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True Success

How do you measure success or failure? Is it based upon your obvious victories and accomplishments? What about some things that aren’t so readily apparent?

Paul made some observations about this to the Thessalonian church.

You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure.
1 Thessalonians 2:1

Paul makes this simple, clear statement of fact. But what was he talking about? Surely the great Apostle Paul didn’t have any major setbacks in his ministry.

Fortunately for us, the people recorded in the Bible had the same types of challenges that we face. That way we can see how they trusted God to bring them through victoriously. It turns out that Paul’s visit to Thessalonica was a major temptation for him to feel like a failure.

In order to see the whole story, you can read Acts 17:1-10. But I’ll review the basic story line here.

Paul was on one of his missionary trips. He had just left Philippi, where he was temporarily thrown in jail. He arrives at Thessalonica, and is allowed to teach in the synagogue for three Sabbaths in a row.

Of course, he preaches Jesus Christ as Messiah. He talks about the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection.

As a result, some of the Jews and a large number of Gentiles trust in Jesus for their salvation. Because the number of Christians was increasing, the Jews started to become jealous. They wanted to shut down Paul’s ministry.

So, what these hateful people did was to round up some unsavory characters from the marketplace. The Jews then paid them to start trouble and cause a riot. They tried to find Paul and his team, but weren’t able to locate them.

Instead, they grabbed some of the new believers, and dragged them off to the magistrates. They then began to accuse them of criminal activity. The city was in an uproar.

Fearing for Paul’s life, the believers made him leave the city immediately. Because of this, Paul and Silas, his partner in ministry, were not able to fully establish this church in the usual way. They had to trust God for the church’s continued survival.

It wasn’t until months later that Paul sent Timothy to check on the Thessalonians. Not only did they survive, they were flourishing as followers of Christ.

We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.
1 Thessalonians 2:2

When it came to evangelizing the Thessalonians, Paul went from one trouble to the next. Yet in spite of it all, he could boldly declare that his visit was not a failure.

We need to learn that lesson. It would go a long way to giving us a better attitude.

Remember this – Just because things don’t go according to our plan, doesn’t mean it’s a failure. The fact is that we rarely ever see everything that God is doing behind the scenes. He sees the end from the beginning, we only see the surface.

Paul only knew that it was God’s plan to bring the Gospel to this region. He did his part, and then he had to trust the Lord for the results.

Many were saved. The church was established on a firm foundation. And – miracle of miracles – the Holy Spirit was able to accomplish it without all of Paul’s expertise.

Do what God has called you to do. Then leave the results in His hands. That’s the basis of true success.

Question: What is something you originally thought was a failure; but God turned it into a success?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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What Are You Known For?

In my last post I talked about the way the Thessalonian believers imitated Paul’s lifestyle. They were commended for it.

But as we read further in Paul’s letter to them, we find out even more. This lifestyle, living for God, wasn’t a private thing. They weren’t just “closet Christians”. Here’s what Paul said about them.

And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia — your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
1 Thessalonians 1:7-10

All over the region, people were talking about how the Thessalonians had received the Gospel. Of course, it was a Gospel that included a demonstration of God’s power. They allowed it to get into their hearts and change their lives.

The first thing that we see is that they were turned around. They had formerly been worshipping idols, but now they are servants of God. It takes the power of God to make that kind of change.

Serving idols is easy. As a matter of fact, our culture is full of idolatry. No, not the carved images, but we serve man-made idols. There are those who worship the gods of education, finance, entertainment, or sports.

The thing about idolatry is that it makes you feel good about what you can do. You can compare yourself to those around you.

“Look at me! I’m smarter than you.” “I’m more athletic than you.” “I’ve got more money than you.”

The reason it’s hard to turn to God from this is because it requires a whole new mindset. Once I turn to Christ, it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God. It’s not about what I can do, but what the Lord is doing in me.

When we serve idols, we’re actually serving ourselves. In the kingdom of God we serve Him. God sets the agenda for us.

The secret to their faithfulness was that they kept their eyes on Jesus. Part of Paul’s testimony about them was that they were actively waiting for Jesus. With their focus on Him, they were able to serve with joy.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Romans 12:11

The word zeal means to be very eager to serve the Lord. I think that’s what’s missing in the lives of many believers. They have no eagerness to serve God. Why is that?

According to this verse, it requires spiritual fervor. The word translated as fervor literally means to be boiling over. It requires power to heat water to the boiling point. Left to itself it remains at room temperature – lukewarm.

If we will spend time with the Holy Spirit, then His power will be at work in our spirit. He can give us that spiritual fervor that we need to serve God with true zeal.

