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Whose Authority?

I’ve been posting about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Now we’re going to get into a new area as we start chapter 4.

Just to remind you, I’m going through the New Testament in the order it was revealed to the church by the Holy Spirit. The first four books, James, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, and Mark, are the foundation stones of our walk with Christ.

Because of this, there are a lot of “firsts” in these writings. In this post I’m going to deal with an important first principle. It’s one that’s almost lost in our modern church experience. I believe that God wants to restore it in this generation.

Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-2

Before I get started into the main subject, I want you to see that God’s desire is always for our growth. Whatever we’ve learned and implemented in the past, it must always increase more and more each year. We want the life of Christ to become increasingly brighter all the time.

The principle that we need to understand is that of authority and submission. These are two subjects that most people don’t want to deal with in the church. That’s usually because it’s not done in a Scriptural way.

In these verses, we see the first time that a church leader talks about his authority in Christ. It’s the foundation for the relationship between leaders and followers in the body of Christ.

When Paul says that we instructed you, it literally means you received instructions from us. I believe that there’s a big difference in those two phrases.   Paul didn’t just talk to them, they actually took what he said seriously; and applied it to their lives.

He taught them how to live in such a way that it pleases God. To please God means that you evoke a positive emotional response from the Lord. Some of our modern teaching gives us the wrong ideas.

The fact is that God loves us and wants us as His children at all times. However, not everything we do brings a good emotion to the Lord. When I operate outside of His will, He’s not smiling happily saying, “That’s My boy!” There are plenty of Scriptures that implore us not to grieve the Holy Spirit within us.

On the other hand, our present church culture usually doesn’t want to be instructed on how to live for God. It’s okay to suggest to us some things, but don’t tell me what I need to do. I’ll decide for myself what I will and won’t do in my life.

By this time, you might think that I’m simply talking about being obedient to church leaders. Nothing could be further from the truth. This lack of submitting to instruction has a lot to do with our present leadership.

I call your attention to the second verse above. The word instructions is actually the word commands; like in the military. They’re not optional.

Here’s the important point that I don’t want you to miss. The word authority is not in the original Greek verse. Paul actually says; you know what commands we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

Please understand that Paul is not saying that Jesus gave me the authority to tell you what to do. Unfortunately, that’s how many leaders incorrectly interpret it. Then the leaders try to force people to do their will.

On the contrary, Paul was saying that he spent quality time in the presence of the Lord. He then heard from Christ certain commands that he was to pass on to the church. And that’s where, I believe, we’ve missed it.

We need leaders who are willing to do what it takes to hear a Word from God. People don’t need to hear my opinion on how to live for Christ. They need to hear from Christ, Himself. That’s where God is bringing His church to in our generation.

Question: How have you seen the effect of leaders operating in their own authority?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2017 in The Church, Ministry, Leadership

 

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The Leader’s Prayer

I’m continuing to post about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church. He’s been very encouraged by the reports he heard about their strong walk with the Lord. It’s Paul’s desire to visit them again in the future.

Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
1 Thessalonians 3:10

According to Paul, it’s his constant, earnest, prayer that he would see them again. But I want you to notice that it’s not just about friendship. As great as their Christian walk is now, the apostle wants to see them increase their effectiveness.

They may be strong in their faith, but they’re not perfect. Paul wanted to spend the time necessary to impart what they need. It’s interesting to see that he included an example of how he’s praying for them.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

There are three specific things that Paul is praying about. First – he wants the Lord to open up a way for him to return to Thessalonica.

This is an important truth. I don’t decide what I want to do for God. My schedule doesn’t belong to me. My time is the Lord’s and I use it as He directs. Paul wanted to be in the center of God’s will; hoping that it would lead him back to this church.

The second request that Paul prayed about, was that their love would increase. He already commended them on the fact that their faith and love were actively seen. Now Paul wants their love to increase to the point where it’s overflowing.

This is something that should be a prayer of our heart. This overflowing love literally means that you have excess or too much love than there are people to share it with. When you operate at this level, you’re truly walking in the love of Christ.

