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Get a Faith-Coach

I’ve been posting about Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. I’m now starting to look at chapter three. We now begin to see Paul’s desire for their continued growth.

So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith…
1 Thessalonians 3:1-2

If you remember, Paul had to leave Thessalonica before he had a chance to establish the church in his usual way. He had been worrying about their spiritual health as he traveled through the area. Now that things had quieted down a little, he could check up on them.

He decided to send his spiritual son, Timothy, to see how they were doing. With Paul as his mentor, Timothy had grown to a seasoned minister in his own right. Paul even calls him a co-worker in the Gospel. Having Timothy show up in their church was like having Paul, himself.

But the real question is; why did Paul feel the need to send anyone? After all, there are many in the body of Christ today who don’t feel the need to sit under any teaching. What was it that Paul was trying to accomplish?

Why didn’t Paul just encourage them to make sure they were reading the Bible? Okay, so they didn’t have a Bible. This letter was the second book of the New Testament that was written. And the only copy of the Old Testament in Thessalonica was in the synagogue, where most of the persecution was coming from.

If you’ve been following this blog through the book of First Thessalonians, then you know that one of the themes Paul talks about is the principle of imitation. The fact is that we all need spiritual mentors to look up to. I would say that 80% of our growth comes from how we see others living for Christ.

Timothy was given two specific assignments in regard to the people. Paul wanted to position them for growth and maturity. These are the same things that we need from those we find ourselves under in the church.

The first thing Timothy was to do is strengthening them in their faith. This word has a couple of different uses. It means to establish or set fast. We need to be rooted in our faith. Trusting God is not something we can do today and forget about tomorrow. It must be a consistent part of our life.

This word also means to turn resolutely in a certain direction. Faith always has a direction. Faith never wanders around looking for the right path. When I know where God’s leading, I can walk with the assurance that I’ll come to my destiny in Christ.

Timothy’s other job was to encourage them in their faith. That’s a word that means to call alongside. It’s the job description of a coach. A coach is someone who’s walked that way before, and can bring you there quicker than you could have done it by yourself.

Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
1 Corinthians 4:16-17

This verse describes perfectly what’s happening with the Thessalonians. The word urge is the same word that means to coach. There’s no doubt about it. We need to place ourselves under faith-coaches in the body of Christ.

It might be a pastor or a teacher that God has brought into your life. Whether we think we need it or not, these faith-coaches will keep us from getting stuck in our Christian walk.

Question: How have godly leaders helped your growth in the Lord?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2017 in Faith, Leadership, Spiritual Walk

 

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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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Does Your Tongue Lead a Double Life?

Are you living a double life? That’s the question James asks us in his small book. I’ve been posting about how our tongue shows publically what’s going on in our heart.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
James 3:9-12

There’s a self-deception sometimes, over how far along we are in our spiritual maturity. We like to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. This is especially true when we find ourselves in a Christian meeting, praising God along with everyone else.

James gives us a more accurate picture. He starts with what it looks like by observation. Praise and cursing coming from the same mouth. “Lord I love you” with one breath, and telling someone “you’re no good” with the next. It looks like you can do both – unless you see God’s perspective.

That’s why James asks these questions. He knows the answer. Jesus answered them with His disciples. I’m sure that James heard Jesus say it on more than one occasion.

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
Luke 6:43-45

It’s obvious that James hasn’t changed the subject. He’s still talking about controlling the tongue by what you put in your heart.

More than that, he’s saying what sounds like praise to us, is not always praise to God. If your heart is overflowing with things other than the Word, then your so-called praise is not acceptable to God. It may look like fresh water to all those around, but to God it’s a salt spring.

A life that’s consistently producing bad fruit is a sign of a heart without much of the Word of God. What about the praise that’s going up to God? Isn’t that a sign of a good heart?

I wish it were. Unfortunately, praising God is not a fruit of the spirit. I’ve even heard some ungodly people exclaim, “Praise the Lord” or “Hallelujah” at times. That’s not the sign of maturity.

The fruit of the spirit and maturity are things that can’t be forced or pretended. They have to be grown into. That’s why there must be a consistent walk with the Lord. The more of the Word we receive – both the written and spoken Word of God – the more our hearts overflow with the right things.