Then, just like the Thessalonian believers that Paul commended, our faith will become known to all those around us.

Question: How “hot” is your spiritual life right now? What can you do to increase it?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2017 in Faith, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Walking in Faith, Hope & Love

In my last post we finished looking at the book of James, the first epistle given by the Holy Spirit to the church. During that time, a man named Saul of Tarsus was persecuting the believers.

After an encounter with Christ Himself, Saul became a Christian and his life was totally changed. He was eventually called to preach and became a missionary to the gentiles. The next revelation of God’s Word to the church was through this man, who changed his name to Paul.

On one of his journeys, Paul went to the city of Thessalonica and many were saved. (These events can be read in more detail in Acts 16-18.) Because of intense persecution, Paul had to leave quickly. This immediate exit caused him to be concerned about the health of the newly formed church.

Paul eventually traveled to Corinth, where he stayed for over a year. During that time, he sent Timothy to check-up on the church at Thessalonica. Timothy brought back a good report that the young believers were standing in the truth.

The letter of First Thessalonians was written to encourage this church, after Paul listened to Timothy’s report.

Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-3

Paul opens the letter by remembering their faith, hope, and love. These are the three things that the Bible says will be with us eternally. Too often we think about them only in spiritual terms.

We sometimes get the idea that they’re just good feelings that Christians should enjoy. Some believers act like they’re wonderful gifts that should be tucked quietly away in our hearts.

NO WAY!!! According to Paul, faith, hope, and love are the sparks that ignite our ministry before God. There are three different things that happen in us as a result of their influence upon us.

First, faith produces our work. That word literally means your assignment. It’s the task that God has given you. As you go before God in faith, He gives you grace for the calling He’s placed upon your life. As I trust God more and more, I learn to follow His ways. Eventually I start to understand why He wanted me in His kingdom. Faith causes me to stand in my assignment.

Then comes love – it prompts us to labor. That word labor, means to use up your strength in performing a task. Without the love of God, we’ll never pour ourselves into the calling He’s placed upon us. We’re called to work with all of our strength. Without love, that will never happen.

Finally, hope inspires endurance. It’s easy to start out strong, but it’s how we finish that matters the most. Hope is the biblical word for expectation. If I do my part, then I can expect God to show up and do His part.

That’s what keeps me going even when I don’t feel like it. I know what God says in His Word. Because I place my expectation on Him, I can continue to live for the Lord. Hope gives you the endurance to persevere to the end.

Let faith, hope, and love give you more than just a warm feeling. Let them spur you on to accomplishing your destiny in the Lord’s Kingdom.

Question: How have you seen faith, hope and love at work in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2017 in Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Are You Wandering?

The last exhortation from the book of James is very important. He deals with an issue that’s prevalent in our generation. It’s about those who wander from the truth.

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
James 5:19-20

James is dealing with a number of issues in this passage. The first is the fact that a Christian can wander from the truth. The word, wander means to roam or rove around.

In the natural, wandering takes place when we get distracted by something. When I’ve gone hiking, there have been times when I’ve gotten distracted and missed a turn in the trail. A couple of times I had to do a fair amount of backtracking before I got to where I should have been.

That’s why this Greek word can also mean deception.   Deceit is when I knowingly try to distract you from the truth. The question is; how does this wandering manifest itself in a spiritual setting?

One day, Jesus explained this very concept to the Sadducees, who were trying to prove to the Lord that there would be no resurrection.

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
Matthew 22:29

The word, error, in this verse is the same word wander that James used. Jesus was telling these priests that they had wandered from the truth because of two problems. They’re the same two things that cause modern believers to miss out on God’s best.

The first, was not knowing the Scriptures. This was an interesting thing to say to the Sadducees, since they had huge portions of Scripture memorized. They had to know all the books of Moses by heart just to qualify for the priesthood.

The problem was that they only knew about the Scripture. The word that Jesus used was a knowing by experience. These priests knew what the Bible said, they just didn’t want to apply it to their lives. Without the application of Scripture, we’re merely wandering around hoping to stumble upon God’s best for us.

The second thing that causes us to wander is not knowing the power of God. That’s probably the greatest hindrance in our generation. In many church circles we’re relying upon secular corporate models or clever programming to grow our churches.

In many cases, if the Holy Spirit showed up on Sunday morning, we wouldn’t know what to do with Him. In some churches He’d be escorted out the door, in others He’d be told to sit quietly in the corner. The last thing they want is to see the power of God active in their services.

