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Are We Listening?

This is my last post which will look at the first of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians.  In his conclusion, the apostle encourages them in their spiritual walk.  He gives a few exhortations that are just as applicable today.

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-20

These verses literally say don’t quench, put out, the Spirit and don’t act like prophecy doesn’t exist.  I believe that this sentence gets at the heart of one of the biggest problems in the church today.  A large segment of the modern church totally ignores the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

When we bow our knee to Christ as our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us.  But that’s not just for show.  He lives in us in order to lead and guide us into the Lord’s plan for our lives.

The Biblical term for ignoring the Holy Spirit’s work is godlessness.  To be godless doesn’t mean that you’re an atheist, or even unsaved.  Godlessness is living as if there’s no God, or as if God’s plan doesn’t really matter to you.

It’s so unfortunate that many believers try to figure out on their own how they want to live.  They come up with the plan of what they’ll do for God and what they’ll do for themselves.  They act as if God doesn’t speak to His people anymore.

Personally, I don’t know how anyone could live for Christ without spending time in His presence.  That’s where we truly learn to live life to the fullest.

Test everything.  Hold on to the good.  Avoid every kind of evil.  May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Brothers, pray for us.  Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.  I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
1 Thessalonians 5:21-28

When you’re walking with the Holy Spirit, you can test, or literally approve, everything that comes your way.  Some things are for you to get involved in – the good, and others are not for you – the evil.

We get into trouble because of our skewed concept of good and evil.  We think that just because something isn’t intrinsically evil, then it’s okay for us to get involved in it.  I’ve had so many people ask me, “What’s wrong with…?”

The point isn’t whether something is right or wrong.  It’s all about whether or not it’s a part of God’s plan for your life.  That’s why time in the Lord’s presence, listening to His Spirit is so important.  There may be something that looks good, that God doesn’t want me to waste my time on.

On the other hand, just because something is not for me, doesn’t mean that it’s not in God’s plan for your life.  I can’t make you walk within the boundaries that God has set for my life.

Now please realize that in all this discussion I’m not talking about those things that the Bible calls sin.  Sin is sin, and it’s never God’s will for us to fall into it.

I’m talking about the normal day to day decisions of life.  God wants to be involved in all of our planning.  That includes our time, money, career, family and educational choices.  When we ignore God’s voice in these matters, we’re quenching the Spirit and treating prophecy with contempt.

The important thing to see is that Paul wanted this read to everyone, not just the leadership.  We all need to be listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice and following His leading.

Question: What’s the last instruction you’ve heard from the Holy Spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on July 12, 2017 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Knowing and Doing

I’ve been posting about how James exhorts us to keep watch over our speaking. Today we will deal with how submitted we are to God. It’s a passage of Scripture that, I think, is usually misunderstood.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
James 4:13-14

In order to understand this passage, you need to see the assumptions that James is making. He’s speaking to believers who have no care about God’s will for their life. How do I know this?

First of all, they say “we will” go there, we will buy and sell, and we will make money. They’re saying all of this without ever knowing what’s really going to happen. They didn’t go on this trip because they felt the Lord impressing them to go. It was all about their desire.

This is clear from the next verses.

Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
James 4:15-17

When James says that you boast and brag, it literally means that you rejoice in your self-confidence. That’s the key to what he’s speaking of; SELF confidence. When we’re confident in what we can achieve, we usually forget about God and His desire for our lives.

One of the problems in translating is that there’s not much punctuation in the original Greek. There’s sometimes more than one way to read a verse depending on which word you emphasize. I believe that, in the context of what James is saying here, a better way of reading the first line is, “Instead, you ought to speak if it’s the Lord’s will, and live, and do this or that.”

It’s all about spending time with the Lord, knowing His will, and then speaking about what He’s told us to do. If you’re going to do something, do it because you feel led of the Holy Spirit.

I think that makes more sense in light of the last sentence in the above passage. I don’t believe that James is just adding some random thought about doing good. It’s all a part of the same exhortation.

You need to know that you’re in the center of God’s will. Of course, that’s why many choose not to seek God’s will. They’re afraid that it won’t agree with what they want to do.