Take love, for an example. The world looks at the emotion. As the fruit of a mature spiritual life, love is a choice we make. It goes against our human nature to choose to love people we don’t even like. That’s why we need the power of the spirit working in us.

The sign of our maturity is not a random act of kindness once in a long while. It’s the consistent production of mature fruit on a daily basis. That’s the sign of a life spent in the presence of the Lord.

Question: What fruit of the spirit have been evident in your life lately?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2017 in Prayer, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Mature Talk

In my last post I started looking at how the book of James dealt with the speaking of our faith. Our words and actions need to line up with what we believe. Our words make visible the faith – or doubt – that’s in our heart.

But did you know that our words also indicate our level of spiritual maturity? Too often we like to think of ourselves as being more mature than we actually are. It’s our words that truly show how far along we are.

I believe that most of us want to experience the walk of maturity and the blessings that come with it. Here’s the problem. We know what it should look like. But many are trying to do it without growing up.

We’re always on the lookout for some new teaching or “move of God” that will give us our breakthrough. We want the Six Steps to Prosperity or the Ten Confessions that bring Healing. We’re trying to get the freedom and resources of maturity while desperately hanging on to our childhood.

This is never going to happen. It’s only when we attain to the goal of spiritual adulthood that we’ll see these things accomplished in us.

We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
James 3:2

There’s more to the mature walk than simply getting our needs met. This word perfect literally means mature and complete. When you reach this level in your Christian experience sin is the exception rather than the rule. It’s not about trying harder. It’s the Holy Spirit working in you to perfect you.

So much of our energy is spent on trying to “be good.” Many preachers are wasting their time using guilt and scare tactics to try and get their people to live a righteous life. That’s not the scriptural way to get there.

The reason James talks about this in relation to our speaking, is because this is one of the most obvious ways that we show our immaturity. You might look good on the outside, but as soon as you open your mouth, everybody knows where you’re at.

Jesus gives us the reason for this.

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45

The fact is that whatever is in your heart will eventually come out of your mouth. It’s not something that you can control simply by deciding “not to say anything.” Most of us have found out the impossibility of sticking to that statement.

Your mouth is merely a channel from your heart to the outside world. You can try plugging it up, but eventually the pressure will build until the contents flood out. Then we wish we could take it back. We tell people that we didn’t mean it. But the fact remains that if it wasn’t already in your heart, it wouldn’t have come out of your mouth.

That’s why we can’t concentrate on simply using self-control. The answer is to have a change of heart. If I can plant God’s Word in my heart, then I know the output of my mouth will be pure.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Psalms 119:11

This includes the sinful things that come out of our mouths. If I can keep my heart pure, then my mouth will follow.

Question: How has your mouth showed the good things in your heart?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in Faith, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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On to Maturity

FinishIn my last post, James showed us that our faith has to be approved. We need this if we’re going to grow spiritually. The final piece he talks about is perseverance.

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:4

This goes right along with what Jesus taught His disciples.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:48

This word, perfect, is the same word mature that James used. This is God’s desire for His people. That we attain to the same level of maturity as Christ.

The unfortunate thing is that many teach that this is impossible. Over and over we’re told that to walk like Jesus is beyond our reach. I don’t buy into this type of reasoning.

When I see the lives of the Apostles in the book of Acts, I don’t get the idea that they’re immature. I see the same signs and wonders that were performed by the Lord. I see thousands of people drawn to, and changed by, the Word of God.

If it was possible for them, then the same is true for us. But we have to be willing to walk the same road they walked to get there.

One of the key ingredients to us reaching this level is the ministry gifts God has given to the body of Christ. In talking about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, Paul said that they were given as gifts to the church. They have a very clear purpose.

…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 4:12-13

The goal of this five-fold ministry is the maturing of the saints. The level of that maturity is beyond question. It’s so that we would live and minister in the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Why would the Holy Spirit inspire Paul to write these words if it was impossible? We need to stop making excuses, and start working towards the walk of maturity.

Paul understood this aspect of his work as an apostle of Christ.

