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The Grace of Undetached Missions Giving

As Paul writes to the Corinthian church, he encourages them to give to the starving saints in Jerusalem.  Israel was experiencing famine at this time.  Paul was calling on the Greek churches to help them.

His words to the church should inspire us to adopt a whole new mindset concerning our missions giving.

Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do.  On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.  Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.  If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.
1 Corinthians 16:1-4

The first thing that I see is that Paul’s exhortation was not something special for the Corinthian church.  He had prescribed this manner of giving for all the churches under his ministry.  In his command, I see four major truths associated with missions giving.

Missions giving is for everyone.  At least with these gentile churches, they met the first day of every week.  It was during this meeting that EVERYONE was to seek God and give according to how they were prospering.

Please note that this collection was not the tithe that went to the upkeep of the local church.  This was a special collection to be stored up for when it would be released to the specified missions project.

This is not just an exhortation for the well to do.  It’s for everyone, rich and poor alike.  God doesn’t look at the size of the gift, but the condition of the heart.  We give because we want to be a blessing to someone else.

How much you give is based upon how thankful you are.  This goes right along with what I have been saying.  It’s not about the quantity of the gift.

I have to look at my life and take inventory.  How has the Lord been blessing me?  Am I thankful for His blessing?  Do I want to be a blessing to others?

The fact is that when you pass on a blessing to others, you’re making room for a blessing in your life.  There are those who say that it’s wrong for me to teach this.  “We should give with no thought of receiving a blessing.”  If that’s the case, then Jesus is wrong, because He was the first one to tell us this truth (Luke 6:38).

Don’t simply send your missions giving, take it personally.  This is one of those areas where I think that the modern church has missed it.  We collect money for missions and then send out a check every month.  It’s neat, clean, and detached.

According to Paul, there should be a missions team in each church that goes to visit the missionaries.  They are the representatives of the church on the mission field.  American Christians would gain a whole new perspective if they could see what was required to serve God in other parts of the world.

Missions giving is an act of grace.  When we give to missions, we’re an extension of the arms of Christ.  We’re giving more than just money, especially if we bring it personally.

We’re giving love, encouragement, and fellowship to those who are in need of it the most.  In many cases, those in the field are away from family and friends for years at a time.  You may be that taste of home that gives them the strength to continue victoriously.

Please take Paul’s message to heart.  Be an active part of missions.  Give what you can.  Then, don’t let it end there, but trust God to bring you an opportunity to travel and visit a missionary.  It will be one of the best experiences of your life.

Question: How have you involved yourself in missions?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2019 in Encouragement, Missions, The Church

 

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I Am what I Am

When you take inventory of your life, how do you see yourself?  Do you feel like you have nothing to offer God?  Do you feel unworthy of His calling?

The Apostle Paul had to deal with these feelings because of his past.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
1 Corinthians 15:9-10

If Paul wasn’t far enough along to walk in this power, then there’s no chance for us.  Yet the important part of this issue is all summed up in the words but by the grace of God.

There are many in Scripture who’ve felt like this.  Another example is the Centurion who wanted Jesus to heal his servant.  He sent messengers to the Lord asking His help.

So Jesus went with them.  He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.  But say the word, and my servant will be healed.
Luke 7:6-7

Paul used the Greek word, hikanos when he said he didn’t even deserve to be called an apostle.  When the centurion said he was not worthy, he used that same Greek word.  It literally means not far enough along.

There are many Christians who believe that they haven’t walked with the Lord long enough to see the manifestation of the power of God in their lives.  There’s a big fallacy with this kind of thinking.  The very notion that they’re not far enough along implies that there will be a time when they’re mature enough to merit this power.

I’m here to tell you that will never happen on this side of eternity.  In actuality, the centurion had it right.  “…but just say the word.”

Paul understood this concept.  He evangelized most of the Roman Empire.  Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote most of the New Testament.

The simple truth is that you’ll never be good enough.  It’s only by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ that we may stand in His power and authority.

I’ll never be good enough or far enough along to deserve the title of son.  I’ll never be worthy of His power based upon my own merits.  But by the grace of God, I am what I am.

It’s this thinking that drives me to work for the Lord.  It’s the foundation for serving Him in the correct way.  When I start to think that I can make myself more worthy I miss the whole concept of His grace.