The final prayer that Paul has for this church is that their hearts would be established, immovable, and set fast in one direction. In that way he would know that they were able to go the distance in their faith.

That should be the desire of our hearts as well. That we stand strong in all the will of God.

I want to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when I come before the throne of the Lord. To do that, I must have a heart that’s firmly established in Christ. No looking to the right or left. Never wondering what I may be missing out on in the world.

This prayer of Paul is even more important to serve as an example to us as church leaders. We need to have a heart for our people. It’s not just about teaching and preaching to them. Our desire should be for them to grow in maturity and to be able to stand strong in the Lord.

Never lose your vision for others; for their strength and establishment. Make that your prayer, just like the apostle Paul. Be a leader who sees their people through the eyes of Christ.

Question: What prayers do you bring before God for those in your care?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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Spiritual Parents

I’ve been blogging about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church. He’s reminding them of his original ministry in that city. He wants it to be an example for them to follow.

Without question, Paul was a spiritual father to many believers around this area. In his letter, we see why he was so effective. It should be an example for us as well.

Too often we don’t want to be in the position of leading by example. We want to do our own thing and simply tell others how they’re supposed to live. That’s the difference between merely being a teacher and actually being a spiritual father or mother.

Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.
1 Thessalonians 2:9-11

Last week I talked about the attitude of giving yourself away with the Gospel. Make no mistake, that kind of commitment is hard work. But it’s part of the mindset of a spiritual parent.

The next thing I see is that Paul lived under the realization that everything he did was being watched and examined. So his goal was to live a holy, righteous and blameless life.

No, he wasn’t a perfect model of the Christian walk. The literal translation of that phrase is; you are witnesses…of how holy, righteous, and blameless we became among you. The key is that he was still becoming these things.

Are you transparent enough for people to see your growth? Or do you pretend to have already made it to perfection? A good parent lets their children see the steps they’re taking toward maturity.

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

I think that one the problems of our modern society is that so many people have never seen an example of a godly parent. We usually have to get there by trial and error. Paul explains it to us here.

The first word he uses – encouraging – means to call near. It’s like what a coach does with his athletes. As a leader, we need to draw out the best from those that we lead. In my experience, they usually have more potential than they think.

The next way a leader functions as a spiritual parent is to comfort. No, it doesn’t mean to help you to feel good after you get hurt. It literally means to relate near. It deals with telling the stories of how we got to where we are.

Too often we look at leaders and assume that they were born into their positions. That’s very frustrating to those under us. They need to hear the stories of the battles, frustrations, challenges and victories that brought us to where we are.

They need to see that we faced the same things they’re going through. If God could bring us out, then He can work in them as well.

The final word is urging. It simply means to testify, like in a trial. We always need to be ready to speak up for how we have seen God’s truth displayed in our walk with Him.

Those young in the Lord face difficulties that cause them to wonder if God’s way truly is the best. They need to hear someone testify that, “Yes, I’ve seen the Lord confirm His Word in my life!”

Those of us that are called to a leadership position in the body of Christ need to learn how to be spiritual parents to those who follow. Only then will we see effective growth in their lives.

Questions: Who are the spiritual parents you look up to? How have they affected your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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Imitation and Leadership

I’ve been sharing about First Thessalonians. In my last post we saw how the Gospel is more than just words. It’s the power of God demonstrated to those around us.

Paul made a statement that I want to go back to. It was at the end of the verse we looked at last time.

You know how we lived among you for your sake.
1 Thessalonians 1:5b

This verse shows us an important part of our spiritual growth. It’s something that we don’t think about too often these days. That is; how do my actions affect you?

Immaturity will say, “I don’t care what you think, I’m going to do what I want anyway.” But as we grow in Christ we realize that what we do has an effect upon those who see us.

Please understand that I’m not saying to compromise the Gospel in order not to offend. What I am saying is that in all my decisions I need to take into account the needs and understanding of those around me.

