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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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What is the Gospel – Really?

In my last post we began looking at the second Word that the Holy Spirit gave to the church. It was Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Today we’ll look at an important “first”.

It’s always good to note the first time a word is used in the Scripture. It helps us to understand what the Holy Spirit means when He uses it elsewhere in the Bible. Sometimes preachers call it the “law of first use.”

Do you have any idea the first place in the New Testament when the word Gospel is used? I’ll give you a hint; it’s not in the Gospels. That’s because the Gospels weren’t the first books written. The Gospel of Mark was probably the fourth book written; which is close, but not the first to use that word.

Actually, the word Gospel is first used in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. This was the first of Paul’s epistles. He was writing to a young church he started with only a brief stay in the city of Thessalonica. Here’s what he wrote them in the opening verses of his letter.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.
1 Thessalonians 1:4-5

That’s a very interesting comment to make. The first time the word Gospel is used in the Scripture, it means more than just words. It’s a complete presentation of the power of Christ. Paul is very clear in saying that it’s not just words, but also includes power, the Holy Spirit, and conviction.

It’s unfortunate that in our day there are those who think the Gospel is simply a cleverly crafted message designed to convince a sinner to get saved. When we believe that, we’re only working with a small part of the Gospel. For it to be the true Gospel of Jesus Christ there must also be a demonstration of power.

If I’m going to demonstrate something, then I need to know what it is. In natural terms, power is the ability of something to produce change. If nothing changes, then there’s no power.

Paul tells us here that when the true Gospel came forth – things changed. It’s not like many of our meetings today where we say, “That was a powerful message.” By we simply meant that we were stirred emotionally or felt goose bumps.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

As you can see, I’m not using some isolated verse without context. This teaching runs throughout the New Testament. The Good News must be demonstrated. That demonstration can only be energized by the power of God.

I fear that too many Christians allow their faith to rest on man’s wisdom, because they’ve never seen a demonstration of the power of God.

There are so many believers that have never seen a healing or a miracle. As a result, the Good News, in many cases, has merely become an intellectual debate. Sometimes, what we call the Gospel today, is void of any power to change the direction of a life impacted by it.

The Gospel has to be a Word from God, not just a convincing argument. When I speak what God is saying, then the Holy Spirit is free to confirm the message. People are convicted by the Word and their lives are forever changed.

We need to get back to being a people who spend time listening to their God. Then, once we’ve heard His voice, we need to step out and speak what He’s saying to us. This is the true essence of the Gospel. This is what will change our society for Christ.

Question: What would church look like where the true Gospel was preached?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

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Are You Wandering?

The last exhortation from the book of James is very important. He deals with an issue that’s prevalent in our generation. It’s about those who wander from the truth.

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
James 5:19-20

James is dealing with a number of issues in this passage. The first is the fact that a Christian can wander from the truth. The word, wander means to roam or rove around.

In the natural, wandering takes place when we get distracted by something. When I’ve gone hiking, there have been times when I’ve gotten distracted and missed a turn in the trail. A couple of times I had to do a fair amount of backtracking before I got to where I should have been.

That’s why this Greek word can also mean deception.   Deceit is when I knowingly try to distract you from the truth. The question is; how does this wandering manifest itself in a spiritual setting?

One day, Jesus explained this very concept to the Sadducees, who were trying to prove to the Lord that there would be no resurrection.

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
Matthew 22:29

The word, error, in this verse is the same word wander that James used. Jesus was telling these priests that they had wandered from the truth because of two problems. They’re the same two things that cause modern believers to miss out on God’s best.

The first, was not knowing the Scriptures. This was an interesting thing to say to the Sadducees, since they had huge portions of Scripture memorized. They had to know all the books of Moses by heart just to qualify for the priesthood.

The problem was that they only knew about the Scripture. The word that Jesus used was a knowing by experience. These priests knew what the Bible said, they just didn’t want to apply it to their lives. Without the application of Scripture, we’re merely wandering around hoping to stumble upon God’s best for us.

