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Focusing on Christ

The Apostle Paul had a lot to say about the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  The Corinthian church needed to check their attitudes.  What about us?  How do we apply these truths?

In the early church, they had a weekly common meal that they called the Agape (Love) Feast.  The whole church would come to one place and eat together.  At the end of the meal, they would receive the Communion elements of bread and wine.

They did this because the Lord’s Supper was originally a part of the Jewish Passover meal.  When Jesus celebrated it with His disciples, it came at the end of the Passover dinner.  So in the early days of the church, Communion was celebrated in the context of a dinner.

In Corinth, this devolved into a form of divisiveness.  Look at Paul’s words to them.

When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else.  One remains hungry, another gets drunk.  Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in?  Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?  What shall I say to you?  Shall I praise you for this?  Certainly not!
1 Corinthians 11:20-22

Apparently, what had started out as a common meal, had turned into an “every man for himself” event.  The rich would bring a lavish spread.  The poor would come with a loaf of bread or nothing at all.  But unlike our potluck dinners, where everything is shared, each family only ate what they brought.

This angered Paul.  Instead of bringing the body of Christ together, it became a way for the rich to show off.  What they were eating became the showpiece of the dinner.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Paul makes the purpose of the Lord’s Supper very clear.  It’s not about me and my exquisite taste in food.  It all revolves around remembering Christ and what He accomplished for us.

The Lord is the central figure.  We remember that His body went to the cross, bearing all of our shame, sickness, and pain.  We remember His blood that was shed for the forgiveness of our sin.  In these simple acts of eating and drinking, we show what Christ has done for us and look forward to His return.

Jesus said that if He was lifted up, He would draw everyone to Himself.  The Lord’s Supper should have brought the church together.  Instead, it focused on the rift between rich and poor.

In our culture, many churches only celebrate it once a month at the end of a service…if at all.  A lot of Christians receive it as a mere tradition of the church.  It’s more than that.

It should be an important time when we focus our attention on Christ and what He’s done for us.  We should attach our faith to it as we receive the elements.  We should see ourselves as receiving the full benefits of what Christ paid for on the cross.

When you celebrate Communion, let it draw you closer to the Lord and His work in you.

Question: How do you remember Christ in Communion?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on June 3, 2019 in Fellowship, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Men, Women, and Authority

As we continue to study Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, we now come to another controversial section.  He begins to talk about men and women in regards to the principle of authority.

I think that so much of our debating and anger over this section comes from both a misunderstanding and a misrepresentation of what Paul is teaching.  We need to see this without any preconceived ideas of what’s being said.

Therefore, I’ll try to stick to the simple statements found in Scripture, rather than my personal perspective.  The key word is “try.”

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
1 Corinthians 11:3

Let me get started by getting everyone mad at me!  This Scripture is a loaded minefield if you’re not willing to take it at face value.  It deals with the issues of authority and submission.

First of all, we’re talking about headship on an individual basis.  Notice that both the word man and woman are singular.  Paul is not saying that all men are the head over all women.

We make submission a very complicated subject.  I’m not going to talk about it much in this post.  I’ll simply give you some homework.  If you do a study of submission, you’ll find that the specific areas in which a woman is told to submit are to her own husband, or to her own father.

Having said that, this verse is saying that the head of a man is Christ.  The head of a woman is a man (either her husband or her father).

Women – Please don’t shut me off just yet!  Wait and see where I’m going with this.

All too often I’ve been flagged down by a husband, dragging his wife along.  He needed to ask me a “Bible question”.

“Pastor Nick, doesn’t the Bible say that the husband is the head of the wife?  Doesn’t she have to submit and do what the husband says?”

Immediately I see a problem in the relationship, and it’s not the wife.  It stems from a total misunderstanding of authority and headship.  Let’s see how Paul explains it.

In the above verse, he makes it clear that even within the Godhead there is headship and authority.  God the Son – Christ – is under the headship of God the Father.  Does that make Christ any less God?  Absolutely not!  He is fully God.

What then is the relationship when it comes to headship?

Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
John 5:19

Notice what Jesus said here.  He did not say that He does everything the Father tells him to do.  Instead, He tells us that He does what He sees His Father doing.

The head sets the direction for the body.  In my last post, we saw Paul instructing them to imitate him as he imitated Christ.  This is true in any headship – authority relationship.

In my experience, the relationship of a wife to her husband is usually the same as the husband to Christ.  Godly men who are serving Christ faithfully usually don’t complain about lack of authority in their families.  It’s not about trying to get others to obey me, but about me getting my relationship right with the Lord.

Question: How well do you follow the headship of Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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All About Me

As we continue our look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian Church, he’s speaking about how idolatry relates to the grey areas of sin.  This is an important issue.  The apostle now lays down the principle of participation.

I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.  Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?  And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
1 Corinthians 10:15-17

The first part of participation that we need to understand is our fellowship with Christ. The words translated participation in this verse, are the same that are translated fellowship in other places in Scripture.  We have a fellowship in the body and blood of the Lord.

In the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we’re showing a visible representation of our fellowship.  It’s because of our connection to Christ that we’re connected with each other.  We all have a share in His body and in His blood.