Paul’s reasoning is made clear in the next verse.

You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 1:6

What we need to be aware of, is the principle of imitation. A mature believer understands that they’re going to be an example to those who are younger in the faith.

Example and imitation is a big part of our growth in the Lord. According to Paul, by imitating him, they were actually imitating Christ – to the extent that Paul was following the Lord.

We should all aspire to leadership in the body of Christ. The role of a leader is, by its very nature, an example to others. This is found throughout the Scripture.

When Paul was preaching the Gospel in Thessalonica, he didn’t take up an offering for his expenses. He worked as a tent-maker to support himself. Listen to his reasoning.

We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.
2 Thessalonians 3:9

The word follow in this verse is the same word, imitate that we’ve been talking about. Paul wanted his life to accurately portray what it meant to live for Christ. In that way, those who were looking to him as a leader would be able to see the mature lifestyle lived out.

I need to live with this thought in mind. My actions are either spurring someone on to greater growth in Christ; or giving them permission to walk in the flesh. You may not like it, but that’s what leadership is all about.

It should be our goal, as godly leaders, to have the same mindset as Paul.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1

Be that mature role-model that others can look to and follow.

Question: How have you seen your example positively affecting the lives of others?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2017 in Leadership, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Bodyguard

HandsThis will be my last post in a series about spiritual warfare as seen through the eyes of David’s mighty men. In my last article I talked about Abishai, who was a giant killer, just like David. Now we’ll learn a little more about him.

He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.
2 Samuel 23:23

He wasn’t the same type of fighter as The Three. He probably didn’t hang out with them. They liked a good battle with uneven odds. He liked to go one on one with a giant. The good news is that we don’t have to all be the same.

When David saw his ability, he put Abishai over his bodyguards. And that’s the last big point I want to make. The mighty in spirit protect their leaders.

In the body of Christ, it seems like we’ve picked up the world’s spirit. Many times we treat church leaders the way we treat government officials. We gossip and joke about them. Sometimes we out rightly ignore them.

I believe it’s because we don’t understand the body of Christ. In reality, a pastor or church leader is not a commander, a president, or a king.

Personally speaking, when I hear from God, usually it’s when I’m minding my own business. I never wanted to enter the ministry when I was young. But when I wasn’t expecting it, the Lord spoke to my heart.

“Son, I’ve given you a gift of being able to take my Word and explain it with simplicity. You make My Word accessible to a lot of people. So I’m going to wrap you up as a gift to My church to help them attain to my calling on their lives.”

It wasn’t my plan. It’s actually all about your call and abilities. God has called me to encourage you, through the Word, to fulfill God’s calling. That’s all I’m able to do. That’s all any church leader is able to do.

What you do with me is totally up to you. You can choose to listen, ignore, blame, or talk about me. Of course you could also choose to receive my counsel and to pray for me. My prayer is that you decide on the second route.

That’s because those who lead are under greater attack from the enemy. People in church leadership need intercessors to go to war for them. It’s vital that there are those who are committed to protect their leaders daily in prayer.

We need spiritual bodyguards. It’s time to get some back at their posts in this generation. Are you a mighty bodyguard? Do you pray regularly and consistently for those over you in the body of Christ?

Where do you fit in as a mighty one? After all, you’re all called to be one. Are you content to simply be a part of the 600? Or do you aspire for more – to be part of the 30, the three, or the one?

Question: How often do you pray for church leadership?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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God’s Reward for Faithfulness

TrophyIn my last post I talked about leadership. Specifically how we as leaders should be faithful to the calling we’ve received. This assumes that I know both the what and the where of my calling.

In the same way, if I’m a member of a local church, and I know both what I’m called to do and that I’m where God called me to do it, then I can stand secure in my calling. I don’t run just because the work gets hard. I don’t get offended, even if nobody acknowledges me.

It doesn’t matter if someone looks at me cross-eyed. I’ll stay at the post God’s called me to. This is because I’m not serving men, but the God who calls and equips me for His service.