Many times this is what keeps us from experiencing the power of God in the church today.  If I think like a child – that if I just work harder to be worthy, then I’ve lost it at the start.  If I let sin go unrepentant and refuse intimacy with God then I short circuit the power.

It’s time for us to understand that it’s not my ability to be good that gets me anything.  It’s God’s grace working in me that allows me to manifest the power of God.

Question: What’s the role of good works in the life of the believer?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Warnings from the Past

Many times I’ve been asked, as a Pastor, why the Old Testament is even important to us.  Many believers don’t ever read it.  They say it’s too bloody and violent.  Grace hadn’t been fully accomplished yet, so there are many instances where we see God’s wrath.  Why read that kind of stuff anyway?

In today’s post, I want to continue talking about the example of ancient Israel.  We must let the Bible take its rightful place in our daily lives.

We’ve been looking at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  He used ancient Israel as an example of how not to serve God.  In telling the church about how God dealt with the Jews, he mentioned some of their rebellions as well as the judgments they received.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.
1 Corinthians 10:11

This verse makes it clear that the things that happened under the Old Covenant, especially the negative things, are a warning to us.  The Greek word for warning in this verse means to place in our minds – in other words, the Lord is trying to grab our attention.

This is because we’re quickly approaching a time in history when all things will be fulfilled.  The goal line is before us.  We’re about to witness the final days of this entire age.

Because of that, we’re at a point in time that requires a different kind of walk from God’s people.  We can’t live the way they did in ages past – that will not work for us.

Israel saw and heard incredible things – yet they fell away.  We need to take this to heart.  Even though we’re under grace, the message of the Old Testament is still important to us.

No, we won’t come under judgment as Israel did.  But the fact remains, God still hates the same lazy attitudes that He hated back then.  He still loves the mindset that’s passionate for His will.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
1 Corinthians 10:12

In this verse, the word, think, means to assume or to have a reputation of.  In other words, don’t believe your own press.  Just because people tell you that you’re standing strong doesn’t necessarily make it true.

We must take inventory of our walk with God and see if it lines up with the truth of God’s Word.  Only then will we be assured of the rewards that Christ has set aside for us.

The Jews thought that they would be rewarded simply on the basis of them being in Abraham’s family.  It didn’t work that way.  The Lord is looking for a combination of faith and faithfulness.  We need to serve God out of a heart of loving gratitude for all that He’s done for us.

Israel didn’t know the great lengths that the Father would go to in order to save us and bring us into His family.  They didn’t know about Christ dying on the cross.  We do.

How much more should we embrace all that God has for us – both the responsibilities and the glories?  The examples of Scripture warn us to be careful.

Even though we’ll not come under the judgment of the world, we may still lose some of our rewards if we live for ourselves.  Salvation is based on grace; rewards are based upon obedience.  Scripture is a warning to us that disobedience will always be dealt with.  If you want all the rewards the Lord has set aside for you, then heed the warnings of Scripture.

Question: How have the warnings of Scripture kept you out of trouble?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Don’t Return to Slavery

As we continue to follow Paul’s practical teaching through 1 Corinthians, he’s been talking about carnal Christians.  These are believers who love the Lord but are ruled by their feelings rather than the Word of God.  They’re saved people who act like the world.

In my last post, we saw that these carnal believers have no kingdom inheritance.  They’re missing out on many of the blessings that are ours in Christ.

As a matter of fact, there may have been some self-righteous Christians who got offended by my last post.  They would disagree with me when I say that carnal believers are saved.  My understanding of the grace of God will not allow me to so easily destine these people to hell.

I know that it’s very easy for worldly Christians to use the grace of God like a doormat.  They live like the world and “wipe their feet off” every so often to ease their conscience.  But the Bible does teach that this is a possible response to God’s grace.

However, living this way gets very little of the kingdom blessings.  There will also be no eternal rewards waiting for them.

Paul records their mindsets as we continue in his letter.

“Everything is permissible for me” – but not everything is beneficial.  “Everything is permissible for me” – but I will not be mastered by anything.
1 Corinthians 6:12

They say that they’re free to do whatever they want.  That much is true.  But as Paul comments on it, he makes it clear that certain behaviors come with a price.  This worldly lifestyle will bring no kingdom benefits.  And it will also come to the point where these sins are controlling you.