The second thing that causes us to wander is not knowing the power of God. That’s probably the greatest hindrance in our generation. In many church circles we’re relying upon secular corporate models or clever programming to grow our churches.

In many cases, if the Holy Spirit showed up on Sunday morning, we wouldn’t know what to do with Him. In some churches He’d be escorted out the door, in others He’d be told to sit quietly in the corner. The last thing they want is to see the power of God active in their services.

I believe that the goal of God’s people is to see, and experience the power of God actively in their lives. In my opinion, that’s what the world needs to see. More than structures or programs, it’s the power of God that will bring them to repentance and salvation.

I want to see a new move of God in my generation. But for that to happen, we need to stop being distracted by the world around us. In other words, we need to stop wandering from the truth.

By focusing on experiencing the truth of Scripture and experiencing the presence of God we can once again see the Lord’s best manifest in us. As a result, there will be a great harvest of souls when they see the hand of God actively working in our lives.

Question: How much time do you spend actively applying Scripture to your life and seeking God’s presence?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 

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The Prayer of Faith for Healing

In my last post I talked about James’ view of divine healing in James 5:13-15. It’s clear that somewhere in that first few generations after Christ, something was lost. We’ve come a long way since then.

We’ve seen many men and women of God who were trusting God and speaking life yet died prematurely.

Now we seem to be resigned to the thought that when we pray over the sick, they’ll probably not be healed. Well, I for one am not content with the status quo. I want to see a new move of God in my lifetime. I believe that it’s here.

When I began to meditate on these verses, I started to ask things like; do I really know what it means to ‘pray over’ someone like James did? What did James mean by the prayer offered in faith? Did it sound even close to what we pray?

I know that we try to put faith into our prayers. We quote Scripture, hoping to get God to see our faith and move on our behalf. But is that what James is speaking about in his book?

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
James 5:16

I read this passage and I realize that there’s something missing. I also believe that it’s the foundation of the next move of God – the restoration of power to His church. The key is recorded in this very passage we’re looking at. James goes on to illustrate the prayer of faith that he’s talking about.

Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
James 5:17-18

In these verses, James uses the prophet Elijah as an example to us. He tells us that this is the same type of prayer that will bring healing to the sick. Let’s take a look at the Scripture concerning Elijah’s prayer.

Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”
I Kings 17:1

James said that Elijah prayed and the rain stopped. This is the verse he was referring to. Have you ever prayed a prayer like this? Have you ever heard a prayer like this? As far as I can see, Elijah was talking to the king, not to God.

What was the prayer in this verse? We need to understand that not all prayers fit into the “dear God” category. In this encounter, even though Elijah was speaking to the king, he was invoking the name of the Lord over the situation. He was speaking in God’s place to the king.

How does this relate to healing the sick? Think about the ministry of Jesus. How did He pray for the sick? He worked the same way that we see the prayer of Elijah working. He didn’t ask for God to heal, instead He spoke to the sick.

“Pick up your mat and walk.”

“Go show yourself to the priest.”

“Go rinse your eyes in the pool.”

It was the same for the disciples. Remember how they prayed healing for the lame man at the temple gate. Peter said, “Silver and gold I don’t have. But what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus, walk!” They healed the sick in the same way that Elijah stopped the rain in Israel.

Please understand that I’m not saying to just go out there and speak healing to the sick. There are plenty who’ve tried that without 100% success. Instead, I’m talking about the assumption that’s present in all of these cases. It’s the necessary ingredient without which all of these examples would fall apart.

Think back to the prophet Elijah. What would cause him to speak in such a way to the king?

There’s an assumed chain of events that led to his standoff with the king. He was at home, in prayer, when suddenly he heard a Word from God. That’s the only explanation for the boldness he had before King Ahab. God spoke to him and said that the rain would stop when he delivered the message to the king.

