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Leaders Need Vision

GlassesAt one point in his ministry, Isaiah was frustrated by what he saw taking place around him. I think it can be applied to God’s people in this generation.

“Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see! Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one committed to me, blind like the servant of the LORD?
You have seen many things, but have paid no attention; your ears are open, but you hear nothing.”
It pleased the LORD for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious. But this is a people plundered and looted, all of them trapped in pits or hidden away in prisons…
Which of you will listen to this or pay close attention in time to come?
Isaiah 42:18-23

A songwriter once wrote, “There is none so blind as he who will not see.” The trouble isn’t that God has stopped speaking; it’s that we’re not paying attention. In essence, we’re refusing to see what God’s showing us by His Spirit.

As a result, in many areas the body of Christ has become just like what was described in the above verse. Look around in our churches this week. You’ll see people who are trapped in sin. Their lives are plundered and looted by the enemy.

The problem is compounded by the fact that their ministers are no better off than they are. There’s no one to rescue them. God is crying out today, “Who will listen to Me? Who will be willing to come close to Me and obey My words?” Are you able to answer the Lord’s call? Will you step up and enter a ministry of excellence that will set the captives free?

In Romans, chapter 12, Paul explains that if we will make a decision to live a life of excellence, then we’ll know His will (the vision for our lives). But it’s going to require listening. I cannot just talk the whole time I’m in His presence. I must come before God with a quiet heart, ready and willing to receive what He’s about to say to me.

He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
Matthew 15:13-14

I don’t have a problem with everyone who lacks vision. There are those who desire to simply sit on a pew. That’s fine with me. If, however, you desire to be an example to others, to teach, lead, or be in ministry, then it’s a whole different story.

It’s a great calling to lead those who are spiritually blind into the light of the Lord. But when the leader himself (or herself) is spiritually blind, now the church is in trouble. The blind leader will start heading wherever the wind is blowing.

“Let’s try what that church is doing; it seems to be working for them.”

I’ve seen pastors who just travel the seminar circuit trying every new thing under the sun. Unfortunately, not every new thing is for every church. Not every new spiritual fad is for every believer.

You have to find what God is calling you to do. Then stick with it until God accomplishes His results through it.

Question: What is the major thing God wants to accomplish in you right now?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

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Posted by on July 16, 2014 in Ministry, Prayer, Spirit of Excellence

 

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Warning: Legalism is Addictive

PillsIn my last post, I talked about hearing from God and receiving vision for your life and ministry.  This is important, because under the New Covenant, believers need to be hearing from God.

I’m so glad that whenever I pray, God hears me in Christ.  But I also need to hear Him when He speaks.  I don’t think it’s as much God not speaking, as it’s me not listening.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus made a startling statement that many have overlooked.  But first, let’s look at the context.

“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins.  If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.  No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.”
Luke 5:37-38

In this parable the old wineskins stand for those who walk in legalism.  Once wineskins were used, they became empty, used up, dry, and unyielding.

That’s a good description of many of the Pharisees Jesus had to deal with.  They had nothing on the inside to give that would bless others.

In the natural, new wine is unfermented grape juice.  As it becomes wine, it produces gasses that pressurize the skins.

Old, dry and unyielding wineskins would burst under that internal pressure.  You can’t live for God like that.

A New wineskin – one that’s unstretched, oiled, soft, and pliable – is ready to be used in this process.

As we get that new wine of the Holy Spirit in us, it starts to ferment.  There is a spiritual pressure that builds up.  That’s what brings growth.

Now you’re hearing from God and something is being poured into you.  The pressure is building.  You have something to give and pour out into someone else.

Listen to Jesus’ next statement.

“And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’”
Luke 5:39

Once you get a taste for legalism, you don’t want the new work of the Spirit.  Why is that?  Simply put, legalism is intoxicating and addictive.

Legalism strokes my ego.  “Look at what I’m doing for God.  I read my Bible and pray every day.  I go to church every week.  I’m better than most.”

This “intoxication” with self-righteousness will put us to sleep, spiritually speaking.  We don’t feel the need to hear from God.  We can live the way we want as we perform our minimal church obligations.

Basically, we can live for God without being changed by the Spirit.  That’s the deception of legalism.

I want to be prepared to hear His voice.  This requires that I allow the Holy Spirit to work His change in me – to stretch my outer man sometimes.  It may feel uncomfortable, but it’s worth it to see the Lord working through me.

Question: How far are you willing to be stretched by the Holy Spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in Legalism, Prayer

 

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The Temporary vs. the Eternal

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been posting about the discussion Jesus had with the crowd in John chapter 6.  Having told them that He understood their motives; Jesus goes on to explain further.

“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
John 6:27

The Lord is about to tell them that He’s the Bread of Life and He has the Words of truth.  He goes on to explain that if they’ll come to Him in faith, they’ll never lack for life.  The point is that you can’t spend all your time and energy chasing the things of this world.  There’s a more important issue at stake here.

