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Spiritual Warfare – Avoiding Battles Through Obedience

I’m taking a couple of posts to glean some principles from the Old Testament.  Even though their fight was in the natural, some of the things they learned can be applied to us.

One of the things I’ve always wondered about is why God seems to make it so hard to obey Him.  God told Israel that He was giving them the Promised Land.  But, in order to claim it, they had to fight giants and other mighty warriors.

Actually, it turns out that there’s more to the story.  It’s a lesson that we should take to heart in our generation.

After the flood of Noah’s day, God’s blessing and anointing were passed on through his son, Shem.  32 years after the flood, Shem had a grandson named Shelah.

When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber.
Genesis 11:14

The name, Shelah means the spear of attack.  Interesting name…his parents must have seen great things in his future.  Actually, we know that Shelah had a deep relationship with the Lord. God spoke to him just like He called out to many in this family line.

Long before Abraham was called, Shelah was given the same orders as Abraham.  He was told to leave his home to follow God’s leading.  The difference is that he never left everything to follow God’s voice.

How do I know this?  Instead of leaving his home, he named his son, Eber – which means the land across the river.  He must have reasoned, “I can’t go, but I’ll have my son obey God’s call.”  It turns out that Eber didn’t leave home either.

Actually, the word, Hebrew, comes from the name Eber.  It means, from the family of Eber.

Two sons were born to Eber: One was named Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan.
Genesis 10:25

Eber had a son around the same time that God destroyed the Tower of Babel.  The Lord divided the nations and people dispersed throughout the world.  So Eber named his son Peleg, which means, divided.

Why is all of this important?  It’s so we can understand the reason for immediate obedience to God.

The enemy knew about God’s call upon the family of Shelah.  I’m sure they talked and even argued about it on more than one occasion.

The devil knew the beautiful land that God wanted to give to this family.  That’s where the Messiah was to be born.  And with Him, the enemy’s ultimate defeat.

So the devil strategically placed his most fearsome, brutal warriors in that part of the world.  He reasoned that “if you want your people to have this land, then you’re going to have to fight me for it.”

The fact is that God called His people to inhabit that land long before the nations were divided.  When God called Shelah, there were no giants in the land.  They could have walked in and taken possession with no resistance.

This is why obedience to God’s voice is so important.  Once we know God’s will, we need to walk it out.  We must take the “high ground” before the enemy can get assembled.

When the devil knows what you want to do for God, his goal is to stop you.  The longer you take to obey God, the more resistance can be prepared against you.

Please understand, the enemy can’t stop you from fulfilling your calling.  But, he can make it more difficult than it would have been if you’d obeyed immediately.

Don’t play into the enemy’s hand.  Find your calling in Christ and then quickly begin walking in it.  You’ll be glad you did.

Question: What’s the next step God is calling you to do?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2019 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Spiritual Warfare

 

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God’s Gifts – Married or Single

I’m now talking about First Corinthians, chapter 7.  That’s the section that talks about romantic relationships.  Paul now begins to speak to single people who were formerly married.

I wish that all men were as I am.  But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.  Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
1 Corinthians 7:7-9

I like the fact that Paul knows when he’s putting his own views into the teaching.  The word, wish, means a personal preference.  He was unmarried and preferred to stay that way.

You may be asking, why did I say that he’s talking about formerly married people?  The word he uses for unmarried usually means that they were married at one time, but now are single.  That’s in contrast to later in the chapter when he uses the word, virgin – someone who was never married.

Also, we know from Scripture that Paul was a Pharisee who came from a family of Pharisees.  His observance of tradition had been a source of pride before coming to Christ.  Jewish tradition was that a man needed to be married in his early twenties at the latest.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Paul was married at one time.  Traditionally, Pharisees needed to be married and it was a requirement for those who wanted to be a part of the Sanhedrin – the Jewish ruling body.

But what happened to Paul’s wife?  The Scripture doesn’t clearly tell us, so there’s some speculation.  In the above verse, he puts the two words together – unmarried males and female widows.  Also, there was no widely used Greek word for male widowers.

