from people who seemed, to me, to be the least qualified.

But Paul doesn’t stop there.  He goes on to lay a foundation for some incredible spiritual truths.  It’s not just teachers that are ours, but other things as well.

We are told in this passage that the present world system is ours.  That’s an important concept to understand.  We’re members of a kingdom that has greater authority than the kingdom of this world.

As believers, we need to walk in this knowledge.  We shouldn’t be trying to live according to the world’s expectations.  Our life is on a higher level.  If we truly understood this, we wouldn’t spend our time trying to get society’s acceptance.

Another thing that’s ours is life and death.  This truth should make us constantly sensitive to God’s plan in us.

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:21

The Holy Spirit wants us to produce fruit for the kingdom of God.  That involves both the speaking of life and death.  Yes, you heard me correctly; sometimes we need to speak death over things.  It’s clear from reading the book of Acts that the apostles understood and walked in this.

As an example, we had a large New Age school that operated in our town.  It was a hotbed of occultic activity.  During our prayer meetings, we would curse it (not the people, but the organization).

After a few years of this, it was closed.  I believe that this was a direct result of God’s people taking authority over the enemy’s kingdom.

We’re also told that the present and the future are ours.  Where we find ourselves now as well as where we’re headed is in our control.  It all has to do with our submission to the work of God’s Spirit within us.

I can’t complain about where I’m at.  It’s my own choices that brought me here.  It’s by my own choices that I can move on to new levels in Christ.

The most important point of this is that through us, it all belongs to God.  If we lay hold of these things, even though the enemy rules this present world, God is free to move by His Spirit.  As we allow the Lord to work through us, we can see changes in our sphere of influence.

We must be the catalyst of change that God’s called us to be.

Question: How is God calling you to affect your surroundings?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Times and Strategies

KeyIn my last post I talked about understanding the times that we live in. I hope that it wasn’t a “downer,” because we actually live in very exciting times – spiritually speaking.

I made reference to the book of Daniel as a good resource for understanding what we’re facing today. We are being given the same choices that Daniel and his friends had.

We can either compromise and accept the luxuries of the world, or stand up for Christ and face possible ridicule. We live in a country that’s no longer a Christian nation. Our leaders are taking us, step by step, into a society we would have never thought possible.

We need to understand what’s happening. First of all, we must not start blaming people. To be victorious, you must know who your true enemy is.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:12

The Bible makes it clear that our biggest struggle is not against people. It’s not about who’s in power, or what government official gets elected. There’s no vote that could ever bring about a move of God in our nation.

We have to fight this war in the spirit. It can only be won as we enter God’s presence.

But there are some other issues that we face. We need to not only know our enemy, but his tactics as well. I think that’s where we fall short sometimes. We let the devil trick us into giving him the victory.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10

Here we have been given the enemy’s objectives. He uses the same ploys over and over again. Of the three listed in this verse, the middle one – kill – is the least understood. It’s the one we fall victim to on a regular basis.

The word translated kill has a couple of usages. It doesn’t mean to kill in the general sense. The first usage is to offer up as a burnt offering. The devil wants to sacrifice you on the altar of the world.

He wants to get you to burn up all of your time, energy, and resources chasing after the world’s goods. If he does that, then the devil has effectively knocked you out of the battle. You’re of no use to the Kingdom of God.

…his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
1 Corinthians 3:13-15

I don’t want to see anyone suffer this loss. To be saved, entering the future Kingdom, yet having nothing to show for your time on earth. Everything you accomplished, sacrificed on the world’s altar.

Don’t let that happen to you. Be a part of what God is doing right now. Pray for a spiritual awakening in our culture.

Question: How have you seen the enemy using this strategy in people you know?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2016 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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God the Chess Player

ChessI’m posting a series about resting in the Lord. Of course you can’t talk about rest without mentioning the Sabbath.

For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.”
Hebrews 4:4

At this point the writer of Hebrews begins talking about the Sabbath – the seventh day. There’s a lot of controversy in the body of Christ over the concept of the seventh day. I believe that if you just read the Scripture with open eyes it will go a long way to clear things up. It’s obvious that in this verse the writer is referring to the creation account in Genesis.

Once everything was in place, God rested from His work. That’s how God rests. God entered His rest knowing that the world had been established such that everything would turn out as He had planned. This is why the principle of God’s rest is so elusive to us.