Once you’ve spent the time and effort to know God’s plan for your life, you can’t simply ignore it. The Holy Spirit would continue to remind you and draw to complete your calling. Some people feel that it’s better just to do what they want and never ask God.

Many people make doing their own thing sound holy. They say, “I’m going to do this, God willing.” What they mean is, “This is what I want to do and I hope God doesn’t stop me from doing it.” At least that’s what I meant when I used to say that.

The key is that we need to know what God wants us to do before we start doing it. If God wants it accomplished, then it’s blessed without me even asking for a blessing. If it’s not God’s will, it won’t be blessed no matter how hard I pray for it.

Spend quality time in God’s presence. In that way you’ll know that what you’re doing is of God. You can then walk in the assurance that everything you put your hand to will be blessed.

Question: What has the Lord called you to accomplish for Him?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2017 in Ministry, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Are You Running too Fast?

JogI’ve been talking about the days ahead and the enemy’s plans against God’s people. His strategy never changes. We looked at this verse…

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

In my last post I said that there were two usages for the word kill in this verse. I already talked about the first on – a burnt offering.

The second meaning of this word is very applicable to this generation. The literal meaning of this word is to rush, to breathe hard. This is one of the greatest temptations in our society.

We have a tendency to want to do everything – to be everywhere. We end up with full schedules and no time left over at the end of the day.

We have to live our lives aware of the enemy’s tactics. If he can get us running so hard, doing so many things, then we’ll never have enough time for the Lord and His work.

Please realize that I’m not talking about you doing anything evil. We can fill our day with good things. They’re just not the things that God’s called us to do. Living like that can rob us of God’s blessing.

Jesus spoke to His disciples about the Last Days. Listen to what He said we would have to look out for.

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth.”
Luke 21:34-35

In looking forward to our time in history, Jesus said that if we weren’t careful, our hearts would be weighed down with dissipation. Dissipation – that’s the ongoing process of the word dissipate. That’s like evaporation – things like water just vanish into thin air.

Do you find that the things in your life are dissipating? Are your time, money, and resources vanishing too quickly, and you don’t know why? The problem may be dissipation.

When we don’t spend time in the presence of the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to order our lives, we get into trouble. We end up doing things we were never meant to do. Good things, noble things; but they weren’t in God’s plan for us. At the end of the day they’re robbing us of our life.

It’s time for the people of God to get back into order – the Lord’s order. This may mean cutting some things out of our schedule. It may mean saying “no” to some people that are asking you to do things with them.

Then, your life will be clear for God to move in you. You’ll find that He has plenty for you to do, only without the grief. You’ll no longer have a life where you seem to be on a treadmill with no forward progress. Your life will be fulfilling – the way God planned it to be.

Spend time seeking God’s order for each of your days. You won’t regret it.

Question: How have you seen dissipation work when you’ve neglected God’s leading?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2016 in Ministry, Prayer, 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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Passing the Test

ApproveTesting – the very sound of that word is discomforting to most believers. Did you know that how you respond to testing, tells a lot about your walk with God? It’s a part of the Lord’s growth plan for our lives. We should be cultivating a positive attitude toward His guidance in this area.

Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
John 6:3-6

When God tests us, it’s for our benefit. If there’s anything we know about testing; it’s both necessary and unavoidable. Even with this knowledge, it’s still not something we look forward to. One thing we need to realize is that testing is God’s way of reinforcing to us that we’ve learned a lesson of faith.

In the above verse, we see that it was Philip’s turn to experience this kind of test. The Lord asked Philip where the provision was to come from to feed a huge crowd of people. It’s interesting to note that Jesus already knew what He was going to do.

When God tests us, He already knows the outcome. We don’t like to admit it, but we have a very limited knowledge of things. Because of this, we need to firmly rely on God. He already knows the plan. We need to go before Him and seek His mind in the situations we find ourselves in.

This should be very encouraging to us. God is never taken by surprise. He doesn’t have to come up with a solution to our problem ‘on the fly.’ I just need to be in a position where I’m listening for His voice to take me through victoriously.

We must go to God for the plan to pass the test. Instead of always trying desperately to figure out what to do, we need to admit that we don’t know what needs to be done. Then we’re in the best position to let God guide us in the right path. Instead of going off on our own, we should seek to find out from God what it is that He has already decided to do.

