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Grace for a Purpose

Paul continues to talk about the attitudes of a true minister in his second letter to the Corinthian church.  It’s something we can apply to our lives right now.

As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.
2 Corinthians 6:1

We talk a lot about the grace of God. As believers, we’re always praying for grace. Many seem to be always running around seeking God’s grace. Why is that? How we answer that question is very important.

Why do you want the grace of God in your life? Is it another way of saying, “I want God’s blessing on my life.”?

I’ve heard grace defined in many different ways. God’s unmerited favor. The enabling power and presence of God. All we need for life and godliness. They’re all good descriptions, but they leave out a key ingredient – purpose.

There’s always a reason attached to the grace of God. Listen to how the Apostle Paul explains it in his letter to the Roman church.

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

In this short verse, I see three elements of grace. They speak not only about what God wants to bless us with, but how He wants us to use what He freely gives us. We need to take these to heart as we seek to manifest God’s grace.

Through Him and for His Name’s Sake – He doesn’t give us His grace so that we can spend it on our pleasures. It’s about His agenda on the earth. What does the Lord want to accomplish through me? That’s where His grace comes to the forefront.

I need to pick up this attitude. I receive His grace so that His name will be magnified in my life.

We Received Grace and Apostleship – Grace and calling go hand in hand. Seeking God’s grace without finding your calling in Christ is worthless. It’s through His grace that you fulfill your purpose.

It’s the Lord’s grace that brings you into your destiny – what you were created for. Without that knowledge, you’re simply living from problem to problem. Instead of always seeking grace to get over the next obstacle, find the direction that the Holy Spirit is leading you to.

To Call People from among All the Gentiles – Paul was aware that God’s grace had pinpoint accuracy. He was called to bring the Gospel of Christ to the Gentiles. That’s why God poured His grace on Paul’s ministry.

It’s the same for us. As we grow in Christ, we need to fine-tune our calling. Who am I called to reach? What are my gifts and abilities? As you begin to answer these questions, you find that perfect position of grace that you’re called to walk in.

Be careful to always heed Paul’s warning not to receive God’s grace in vain.  That means that I don’t receive the grace of God for no purpose. Grace is always attached to destiny. Our walk today must be with an eternal focus. That’s what the Lord’s grace is all about.

Question: How have you seen the grace of God active in your life and ministry?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2020 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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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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Called to Become

The next encounter we have in Mark’s gospel is the calling of the four fishermen.  I’m referring to Andrew, Peter, James, and John.

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.  Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Mark 1:16-20

In this narrative, we’re only given the outline of what happened.  It should be obvious from human nature and the accounts in the other gospels that this was not the first time these men had met Jesus.  No one will leave their family business because an unknown man walks by and asks them to follow Him.

On the contrary, there was already a relationship that had formed between these five men.  Jesus had been preaching and healing the sick throughout the area.  At one point, Peter even let Jesus use his boat as a pulpit.  They knew the Lord’s ministry.

We know from John’s gospel, that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist.  He had heard John’s testimony of Jesus being the Messiah.  He had met with Christ in private, and then Andrew introduced his brother Peter to Him.

This was not just a “cold call” on the part of the Lord.  It was the culmination of an ongoing relationship.  They knew who it was that was calling them.  They wanted what Christ was offering.

But what was the Lord promising them?  It’s a very interesting way to invite someone.  There are two important phrases that Jesus says to them.  The first is; I will make you.

He told them that if they’d fall in behind Him, He’d do a work in their lives.  I think that’s the key, even for us.  It’s our job to follow – that’s all.  Too often we get the idea that we need to work on changing ourselves.  Then we get frustrated with the results.

If I’m willing to spend time in the Lord’s presence, through the Holy Spirit, He’ll bring about the changes needed in my life.  That’s where the power is.  It’s clear from Scripture that only the spirit can control the flesh.

The second phrase is not apparent in this English translation.  It’s the phrase; to become.  The original Greek reads; I will make you to become fishers of men.  I believe this means it’s a process, not an instant change.

God has a calling on your life and mine.  He wants us to become something for His glory.  I wish that the transformation was instant, the day I bowed my knee to Him as Lord.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way.

There’s a growing process involved.  I follow behind Christ.  I spend time in the spirit.  Over time, the work of God’s grace becomes evident in my life.  Eventually, I become what I was created to be.