It’s this concept of participation that should guide some of our actions.  There are some who would say that it doesn’t matter what I do outside of the church.  What I do in my private time is my own business.  But is it?

Remember, it’s all about participation.  Am I participating with the world in things I shouldn’t be involved in?  That’s the issue Paul’s dealing with here.

Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?  Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?  No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.
1 Corinthians 10:18-21

Those are strong words.  In context, he’s talking about idolatry in a pagan temple.  But this could apply to us as well.  There are many things in society that could be seen as modern idolatry.  Gaming, the internet, the entertainment industry, sporting events, and a whole host of other things can steal our devotion.

Actually, anything that we participate in that causes us to reject time with Christ is idolatry.  No, I don’t think we should be worshipping 24/7.  But only serving God two hours a week on Sunday morning is a symptom of spiritual sickness.

Paul tells us the bottom line.

Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?  Are we stronger than he?
“Everything is permissible” – but not everything is beneficial.  “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is constructive.  Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
1 Corinthians 10:22-24

Even things that are permissible, with no evil aspects, can be detrimental to your Christian walk.  The fact is, being a Christian is not all about me.  I’m a part of something bigger than myself.  The fellowship I share is on a spiritual level.  The things I do in the natural can have a spiritual effect.

This is key to understanding what’s right or wrong for me.  What I do as an individual affects the whole.   That’s life in a body.  When I stub my toe, my whole body is affected.   This is a lesson the current generation of believers needs to learn.

Question: How does a person’s private life affect the whole church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Eyes on the Prize

The Olympics are a worldwide phenomenon.  It seems like for two weeks, everything else is put on hold.  There are no other important news stories.  Everyone focuses on the competition.

Are you one of those people who loves watching the drama of the Olympics unfold?  If so, what excites you about it?

Paul used the backdrop of the Olympics to explain his view of the ministry.  Listen to how he puts it.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24

In the ministry, we’re competing for the prize.  The prize is your destiny in Christ.  It should be your reason for living.

The fact is that only one gets the prize.  It’s the one who pushes himself out in front and crosses the finish line first.  Please understand that I’m not talking about racing against other believers.

No, you’re racing against yourself.  Your lazy self, your proud self, your distracted self, and your “all for Christ” self.  They’re all running against each other.  Run in such a way that you get the prize the Lord has called you to receive.

Paul tells us how this is accomplished.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:25-27

The first key is strict training versus running aimlessly.  We need to focus on our calling in Christ.  What is it that the Lord wants you to accomplish?  What will it take for you to lay hold of it?

This is something that we need to hear in our generation.  We get so distracted by all that’s happening around us.  There are so many opportunities to participate in.

I wish it were simply a matter of right and wrong, but it’s not.  It’s about what you want to accomplish for eternity.

There’s nothing wrong with eating a hot fudge sundae.  However, if you’re training to run a marathon, then it’s not the best food choice.  In our ministry, we avoid certain activities, not because they’re wrong, but because they’re counter-productive to what we want to accomplish.

The other issue is beating the air versus beating my body.  This makes it clear that we truly are competing against our own selves.

Who is going to be in charge?  Will the desires of my flesh determine my destiny?  Or will I, instead, let my spirit lead me into God’s perfect will for my life?

These are the things we need to deal with on a daily basis.  We put the flesh down and build the spirit up.

Of course, that’s not easy or comfortable.  I’m talking about fasting and prayer.  Then there’s prayer in the spirit and meditating on the Word of God.  I also have to be in right relationship with my fellow believers.

Do I have to do these things in order to be a “good Christian”?  Absolutely not.

Unless…your goal is to win the prize of your destiny in Christ.

Question: What is your “strict training” that pushes you toward the prize?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2019 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Divorce – God’s View

I’m continuing to look at Paul’s teaching on marriage relationships in First Corinthians, chapter 7.  Here’s where some of the controversies start.  He’s going to talk about divorce.

To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.  But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.  And a husband must not divorce his wife.
1 Corinthians 7:10-11

This verse is specifically talking about marriages between two Christians.  Paul is being clear and concise in his description of the Lord’s command.  He states that divorce is never a part of God’s plan.

I know that this teaching doesn’t sit well with many in our generation.  We live in a society where divorce is an acceptable part of our culture.

This is why marriage is not to be entered into on a whim.  The world sees it as simply an agreement to live together.  Scripturally it’s a lot more than that.

Divorce was acceptable in the Jewish culture as well during the time Jesus was ministering.  The Pharisees asked Him His opinion.

Here’s what Jesus told them…

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
Matthew 19:4-6

The Pharisees weren’t satisfied with this answer.  They didn’t see anything wrong with divorce.  They rested their case on the fact that the Law of Moses allowed for it – so they had a Scriptural basis.

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.  But it was not this way from the beginning.  I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Matthew 19:8-9

His answer was simple.  Divorce is not God’s will, but He knew that mankind was going to do it anyway.  So the Lord set up some ground rules to make it more amicable.

Of course, this opens up another can of worms.  It’s obvious from the above passage that God understands what we, as human beings, are like.  He knows that once we set our hearts on doing something, even against God’s will, we’ll probably go there.