Because of this, the most likely possibility was that he was a widower.  The other is that his wife left him when he became a Christian.  In any case, at this point, he’s unmarried with no desire to become married.

In talking about people who’ve been in a marriage relationship, but are now single, he gives some important truth.  This is the foundation for a fulfilled life.  He talks about our giftings from God.

He makes it clear that the call to be single is a gift from God.  In the same way, the call to be married is also a gift from God.  The important thing is that we desire to walk in the center of the Lord’s will for us.

The big question is, how do I know whether I’m called to be married or to remain single?  To answer that, you need to check your heart.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.
Colossians 3:15

I believe that God gives us an internal compass that points to His will – peace.  If it’s your desire to serve God wholeheartedly, then the peace of God will direct you.

If you feel perfectly satisfied to remain single, and have no desire to be married again, then run with that.  Don’t let anyone pressure you to “test the field.”  In all likelihood, you’re called to the gift of a single life.

If, on the other hand, you don’t feel complete without a mate, and you desire to once again be in a marriage relationship, then go in that direction.  Seek God for His wisdom in finding the right one for you.  Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for desiring a mate.

The fact is that God loves us and wants the best for us if we simply pursue His will for our lives.

Question: How has the Lord confirmed His calling upon your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Final Exam

As we continue to go through our study of First Corinthians, Paul is explaining to the church about the importance of God’s calling.  The Lord’s work is different in each of us.  He deals with us all as individuals.

Our rewards are based upon what we’ve done.  My work isn’t compared to yours.  It’s judged against what God’s plan for my life required.

God desires to continually bring about changes in us to get us to where we need to be.  As I submit to these changes, I fulfill more of my calling.

But what happens if I don’t allow God to continue with His plan to renew my life?  Paul gives us some insight into the question.  In the letter to the Corinthian church, Paul is addressing a group of mostly baby Christians.  According to the Apostle, they’re not babies because they lack experience, but because they chose not to grow up.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it.  But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15

When we were initially saved we were placed onto the foundation of Christ.  It’s afterward that the building program begins.  We have the choice to build for ourselves – wood, hay, and straw.

Think about it in the natural.  All over the world wood, hay, and straw are normal building materials.  They’re used because they’re readily available and easy to build with.

It’s a lot more difficult to build with gold, silver or costly stones.  They speak of what’s built by the spirit.  If we submit to the will of God for our lives, then we’ll see a beautiful structure arise.  Not only that, but it will be beyond our expectations for what we could have ever accomplished on our own.

The good news is that we’re told how it will all turn out.  We’re not in the dark.  We know what we’ll be judged on.  The test is fire.

You can build some elaborate and beautiful houses with wood, hay, and straw.  I’ve seen some grandiose mansions around the country.  Here’s the problem, they’re not going to be judged on how high they were built or how ornate they are.  They’re going to be doused with gasoline and lit up.

Think about what’s important to you right now.  The test is not how high you climbed up the corporate ladder.  It’s not how much money you accumulated.  It’s not even about how many good deeds you did or how many friends you have on Facebook.

The judgment will be based upon how close you stuck to the plan of God for your life.  Did you allow the Holy Spirit to work His changes in you?  The final exam is how close your life came to God’s will for you.

That’s what will matter the most to you in the end.

Question: How high on your priority list is knowing and accomplishing God’s will for your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2019 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Thanksgiving and God’s Will

Here in the USA, tomorrow is a holiday devoted to Thanksgiving – at least that was the original intent.  I’ve been meditating on Thanksgiving lately.

I think about the age we’re living in.  I look around at all that’s happening in the society I’m a part of.

Many people seem to have the attitude, “What do I have to be thankful for?”

The truth is that we’ve rewritten history.  If you believe what they teach in most public schools, it started solely from the Pilgrims’ thankfulness to Native Americans for helping them.

That was definitely a big part of the original celebration.  The problem is that we’ve all but erased God from the picture.

The pilgrims arrived at the new world in the winter.  That first year almost half of them died.  Every family lost someone.  Yet, in spite of their hardships, they gave thanks to God for His blessings.