It was like that with these disciples.  They had their rough spots.  Sometimes it looked like they’d never get there.  But after the day of Pentecost, they turned their world upside-down for the glory of Christ.

Let this speak to you.  Follow behind Christ.  Be patient.  Don’t get frustrated that the changes in your life aren’t happening as quickly as you’d like them to.  Become a disciple of Christ through the work of His Holy Spirit in you.

Question: What are some changes that are already evident in your life since you started following Christ?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Great Cover-Up

Are you involved in a cover-up? I’m not talking about spies, or corporate espionage. I’m referring to a spiritual cover-up.

Our society has made it so easy for us. We have access to more entertainment, sporting events, and educational opportunities than any other generation before us. These are all good things, unless…

Many people, Christians included, know that their lives aren’t what they should be. But instead of dealing with the problem, they hide in a sea of amusement. The word, amuse, a-muse, literally means to not think.

We will fill our lives with so much that we don’t have to think about and deal with the problems. James talks about this condition.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
James 4:8-10

Many people read this passage out of context and dismiss it as purely condemnation. They refuse to accept it as a word of warning to them.

The word sinner has become a bad word to us. It simply means someone who’s missing the mark – they’re not experiencing all that God has for them.

That’s what happens when you’re double-minded; you haven’t fully committed to trust God’s plan over yours. You miss out on God’s best when you only trust Him part of the time.

The key word in all of this is, grieve. It doesn’t sound good, but it’s actually sound advice. It literally means to realize one’s own misery. There’s a point when you have to shut off the continual stream of entertainment and take stock of your life.

That’s why this verse has to be read in the context of the whole section it’s in. James is speaking to people who find themselves in the conditions he described in chapters 3 and 4. If you find that your life has disorder and evil that you can’t overcome. Or maybe you’ve been praying for things with no results. It could be that you’ve tried to resist the enemy and he doesn’t leave you alone.

These are the things that James is trying to get you to think about. Are you living up to God’s best plan for your life? At some point we all have to stop and think about it.

Please realize that the goal of all of this is NOT to ruin your fun. God is not intent on being the universal party-pooper. He wants you to enjoy the greatest fulfillment and potential that you could ever hope to achieve.

This is made clear by his last statement. If you’re willing to bring your life back into God’s order, then He will lift you up. The verse says that He wants to elevate you above the circumstances.

The choice is yours. You can continue to climb your own ladder of success. But if you do, you may get to the top only to find that you placed it against the wrong wall.

The other choice is to turn around and step into God’s elevator. Follow His plan for your life and let Him have complete responsibility for getting you to your destiny.

So rather than this verse being about judgment and condemnation, we need to see it as a call to stop the cover-up. If that’s for you, the answer is simple. It’s time to repent and start off in a new direction in Christ.

Question: How has God’s plan proven to be better than yours so far?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2017 in Power of God, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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No Pain, No Gain

JogI’ve been posting about the uses of Scripture as listed in 2 Timothy 3:16. Today I’m going to talk about training in righteousness.

This word training means to mentor or to train up like a child from infancy to adulthood. The Bible is written for all. It doesn’t matter where you are in your spiritual walk.

If you’re a baby Christian, who was just saved, it can be your milk bottle. If you’re mature in the Lord, it has the meat of the deep truths of God. It can satisfy any hunger.

But what exactly does it train us in? Paul is very specific – training in righteousness.

In Scripture, you’ll find that righteousness is the whole package of what Christ has paid for on the cross. Throughout the Word righteousness is associated with: Rewards, victory in battle, prosperity, salvation, honor, life, and healing. Scripture truly is the owner’s manual for our walk with the Lord.

When Paul speaks about training in righteousness, he’s talking about the whole plan of God for your life. The job of Scripture is to take you from wherever the Lord found you when you were saved to the heights of His perfect plan for your life.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11

The word discipline in this verse is the same Greek word as training in Second Timothy. The writer of Hebrews tells us that there is pain associated with this kind of training. Why is that?

The answer is simple. This training is what causes us to grow from infancy to maturity. Growth means change, and change hurts. Think about it – when I was an infant I could throw my toys all over the floor and my parents would joyfully pick everything up.