Too many believers spend their prayer time with the Lord running through their lists of needs and wants.  While there is a place for petitioning the Lord in prayer, that should not be the major part.  Prayer is where we get to know Christ in relationship.  It’s give and take.

Yes, it is talking, but it’s also listening.  If we’re going to be prepared for the last days, then we must get past this mentality that chases God around simply for what we think we can get from Him.

The crowd made their motives very plain to Jesus.  Even in their answer, they show Him that His assessment of their true character was correct.

“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”
John 6:34

Their thoughts are, “You’ve got the bread from heaven.  Give us this bread.”  Again, they’re thinking in a material way.  If His earthly bread was good, the heavenly must be even better tasting!

It reminds me of the woman at the well.  Jesus said that He could give her living water so that she would never thirst again.  Her reply was, “Great, then I won’t have to come to this well every day to draw water.”

Why are we all so foolish?  Jesus longs to give us eternal, abundant life, yet we are content to simply ask Him for things.  I know that in His Word He’s promised to take care of our needs.  The problem is that we seem to major on the physical.

My true needs are so much deeper than that.  He wants to satisfy the longing of our souls, but this will require that we spend time in His presence.  We fail to enter the abundance that He has for us because we’d rather have the “quick fix” of more money or more stuff so that we can then get on with our plans.  The better solution would be for us to bow our knee to the Lord and take up His plan for our lives.

Question: Why do the temporary issues of life seem so important sometimes?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Encouragement, Faith, Prayer

 

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How God Confirms His Word

LightningI’ve been posting for a while on the Word of God and its relation to Scripture.  In my last post I showed that the power of the early church was based upon their hearing from God.  God spoke to them, they obeyed, and God confirmed His Word.

Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
Mark 16:20

Scripture says that the Lord confirms His Word with the signs – healings and miracles – that accompanied it.  What’s our problem?  Do we serve a different God?  Of course not.  Is He still on the throne?  That’s a dumb question.

We serve a God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Then what’s the problem?  It should be clear to us.  We’re trying to get God to confirm the Bible verses that we’re preaching, when all along He wants to confirm the Word that He speaks to us.

He never told us to go out and read the Scripture to people for them to be saved – He tells us to proclaim His Word.  I submit to you that our society has heard enough Scripture – it’s everywhere.

They’re sick of hearing Scripture.  Many unbelievers can quote as much of the Bible as some Christians.  What the world is desperate for is a Word from God.  That’s what’s going to change their lives.  They can argue with the Scripture, but the Word of God will cut straight to their heart.

In our exuberance over the enormous availability of Scripture, we have taken it too far.  It doesn’t seem to matter what anyone says.  As long as there’s a Scripture verse attached to it, we call it the Word of God.

It doesn’t take much listening to Christian radio or cable channels to see that many preachers are using Scripture to support their own teachings and philosophies.  Hear me well.  They may be preaching Scripture, but they are NOT proclaiming the Word of God.

In these cases, God is under no obligation to confirm what they’re preaching.  God doesn’t have to confirm a quote from the Scripture; He only endorses His Word – what He wants said at that particular time and place.

Please don’t think, based upon what I said, that I have no respect for the Scripture.  I cannot live without it.  Daily, I read, memorize, study, and meditate on the Scripture.  I use it prayerfully.  I expect and seek God to speak to me through the pages of my Bible.

The difference is that now I’m also listening for God to use other means as well.  I want to hear God’s voice – however He wants to speak to me.  I believe that this was the basis for the power in the life of Christ and in the early church.  One of my goals in this blog is to share how this works in a practical way.

Question: Is it your desire to hear a Word from God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2013 in Word of God

 

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The Importance of a Word from God

ChristIn my last post I talked about how Jesus rebuked the Pharisees (and us) for using the Scripture superstitiously.  In effect, Jesus told them, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess healing.  Yet you refuse to come to Me, the Healer.”

The Lord could say the same thing to us, these days.  “You think that by Scripture you will possess prosperity, yet you refuse to come to Me, the Provider.”

Please understand what I’m saying.  The Holy Spirit can speak a Word of healing to me through the Scripture, but He’s not limited to this avenue.  All that I need for life and godliness is found in Christ.

I will never obtain God’s blessing through my works – not even through intensive study and memorizing of the Bible.  Healing will come by the Word of God – no matter how God chooses to send it to me.

We need to hear a Word from God.  That Word will only come from time spent in His presence.  When I study the Bible instead of cultivating intimacy with the Lord, I’m going to lose out.  That’s the very problem that the Pharisees had.

