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Spiritual Planning

As we continue through Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, we see an interesting admission.  Paul has to apologize to them for not being able to complete a visit that he had scheduled with them.

I think that it can be a lesson to us all.

Because I was confident of this, I planned to visit you first so that you might benefit twice.  I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea.  When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, “Yes, yes” and “No, no”?  But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.”
2 Corinthians 1:15-18

Paul had to clear up this misunderstanding so that the church would understand the difference between his plans and his message.  The word, planned, in the above verse actually means to be willing.

So Paul is saying that he was confident about his ability to get there and he was willing to go as well.  His goal was to visit them twice as he traveled to and from Macedonia.

Paul makes it clear that he doesn’t plan his trips lightly.  He takes everything into consideration.

Even more than that, he literally says that he does not make plans in a fleshly manner.  Paul always strove to operate in the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  He had made this planned visit after much prayer.

He didn’t approach his ministry with a frivolous attitude.  He didn’t think, “I’ll tell them I’m coming for a visit, but I’ll play it by ear.  We’ll see while we’re on the road whether I want to go there or not.”

We need to learn the lesson of submitting our plans to the Lord.  It’s not a matter of making our plans first, then asking God to bless it.  It’s all about finding God will first.  Then we know the plan is blessed already.

James understood this and wrote about it.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast and brag.  All such boasting is evil.
James 4:13-16

When James says that you boast and brag, it literally means that you rejoice in your self-confidence.  That’s the key to what he’s speaking of; SELF-confidence.  When we’re confident in what we can achieve, we usually forget about God and His desire for our lives.

One of the problems in translating is that there’s not much punctuation in the original Greek.  There’s sometimes more than one way to read a verse depending on which word you emphasize.

I believe that, in the context of what James is saying here, a better way of reading the first line is, “Instead, you ought to speak if it’s the Lord’s will, and live, and do this or that.”

It’s all about spending time with the Lord, knowing His will, and then speaking about what He’s told us to do.  If you’re going to do something, do it because you feel led by the Holy Spirit.

Question: What plan has the Holy Spirit given you as you’ve spent time in His presence?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2020 in Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Help Given and Received

For the past couple of years, I have been posting systematically through the New Testament.  I’ve been going book by book in the order that they were revealed to the church through the Holy Spirit.

Recently, I put that on pause because I felt led to do a series on spiritual warfare.  I’m now going back to where I left off in the original series.  I had just finished 1 Corinthians at that time, so I’ll now begin with 2 Corinthians.

Paul wrote his first letter, and sent it off with Titus to Corinth during the two years he spent at Ephesus (Acts chapter 19).  He then had to leave because of the rioting.  He went to Macedonia and waited for Titus to return with a report of his visit.

It turned out that many in Corinth received the epistle favorably.  However, there were still some who rejected Paul’s authority and teaching.  So Paul sends off another letter to respond to what he’s heard.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
2 Corinthians 1:1-4

The word trouble in this passage is actually the Greek word for pressure.  I don’t know about you, but personally, I dislike pressure.  I try my best to avoid it.

In actuality, we’ll never be exempt from the challenges and pressures of life.  But there is a positive outcome that it can bring us.

Pressure qualifies us for ministry. When we learn to endure pressure, we can help others who are undergoing the same things.

Most of us like to be helped.  When facing a difficult challenge, even a word of encouragement can go a long way.

If you’re like most people, then you’ve relied upon help at one time or another.  Scripture teaches us that part of showing gratefulness is taking the blessing you received and passing it on to someone else.

It can be anything – a kind word, food, a ride, or a helping hand carrying things.  If it’s done in obedience to God’s Word, it’s powerful and life-changing.

What we need to start realizing is that even though all these good things came through the people around us, God originated them.  All the blessings that we receive come from the Lord’s hand.  It’s in thankfulness to Him that we’re willing to pass a blessing on to someone else.

So when we help someone else in their pressure, it’s the Lord who’s actually helping them through us.  We become a channel of God’s love reaching out to those around us.