I believe that the goal of God’s people is to see, and experience the power of God actively in their lives. In my opinion, that’s what the world needs to see. More than structures or programs, it’s the power of God that will bring them to repentance and salvation.

I want to see a new move of God in my generation. But for that to happen, we need to stop being distracted by the world around us. In other words, we need to stop wandering from the truth.

By focusing on experiencing the truth of Scripture and experiencing the presence of God we can once again see the Lord’s best manifest in us. As a result, there will be a great harvest of souls when they see the hand of God actively working in our lives.

Question: How much time do you spend actively applying Scripture to your life and seeking God’s presence?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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The Prayer of Faith for Healing

In my last post I talked about James’ view of divine healing in James 5:13-15. It’s clear that somewhere in that first few generations after Christ, something was lost. We’ve come a long way since then.

We’ve seen many men and women of God who were trusting God and speaking life yet died prematurely.

Now we seem to be resigned to the thought that when we pray over the sick, they’ll probably not be healed. Well, I for one am not content with the status quo. I want to see a new move of God in my lifetime. I believe that it’s here.

When I began to meditate on these verses, I started to ask things like; do I really know what it means to ‘pray over’ someone like James did? What did James mean by the prayer offered in faith? Did it sound even close to what we pray?

I know that we try to put faith into our prayers. We quote Scripture, hoping to get God to see our faith and move on our behalf. But is that what James is speaking about in his book?

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
James 5:16

I read this passage and I realize that there’s something missing. I also believe that it’s the foundation of the next move of God – the restoration of power to His church. The key is recorded in this very passage we’re looking at. James goes on to illustrate the prayer of faith that he’s talking about.

Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
James 5:17-18

In these verses, James uses the prophet Elijah as an example to us. He tells us that this is the same type of prayer that will bring healing to the sick. Let’s take a look at the Scripture concerning Elijah’s prayer.

Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”
I Kings 17:1

James said that Elijah prayed and the rain stopped. This is the verse he was referring to. Have you ever prayed a prayer like this? Have you ever heard a prayer like this? As far as I can see, Elijah was talking to the king, not to God.

What was the prayer in this verse? We need to understand that not all prayers fit into the “dear God” category. In this encounter, even though Elijah was speaking to the king, he was invoking the name of the Lord over the situation. He was speaking in God’s place to the king.

How does this relate to healing the sick? Think about the ministry of Jesus. How did He pray for the sick? He worked the same way that we see the prayer of Elijah working. He didn’t ask for God to heal, instead He spoke to the sick.

“Pick up your mat and walk.”

“Go show yourself to the priest.”

“Go rinse your eyes in the pool.”

It was the same for the disciples. Remember how they prayed healing for the lame man at the temple gate. Peter said, “Silver and gold I don’t have. But what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus, walk!” They healed the sick in the same way that Elijah stopped the rain in Israel.

Please understand that I’m not saying to just go out there and speak healing to the sick. There are plenty who’ve tried that without 100% success. Instead, I’m talking about the assumption that’s present in all of these cases. It’s the necessary ingredient without which all of these examples would fall apart.

Think back to the prophet Elijah. What would cause him to speak in such a way to the king?

There’s an assumed chain of events that led to his standoff with the king. He was at home, in prayer, when suddenly he heard a Word from God. That’s the only explanation for the boldness he had before King Ahab. God spoke to him and said that the rain would stop when he delivered the message to the king.

This is the very example that James uses to illustrate healing prayer. The assumption is that to pray this kind of prayer, you must have heard from heaven. It’s based upon hearing a Word from God. That, my brothers and sisters, is the missing ingredient in our generation. We’ve lost our ability to hear from God on a regular basis.

I believe that the more time we spend in God’s presence, listening to His voice, the more healings and miracles will be seen in the church.

Question: What will it take for us to start hearing God’s voice again?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2017 in Faith, Healing, Prayer, Revival, Word of God

 

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The Walk of Patience

I’ve been posting from the book of James – the first book of the New Testament to be written. This means that the following passage is the first mention of the Second Coming of Christ.

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm because the Lord’s coming is near.
James 5:7-8

James likens the wait for the Lord’s coming to the patience of a farmer. He says it’s very important for us to be patient. The Greek word he uses for patience is a compound word that means, long-tempered.

In other words, don’t get frustrated easily because it’ll be a long wait.

A farmer has to be long-tempered as he waits for the land to yield its crop. He must wait for the fruit. He can’t just plant the seed and get frustrated that the next day he doesn’t have a harvest. A lot of Christians have to understand this process. We learn a truth today, and we expect it to be living, active, and producing fruit in our life tomorrow. It doesn’t work that way.