In telling His disciples about the last days, Jesus warned them of falling into this trap.

“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.”
Luke 21:34

Here Jesus tells us of three weights that can hinder us from fulfilling our destiny.  They are called dissipation, drunkenness, and anxieties.  We will never reach our true potential in Christ if we try to live with these hindrances.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Hebrews 12:1

We’re warned to throw off the things that hinder.  Probably the worst is dissipation.  We allow the best parts of our life to be dissipated.

The world has so many distractions these days.  Classes we could take, recreational opportunities, athletic events, and entertainment.  All of these things, in and of themselves, add to our enjoyment of life.  They’re good things.

Yes, they’re all permissible things, but they can become the masters of our lives. They dictate our schedules. They tell us what we can and can’t do for God.

We fill up our time with all these good things. Then, more often than not, God gets the leftovers.  Our leftover time, strength, and resources.

If left unchecked, the church can become a prisoner to our permissible things.  If we find ourselves in this condition, then we need to be set free by the power of God.

Question: What will it take to break free from a worldly lifestyle?

© Nick Zaccardi 2019

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2019 in Legalism, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Judgment in the Church

Today I have to look at a very tough verse.  Too often church leadership is accused of being judgmental.  As we continue to look at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, we see the truth about this issue.  Hopefully, by the end of this post, we’ll see the wisdom of God’s exhortation.

Please remember that the goal of an encounter with a rebellious believer is their ultimate restoration.  Paul now gives his bottom line when dealing with carnal Christians.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
1 Corinthians 5:12-13

There are so many issues that spring from this one verse.  The first being, that Christians have no reason to judge those who are outside of the church.

Non-Christians are NOT going to act in a Christian way.  To tell your unsaved co-worker that it’s “not right to get drunk” is counter-productive.  He doesn’t need to clean up his act.  He needs Jesus.

I’m going to stop there before I start preaching.  The emphasis of this verse is not about evangelism, but the condition of the church.

What we need to see is that it’s a part of the job description of church leadership to judge the lives of believers.  The reason should be clear.  It’s to protect the purity of God’s church.

Having been in leadership for a long time, I’ve seen a lot.  A drummer on the worship team trying to sleep around with different women of the church.  Someone who wanted to work with our youth whose name was on the local sexual offender’s list.  A person who wanted to counsel young married couples who was in the middle of an affair outside his marriage.

In all of these cases, the response of the offender was, “You have no right to judge me.”  Paul’s statement is clear.  I have no right to judge unbelievers, but as leadership, it’s my duty to judge those in the church.  Then, those who are disqualified must be removed from their place of service.

In my opinion, it’s one of the toughest parts of the ministry.  I wish it didn’t need to be done.  But God’s people need to be protected to worship God in peace and safety.

I’ve been talking about this subject for the last four posts.  If you review them, you’ll find that the last statement in this verse seems to go contrary to what I’ve taught.  Expel the wicked man is a very powerful phrase.

The problem is that the words expel and man, are not in the original.  They were used by the translators to make a point.  But is that point an accurate view of what the Holy Spirit is trying to convey to us?

Bible scholars agree that Paul is quoting the Old Testament law here.  This phrase is repeated a few times in the Law of Moses.  How was it translated there?

Under the Old Covenant, the offender was put to death.  Praise God for the Covenant of Grace.  But I want you to look at the bottom line of this verse.

The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people.  You must purge the evil from among you.
Deuteronomy 17:7

The last sentence is the one that Paul is directly quoting.  It’s not about removing the person, but the sin.  Paul is making the same case in his statement.

Why did the translators give us this quote in two very different ways?  I don’t know.  But under the new covenant, we’re to love the sinner and hate the sin.  There’s a greater chance for restoration if we continue to work with someone.

I believe that 1 Corinthians, chapter 5, is a mandate for the supernatural handling of sin in the church.  It needs to be done in the spirit for the good of all parties involved.

Question: How have you seen the power of the Holy Spirit change someone’s life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Faith + Love = Growth

I recently finished my series on the Gospel of Mark.  I had been systematically going through the New Testament in the order that the Holy Spirit revealed it to the church.

I started with the four foundational books – James, First Thessalonians, Galatians, and Mark.  It’s interesting to note that the next thing on the Holy Spirit’s agenda was to inspire books that dealt with our personal walk with the Lord.

