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Believer’s Court

Judging by what’s on TV, court cases are very entertaining.  Each side tries to prove its claims.  Who’s doing the best job at convincing the judge or jury?  You never know until the final verdict.

But how does this play out when a believer takes another believer to court?  In Paul’s day, society found it just as entertaining as we do.  In Corinth, there was an epidemic of Christians suing Christians.  The Apostle had some things to say about it.

Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church!  I say this to shame you.  Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?  But instead, one brother goes to law against another — and this in front of unbelievers!
1 Corinthians 6:4-6

The problem is that many view the church as an organization rather than an organism.  We are a body.  We’re to function as a unit.

There have been times when I’ve accidentally stuck my own finger into my eye.  In that instance, should my eye take my hand to court to sue for damages?  It may sound foolish to even ask that question.  Taking a fellow believer to court is just as foolish in God’s eyes.

According to Paul, even the least esteemed person in the church is probably qualified to act as an arbitrator between two parties.  In that way, internal differences can stay within the church.

But I believe that there’s a deeper issue here.  It’s about taking into account the fact that the world is watching us.  They’re always looking for a reason to accuse the church of hypocrisy.  We shouldn’t be giving ammunition to the enemy.

I have a deep problem when I feel the need to publically and decisively prove that I’m right.  I need to check my motives.  Is it stemming from bitterness, revenge, low self-esteem, or any of a hundred other faults in my sin nature?

Paul clearly gets to the heart of the matter.

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already.  Why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be cheated?  Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.
1 Corinthians 6:7-8

Paul says that a public lawsuit between believers is proof that you’ve been defeated by the enemy.  The actual word he used implies that you’re acting like a failure in your Christian walk.

He tells us that it’s better to be wronged or cheated rather than to bring public shame upon the body of Christ.  But if the hurt was great enough, he suggests private, Christian arbitration.

The problem is that we don’t want a Christian to arbitrate between us.  There’s too great a chance that they might use Biblical principles to judge the case.  In our greed, we want to exact revenge for the hurt we suffered.

Instead, we should always look for the restoration and healing of relationships.  I know that might sound idealistic, but in Christ, the Holy Spirit can do great things through those who submit to Him.  As far as it depends on us – whenever possible – we should take the high road of forgiveness and unity.

Question: When have you chosen to forgive instead of seeking retribution?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2019 in Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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The Value-Added Gospel

If you ask the world what the church is all about, you may get some surprising answers. Many times I’ve heard the statement, “They only want your money.” Unfortunately, for so many people to have that attitude, it must be true in some cases.

As God’s people, we have to be very careful not to portray this type of greediness to those around us. We can’t play into the devil’s hand.

Of course, I do understand that the Gospel needs to be financed. I also see the huge amounts of money that pours into the entertainment and professional sports empires. I’ve heard some make the case that all these venues want is your money.

What makes the difference? Why do people spend incredible amounts on sports and entertainment, while at the same time they begrudge giving anything to the church?

The Apostle Paul had an interesting take on this issue.

You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed — God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.
1 Thessalonians 2:5-8

I would imagine that Paul had quite a ministry team. When he traveled, it was never by himself. Timothy, Silas, and Titus are just some of the men that traveled with him.

Think of the logistics involved. Going from city to city around the Mediterranean. He needed to constantly be thinking about food, transportation, lodging, and clothing expenses.

Yet, in spite of all that, he never came across as simply looking for their money. The reason is in the fact that he was willing to pour himself into the lives of the people he ministered to. People received something tangible from Paul’s ministry.

When I go away on vacation, I usually find a local place to worship on Sunday morning. I always approach the church, wondering what it would be like if I didn’t know about Christ. How would this church minister to me?

Most of the time, I’ve found wonderful churches that are doing a great work for Christ. But there are times that I walk into the church, and it’s as if I entered a 1970’s time bubble. People, who look like they don’t want to be there, are singing songs that don’t move anyone.

Then a soloist gets up and sounds like they haven’t ever practiced the song. Someone gives a speech that’s totally irrelevant to what anybody is facing right now. But when it’s time for the offering – the appeal is heartfelt – we’re told to give sacrificially.

Now please don’t get mad at me for this stereotype. We have to understand that this is how the world sees us. Remember, the average person is comparing us to the other places they go.

Earlier, I talked about sports and entertainment. Here’s the reason. The athletes that people pay millions to see give their all on the field. The actors we like literally pour themselves into their roles.

How can we give anything less for Christ? When we talk about how much Christ has done for us, and how much He means to us; our lives should show it.

Like Paul said, we don’t just give the Gospel message. We have to put ourselves into it. We have to lose ourselves in our ministry for Christ. Only then will people see the value in the Gospel.

Question: How have you shared yourself with the Gospel to someone else?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2017 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Temple or Marketplace?

Fake MoneyThere were a number of things that Jesus was passionate about in His ministry. Do we have a passion for those same things? Or do we spend our energy on things that aren’t important?

At the start of Jesus’ ministry He went to Jerusalem for the Passover. He had an interesting encounter with some men in the Temple area.

In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
John 2:14-16

I’ve heard some pretty animated discussions about this passage. People use it to teach about the evils of having a church fair or flea market. I’ve heard others say it’s a sin to have a church bookstore.

Through all of this I think that they’re missing the whole point of what Jesus is saying. We need to understand what was really going on. It was all about greed on the part of the priests.

There were some provisions in the law to make it easier for the people to tithe. If I lived far away from Jerusalem, I could sell the sheep I was bringing for a tithe. Then I travel to Jerusalem with the money, and buy more sheep when I get there. In that way it was less of a burden on the people.

Unfortunately, religion changed all that. The priests made a rule that you could only buy specially inspected animals at the Temple for an inflated price.

On top of that, you could only use specially minted Temple coins to buy these animals. These coins were purchased from the money-changers at a high rate of exchange.

The result was – if I started at home with 100 sheep as a tithe; by the time I was through with this process I might only be able to afford 50 to offer at the Temple. So the priests and salespeople were getting rich while the people and God were being robbed. Jesus was reacting to the thievery that He was witnessing.

But the real question is; how does this apply to us? In the above Scripture Jesus said to take this stuff out of the Temple area. More importantly, My Father’s house is not an emporium.

So, religious people get hung up about church flea markets or fairs. First of all – a church building is not my Father’s house. Right now – I am my Father’s house and you are too. We are the dwelling place of God’s Spirit.

The bottom line for them – and us – is greed. It’s about what your house is based upon. Are you an emporium – a marketplace? Is your life revolving around stuff?

Are you truly the house of God – a place of worship? Can people see by your life that your whole being is devoted to the worship of the Lord? Do all the parts of your life revolve around Him?

Everything starts with an attitude – what’s ours?

His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
John 2:17

Do you hear what the Holy Spirit spoke to the Apostles about this matter? Zeal for YOUR HOUSE will CONSUME ME. Our zeal to be a place of worship should consume all that we are. Think about that in relation to our lives.

John the Baptist said, “I must decrease – He must increase.” This should be the attitude of all believers. I am not all about the temporary, material things of this world. I must maintain the integrity of the living temple where God reigns supreme.

Question: What are some things you do to keep your Temple a place of worship?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2016 in Legalism, Ministry, Revival, Worship

 

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