This is just the opposite of how we view it sometimes. By observation, we get the wrong impression. We think that each time someone or the enemy makes a move; God has to find a way to answer it. That is absolutely NOT the way it is.

Think about a master chess player. When they play chess, they plan 20 or more moves ahead. Then there comes a point in a match when one will declare, “Checkmate in 5 moves.” That means that the board is set in such a way that no matter what the opponent does, the victory is a sure thing.

This is what God did at Creation. As He formed the world, God knew every choice every person could ever possibly decide. He also knew how to bring about the end He desired no matter what choice anyone made. It will all turn out as planned.

He established the world so that He knows all the right moves to make to bring about His victory at the right time. By saying that God rested on the seventh day, we mean that at that point God announced, “Checkmate in 7000 years.” (Or however long it will take!)

God has been resting ever since that day. God was still resting when the children of Israel went into Egypt. That was also the case when they crossed the Red Sea. He was resting when Israel went into Babylonian captivity, and when they returned. God was resting when Jesus Christ walked the earth, died, was buried, and rose from the dead. He was resting on the day of Pentecost. God is resting right now. How can this be?

The Scripture above literally says that God rested off of His work. I believe that this means that His rest is separate from His actions. This brings up the question, can you rest and work at the same time? That and other questions will be answered as we continue to look at this concept of rest. At this point we only need to understand that when everything was prepared and in place, God rested.

God is at rest, not fretting or fussing over the future. If that’s the case, then why should I worry about how things are going to turn out? I can place my confidence securely in the Lord, knowing that He’s already worked out my problem.

Question: Why do believers worry so much about the future?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2015 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Intimacy and Deserving

 

MeditationI’ve been posting about the concept of being worthy of God’s power. In my last article I started talking about the Greek word axios, which is translated as worthy in Scripture. It literally means deserving.

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
Matthew 10:37-38

Jesus doesn’t pull any punches with His teachings. Our problem is that we’ve become divided in our loyalties.

When break it down to its simplest elements, love is a matter of participating in a positive way in someone’s life. Hate, on the other hand, is a refusal to participate positively in someone’s life.

So Christ is saying that if you want to participate with anyone more than Him, you’re not deserving of Him. If you want to be around others more than Christ, you’ll never share in the fullness of His power. The truth is that you’re not deserving of this power, if you refuse intimacy with the Lord.

The problem is that we will not see the miraculous if we’re not intimate with Christ. But it’s a problem that’s easily fixed. It’s not a hard thing to repent and begin a walk of intimacy with God. In my experience, however, our problem is not that we can’t repent or don’t have time. This fact is illustrated in one of the parables of Christ.

He told a story about a king who was preparing a wedding banquet for his son. The king sent out invitations and everyone replied that they would be there. They all wanted to be a part of the celebration. But when the day of the wedding arrived none of these guests showed up. They all had excuses. Listen to what the king said about them.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.’”
Matthew 22:8

What caused the king to have such an attitude? It was all about their excuses. They had all gotten busy doing other things. That’s the biggest problem we have in the body of Christ today. We’re all so busy doing the things that the world offers.

I’m not talking about evil, sinful things. It’s the huge availability of time filling stuff that’s all around us in this society. Sports, entertainment, internet, TV, radio, educational and recreational opportunities all abound in our generation. We haven’t yet learned in the church that we can’t do it all.

Choices have to be made over which things are the most important to us. If going to movies and playing basketball is more important to us than the power of God then it will be evident in our lives. Let me put it another way, it IS evident in our churches today that we lack the move of God’s power that was manifest in times past.

It’s abundantly clear that giving excuses why we can’t repent or be intimate with God will rob us of power. Maturity takes responsibility for the situation that it find itself in. It may be hard to break this pattern of ignoring God at first. But our part is to repent and spend time with God. His part is to keep us clean and bestow His power upon the church.

Power is all about relationship, not works. Power is about attitude – I want to be with God more than with anyone else on this earth. Not about the law, whether I have to do this or that. If you are saved, then repent and spend more time with the Lord. Then you can rest assured that YOU ARE WORTHY – deserving in Christ.