Then, there came a day when I was told, “It’s time to pick up your toys and put them away.” There must have been a look of pain and distress on my face when I had to clean my room.

Then, there came a day when I couldn’t just do as I pleased all day long. My parents came to me and informed me that I would be starting school next week. Suddenly there was a place I had to be every day. At school, they made me read, learn, and take tests whether I wanted to or not. It was painful to me.

As a matter of fact, almost every new responsibility throughout our lives causes some degree of discomfort. That’s what this Scripture is talking about. As we’re brought to maturity there are going to be painful changes.

There are things we used to do, that we’re no longer able to do. There are also things we’ve never done that we’re now responsible for. Through it all we must let the Scripture do its work, so that we can be mature and complete – not lacking anything that the Lord has provided for us.

Question: What did you find painful in this maturing process?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2016 in Scripture Series, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Getting Back on Track

FallenFor the past couple of posts I’ve been talking about the purposes of Scripture as recorded in II Timothy 3:16. In it, Paul shows us what the Bible should be used for. These are teaching, rebuking, correction, and training in righteousness. So far, I’ve talked about how the Scripture teaches and rebukes us.

In today’s article, we’ll look at the work of correcting that the Scripture brings into our lives. There are some misunderstandings about correction. So the first thing we need is to know what it means. It sounds a lot like rebuking, at least that’s what many people think.

There is, in fact, a subtle difference between rebuking and correcting. In my walk with God I need both. It’s interesting that the Greek word for correcting, in the verse from Second Timothy, is only used in this one place in the whole Bible. It literally means to straighten up again.

I need to be rebuked so that I’ll stop doing that which is not God’s will for my life. But the process can’t end there. If it did, then I’d be lost, out of God’s plan, and with no way to find my way back to where I should be. Praise the Lord! He doesn’t leave us in that condition.

While rebuking tells you to stop because you’re headed in a wrong direction, it’s correction that shows you the way back to the right path for your life. Correction changes your course so that you’re once again heading in the direction of the destiny God’s called you to.

What we need to realize is that true repentance requires both rebuke and correction. Just one is not enough. There are many believers who respond to the rebuke of Scripture – again and again. Week after week they’re seen weeping at the altar over their sin. Then they go right back to it, only to repeat the cycle over and over. This isn’t God’s way of repenting.

In their song, The Altar and the Door, Casting Crowns sings about this condition.

“O Lord I cry, like so many times before,
But my eyes are dry before I leave the floor,
O Lord I try,
But this time, Jesus, how can I be sure,
I will not lose my follow-through,
Between the altar and the door.”

Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
Revelation 2:5a

There are many times that we see this pattern in Scripture. It’s usually “repent and…” True repentance is not only a turning away from sin, but a turning to God’s best. Feeling sorry for my sin is not real repentance, even if it’s accompanied by great emotional distress.

True repentance takes place when I take the rebuke of Scripture and admit my fault to God. Then I must take the correction of the Word and start doing the right things that will replace the wrong. Only in this way will I have a greater chance for success in my walk with God.

Question: How have the rebuke and correction of the Word been helpful to you in the past?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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The Cross and our Rights

Cross SunsetI’ve been talking about giving yourself as a gift to God. In my last post I talked a little about carrying the cross.

“And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:27

What did Jesus mean by that? I’ve heard people use this in a lot of different ways. Sometimes they’ll use this term in talking about an ongoing illness, or even their spouse.

“That’s my cross that I have to bear.”

Is that what it’s all about? I don’t think so. Carrying a cross is a sign that you’re about to die. Very soon you’re going to be laying down your life.

In the next few verses in Luke (verses 28-32), Jesus talks about counting the cost of becoming His disciple. He doesn’t make it sound easy.

It’s like a contractor determining the cost of a building before he starts the construction. You wouldn’t build the foundation only to realize that you don’t have the funds to complete it.

Jesus also said that it’s like a king who’s at war. He must come to a decision as to whether or not he can hold off the force that’s coming against him. If not, he must seek terms for peace before the fighting starts.

After giving these examples, the Lord comes to a conclusion.

“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:33

That’s what carrying your cross means. It’s giving yourself as a gift to God. We have to realize that a gift gives up all of its rights.