But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
Colossians 1:22-23

This is a big “if.” We all like to think that we’re unconditionally free from accusation. We quote that there is now no condemnation in Christ. But these verses are all contingent upon us fulfilling our call according to the plan of God. It’s not about me fulfilling my plan because I got some people to buy into it.

On the other hand, if you’re truly called, people will begin to see that calling. They’ll stand with you and surround you. But it will not be a private vision. It will be a corporate vision for the people God has given you to as a gift.

Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?
Proverbs 20:6

It’s easy to say that you love the people the Lord has brought you to. The real question is; are you faithfully carrying out your call? Remember that it’s the hireling who runs away when the pressure is on.

It doesn’t matter how spiritual you make it sound. God’s solution is never for you to run away. The only true sign of unconditional love is faithfulness to the plan God has set out for you. Apart from that, all your claims of “loving the flock” are merely empty words.

A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.
Proverbs 28:20

God rewards faithfulness. If all you’re after is to become a big name, then God will not support you. If you’re out to prove you can start a great ministry with lots of followers – go right ahead, but heaven has no obligation to back you up.

Too many ministers take churches as “stepping stones” as they “climb the ladder” to a more prestigious pastorate. We don’t do things as the world does. The church is not just a spiritual model of corporate America.

God’s people are a supernatural kingdom under the direct authority of a sovereign Lord. It’s not up to us to choose where and for how long we will work. It’s the King of kings who decides our destiny and, to tell you the truth, I have more faith in His ability to promote me than in my own.

What I need to do in the tough situations is to stand my ground and let the Lord work His will through me. Faithfulness will bring God’s reward.

Question: How has God promoted you in the past?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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Don’t Run Away

Different AnointingI want to deal with an issue that has severely stunted the growth of the body of Christ. If your goal is to stand firm in your calling, then you’ll find yourself in a leadership position in the church. This is important, because the excellence level of the church will only rise as high as the example of their leadership.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
II Corinthians 15:57-58

There is a dangerous trend in the body of Christ right now toward unfaithfulness in its ministers. The average pastorate is only about two and a half years. Unfortunately, this trickles down to the members.

It seems that church people don’t commit to the Lord’s work anymore. When something happens that they disagree with, they move on to another church. I believe that if someone is truly called, then there should not be this running from church to church.

We know that we have the victory in Christ. The above verse explains that because we have this knowledge we have the ability to stand firm (literally – sit firm). We are to be not moveable. We are to be always super-abounding in God’s effort.

How can we accomplish this? The verse is clear on that point – because we see that our toilthat which requires our strength – was not empty. If I’m going to pour my strength and life into something, then I need to see that it matters in eternity.

Too many leaders in the body of Christ give up because the work starts to get hard. They move on because the people “don’t share their vision.” Or maybe there’s a “personality conflict.” You’ll hear things like, “I have to find a place where God can fulfill His call upon me.”

We’ve bought into the lie that’s a part of corporate America today. Instead of loyalty, there’s trend toward self-promotion. If I can’t get a better pay or benefit package here, I’ll get it somewhere else.

That’s all foolishness. Those statements show a profound inability to grasp what the call of God is all about. That’s why it is of paramount importance that you find exactly where and to whom God is calling you.

A spirit of excellence will take nothing less than the fulfillment of the plan of God for His people. But I’ve found that even many ministers miss the point of their calling.

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13

We’ve heard this Scripture a thousand times, but do we really understand its implications? This verse, in context, is talking about the gifts that God has given to men. Many ministers get the wrong impression. These are gifts to the church. The church people are not a gift to us.

The reason why many leaders miss it is because they have the wrong perspective. They think that God has called them to a work, and now they have to find people to help them fulfill it.

As church leaders, we need to realize that the work of the ministry is not about us. We are called to a people. We are then given a vision for the work that we’re to lead them into. A leader is to receive God’s vision for the body of believers, then work to bring them into it.

Question: What’s your vision for the work God has called you to do?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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