I think about the times we’re living in right now.  The world around us is so uncertain.  People are worried about finances, healthcare, government, crime, terrorists, the weather, and a host of other fears that seem to be hanging over our heads.

Society is on the edge of their seat.  How can we be thankful in a time like this?

But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57

As believers, we have the answer in Scripture.  The principle is that He gives us the victory…

That is a comforting thought.  He won the victory and then gives it to us.  How does that work?

It’s all about thankfulness.

…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

The Bible makes it very clear that giving thanks is God’s will.  It doesn’t matter what you’re going through.  You could be facing good or bad situations.  There might even be a cloud of uncertainty looming before you.  It’s always God’s will for us to be thankful.

Notice that He doesn’t say for all things.  He simply wants us to be thankful in all things.  What’s happening around us shouldn’t affect our thankful attitude towards our God.

Remember we’re not moved by the visible.  We must keep our eyes on the eternal.  The ups and downs of society around us are temporary conditions.  Everything is subject to change.

In any situation I find myself in, I can give thanks to God.  When I’m thankful, I know that I’m in the center of the will of God for me.

Be thankful and have a blest Thanksgiving!

Question: What are you thankful for right now?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Have You Set Yourself Up as a God?

In my last post, I talked about lawless mankind setting himself up as a god in the church.  This is to happen in the Last Days, which I believe we are currently in.

He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
II Thessalonians 2:4

I mentioned that some believe this verse is talking about the Temple in Jerusalem.

Let me ask you a question.  What if you heard on the radio that the Jew’s just finished a secret reconstruction of the temple?  Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that they took over the whole Temple mount and expelled all of the Moslems who are now in control.

My question is this – would that be God’s Temple?  The answer is simple.  No, that would be the Jew’s Temple.  They could begin offering up sacrifices, but it would mean nothing to God.

No fire would fall from heaven to consume the sacrifice.  As far as God is concerned, it would be just another building.  It wouldn’t be God’s Temple.

What Paul is talking about here is that lawless man, who sets himself up against God, will even get into the Church.  I’m going to say something now that’s going to get some people mad at me.

Think about it, man setting himself up against God.  There are Churches across the country today who decide what to do as a Church by having a vote.

Did they pray about it to see what God wants them to do?  Do they say, “Let’s have fasting and prayer for wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit?”

No!!  What do they do?  “Let’s vote on it, and then we’ll submit it to the finance committee, and then the finance committee will vote on it.”

“Do you think we should have an evangelistic outreach in our neighborhood?”

“Well, I don’t know.  This church building could sure use another coat of paint on it.  Maybe we should do that first and then in a couple of years we’ll see about reaching our community.”

“Why don’t we pray about this?”

“No way!  I put my money into this building, and I’m going to decide what will happen to it.”

Sad to say, this is how many churches around the country are operating.  This is not what I read in Scripture as a Christ-centered church.  God wants a praying church where our goal is to hear God’s will.

It’s a church where the leadership has the freedom to seek God.  Then, as godly men and women (who are actually doing the work of the ministry) bind their hearts together seeking God, they’ll see the Spirit of the Lord leading and directing their steps.

That’s the way it should be, but there are churches over which man has become the head.  Mankind has set himself above God in God’s Holy Temple.  That’s a scary thought.

I don’t want to find myself in the position of telling God that I can run His Church better than He can.  I believe this is what Paul was talking about in the last days.  People are going to be running their church, the way they want to, giving no thought to what God says.

They have set themselves up in God’s Temple, effectively proclaiming themselves to be God.  I believe that many church people in the USA have placed themselves in a very dangerous position.

Question: How have you experienced man running the church in place of the Holy Spirit?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2018 in Ministry, Prayer, Return of Christ, The Church

 

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Prayer Under Pressure

How do you pray when you’re facing a severe trial?  Is it any different than when everything seems to be going your way?  If you’re like most people, those two prayers are vastly different.

In my last post, I talked about the fact that Jesus only took His three closest disciples with Him into the garden of prayer.  It was only hours before His trial, and He wanted them to watch how He prayed.  The Lord wanted them to see a prayer under deep emotional distress.