Question: What hinders you from having an intimate walk with Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2015 in Power of God, Prayer, Revival, Sonship

 

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Choosing the Right Path

TrailIt seems that the more I study about the cross, the more I’m drawn to it. It was on the cross that Christ became our Savior. It was there that the saving power of the Messiah was released to transform our lives forever.

Salvation is not a one-time thing, but an ongoing process. It’s a process that all focuses on the work of the cross.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18

It all hinges on the Word of the cross. What we find in the body of Christ is two kinds of believers. One group is composed of those who are being saved. They have decided to submit to God’s renovation plan in their lives.

They want to see the whole package of God’s provision accomplished in them. They want not only healing, joy and prosperity, but they’re willing to see righteousness, holiness, and obedience developed as well. They want to see all the losses of the curse turned around. To this group, the Word of the cross is the power of God that transforms them into the image of Christ.

There’s another group as well. These are people who have accepted God’s forgiveness, but haven’t progressed any further. They’ll be in God’s kingdom when they die, but for now they’re content to live for themselves.

The word perishing in the verse above simply means decay or loss. There are those in the church who have chosen the path of decay and loss.

Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Philippians 3:17-18

There’s a pattern that we can follow. Literally this verse says that there is a die that has been struck. A die, in this sense, is a mold for shaping something according to an original pattern. Christ was the original.

On the cross He became a pattern for us to follow in the spiritual realm. There’s a work the Holy Spirit wants to do in us if we will only let Him.

As he went around to all the churches, Paul would give them a pattern of living. This is what we’re missing in our generation. We need a pattern to focus our lifestyles around. Following Christ is not a hobby. It’s not just one of many pursuits in our daily schedules. If we serve Christ, then that’s all there is – everything else revolves around that truth.

That’s the goal of these posts. I want us, as the people of God, to get back to the pattern. We have made serving God into formulas. Each one has their own little bubble. Nothing affects anything else.

We’ll teach about the “Ten Steps to Prosperity” or the “Five Steps to Receive your Healing.” We’ll talk about how to walk in the power of God or what to do to overcome depression. Once in a while we might even hear that we need to become a disciple. Each teaching comes in its own separate parcel. Little do we realize that our life in Christ is a package deal.

Everything we do affects all the areas of our life. My righteousness affects my prosperity. My holiness affects my relationships. Everything is intertwined. That’s why I need the pattern, if I’m going to live the abundant life that Christ talked about.

Question: Where do we find the pattern for how we are to live?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2015 in Power of God, Revival

 

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The Inconvenient Truth about Obedience

MeditationIn my last post I talked about the connection between faith and obedience. It’s one of the toughest choices we need to make as believers.

This goes beyond what we usually think about obedience.

Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.
Romans 1:5

Contrary to popular belief, obedience is by faith, not fear. It’s easier to obey if I trust the one I’m submitted to. This is especially true in my relationship with God.

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.
1 Peter 1:14-15

According to Peter, this obedience comes as a result of calling. If that’s the case, then we need to look at the calling of God. Let’s review the verse we first read in my last post.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
Hebrews 11:8

It all starts by being called to go out of where we’re currently living. Then we’re called to move into a place that God expects us to inherit. The callings to go out and to move in are the two sides of God’s work in our lives. Both require our obedience.

It’s as if God is saying to us, “Let’s get you to the inheritance.” We then have to trust God enough to want the destiny that He’s prepared for us.

Bible talks a lot about obedience. Children and parents, employees and bosses, governments, church leaders, etc. This is how God gets you to the place He sees for you.

However, the biggest problem with God’s way of calling is that Abraham did not know where he was going. The verse literally says that he did not stand upon where he was going to.

Jesus understood this in His time on earth.

Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered
Hebrews 5:8

This verse is talking about Christ but it’s the same for us. The word suffer is talking about a feeling. The truth is that we only learn obedience by what we feel. Unfortunately, it’s usually a painful experience.

If I’m hungry and someone says, “Come to dinner,” that’s not obedience for me to come and eat. Obedience is when I’m watching TV and my parents tell me to put out the trash.

We need to understand that obedience is a learning process. It teaches me that to enjoy the best life, will require some discomfort now, for a greater return later. The inheritance is the fun part. It’s the calling that’s usually inconvenient.

Question: How does faith help us to obey God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Faith, Revival

 

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