When I learn something today, I must relearn it again tomorrow. I then need to relearn it again the next day. Finally, I get to the point where it’s not just in my head but also in my heart. Then, after getting it in my heart, I have to wait for it to grow and produce fruit. That’s the way the Word works.

If this is the process of growth, then it’s the same thing with the coming of the Lord. We have to wait for the right time – the time of the harvest.

James said that the farmer has to wait for the autumn and spring rains. You might think that he had it backwards. For us the order is spring and then autumn rains. In Israel, however, they have a whole different climate than we have.

When we plant, we plant in the springtime because it’s too cold in the winter to do anything, and then we harvest in the fall. In Israel it’s too hot and dry to grow anything in the summer. So they plant in the autumn, when the first rains of the autumn come, and the seed starts to grow.

It then becomes cooler in the winter and there’s a lot more water available. Then in the spring, they take in the harvest. At that time they look for the spring rains to get that final growth spurt before the fruit is picked. Then comes the summer, when it’s too hot and dry to grow anything.

That’s what it’s like concerning the church. James says that the beginning of the church is like the autumn rain. It seemed like everything was happening at once. There were miracles, signs, and wonders. It was an incredible time to serve the Lord.

Then, if you remember, in some of His parables, Jesus said it was going to be as if the church would fall asleep. He said a farmer fell asleep. He said that the ten virgins fell asleep. In all of these parables, the church was seen as entering a time of dormancy. That’s pretty much what the church did over the centuries.

But now, God’s waking us up again. That’s one of the reasons why I believe we’re in the last days. We’re seeing things happen by the sovereign hand of God. We’re seeing the church come to life again. I believe we’re heading into the spring rain getting us ready for the harvest.

So if I need to be patient, then what do I do in the mean time? According to the Scripture above, while I’m waiting, I must stand firm. This word means to establish yourself. We’re to be steadfast in what we’re doing for the Lord.

It also means to look resolutely in one direction without turning. That’s God’s will for us while we wait patiently for the Lord’s return. Once we put our hand to the plow, we don’t look to the right or to the left. We just stand fast, in faith, with what the Word of God says.

Question: How does patience give you a better attitude toward God’s work?

To find out about my new book on the Second Coming of Christ – Click here!

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2017 in Faith, Return of Christ

 

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Mature Talk

In my last post I started looking at how the book of James dealt with the speaking of our faith. Our words and actions need to line up with what we believe. Our words make visible the faith – or doubt – that’s in our heart.

But did you know that our words also indicate our level of spiritual maturity? Too often we like to think of ourselves as being more mature than we actually are. It’s our words that truly show how far along we are.

I believe that most of us want to experience the walk of maturity and the blessings that come with it. Here’s the problem. We know what it should look like. But many are trying to do it without growing up.

We’re always on the lookout for some new teaching or “move of God” that will give us our breakthrough. We want the Six Steps to Prosperity or the Ten Confessions that bring Healing. We’re trying to get the freedom and resources of maturity while desperately hanging on to our childhood.

This is never going to happen. It’s only when we attain to the goal of spiritual adulthood that we’ll see these things accomplished in us.

We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
James 3:2

There’s more to the mature walk than simply getting our needs met. This word perfect literally means mature and complete. When you reach this level in your Christian experience sin is the exception rather than the rule. It’s not about trying harder. It’s the Holy Spirit working in you to perfect you.

So much of our energy is spent on trying to “be good.” Many preachers are wasting their time using guilt and scare tactics to try and get their people to live a righteous life. That’s not the scriptural way to get there.

The reason James talks about this in relation to our speaking, is because this is one of the most obvious ways that we show our immaturity. You might look good on the outside, but as soon as you open your mouth, everybody knows where you’re at.

Jesus gives us the reason for this.

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45

The fact is that whatever is in your heart will eventually come out of your mouth. It’s not something that you can control simply by deciding “not to say anything.” Most of us have found out the impossibility of sticking to that statement.

Your mouth is merely a channel from your heart to the outside world. You can try plugging it up, but eventually the pressure will build until the contents flood out. Then we wish we could take it back. We tell people that we didn’t mean it. But the fact remains that if it wasn’t already in your heart, it wouldn’t have come out of your mouth.

That’s why we can’t concentrate on simply using self-control. The answer is to have a change of heart. If I can plant God’s Word in my heart, then I know the output of my mouth will be pure.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Psalms 119:11

This includes the sinful things that come out of our mouths. If I can keep my heart pure, then my mouth will follow.

Question: How has your mouth showed the good things in your heart?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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