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Joyfully Thankful

In my last post, I finished my series on the book of Galatians.  Since we’re now approaching the Thanksgiving holiday, I feel like posting some things that would prepare our hearts.

At one point, the Apostle Paul prayed for the Colossian believers to have a knowledge of God’s will with spiritual wisdom and understanding.

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Colossians 1:10-12

That’s a long sentence, but it has a great message for us.  We’re told that we should live a life worthy of the Lord.  Our lives should reflect His character since we’re called to live as His ambassadors.  But how is that to be accomplished?

It also says that we should please Him in every way.  This is the only place in Scripture that particular word is used.  It means to have the desire to please someone – to want to make them happy.

I realize that sometimes we make big mistakes and fall short of this goal.  It’s good to know that if the desire’s there, then the Lord is pleased with us.

However, it can’t just end with the desire to please Him.  This desire is not just an internal part of me; it has to be manifested in how I live.

According to Paul, it’s shown forth as I bear fruit, growing, and allowing His power to work in me.  And right along with this, I need to be joyfully giving thanks to the Lord.

Please understand that there are two ways we view life when faced with challenges that we can’t change.  The first is to tolerate them with grumbling and complaining.  The other is to come at them with the knowledge that God has full dominion over everything and everybody.

Looking at life’s problems in this last way allows us to rejoice that God’s power will work in us.  Then it will be evident to the world around us that God is still on the throne.

I love that phrase, “…joyfully giving thanks to the Father…”  Thanking God with joy is what we need in in the challenging situations that we face all the time.

But this kind of response will only happen as we spend time with Him.  Being in His presence allows us to be strengthened by His Spirit.  It gives us the knowledge and faith that Christ is in control.

The word translated giving thanks is a part of speech that indicates Paul is not just talking about Thanksgiving Day.  It’s all about a lifestyle of giving thanks to God continually.

Keep your thankfulness to God going throughout the year.  It will change your whole outlook on life.

Question: What are you thankful for this season?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Encouragement, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Spirit-Fruit: Joy

I’m continuing my look at the Fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23.  Today we’re going to talk about joy.  It’s another word that we take for granted because of the world’s usage of the word.

When we think about being joyful, most people equate it with being happy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  True joy has no connection at all with being happy.

The words happy and happen come from the same root word.  When something just happens it’s a random occurrence.  We get happy because something good happens.  Joy, on the other hand, has nothing at all to do with what’s happening around us.

The textbook definition of joy is to be calmly happy or well-off.  The fruit of joy goes a little further than that.

We need to understand God’s definition of joy.  Jesus talks about receiving His joy in John chapter 15.  It doesn’t take much reading to see that the main emphasis of that chapter was for us to remain in Christ.

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
John 15:4

Here Jesus talks about remaining in Him and bearing much fruit.  So the fruit of joy must be included in that.  But what, specifically, about remaining in Him brings us joy?  The Lord goes on to talk about it with His disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
John 15:9-11

It’s a wonderful thing to be in Christ.  But there’s another step to take if you want His joy.  You have to cultivate that love relationship with Him.  That’s remaining in His love.

When you’re in a relationship with someone, then you know your place in that love.  In a relationship, I love you, and I know that you love me.  That’s what this joy is all about.

The joy of the Lord is the assurance from the Holy Spirit of who I am in Christ.  It’s knowing who Christ is, and who I am in Him.  If I’m in the Healer, then I’m healed.  If I’m in the Provider, then I’m provided for.

It’s the sense of well-being that springs from knowing who I am in Christ.  It doesn’t matter what comes my way.  If something bad happens; that doesn’t change the fact that I’m in Christ and He’s already provided the answer for it.

James understood this fact.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
James 1:2-3

Why is a trial counted as joy?  Because it will show off the truth that I’m in Christ.  It will display who He is and why I trust Him.  What I’m going through will cause others to trust the Lord the way I do.

A great example of this was the Macedonian Christians that Paul bragged about.  When he was collecting an offering for the poor, he didn’t expect much from them, because they weren’t very wealthy.