This is the very example that James uses to illustrate healing prayer. The assumption is that to pray this kind of prayer, you must have heard from heaven. It’s based upon hearing a Word from God. That, my brothers and sisters, is the missing ingredient in our generation. We’ve lost our ability to hear from God on a regular basis.

I believe that the more time we spend in God’s presence, listening to His voice, the more healings and miracles will be seen in the church.

Question: What will it take for us to start hearing God’s voice again?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2017 in Faith, Healing, Prayer, Revival, Word of God

 

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Healing for All

I believe that Jesus Christ paid the price for our healing. Yet we don’t see the full manifestation of it in the church right now. Why is that? James gives us some clear keys about how this grace operates.

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.
James 5:13-15

James is very bold in his declaration of the place of healing in the church. He asks, “Is any one of you sick?” This is not only for those who are strong in faith. It’s not limited to those who have been “confessing their healing” for months. This is clearly written to anyone who’s sick.

James leaves no wiggle room for doubt in God’s purpose. There’s no mention of God wanting to heal some and leaving others sick in order to teach them something. He states this in no uncertain terms. Not “maybe, sometimes, or in most cases”. He says, The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. He even repeats himself for emphasis, The Lord will raise him up.

More than that, he goes on to use the exact same wording for the forgiveness of God. Would anyone ever doubt the Lord’s forgiveness? Would you ever add “if it’s God’s will” to a prayer for forgiveness? You’d never entertain the thought that if someone confessed their sin to God, they may or might not be forgiven, depending on God’s will for their life.

Yet, in context, these two prayers are portrayed in the same light. The answer to a prayer for healing is exactly the same as an answer to a prayer for forgiveness.

It sounds to me, from his writings, that James had a 100% success rate in the area of divine healing. Without a doubt the early church had a higher walk than we do. The miraculous was an everyday occurrence.

But, if you think about it, that’s to be expected. If we look at the life of Jesus, we see the exact same thing. He had a 100% healing rate as well. There’s no hint, in the Gospel record, of anyone coming to Him for healing and leaving disappointed. We’re the ones who make excuses for not being healed.

“Maybe this is the only way God could teach me a lesson.”

There’s no record of Jesus ever refusing to heal someone because He wanted them to “learn something” they couldn’t get any other way. Praise God that you got closer to the Lord during your illness. We can learn many things during times of affliction. But to think that the reason you’re not healed was for the purpose of teaching you something goes against the clear Word of God.

From the Scripture we know that the disciples had a front row seat in observing the life of Christ. It’s not surprising, then, that the apostles of Christ also had a 100% healing rate in the Scriptures.

The power of the Lord manifesting through His people didn’t even end there. The next generation of believers – those first saved under the apostles – had the same success. Men like Paul, Philip, James and Jude walked in the power of the Spirit to a degree we can’t even imagine. Were they any different from us? Was their God different from our God? No way!

It wasn’t until the next generation of believers that we start to see a change taking place. In talking to the Corinthian church, Paul makes note of the fact that they were acting in carnality – like a bunch of spiritual babies. He then makes the following indictment.

That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 11:30

In my next post, James will show us what was lost and how to correct it.

Question: How have you experienced God’s divine healing in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2017 in Faith, Healing, Power of God, Revival

 

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The Walk of Patience

I’ve been posting from the book of James – the first book of the New Testament to be written. This means that the following passage is the first mention of the Second Coming of Christ.

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm because the Lord’s coming is near.
James 5:7-8

James likens the wait for the Lord’s coming to the patience of a farmer. He says it’s very important for us to be patient. The Greek word he uses for patience is a compound word that means, long-tempered.

In other words, don’t get frustrated easily because it’ll be a long wait.

A farmer has to be long-tempered as he waits for the land to yield its crop. He must wait for the fruit. He can’t just plant the seed and get frustrated that the next day he doesn’t have a harvest. A lot of Christians have to understand this process. We learn a truth today, and we expect it to be living, active, and producing fruit in our life tomorrow. It doesn’t work that way.

