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Spiritual Battles – A New Direction

Now that I’ve finished going through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, I feel a change is coming.  At least for a while, I’m going to interrupt my walk through the New Testament.

I believe that the Holy Spirit is leading me to deal with some issues that the church of our generation needs to hear.  God is leading His people into a new level of ministry.  We need to prepare ourselves.  But if we don’t know what’s coming, how can we be ready?

God is also doing some new things in me, personally.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll share some of these.  Hopefully, as you stick with me, this blog will continue to be a blessing to you.

The first topic I want to tackle is that of the spiritual battle that we find ourselves in.  I don’t think that we fully understand the scope of this struggle.

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.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Ephesians 6:12-13

We’re told in Scripture, that we’re in a spiritual battle.  The struggle is real.  Yet many believers choose to ignore this warning.

All too often we wait until the enemy knocks us down before we try and activate our spiritual weapons.  By that time it’s usually too late.  Then we fall to our knees, crying out to God, to save us from the situation we find ourselves in.

It’s time we realize that the kingdom of the enemy doesn’t take a holiday.  The devil doesn’t look at you and say, “Oh.  You’re on vacation.  I guess I’ll leave you alone this week.”

We need to be constantly aware of our spiritual life.  Serving God is a 24/7 activity.  Paul describes it perfectly to Timothy, his son in the ministry.

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs — he wants to please his commanding officer.
2 Timothy 2:3-4

How often do we view our walk with the Lord in these terms?  When I bowed my knee to Christ, at that point, I was no longer a “civilian.”  I was now a part of a kingdom that is structured much like the military – only on a spiritual level.

Chasing after the world is the same as getting involved in civilian affairs.  It takes our focus off the marching orders that the Lord has given us.  We need to be under the command of the Holy Spirit.  That’s where our allegiance should attach itself to.

I believe that understanding the spiritual war we’re in is an important aspect of being a Christian.  Beginning with my next post, I’ll be talking about this subject.  I’m going to speak about this in great detail.  I’ll even deal with the history of this struggle from Adam to the church.

My desire is that you’ll be prepared for any attack that the enemy might bring against you.  Our victory is found in Jesus Christ alone.  Never forget that the battle has been won before you even step foot on the field.

Question: What spiritual battles have you faced in the past?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Marriage Between Light and Dark

In my last post, we saw the Apostle Paul’s teaching on divorce between Christian couples.  Now he goes on to talk about marriages between a Christian and a non-Christian.

To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.  And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.
1 Corinthians 7:12-13

In this case, there’s a special set of circumstances.  You have two vastly different kingdoms living under the same roof.

It’s the problem of light and darkness coming together.  They don’t mix very well.  In many cases, the unbelieving spouse finds it very convicting as they live with a believer.  This is true even when the Christian isn’t actively trying to win them to Christ.

Because of this, Paul says that the decision should be left in the hands of the unbeliever.  If they’re willing to remain in the relationship, then the marriage should stay intact.

The reason it works this way is because of the influence of the Holy Spirit.  The Christian spouse brings a covenant blessing into the home because of their faith.

For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband.  Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
1 Corinthians 7:14

Please understand what Paul’s saying here.  The unbeliever is made clean in a ceremonial sense.  They’re not saved by the spouse.  A clean rock is still a rock.

God gives the unbeliever a position of cleanness.  This is so that the children can come under the covenant blessing.  Because of the believer, they’re covered by God’s promises.

God will always desire for the marriage to remain together.  That’s because the Holy Spirit has a chance to work on the heart of the unbeliever.

But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so.  A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.  How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?  Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
1 Corinthians 7:15-16

As in all things, the rule is peace.  God wants our homes to be a refuge of peace.  That’s why He will not keep a believer and an unbeliever bound together.  A battleground between light and dark is no place to live.

God’s desire is for our best.  He wants our homes to be a place of blessing for both parents and children.

Question: How can God work on the unbeliever even if they decide to leave the marriage?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2019 in Relationships, Spiritual Walk

 

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Believer’s Court

Judging by what’s on TV, court cases are very entertaining.  Each side tries to prove its claims.  Who’s doing the best job at convincing the judge or jury?  You never know until the final verdict.

But how does this play out when a believer takes another believer to court?  In Paul’s day, society found it just as entertaining as we do.  In Corinth, there was an epidemic of Christians suing Christians.  The Apostle had some things to say about it.

Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church!  I say this to shame you.  Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?  But instead, one brother goes to law against another — and this in front of unbelievers!
1 Corinthians 6:4-6

The problem is that many view the church as an organization rather than an organism.  We are a body.  We’re to function as a unit.

There have been times when I’ve accidentally stuck my own finger into my eye.  In that instance, should my eye take my hand to court to sue for damages?  It may sound foolish to even ask that question.  Taking a fellow believer to court is just as foolish in God’s eyes.

According to Paul, even the least esteemed person in the church is probably qualified to act as an arbitrator between two parties.  In that way, internal differences can stay within the church.

But I believe that there’s a deeper issue here.  It’s about taking into account the fact that the world is watching us.  They’re always looking for a reason to accuse the church of hypocrisy.  We shouldn’t be giving ammunition to the enemy.

I have a deep problem when I feel the need to publically and decisively prove that I’m right.  I need to check my motives.  Is it stemming from bitterness, revenge, low self-esteem, or any of a hundred other faults in my sin nature?

Paul clearly gets to the heart of the matter.

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.  Why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be cheated?  Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.
1 Corinthians 6:7-8

Paul says that a public lawsuit between believers is proof that you’ve been defeated by the enemy.  The actual word he used implies that you’re acting like a failure in your Christian walk.

He tells us that it’s better to be wronged or cheated rather than to bring public shame upon the body of Christ.  But if the hurt was great enough, he suggests private, Christian arbitration.

The problem is that we don’t want a Christian to arbitrate between us.  There’s too great a chance that they might use Biblical principles to judge the case.  In our greed, we want to exact revenge for the hurt we suffered.

Instead, we should always look for the restoration and healing of relationships.  I know that might sound idealistic, but in Christ, the Holy Spirit can do great things through those who submit to Him.  As far as it depends on us – whenever possible – we should take the high road of forgiveness and unity.

Question: When have you chosen to forgive instead of seeking retribution?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2019 in Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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The Place of Worship

Worship is a word that we use a lot as Christians.  Do we really understand what it means?  We call church buildings “place of worship.”  But that’s not entirely correct.  Actually, there are many churches where there hasn’t been any real worship for years, yet they still call what they’re doing “worship services.”
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, the apostle is dealing with people who have lost sight of their spiritual identity.  They don’t really know who they are in Christ.  Consequently, their worship has become a set of rules.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
1 Corinthians 3:16

The Bible is clear that for us, the temple is not a physical building.  We find this thought in more than one spot in the Word.  When we’re told that you are the temple, sometimes the you is singular and sometimes it’s plural.

Regardless of the tense that’s used, the meaning is clear.  Worship takes place in people.  It’s not about a special location.  It takes place in me or in us.

But what is this place of worship that we’re called to?  Throughout the book of Hebrews, the writer uses the term, draw near, only for worship.

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.  You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.  You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Hebrews 12:22-24

The true place of worship is around the throne of God; for He’s the only one worthy to be worshiped.  The Apostle John had a vision of the majesty of this place.

Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders.  They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.  From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder.  Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing.  These are the seven spirits of God.  Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
Revelation 4:4-6

True worship takes place around the throne of God.  The fact is that when we worship, we’re transported, in the spirit, to God’s throne.  That’s because worship is a supernatural encounter with God.  It has nothing to do with our flesh, but everything to do with our spirit.

In talking to the woman at the well, Jesus spoke about this truth.

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
John 4:24

When you pray in the spirit, you’re brought into the very presence of God.  Your spirit is there with others in God’s throne room.

That’s why it surprises me that there are those who simply ignore this awesome opportunity that we’ve been given.  We’re allowed instant access into the place of worship in the throne room of the Sovereign of the universe.  Take advantage of this great invitation that we’ve been given.

Question: How often do you worship in spirit?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Mere Men in the Kingdom of Power

I’m continuing my study of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  As we go forward, we need to see each part within the whole context.  Without an understanding of the first two chapters, we will not fully grasp the rest of his exhortations.

In my last post, we saw that the Corinthian church was described as spiritual infants.  Paul continues to explain his reasoning.

I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready.  You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?  Are you not acting like mere men?
1 Corinthians 3:2-3

Paul describes the teaching he gave them as milk.  Nothing substantial; nothing deep.  It was just the basics.