So God made an allowance for the hardness of our hearts.  That tells me that divorce isn’t the unpardonable sin.  I know there are some denominations that totally write you off once you go through a divorce.  That’s not God’s view.

We must always remember that even though God hates divorce, He loves people.  He’s willing to work in and through us no matter what we’ve gone through.  It’s not my place to tell anyone that they’re somehow disqualified for ministry because of a divorce.

It’s really up to the move of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life.  I’ve seen divorced ministers who’ve walked under a powerful anointing from God.  Why would God confirm their ministry if they had disqualified themselves?

I find it best to leave the judgment seat to Christ.

Question: Based on this teaching, what’s the best way to prepare Christian couples for marriage?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2019 in Relationships, Spiritual Walk

 

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Whose Temple Is It?

In my last post, I talked about Paul’s warning to serve God whole-heartedly.  A failure to do so runs the risk of losing some kingdom blessings.  He continues this thought as he uses the illustration of a temple.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

I’m a temple to the Holy Spirit.  Think about it like the ancient Greek temples.  My temple says “Holy Spirit” over the front entrance.

What would you expect if you came to that temple?  What if you entered it and saw a Star Trek Convention going on inside?  You may question the priest about it.

“That convention is for this week only.”

What if for the next few weeks you visited this temple and saw a beauty pageant, a chili cook-off, and a real estate seminar?  You’d ask is this a temple to the Holy Spirit or is it something else?

With that thought in mind, consider what happened when Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple.

To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here!  How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”  His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
John 2:16-17

Notice the righteous anger that Christ displayed.  What was it that aroused such an attitude?  The disciples realized that Jesus was consumed by a zeal for the house of God.

When Christ told His disciples about the Holy Spirit, He said that He was sending “another counselor just like Me.”  (John 14:26 – My paraphrase!)  The difference is that the Holy Spirit lives in us.  He lives permanently in His temple; our body.

In some of my other posts, I’ve talked about the fact that the Holy Spirit is intensely jealous (James 4:5).  Do we really get the point?  We’re living in the Last Days.  The Holy Spirit is starting to cleanse His temple.  We need to submit to His program or face the loss.

Remember – the Holy Spirit will not hurt His temple.  But He will start to ruin that which would try and steal our affection.  In my experience, I’d rather willingly give up something, than have the Lord remove it from my life.

What do we do?

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Galatians 6:7-8

If you really want what the Holy Spirit’s desire, then sow to please the Spirit.  He doesn’t say to summon up all your will power and live right.  No!  Simply submit to His plan and sow the Word and prayer.  Spend time with the Spirit.

Question: What do you need to do to sow to please the Spirit?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2019 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, Worship

 

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Final Judgment Fun

After my last post, you may not think that the words “judgment” and “fun” go together.  Trust me.  There is one point in the final judgment that I am absolutely looking forward to.

Do you not know that we will judge angels?  How much more the things of this life!
1 Corinthians 6:3

This one question that Paul asks is the basis for a lot of joy in my life.  Whenever a question starts with, do you not know, it means that you have to ask yourself whether you know it or not.

There are many believers who have no idea that we’ll be seated with Christ on His judgment seat.  (For more details on that, read my last post.)  During this time it’s not just humans who’ll be judged.  Angels will be coming before us as well.

It stands to reason that if an angel served God faithfully, then there would be no reason for them to be judged.  This is only referring to those angels who chose to side with Satan in his rebellion.  So we’re talking here about the judgment of the demonic kingdom.

Why does this make me happy?  Simply put, it’s the ultimate payback.

I can just picture that day.  A big old demon comes before the judge’s seat.  His list of offenses is read.  At that point, a realization dawns on me.

“So you’re the one who gave me that flat tire at the worst possible moment.  It was you who tried to hinder the answer to my prayer that God was sending my way.  And it was you who incited my co-worker to lie about me to my boss.”

I can imagine my joy as I shout out, “Guilty!  Take him away.”

There are times that we look back on our lives.  When we do, it usually centers around people and events that gave us tough challenges.  We don’t typically think of it in terms of a military campaign that’s being played out.

That’s why it’s so important to know the truth about this final judgment.  There will be a military tribunal where all the facts will come out.  We’ll see all the war crimes that have been committed against us and the perpetrators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

We know that there will be days when the enemy is giving us a hard time.  Take the opportunity to remind him about the judgment that’s coming.  The annoyances of the enemy will be paid for.

You may even find that a little smile will start to spread across your face.  You might even start praising God in the middle of the struggle.

We need to realize that the enemy’s kingdom is already defeated.  We’re not waiting for the victory.  The war has already been won; we’re simply in the clean-up phase, freeing the prisoners, right before the war trials.

Remember, at this point, the enemy is not trying to defeat you.  He simply wants to annoy or distract you to keep you from completing your mission in Christ.  Don’t let that happen.

Don’t let the problems and challenges of this life rob you of your joy in Christ.  Look to the eternal not the temporary.  Our future with the Lord is something to look forward to with great anticipation.  Keep your eyes on what the Lord has already accomplished in you.

Question: How have you seen the victory of Christ at work in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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