That’s why Jesus went on to say…

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Luke 14:34-35

Back when this was written, salt had a higher percentage of impurities than we have today. If it got wet, the actual salt would wash out and you were left with the dirt. You wouldn’t want to use that on your food.

In the same way, there are believers who want to serve God. But at the same time they want to retain their rights to determine what they want to do or not do. That doesn’t work out too well in the Kingdom of God. It’s like putting dirt on your sandwich.

As a matter of fact, most fights and disagreements start over a perceived violation of our personal rights. Living for Christ requires a whole different mindset.

We must give up our wants and desires, as good and noble as they may be. In their place we take on God’s great purpose for our lives. That’s how we will step into the destiny we were created for.

Question: What has God called you to accomplish for Him?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2016 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Are You Comfortable?

HammockAre you comfortable where you are in life right now? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Too often we get comfortable and that turns into complacency. It’s never God’s plan for us remain at one level for very long.

We can see this illustrated in the lives of the Israelites. When they were on their way to the promised land, they stopped in the shade of a mountain as God directed. But not long after that, the Word of the Lord came to Moses.

The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.”
Deuteronomy 1:6

Mountaintops are great! It’s one of my favorite parts of hiking. To stand on a mountain or ridge top and survey the vast beauty all around me makes the entire climb worth it. I wish I could stay there forever just taking in the scene before me.

It’s like that in our Christian walk as well. When we’re going through challenging times, we want to be done with it quickly. We have no problem moving on to an easier time of life.

But when we arrive at a spiritual high, we’d like it to go on forever. It’s easy to just sit back and enjoy the blessings of God. We’d like to just put our lives on “auto-pilot” and cruise along undisturbed.

One of the reasons I like mountains in the natural, is that the mountaintop brings a kind of clarity. You can see where you came from and where you’re going. This view gives you an understanding of the area that is unobtainable any other way.

Unfortunately, no matter how good the view is, there comes a time when I have to move on. Life is the same. There are events that you never want to stop. They’re like being up on a mountaintop.

What we have to learn is that the valleys of life are just as important. That’s why we need to regularly take stock of our lives. You need to ask yourself if it’s time to be moving on in some area.

God desires to see growth in His people. The accompanying truth is that growth means change. I can’t move on to the new places God wants to bring me, if I don’t leave the comfortable place I’m in now.

Every so often the Holy Spirit gives us a nudge. “You’ve been here long enough. It’s time to move on.”

It’s on the mountaintops of life that God gives clear vision and renewed strength for the valleys. But we need to cultivate an attitude that desires all that God has planned for us. That helps us to be ready when the call to move on comes our way.

Spend some time taking inventory of your life. Receive what God has for you today – and move on with His Spirit.

Question: What is the spiritual movement that God is working in you right now?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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Vision Brings the Puzzle Together

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is my last post in a series about having God’s vision for your life. There’s a verse that people often quote when talking about vision.

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Proverbs 29:18

In one of my previous posts I made the point that vision gives you movement and direction. Because of this truth, there’s a result that many are not pleased with. The fact is that vision limits your options.

Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”
Nehemiah 6:2-3

It’s the limitations of the vision that kept Nehemiah out of trouble. We need to learn this same lesson.

If I’m headed north, I shouldn’t be going south on the highway. This is what trips us up the most in our walk with God. Many Christians are spiritually paralyzed because of it.

We have a way of looking at all the parts of our life separately. We think that our job, our family, our schooling, etc. have no relation to each other. We see all the parts as individuals; but they’re not. Everything we do affects the whole.

Think of your life like a 200 piece puzzle with 300 pieces in the box. Some of the pieces look like they go together, while others look totally different. The picture on the box cover is God’s vision for you.

That’s why we need His understanding to put it all together. In order to take this mess and make the picture out of it you need to see the completed picture. Then it becomes obvious which pieces don’t belong.

How does knowing God’s plan bring me to the destination? Here’s an example. God’s vision for my life is that I become debt free. Will buying this new Smart TV on credit get me there?

That’s what I meant when I said that vision will limit your options. It’s like that for every area of your life. Knowing God’s vision for your life helps you make good decisions.

We should be a people who seek God. Then, as He speaks, we can walk in His plan for our lives. That’s how the world will see something different in us.

Question: How have God’s limits on your life turned out to be a blessing?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2016 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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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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