When I’m hungry, I want something that I can chew.  I’m not the type of person who can survive very long on a liquid diet.  It’s the same for me with the things of the spirit.

I want to hear a message that I have to think and pray about.  I want to be able to apply it to my life so that it will bring change.  I’m not into nice, forgettable sermons.

According to Paul, their problem was that they were not ready for spiritual meat.  That literally meant that they did not have the power (dunamis) to receive it.  That kind of power can only come from the Spirit.

In the first two chapters, we’re told that the soulish man can’t receive things from the spirit.  It only happens when you spend time in the spirit.

However, the problem was worse than that.  This church was not even at the level of being soulish.  The word used for worldly is actually the word, carnal in the Greek.

They were trying to serve God by the desires of their flesh.  This was borne out by the fact that their meetings were full of jealousy and quarreling.

These two words are important to our understanding.  The first means that you have an emotional attachment to what you desire.  The other means that you’re willing to get very defensive about your opinion.

Because of all this, Paul lets them know that they aren’t acting as the people of God.  Instead, they’re behaving like the world; mere men.

In the world, you have to fight for what you want.  In an organization, that means debate, politics, leverage, and in some cases downright bullying.  That’s what Paul was seeing in the church at Corinth.

This is why he laid down his foundation at the beginning of the letter.  Through the spirit, we have access to the mind of Christ.  It’s not about what I think is best, it’s the Lord’s agenda that matters.

Mere men decide what they want by a combination of logic and emotion.  Spiritual people, on the other hand, spend time in the spirit accessing God’s thoughts.

If they were truly spiritual, they would concentrate on prayer in the spirit.  This would include both public and private prayer times.  Then they would hear from the Holy Spirit.

When that happens, you find that strife ceases.  If you’re truly hearing from the Spirit, then the Lord will speak the same word to each person.  It’s easier to walk in unity when you’re all hearing from God.

I think that a lot of the division and strife in modern church meetings could be done away with if we spent more time listening to the Holy Spirit.  Our goal should be to move in the direction of God’s plan over and above what we desire.

Question: How have you seen unity resulting from believers praying together?

2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Signs

I’m continuing to look at Mark’s Gospel.  We’re now in the last chapter.  To many people, it’s a very controversial place.

Some versions of the Bible leave out Mark 16:9-20 altogether.  Others set them apart with a note that tells us that some of the most reliable manuscripts don’t have these verses.

Here’s my take on it, for what it’s worth.  Maybe I’m naïve or looking at the issue too simply.  I believe that if God is not powerful enough to protect His Word and keep it pure, then how can I trust Him to protect and watch over my life?

I see it as a matter of faith.  I believe that whatever the circumstances were that brought this section of Scripture to us; it was what God wanted to be recorded.  He could have stopped it from being placed there, but He didn’t.  So, I choose to believe that this was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

I know; there are some who take it out of context and use it as an excuse to do some strange things in the name of their religion.  But that doesn’t negate the truth of what’s written.

Jesus has just told His disciples to go out and proclaim the Good News of salvation to the world.  Some will not believe them, but others will, and they’ll be saved.

Now the Lord describes the signs that surround those who do believe.

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Mark 16:17-18

The problem is that if you don’t believe God works miracles through the church, you’ll have to find a way to get rid of this verse.  I believe that God wants to show His power through us as much today as in the early church.  We just need to position ourselves correctly.

The key phrase is “in my name.”  In other words, Jesus is telling them that they will do these miracles in His place.  If it’s something that the Lord would have done, then His followers could do it.

But there’s a catch.  How did Christ perform miracles?  He was clear that He only did what He saw of the Father.

This means that I can’t just decide on my own to pick up a snake, drink poison, or even heal the sick without hearing from the Father.  I need to spend time with the Holy Spirit.  I must develop a sensitivity to His voice.  Then, if I operate in obedience to what the Lord tells me, I’ll truly be functioning “in His name.”

That’s important.  I can’t just do what I want and tack “In Jesus’ name” to the end of it.  That gets me nothing.  I have to be operating under the authority and direction of the Lord to see the miraculous.

Do you want to see the signs, wonders, and miracles of those who believe?  Then spend quality time with the Holy Spirit.  He’ll train you to walk the way Jesus did.

Question: Why don’t we see miracles in our churches today as they did in the early church?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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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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