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Spiritual Planning

As we continue through Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, we see an interesting admission.  Paul has to apologize to them for not being able to complete a visit that he had scheduled with them.

I think that it can be a lesson to us all.

Because I was confident of this, I planned to visit you first so that you might benefit twice.  I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea.  When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, “Yes, yes” and “No, no”?  But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.”
2 Corinthians 1:15-18

Paul had to clear up this misunderstanding so that the church would understand the difference between his plans and his message.  The word, planned, in the above verse actually means to be willing.

So Paul is saying that he was confident about his ability to get there and he was willing to go as well.  His goal was to visit them twice as he traveled to and from Macedonia.

Paul makes it clear that he doesn’t plan his trips lightly.  He takes everything into consideration.

Even more than that, he literally says that he does not make plans in a fleshly manner.  Paul always strove to operate in the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  He had made this planned visit after much prayer.

He didn’t approach his ministry with a frivolous attitude.  He didn’t think, “I’ll tell them I’m coming for a visit, but I’ll play it by ear.  We’ll see while we’re on the road whether I want to go there or not.”

We need to learn the lesson of submitting our plans to the Lord.  It’s not a matter of making our plans first, then asking God to bless it.  It’s all about finding God will first.  Then we know the plan is blessed already.

James understood this and wrote about it.

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.  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.
James 4:13-16

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 by the Holy Spirit.

Question: What plan has the Holy Spirit given you as you’ve spent time in His presence?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2020 in Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Grace Under Pressure

Right now, the world is reeling under the threat of the Corona Virus.  People are scared.  Whole sections of grocery stores are sold out.  All public venues are closed down.  How do we respond to all of this?

The Apostle Paul had pressures in his day as well.  Listen to his insights.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.  We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.
2 Corinthians 1:8-10

It’s my hope and prayer that you’re never in a life-threatening situation.  I’m also trusting God to keep us safe and healthy in spite of all that’s going on around us.

I know, however, that weather, accidents, and natural disasters can come when least expected.  It seems like every day there’s something going on in the United States that could have tragic results.  If and when that occurs, you will be faced with a choice – do you despair and give up or do you continue to put your hope in God?

I’ve been in that kind of situation.  I know what it feels like to be trapped by an unforeseen incident with no way out and no help in sight.

At one point, I was on a solo hike in the backwoods of Maine.  I had an accident that resulted in a severe sprain.  I could barely walk and I was miles from the nearest road.

At about the same time, a huge thunderstorm hit the area.  I can tell you that at a time like this there’s a great temptation to just give up.

I praise God that the Holy Spirit within me was there to encourage me.  I continued on, even through the pain, and was miraculously brought safely out of the wilderness.  I say “miraculously” because this was before I had the use of a cell phone.

It’s truly in those times of need that God proves Himself faithful.  I can say, without hesitation, that God has never abandoned me to my problems.

We’re facing many challenges right now in our society.  The question is; how will we respond to the pressure?

The key to making it safely through a problem, either present or future, is to make the choice now, that whatever happens, you will not abandon your trust in God.  You’ll find that He’s always there with you to help you in your time of need.

The main thing that helped the apostle was the ability to look back and see how God had been faithful in the past.  As you remember what God already accomplished in you, it’s easier to trust Him with your future.  Because God showed Himself strong in my past challenges, I can expect Him to show up in my present situation.

In your prayer time today, reaffirm your trust in the Lord to take you through the hard times.  Place your life fully in His hands.

Question: What challenges has God already brought you through in the past?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2020 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God

 

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Coach it Forward

I’m continuing my look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  He was talking about the way we can help one another in the same way that we were helped in our troubles.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:5-7

The first thing Paul tells us is that Christ suffered the same challenges that we face.  The Lord is aware of what we’re going through.

The important thing to know is that through Christ we have an abundance of comfort.  But just what does that mean?  The word, comfort, means a lot of things to different people.

Usually, when people think of comfort, they’re talking about something soft and familiar – like a favorite easy chair.  Unfortunately, soft and comfortable is not what this word means.

Comfort, in Scripture, usually comes from a Greek word that means to call alongside.  It’s what a coach does when he or she is dealing with their athletes.

A good coach is not concerned with how comfortable the athletes are.  Instead, their goal is to make sure that they’re successfully completing their training routine.

Actually, that’s the job of the Holy Spirit in our lives right now

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 14:26

Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will be our Counselor.  That word, counselor, is the same as comfort in the above verse.  In other words, the Holy Spirit is to be our Life-Coach.

It’s His job to come alongside us and call out the instructions we need to victoriously face the challenges that come our way.  We need to be listening for His voice.

So, as we receive coaching from the Holy Spirit, we can pass on what we’ve learned.  When we see others in that same situation, we can share what our Coach told us.

According to Paul, the result is patient endurance.  It’s the ability to remain in your calling without giving up.  That comes from the expectation that God will work through you for His glory.