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
2 Corinthians 8:2

Extreme poverty and rich generosity really shouldn’t be used to describe the same people.  That is unless they know who they are in Christ.  That makes all the difference.  That’s the fruit of Joy.

Question: What was a recent time that you saw God’s joy operating through you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2017 in Encouragement, Faith, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Has Your Faith Been Approved?

ApproveStarting with this post, I’m going to do things a little differently. I usually talk about issues dealing with revival, church leadership, God’s power or the return of Christ. But up until now I haven’t really followed any plan.

Lately I’ve been feeling that I need to write in a more systematic way. Over the past couple of years the Holy Spirit has been teaching me a lot by having me read through the New Testament in the order that it was given to the church.

In that way you can see how some of these themes were expanded upon as the Spirit revealed more and more to His people. I want to take that same approach to the teachings in this blog.

Of course, if the Lord gives me a message to share that will benefit you; I can always follow His leading at any time. I can post it when I receive it and then pick right back up where I left off.

I believe that the book of James was the first Scripture to be recorded for the church. So that’s where I’ll begin.

It was written by a pastor to give his congregation the foundation they needed in serving Christ. James was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. His words are as applicable today as they were when he first wrote them.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
James 1:2-3

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time identifying with James when he equates trials with joy. And he’s not the only one. The Apostle Peter says the same thing in his letters. It’s not that I don’t want to grow, but I would prefer not going through trials – they just don’t feel good to me.

On the other hand, I realize that they’re a part of life. There’s never going to be a time when we’re not faced with something challenging. Nobody is exempt from this. The world is full of problems, and people who cause them. I’ve even been known to bring them upon myself from time to time.

The real issue is what I do with the trial once I’m in it. They can’t be avoided, so I might as well make the best of it. James is explaining to us the attitude best suited to overcome our trials. He doesn’t say to be joyful because you’re being tested. He says to count it pure joy because of what you know.

It’s our knowledge of what the trial produces the gives us joy during the hard times. What is it that I know? If you read this section in the original Greek, you find that James says that it’s the “approved part of our faith” that produces perseverance – the ability to come through a challenge victoriously.

Everyone says that they have faith. The question asked by this verse is – Is that faith approved? Has it been tested and found to be genuine? It’s easy to say that I trust God, yet give up in the hard times. It’s the genuine, approved faith that carries us through.

It’s like the song that says, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Well, I know that the Lord won’t allow the test to kill me. But as it tries my faith, it will strengthen me to trust God in a greater way.

So the joy is not that I’m being tried, but that I’m growing stronger. My faith is being proved, and I’ll be able to stand in it. I may never look forward to tests and hardships, but at least I know that they provide a vital part of my growth in Christ.

Question: What have you gone through that has increased your faith?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Secret of Inner Power

PackageDid you know that it’s what’s on the inside that counts? The things that are happening around us don’t determine our destiny. We need to learn to live above our circumstances.

…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joy.
Colossians 1:11

One of the things that the Holy Spirit desires to do in us is to strengthen our inner man. He wants to give us the power we need to stand our ground for Christ.

This life is very draining on people. I don’t believe there’s any such thing as an easy life. We all have to go through struggles and trials.

We look at the lives of others and think that they have it easy. That’s only because the things that get me down don’t affect you in the same way. Conversely, the things that you’re having trouble with don’t bother me at all. We all experience things differently.

That’s why everyone needs an abundance of endurance, patience, and joy. Those are qualities we seem to lose so easily. But they are the things that the Holy Spirit wants to equip us with.

Endurance. This comes from a Greek word that means to remain under. Sometimes we have to go through experiences that are uncomfortable. We feel like giving up. The Holy Spirit can give us the power to see it through to the final victory.

Patience. This one sounds the same as endurance but it’s a little different. It literally means to be long passioned. In other words, it’s the ability to go through a hard time without “having a meltdown.” Sometimes in the midst of problems we say or do things that we’re sorry for the rest of our lives. The Lord wants to keep us from making these kinds of mistakes.