When I learn something today, I must relearn it again tomorrow. I then need to relearn it again the next day. Finally, I get to the point where it’s not just in my head but also in my heart. Then, after getting it in my heart, I have to wait for it to grow and produce fruit. That’s the way the Word works.

If this is the process of growth, then it’s the same thing with the coming of the Lord. We have to wait for the right time – the time of the harvest.

James said that the farmer has to wait for the autumn and spring rains. You might think that he had it backwards. For us the order is spring and then autumn rains. In Israel, however, they have a whole different climate than we have.

When we plant, we plant in the springtime because it’s too cold in the winter to do anything, and then we harvest in the fall. In Israel it’s too hot and dry to grow anything in the summer. So they plant in the autumn, when the first rains of the autumn come, and the seed starts to grow.

It then becomes cooler in the winter and there’s a lot more water available. Then in the spring, they take in the harvest. At that time they look for the spring rains to get that final growth spurt before the fruit is picked. Then comes the summer, when it’s too hot and dry to grow anything.

That’s what it’s like concerning the church. James says that the beginning of the church is like the autumn rain. It seemed like everything was happening at once. There were miracles, signs, and wonders. It was an incredible time to serve the Lord.

Then, if you remember, in some of His parables, Jesus said it was going to be as if the church would fall asleep. He said a farmer fell asleep. He said that the ten virgins fell asleep. In all of these parables, the church was seen as entering a time of dormancy. That’s pretty much what the church did over the centuries.

But now, God’s waking us up again. That’s one of the reasons why I believe we’re in the last days. We’re seeing things happen by the sovereign hand of God. We’re seeing the church come to life again. I believe we’re heading into the spring rain getting us ready for the harvest.

So if I need to be patient, then what do I do in the mean time? According to the Scripture above, while I’m waiting, I must stand firm. This word means to establish yourself. We’re to be steadfast in what we’re doing for the Lord.

It also means to look resolutely in one direction without turning. That’s God’s will for us while we wait patiently for the Lord’s return. Once we put our hand to the plow, we don’t look to the right or to the left. We just stand fast, in faith, with what the Word of God says.

Question: How does patience give you a better attitude toward God’s work?

To find out about my new book on the Second Coming of Christ – Click here!

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2017 in Faith, Return of Christ

 

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Announcing My New Book – The Third Watch

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve finally finished working on my latest book. It’s titled The Third Watch: It’s Later Than You Think.

I believe that it’s a ground-breaking book on the Second Coming of Christ. It’s unlike any other that I’ve ever read.

Many years ago I sought the Lord concerning His coming. I was confused by all the different teachings. I asked Him to make it clear to me from the Scripture.

In answer to my prayer, the Holy Spirit gave me a personal course of study that changed my life. He impressed me to take all of the teachings of Christ concerning the Last-Days, and study them in the order in which He taught them to His disciples. The result was clarity of insight that I’d never had before.

I believe that anyone who’s serious about understanding the coming of the Lord needs to read this book. I go through each teaching session that Jesus had with His disciples and put it together, line upon line, and precept upon precept.

Then, with the foundation of Christ, I look at the teachings of the Apostles. It’s amazing how closely they align with what Jesus taught. Finally, I look at the book of the Revelation.

One word of caution – by the end of the book there will be no doubt as to what Jesus and His disciples taught. I try my best to let the Scripture speak for itself. Because of that, any teaching that’s not of the Lord must fall by the wayside.

I ended up changing my whole view of the end-times. I firmly believe that this book will prepare you for the greatest chapter in church history. But you have to come at it with an open heart and an open mind.

There are many who are worried about what lies ahead of us before the return of Christ. Since I’ve been preaching this message, I’ve seen believers set free from the fear of the future. The truth is that there’s nothing to fear and everything to look forward to.

To purchase the $14.99 paperback version from Createspace – click here.

To purchase the $9.99 Kindle version from Amazon – click here.

My prayer is that it will bless you and get you ready for the most powerful time the church has ever known.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2017 in Book Reviews, Return of Christ

 

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