Then, as we pass on this coaching, the body of Christ will be built up.  This is especially what we need in our generation.

In the world, there’s so much uncertainty right now.  But in Christ, we know that the Lord is working out all things for our good.

Question: How has the Holy Spirit coached you recently?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2020 in Encouragement, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Spiritual Warfare – One in Spirit

What has to happen for the church to walk in unity against the devil’s kingdom?  I’ve been posting about it, and I think the answer will surprise you.

In my last installment, we saw that Jesus prayed to the Father, that He would make us one.  That means that it must be by the Spirit.  The church can never operate as one person in the natural; it’s a work that only can be performed in the spiritual realm.  In His prayer, the Lord gives an indication of how this process works.

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.  May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
John 17:22-23

If the unity of the church is just like the unity shared by the Father and the Son, then we must ask; how are the Father and the Son one?  Simply put, they share the same Spirit.

It sounds to me as if this is one of the most important aspects of our spiritual battle.  It’s our unity that speaks to the world and lets them know the truth about Christ.

I don’t believe that this is what the world sees in this generation.  Right now many churches have no agreement or unity.  Agreement is good; it means that we’re all being taught the truth.  Our agreement lets the world hear the Good News with one voice.

Unity is better.  It allows the church to operate as a unit.  But the real place of power is a church that’s operating in both agreement and unity together.  This means that we not only believe the same and speak the same but also operate in one spirit.  How is that accomplished?

Let me illustrate how this truth works.  Picture yourself out in a field.  The wind is gently blowing and you can see the grass swaying in the breeze.  For the purpose of this illustration, the natural wind is the Holy Spirit.

Now I come into the picture.  Compared to the wind, I’m a little electric fan.  When I pray “in the Spirit,” I align my spirit with the Holy Spirit and start to blow my wind in the same direction as the natural wind.  When I’m in the spirit, I’ve lined myself up with God’s Spirit.

Being in the spirit allows my spiritual wind to blow in the same direction as the Holy Spirit.  If this scenario were happening in the natural – a fan in a field – would you be able to tell which part of the wind came from the fan and which came from the air?  No, it would be impossible to differentiate the two.

In the same way, you can’t differentiate my spirit versus the Holy Spirit.  The wind of the Holy Spirit completely envelops my wind, it’s all ONE.  The Holy Spirit and I are in unity.  This is what Paul wrote about to the Corinthian church.

But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:17

We’re now starting to see the whole picture.  To be one with Him, I must unite myself with the Lord.  It’s interesting to note here that the word, unite is the word, glue, in the Greek.  According to Paul, being one with the Lord in spirit is being glued to Him.  This is the unity we share with the Lord.

In my next post, I’ll show how my unity with the Lord becomes unity in the church.

Question: Why is it important for us to be in unity with the Lord?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Spiritual Warfare – The Wind of the Spirit

In my last article, I talked about spiritual warfare and the need for unity and agreement.  Today, I want to share some things that Jesus taught about the move of the Spirit.

At one point a teacher of the law named Nicodemus asked Jesus some questions.  Jesus spent some quality time with this young man.  I think however that this teacher left with more questions than he started with.  During the conversation, Jesus said the following to Nicodemus:

“You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
John 3:7-8

When you’re born of the Spirit, you can now live life on a new level.  It’s the level of the spiritual realm.

God describes it as the wind.  It blows wherever it pleases.  Just as in the case of the physical wind, we can see the effect, direction, and speed that it’s traveling.

This is the case even if we don’t know where it’s coming from or going to.  Maybe you’ve seen a weather map on TV.  Personally, the Weather Channel is one of my favorite places on Cable TV.  I’ve gotten many spiritual illustrations from its programs.

When you look at a weather map, sometimes it shows you the flow of the Jet Stream over the United States.  It could start flowing East over Washington state.  Then it dips down to Texas and takes a turn to flow directly up the East Coast.

This is how the flow of the wind operates.  You can’t tell where it’s been or where it’s going just because you know the direction where you’re standing.  In Washington, it flows east, in Colorado it flows south, and in Kentucky, it flows north, all at the same time.

The flow of the Holy Spirit is just as unpredictable; that’s why we must be sensitive.  The Spirit of God may be moving through prophecy in one church, healing in another, and weeping in a third.

I can’t say that because God is not moving in your church the way He moves in mine, that therefore you are out of His will.  It takes sensitivity to the Spirit to know just what He wants to do right here, right now.

It’s just like the wind.  It takes someone who’s born of the Spirit to understand the move of the Spirit.  That’s why it’s called the “flow” of the Spirit.  It’s my goal to get in on that flow which is the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

But what does the flow of the Spirit have to do with spiritual warfare and unity in the body of Christ?  As you’ll see, it has everything to do with it.