We know that Jesus felt the same pressure that we do while being tested.  The difference is that He knew how to walk in victory over these trials.  It was His goal to train His disciples to walk the same way.

He started by explaining what He was going through.

He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them.  “Stay here and keep watch.”
Mark 14:33-34

Jesus was deeply distressed because he was about to face something that he never experienced before.  He has existed since eternity past, but the Lord had never been touched by sin or death.  Now it was all going to come upon Him.

He told His disciples that His soul felt like it was totally surrounded by grief because of what He was about to face.  He knew that His humanity had to be dealt with.

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.  “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you.  Take this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Mark 14:35-36

This passage causes many people to question whether or not Jesus wanted to go to the cross.  It sounds like, just before the end, the Lord was trying to get out of it.  That’s not what’s happening here.

We know from Jesus’ conversations with His disciples that He was focused on what He needed to do on the cross.

Remember what Jesus said when James and John asked to sit on His right and left hand in the kingdom.

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them.  “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
Matthew 20:22a

There was no question in the Lord’s mind that He was going to drink the cup of death for us.  And there are many more places in the Gospels where He confirmed this thought.  Then why did He pray for the Father to remove this cup?

Simply put; this prayer was a teaching time for the disciples.  There were many times that Jesus prayed for the benefit of those who were listening.  This happened when He raised Lazarus from the dead.

So they took away the stone.  Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
John 11:41-42

What Jesus prayed in that garden was for the disciples’ benefit.  He wanted them to know how to pray when they felt overwhelmed.

Sometimes the pressure on us is so great that we lose sight of where God is bringing us to.  In those times it is very appropriate to ask God to bring an end to our trial.  But, we must always remember to finish the prayer by confirming our desire for God’s will to be done and not ours.

Question: When was a time that you had to pray while under great pressure?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2018 in Encouragement, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Courage Under Fire

How bold are you when you see trouble coming in your future?  Are you willing to stand your ground and face it head-on?  Or, like so many, do you simply ignore it and hope that it goes away?

As we look at the life of Christ in the Gospel of Mark, we see His time with the disciples at the Last Supper.  Keep in mind that because this is the first of the gospels to be written, the Holy Spirit only inspired Mark to give the “bare bones” of what happened at this meal.

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.  While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me — one who is eating with me.”
They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”
Mark 14:17-19

Mark shows us the disciples’ reaction to the revelation that one of their own would betray Christ.  The word, betray, in this verse means to surrender over.  Somebody was going to turn the Lord in to the authorities.

The effect was that they were distressed by this knowledge.  It hurt them.  In one sense, most of them felt that they would never do such a thing.  On the other hand, Jesus had never been wrong in any of His predictions.  The reality of the situation was overwhelming.

The men with Jesus must have felt a great grief come over them.  But in spite of this emotional upheaval, it’s not the disciples that I want to concentrate on.  It’s the attitude of Christ that we need to examine.

“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.  But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
Mark 14:20-21

The Lord reveals that it is indeed one of His twelve closest friends who will do this deed.  It would be someone who is in fellowship, eating at the same table.  In that culture, sharing a meal was one of the most intimate things that friends did.

Jesus makes it clear that this would not turn out well for the betrayer.  There will come a time when he will wish he had never been born.  His guilt will eventually destroy his life.

But it’s the statement Christ makes about Himself that really gets my attention.  He said that He would go just as it was written about Him.

That word, go, in the Greek, means to lead oneself.  He was stating that He was more than willing to walk the road that was laid out for Him in the Scripture.

Jesus knew what was ahead.  The cross was not taking Him by surprise.  He saw it and was progressing toward it with boldness and conviction.  That had always been the goal of Christ’s ministry on earth and nothing would prevent Him from accomplishing it.

We need to walk in that same conviction when it comes to following the will of God for our lives.  Too often we let the problems, challenges, and distraction of life sidetrack us from the straight and narrow path.

We must realize that the spiritual struggle can only be won with the Lord’s strength operating through us.  Time spent in His presence will assure us the victory.  So we won’t need to fret over the challenges we see coming down the road toward us.  Stand strong in the Lord!

Question: How has time in the Lord’s presence helped you to overcome the obstacles of life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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