These books include Second Thessalonians, First and Second Corinthians, Romans, and Luke.  In this post, I want to start on Second Thessalonians.

This letter was written to a church in confusion.  They were a young congregation facing much persecution.  They were looking forward to the return of Christ.

The turmoil started when someone pretended they were Paul and wrote them a letter saying that Christ had already returned.  They were upset that they had missed it.

Paul had to write this epistle to bring them back to order with the truth.  The main theme of this book is how to live for Christ with His return in view.

Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:1-2

Even the way Paul starts the letter shows the apostle’s care for them.  He wants the grace and peace of the Lord to overshadow them.  He wants them to walk in assurance, knowing that they’re secure in Christ.

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.
2 Thessalonians 1:3

Even though this is a young church, Paul commends them because their faith is growing.  We know that the only way for faith to increase is by time spent with the Spirit – hearing God’s Word.  This was a church with a rich spiritual prayer life.

But they didn’t just keep it on the inside.  They lived it out.  Individually, each one of them showed a true love for all of the others in their body of believers.

Faith and love are the two non-optional commodities that the Lord looks for in His people.  They are the true measure of spiritual growth in the kingdom of God.  These people showed by their lives that they were growing in maturity.

Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
2 Thessalonians 1:4

Scripture makes it clear that the trying of our faith develops perseverance.  All three are mentioned in this verse.  This church is headed in the right direction.

Now they just need the truth to dispel their confusion about the return of Christ.  In my next post, we’ll start to see how the Apostle Paul deals with this subject.

Question: If faith and love are the measure of maturity, where are you in your spiritual development?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2018 in Encouragement, Faith

 

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Short-Circuiting God’s Work

Today, many Christians are trying to win God’s blessings by striving to make themselves more worthy. In New Testament times there were some who thought circumcision and submitting to the Law of Moses would help get you closer to God. Paul wrote about these people in his letter to the Galatians.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Mark my words!  I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.
Galatians 5:1-2

Wow! Paul uses some powerful words in this passage. Christ will not benefit you at all if you strive to do the work in your ability. Nothing on the outside will avail you in trying to deserve the power of God.

As a matter of fact, it will have just the opposite effect. It will hinder your ability to flow in the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Paul continues.

Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
Galatians 5:3-4

We’re always looking for the quick fix. So, in order to get around the time needed to be intimate with God, we’d rather try different Old Testament acts, hoping that they’ll do the trick. People try tithing, food laws, vows, and other Old Covenant traditions thinking that somehow it will make them more worthy.

Unfortunately, by doing this one simple act, Christ, the Anointed One is rendered idle in your life. That’s what the literal Greek in this verse says. Paul states that you have gone off course from grace.

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.
Galatians 5:5

The only way to walk in the power and righteousness of God is to wait in the Spirit. It’s only by intimacy with the Lord that we’ll gain this precious gift. It’s not going to manifest through your work and ability. It will only come about as God declares you worthy as a mature son.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that there’s something wrong with tithing, eating healthy, reading the Bible, confessing the promises or going to church. These are a necessary part of our growth in the Lord. They’re also a normal part of a mature Christian’s life. What I’m saying is that if your sole purpose in doing these things is to make points toward receiving God’s power, then you’re going to be disappointed.

What I desire is to see the church reach its maturity in Christ. Only then will we see the manifestation of the power of God in our services. As long as we have the mentality of spiritual childhood, we’ll never experience it. Having to recite and claim the promises are a part of childhood.

It’s what children do in the natural. It’s the “are we there yet?” attitude. If we decide to go fishing on Saturday and I tell you I’ll be by to pick you up at 5:00 AM, you don’t keep calling me to remind me. I show up at your house at 5 and you’re ready and waiting. That’s what adults do (or should do).

My children don’t have to keep reminding me that it’s my responsibility as a parent to feed them. They know where the refrigerator is and they know they’re free to get something whenever they want.

It’s the same with God. Jesus, as a mature Son, did not have to keep reciting the promises to the Father. He knew that they’d activate when needed. Maturity lives above the promises. If only we could grasp the freedom and power of spiritual maturity. It would propel us into a more intimate relationship with the Lord.

Question: How does waiting on the Lord in the Spirit bring growth and maturity?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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