Joy. Joy is an interesting concept in the New Testament. It’s very different from the emotion of happiness. Happiness is based what happens. Joy is based upon the knowledge that you are in Christ and nothing can touch you without His permission. Therefore, you can have a positive outlook on life because Jesus has the final say.

The fact is, apart from His Spirit we would give up too soon. I want to see the finish line and cross it with strength. I don’t want to barely finish my race then collapse in exhaustion. I want to enter Heaven with my head held high, knowing that the Lord has brought me through victoriously.

To finish strong I must rely on His strength for my life. I must come to the realization that “without Him I can do nothing.” It’s a humbling experience to tell the Lord that you need Him. But that’s why Scripture teaches that if you humble yourself before Him, He will exalt you.

Draw on the power of the Holy Spirit today. Spend quality time in His presence and watch what the Lord can do in a life that’s yielded before Him. Make use of His promises. Let Him grant to you His endurance, patience, and joy.

Question: How have you seen the Lord’s strength working in you recently?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Power of God, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Calling – What and How

BeamI’m posting on the subject of our callings. In the last two posts I talked about how the Lord calls us by name.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Acts 13:2

The next calling is a calling of work. We’re called to do something. Christ has prepared a work for each of us to do in His kingdom.

This is the calling that seems to be the most important to believers today. Much emphasis is placed upon people to find what God wants them to do. The problem is that many never seek God to find out how He wants them to fulfill their work. Instead they try to copy another person or ministry.

“I will destine you for the sword, and you will all bend down for the slaughter; for I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me.”
Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “My servants will eat, but you will go hungry; my servants will drink, but you will go thirsty; my servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame. My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts, but you will cry out from anguish of heart and wail in brokenness of spirit.”
Isaiah 65:12-14

When we try to fulfill the what of our ministry in our own way, we ignore the call of God to do it His way. When that occurs, we don’t have any supernatural provision for what we’re doing. Everything God has for you is tied to your calling.

If you don’t respond to His call, both the what and the how, you lose out on the grace that has been provided for you. This is a cause of great frustration in ministry; because you think you’re doing God’s will when, in reality, you’re only halfway there.

There are many believers in ministries today who are spiritually hungry and thirsty. They’re being put to shame and crying out of anguish of heart. This isn’t God’s portion for us. He wants ministry to be a joy. This will only happen as we follow God’s call. This means not only what He wants me to do, but also how He wants me to do it.

Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.
Revelation 2:20

Another mistake that can totally disqualify you is to seek your own will altogether. The above Scripture says that she called herself a prophetess. It doesn’t matter what you want to call yourself. The important thing is to find out what God calls you. Only then can you enter the abundance of God’s supernatural provision. Taking His road for your life is the only path that will lead you to the level of excellence that God has reserved for you.

Please realize, the how is as important as the what in serving God. That’s why preparation for ministry is so important. It’s not enough just to go to Bible School to train. The “School of the Holy Spirit” – spending quality time in the presence of the Lord – is essential to the fulfilling of the total plan of excellence God has for your life.

Question: What is the work God is calling you to do?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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Are You Setting Yourself Up for Offense? #wordofGod

RockyI’m posting about the different “heart soils” in Luke 8.  Today I’ll deal with the rocky soil.  This is about rocks with only a thin layer of dirt to cover them.  The seed germinates and springs up quickly.  But just as quick, the sun comes out, scorches the plant, and it withers and dies.

Jesus explained the spiritual application this way.

“Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.”
Luke 8:13

This verse literally says is that these people receive the Word in the middle of joy.  It sounds like camp meeting to me.  There’s excitement in the air.  The whole atmosphere of the meeting is charged with a heavenly joy.  It’s easy to believe in a place like that.

We’re not talking about people who don’t believe what they hear.  They believe it’s for them.  The problem is that what has sprung up so quickly, also withers just as quick.  What is it that withers?