Spend some time today seeking God’s wisdom and guidance for the tests ahead. Let Him reveal to you the only plan for your life that will bring about miraculous results. Yield yourself to that which God has already decided to do in your life. Then He’ll get the glory for it.

Question: How has God’s wisdom helped through a difficult test?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2016 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God, Prayer

 

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Your Heart Determines Your Vision

heart CrossI’m posting about walking in God’s vision for your life. Specifically, I’m looking at insights from Nehemiah. As Israel was returning from captivity, he heard a report that Jerusalem was badly in need of restoration.

As a response, Nehemiah spent time in the Lord’s presence seeking His plan. We saw in my previous posts that this is where spiritual vision is born.

The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
Nehemiah 2:4-5

This is the question that needs to be answered. What is it that you want? Do you even know what you want – really?

So often we find ourselves asking God for things that we’re incapable of handling correctly. There are churches seeking God to save hundreds of people. The problem is, that if 30 people were saved, they’re not ready to handle discipling, teaching and counseling them all.

Nehemiah knew that he had to seek God to find out what it was that he really wanted. He had the favor of the king. That was the equivalent of a blank check from a billionaire. That was a big responsibility.

We need to realize that our vision is what we truly want. That’s why seeking the Lord for it is so important.

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

Many people quote this verse and apply it incorrectly. First of all, the word delight means to be pliable, soft, yielding to God. If your ministry to the Lord is delight-driven, then you’re open to following wherever He leads.

If that’s what’s on the inside of you, then God will give you heart desires. Please understand this. He will NOT give you what your heart desires. He will put desires into your heart that line up with His plan for you.

That’s what will propel you forward in your walk with Christ. As you spend time with Him, you will begin to delight in His ways. Then, over time, you will start to desire what He desires. You’ll be seeing the world through the Lord’s eyes.

That’s what it takes to walk in God’s vision for your life. It’s an impartation of His heart into yours.

Question: How have your desires changed by spending time with the Holy Spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2016 in Ministry, Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Ignoring the Signs

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI’m posting about how supernatural signs fit into God’s plan. I talked about the signs that God has used throughout history – the sun, moon, stars, and rainbows.

The only time it’s a problem, is when we ask for a sign.

“God, if this is your will, let a bird start chirping.”

Asking for a sign is actually pretty dangerous. There are examples from Scripture that prove this out. Look at Gideon in the Old Testament. He asked God for a sign that he would be victorious in battle. God gave him the sign, but then cut his army down to 300 men. If you ask for a sign, then you’re required to show more faith.

In my last post we were talking about king Ahaz.

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
Isaiah 7:10-11

God said to Ahaz that He would show him a sign. Ahaz just had to tell the Lord what it would be. I could think of some great signs that would convince me to move forward. What was Ahaz’ response?

But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
Isaiah 7:12

Why would he respond like that? It does sound holy – but it was disobedient. When God tells you to do something and you say no, that’s the definition of disobedience – no matter how righteous you sound.

Remember from my last article that Ahaz wasn’t serving God. Part of Isaiah’s prophecy said that within 65 years, Israel would be shattered. In effect, Ahaz is saying NO to the entire prophecy.

What he does is to meet with the king of Assyria. He wants to make a treaty with them. He told them that he would give them Judah, and he would become one of Assyria’s vassals.

To show his submission to Assyria, Ahaz cleans out the gold and silver from the temple, and gives it as a gift to the king. The king of Assyria seems to be happy with this, then turns and conquers Israel, Judah’s rival.

In the prophecy, God said that He would defend Judah. Ahaz was saying, “No, I can handle this on my own. I don’t need or want your sign.”

What we need to realize is that a sign is the proof that God did the work. Someone far from the Lord doesn’t want any proof that God’s doing anything. Ahaz had a very religious way of saying, “I don’t need God.”

Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also?”
Isaiah 7:12

By his actions, Ahaz wearied God to the point of disgust. You know you’re in trouble when God is disgusted with you. That’s where the sign of the virgin birth comes in.

In my next post we’ll see how it fits in to God’s plan.

Question: What religious reasons do we use to excuse our disobedience these days?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2015 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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