We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Colossians 1:28-29

That’s the goal of the ministry. We’re here to present everyone – not just a select few – perfect and mature in Christ. This requires supernatural strength and wisdom.

We cannot hope to perform this on a merely human level. As a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I need to yield to the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this great task.

The belief that this is impossible to achieve in our lifetime only serves to undermine the Lord’s goal for us. We need to recognize where He’s leading us to, and cooperate with the Lord’s program for our development. After all, He’s bringing us on an incredible spiritual journey.

But I want us to see the result of this work. What happens once you reach this mature walk?

In the first verse we looked at, James clearly states, from the Holy Spirit and his experience, that when you walk in maturity you lack nothing. Lacking nothing – that’s what the church is striving for in this generation.

If we’re going to operate at this level, then we need the spiritual walk of maturity.

Question: What would the ministry of a spiritually mature believer look like?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2017 in Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Unseen Food

BreadThere are a lot of believers who don’t fully give themselves to the ministry. Many times it’s because they want their fulfillment from the world – immediate gratification. They feel that God’s rewards are too far off in the future.

But if you read the testimony of Scripture, you’ll find that this just isn’t true. God’s Word promises great rewards – here and now – for those who are faithful to their calling. I want to take a couple of posts to talk about this.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 4, we’re told about an incident in the life of Jesus when He met with a woman at the well. They have a long talk and she realizes who He is. Immediately she goes back to her village and returns with a crowd.

Jesus begins to minister to these people. The Disciples, who had gone off in search of lunch, come back with the food. Upon seeing the crowd around Jesus, they had no idea what had just happened.

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
John 4:31-32

Jesus makes a statement that totally confuses the disciples. He wants them to see that life is more than food. There are things unseen that are much more important.

What does this tell us about Jesus?

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly — mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.
1 Corinthians 3:1-2

The word translated as solid food in this verse is the same word that Jesus used when He said he had food the Disciples didn’t know about. That tells me that Jesus operated in a mature walk. He’s our example for how to minister to the fullest extent.

The Lord then tries to explain what’s going on.

Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
John 4:33-34

There are two distinct things that Christ is talking about here. The first is to do the will of the Lord. That implies that you know the Father’s will. It involves spending time in His presence hearing what He wants you to accomplish.

The second part is just as important. That’s to complete the work that you’ve been assigned. It’s not enough just to hear from God. There must be a desire to do all that He speaks to you. That’s the spiritual food that Jesus is talking about.

This is important for us to understand. I’ll talk about it in more detail in my next post.

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

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2017 in God's Provision, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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God Became Man

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis week especially, many people are thinking about the Christmas holiday. It’s funny to me how it stirs up so much controversy.

Here and there you see the scenes of the season. A humble stable with animals and a

manger. Why does it offend and anger a lot of people? After all, it’s only a father, a mother, and her child.

The problem is what it means to the human race. The writer of Hebrews gives us the truth behind this simple picture.

You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor.
Hebrews 2:7

God became man. He humbled Himself in ways we could never imagine. The Creator of the universe needed to have His diapers changed. He had to depend upon his parents to feed and clothe Him. That’s what He willingly chose in order to save us from our sin.

The all-powerful One clothed Himself in our weakness.

For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
Hebrews 2:17

For this reason, He became like us. In the summertime I see ants all over the place. Sometimes they’re just a nuisance. What God did for us would be like me becoming an ant in order to communicate to other ants. I would have to eat what they eat and live where they live. That’s not a very appealing thought to me.

Think about what it meant to Christ. He got tired, hungry, frustrated, and angry. He had to deal with the enemy as a man – as someone weaker in the flesh. That’s why He alone is worthy to be our advocate, and our judge.

Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
Hebrews 5:8-9

This is one of the characteristics of the Lord that amazes me. The God of the universe – the highest authority there is – learned obedience through suffering.

Please understand what this means when it says He became perfect. That word means to become mature. He was always perfect in the sense of His sinlessness. What He had to learn was the maturing process that all humans must go through.

In my next post I’ll talk about this in a little more detail. My desire is that it will give us a little more insight into the holiday that we celebrate.

Question: What amazes you about the birth of Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2015 in Encouragement, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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