For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.
1 Peter 1:24-25

What withers is the glory of man.  This type of person hears the Word and believes that it’s “all about me.”  That’s why there’s all the joy and excitement.  They think that the Word is for my blessing, health, and prosperity.  Forget about what God’s ultimate purpose is.  It’s me that’s important.

The Lord says that in this rocky heart there is some faith exhibited for a while, but it doesn’t last long.  Eventually trials and testings will come.  When this happens, Jesus literally says that they will become offended.  Why does Christ use this word?

When I go through a time of testing, I realize that it’s not all about me.  I get offended that I’m not the center of all the attention.  I don’t want the spotlight on Christ and what He’s trying to accomplish in me.  I want the priority to be my comfort and happiness.  The result is that I get offended and walk away from the Lord and His plan for my life.

If I want my heart prepared for an abundant harvest, I must assume that the Word of God spotlights Jesus Christ.  I must desire to know His heart.  There are many who read the Bible and pursue God only for what they can get from Him.  The big question on their minds is, “What’s in it for me?”

Instead, we should be focusing on God’s eternal purpose – to draw all humanity into His kingdom.  The blessings of God are great, but they’re not an end in and of themselves.

God has promised us prosperity, but it’s to finance the spread of the Gospel.  God has promised us health and healing, but it’s so that we can minister the Good News of His love to the best of our ability.

All the promises of God should be viewed through the filter of God’s will and plans.  That’s what’s missing in the shallow faith of rocky soil.  We need to keep our hearts clear of the rocks of self-centeredness.

Question: How is God working through you to bring about His purpose?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2013 in Word of God

 

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Is Fasting for You? #spiritualfast

PlateDo you ever fast?  How often do you fast?  Do you fast regularly?  Weekly?  Monthly?  Why do you fast?  Why don’t you fast?  Is fasting even important in the life of the Christian?

I believe that fasting is one of the most powerful disciplines that you can participate in.  So, I’m going to deal with some of these issues in a series of posts.  Hopefully, by the end of this series, you will decide to fast at least one day a week.  Not only that, but you’ll look forward to fasting with expectancy in what it will accomplish in your life and ministry.

The Old Testament is filled with references about fasting.  I want to take this post to explain the Old Testament fast and how it relates to the New Testament.  As in all areas, whenever an Old Covenant teaching is studied, it must pass through the filter of the cross before we can apply it to our lives.  Only then can you know how much of it, if any, has a place in the New Covenant.

The first thing that should strike you as you study the Old Testament is that fasting was a very mournful experience.  Here are a few occurrences for you to look up.  In Judges 20:26, Israel fasted after a military defeat in order to gain a victory.  In I Kings 21:9, they fasted during a time of judgment in order to show their humility and repentance.  In Joel 1:14, it was to show repentance.

The principle found in I Samuel 31:13 shows fasting during a time of mourning.  In Daniel 9:3, he fasted to remind God of the promise to restore Israel.  Finally, Ezra 8:21 demonstrates humility before God in order to bring about the restoration of Jerusalem.

It’s clear from the above verses that a majority of the Old Testament fasting experience was one of mourning and humility before God.  Unfortunately, many Christians spend a lot of time getting all of their fasting theology from the Old Testament.

They think that they have to mourn over sin and fast in order to do “penance.”  They’re hoping that by doing something hard, they’ll obtain what they want from God.  In essence, they’re trying to get God to do something for them by doing something difficult for Him.  As you’ll see from Scripture, this is not the fast we’re called to.

Again the word of the LORD Almighty came to me.  This is what the LORD Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.”
Zechariah 8:18-19

Zechariah was a prophet who ministered just before the “quiet time” between the Old and New Testaments.  During his time, a prophecy came forth that some day fasting was going to change.

Instead of the mourning that Israel was accustomed to, fasting was going to become a joy.  I believe that he was referring to the fast that we experience under the New Covenant.  That’s the fast I will talk about in the upcoming posts.

Question: What’s your fasting experience at this point in your Christian walk?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Fasting, Spirit of Excellence

 

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