“My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
John 17:20-21

Jesus is praying in this verse for the church to be one.  This is the same Greek word that’s translated as unity in the verses we looked at in my last post.  It literally means to be one.

This is not a word that means “I agree with you”.  According to the Lord, the way it works between the Father and Himself is that He is in the Father.  It’s Christ’s desire that we share this same degree of unity.  He wants us to be one in Him.

In my next post, we’ll see how this is accomplished.

Question: What would a church look like if it operated in true unity?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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We Don’t Belong

In my last post, we saw that the world is under the control of the enemy kingdom.  It’s a system based upon missing the mark of God’s perfect will.

But what does that mean for us as believers?  We have to live in this society even though it’s not headed the same direction that we are.  There are some definite guidelines we need to know if we’re going to be successful.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples as He was preparing them for His departure.  He explained to them that they would soon be led by the Holy Spirit.  We need to understand this as well.

Jesus Christ has overcome the world system.  Now, as we live in Him, we have that same victory.  We are free from the control of sin and the devil.  We don’t have to worry about the same things that the people of this world fear.

As the Lord prayed for His disciples and all who would believe their message, He said these words.

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.
John 17:15-16

The truth is clear.  Now that we’re in Christ we’re no longer a part of this world system.  We’ve been removed from the workings of it even though we’re still physically located on the earth.

When I look at all that’s happening in the world around me, I need to take a step back.  I have to realize that I’m from a different kingdom.  As the Apostle Peter put it, we’re strangers and aliens here (1 Peter 2:11).

Knowing this brings us to the next important point of how we operate here.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Romans 12:2a

We are not to conform to the world’s way of doing things.  Our kingdom has a different system.  It doesn’t work the way the world does.

In the world system, I have to struggle and fight to get ahead.  It’s survival of the fittest.  I have to think about what’s best for me, in order to reach my goals.

In God’s kingdom, it’s not my struggle.  That’s why my mind needs to be renewed to a new way of thinking.  I must be led by the Holy Spirit.  It’s His job to bring me into my destiny.

That brings us to the final point.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27

We have to keep ourselves from being stained by the world.  This happens when we try to run after the things that the world thinks are important.

This often causes unforeseen consequences.  Either we suffer or our family suffers.  Then it takes us time and effort to get our lives back on track again.  We need to keep our focus on the priorities of God’s kingdom.

These are the things we need to know if we’re going to live victoriously while we’re living on planet earth.

Question: What are the differences between God’s kingdom and the world system?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2020 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, Spiritual Warfare

 

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A Surgical Strike against the Flesh

I’ve been posting about our spiritual war with our old sin-nature. In my last post, I said that water baptism was the first step in this process. Through it, we identified with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:11

Here Paul tells us that in the same way we trusted Christ in baptism, we must count or literally inventory ourselves dead, indeed, to sin.

This goes right along with our baptism. In verse 3 of Romans chapter 6, we were baptized into His death. Now in verse 11, there’s something that Paul is hoping you’ll move into by faith. Paul describes this step to the Colossian church.

In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
Colossians 2:11-12

This is what we want to concentrate on – the putting off of the sinful nature. According to Paul, this is a surgical procedure that can only be done by Christ.  So, in terms of warfare, you could call this a surgical strike against the flesh.

It isn’t a work I can perform on my own. It doesn’t matter how much will-power I put forth. Only Christ, Himself, can bring it to pass in my life. I must submit under the blade of the divine Surgeon.

There are two prerequisites to this surgery. The first is baptism and the second is faith in the power of God. This means that I can’t look to myself and how well I can obey God. It’s all about how much I trust His power working in my life. How much am I willing to surrender to Him?

It’s the same as in the natural world. If I don’t trust the surgeon in a medical procedure, then I will not allow them to put me under the anesthesia.   I’ll only let someone I trust have that much power over my body. Do we trust Christ enough to consent to His life-changing work in us?

No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.
Romans 2:29

There’s another key point to this work of Christ in us. It can only be done in the spirit. It’s not something that I can physically accomplish. Neither is it a choice that I make in my mind.

The change is required in my heart. The old self has to be removed. How can my sin-nature remove itself? It would never willingly choose to do that.

To get the old sin nature out of our heart requires outside assistance. That’s why it’s a work that only Christ can do, and it must be a spiritual work.  It’s for this reason that an understanding of the Word of God as a sword is so important.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

The sword of the spirit is the scalpel that performs the work in our hearts. In the past, I’ve emphasized that the things of the spirit can only be received through prayer in the spirit. This is the work that needs to be done in us. It’s a work that must be done in the spirit. It’s only prayer in the spirit that will accomplish the change that’s necessary in our hearts.

In order for God to do this work in us, we must yield ourselves to Him. As in any surgery, we must willingly go under the knife if our healing is to take place. This is true for our spiritual surgery as well.

Question: How has Prayer in the Spirit changed your life?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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