…and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior…
Titus 1:3

In this passage, Paul tells Titus that the Word of God is made visible by the command of God.  It is God’s Word made manifest in God’s time.  That’s why time spent with the Lord is so important.  I need to be quiet and listening to hear His voice.  Hearing from God is actually the greatest theme of the New Testament.  It’s the foundation for everything we need in our walk with God.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:16

This is one of the greatest misunderstandings that we have in looking back to the early church.  We think that they were just like us.  On the contrary, they knew the importance of seeking a Word from God.  They spent time in His presence listening for His voice.

What I’m saying is this – the study of Scripture and hearing from God are not replacements for each other.  We need both, in order to have an abundant life in the Lord.  In our generation, the study of Scripture has been elevated out of proportion to listening for God’s voice.  That’s why my message is so strong for the church to spend time listening to God.

Question: Have you ever been guilty of seeking blessings from Scripture rather than Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2013 in Revival, Word of God

 

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How to have a More Satisfying Prayer Life

Pray1Have you ever thought, “If my prayer time was more satisfying, I would pray more.”?  What does it take to have a prayer time that you can feel good about?  I think the answer may surprise you.  It surprised me.

I was reading an chart sent to pastor’s about their prayer lives.  It was based on some research done through a survey.  They asked a number of probing questions.  I want to comment about their findings, which I think can apply to all believers, not just those in full-time ministry.

…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

The researchers broke down their findings into 4 categories – those who were very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, and very dissatisfied with their prayer lives.  They found that the average pastor spends 39 minutes a day in prayer.

That might not sound like much to you.  But, the last survey I heard before this one placed it at 20 minutes a day.  So, I’m glad to see that the prayer time of most pastors is on the rise.

What I found very interesting, was the breakdown of averages.  Those who were least satisfied in their prayer lives averaged 21 minutes a day.  Somewhat dissatisfied – 29 minutes.  Somewhat satisfied – 43 minutes.  Very satisfied – 56 minutes.

I find that absolutely wonderful!  The more time spent in prayer, the better you feel about it.  That seems right to me.

The study also looked into what pastors include in their prayers.  It was found that the average pastor spends 5 minutes in confession, 7 minutes in thanking God, and another 7 minutes in praise.  They also averaged 8 minutes quietly listening and 12 minutes giving their requests to God.

How does the average stack up against those who were most satisfied with their prayers?  It turns out that the pastors who were very satisfied with their prayer lives didn’t follow the crowd.  On average, they spend more time listening to God and less time on their requests.

I think that this survey speaks volumes to us.  My blog title was how to have a more satisfying prayer life.  The answer is clear.  The more time you spend in prayer – specifically listening for God’s voice – the more satisfied and fulfilled you’ll be in the place of prayer.

(The above was based upon an Ellison Research Survey for Facts & Trends 05/06/05)

Question: How does your prayer life compare to the research above?  How satisfied are you with your present prayer habits?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Prayer

 

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It’s Easy to Turn Faith into Superstition

CloverDo you serve God superstitiously?  How do you know whether or not you do?  You may be surprised at the answers.

We’re told in Scripture that we’re to serve God by our faith.  We’re told that it’s impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6).  As a matter of fact, anything not coming from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).

But, just as important as faith is, it’s just as important to know where this faith comes from.  The Bible is clear on this issue, even if we are a little fuzzy sometimes.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17

This verse literally says that faith springs out of hearing, but hearing through the Word of Christ.  There are a few key concepts that are important in this verse.  The first is that, of all the different kinds of faith that we can have; only the faith that has its birth in the Word of God is valuable.

The next is one you may not want to hear.  But, this faith comes by hearing the Word and not reading the Word.  That’s because it’s the Greek word rhema that’s translated word in this verse.  The Greek word rhema always refers to the revealed Word of God to us.

This isn’t talking about reading the Bible and drumming up faith in ourselves.  It’s about listening to the Holy Spirit speaking to us.  It might take place while we’re reading the Scripture, praying, or listening to a sermon.

Jesus got upset at the Pharisees for this same type of superstition.

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
John 5:39-40

Here’s what takes place sometimes.  It may be that there’s a believer in need of healing – for example.  As they’re reading the Bible, the Holy Spirit uses it to grab their attention.  The Lord takes the Word that they’re reading and makes it rhema to them.

In a moment of divine faith and obedience, they declare that Word with their voice.  Immediately they’re healed.

What does he do next?  He starts teaching that if you confess this verse, you will be healed.  That is superstition.

It’s not reciting the verse that healed this person.  Christ our Healer was the one who made them whole.

This is how easy it can be, to turn faith into superstition.  Instead of bringing people to a deeper relationship with Christ, it’s easier to recite Scripture over and over.

Please understand – I didn’t say to stop memorizing and confessing the Scripture.  What I am saying is to seek to hear from Christ.  He’s the One our life flows from and not our “works of righteousness.”

Question: Why is it so much easier for us to recite the Bible than to seek to hear from God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2013 in Faith, Word of God

 

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