Look for an opportunity, today, to be a blessing to someone.  Do something unexpected.  Take the good things you’ve received from God and pass them on to someone around you.  The Lord will see to it that someday, in some way, you’ll be rewarded for your act of gratefulness to Him.

Question: What are some pressures that God has given you the victory over?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2020 in Encouragement, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Jesus Christ – Anointed and Approved

For the past couple of posts, I’ve been talking about the approval needed to use the Helmet of Salvation and the Sword of the Spirit.  Our concern should be, with positioning ourselves to receive it.

At one point in His ministry, Jesus fed a crowd of over 5000 with just a few fish and a couple of pieces of bread.  The people were amazed.  Look at what the Lord said to them.

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

Jesus is our example in ministry.  If we see how He positioned Himself for God’s approval, then we can follow His lead.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4:18-19

Christ’s ability to walk in the power of God was brought about in three major events.  These were His baptism, temptation, and His announcement of ministry.  This verse shows us His entrance into the public ministry.

After reading this portion of Scripture, the Lord announced that it was being fulfilled in their presence.  I believe that this holds the key to positioning ourselves.  It’s all about the anointing.

We’ve heard a lot of teaching on the anointing over the years.  Unfortunately, some of it has been a little off base.  Where was it wrong?

First, let’s look at where we were right.  The anointing removes burdens and destroys yokes.  That’s a true statement based upon Isaiah 10:27.  Furthermore, that was Jesus’ whole ministry in a nutshell.

Another part is that the word, Christ, encompasses the Anointed One and His anointing.  Since that’s true, it’s also the case that as Christians, that name means little anointed ones.

The final truth that we must embrace is that we all have an anointing from God.  Scripture is clear on that point.

With all of this truth, then where are we off?  My question is this; with this entire teaching being proclaimed, why are burdens NOT being removed and yokes NOT being destroyed in much of the church?  Why are captives NOT being set free?  Why are the gates of Hell NOT being prevailed against?

I’ve also heard it taught that the Holy Spirit is our anointing.  That’s where we’ve misunderstood the Scripture.  Look at the above verse carefully.

Jesus clearly said, “The Spirit…is on me BECAUSE he has anointed me.”  What we’ve missed is that the Spirit follows the anointing.

This is a different work than salvation.  Yes, the Holy Spirit lives in me when I receive Christ as Lord.  But the anointing for the power of the Holy Spirit is a different thing.  That’s why there are so many believers in the body of Christ that live powerless in this generation.

We need to understand exactly what the anointing is and how to receive it.  Then, like Christ, we can walk in the power and approval of the Holy Spirit that this anointing opens up.

After my Christmas post, I’m going to take the next few to try and explain how this works in our Christian walk.  If you haven’t subscribed to this blog yet, you should do it now so that you won’t miss any of these vital messages to the church.

Question: What is the current level of power evidenced in the church today?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Developing an Addiction for Christ

In my last post, I talked about the 5 symptoms of being addicted to the ministry for Christ.  It was based upon the KJV translation of a verse in I Corinthians.

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)
1 Corinthians 16:15

Today I want to talk about the steps that it takes to become addicted.  Again, I took them from a pamphlet that I got from the American medical community.

Curiosity causes you to check it out.  Sometimes seeing what someone else is doing for Christ will cause you to ask if you’re able to do something similar.  You step out in faith and see what happens.  After all, we’re encouraged in the Scripture to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Comparing your life with Christ to your life without Him.  How has the Lord changed you?  If you’re like most people, then you can look back on a life of death, sorrow, worry, and guilt.  Now, in Christ, your path should be marked with life, joy, faith, and freedom.

You develop a taste for it.  Most of the things that cause addictions start out tasting horrible.  It’s only after people get used to it that they get “hooked.”  It’s the same with the ministry.

Sometimes it’s hard working with people.  But as you get used to it, and especially the rewards of seeing changed lives, it gets better.  Pretty soon it becomes normal.  Experts tell us that it takes about a month for a habit to develop.

You start to become uncomfortable when it’s taken away (withdrawal).  Being a blessing to others causes you to become a giver.  When that happens, you have to draw on the sufficiency of Christ.  If something happens to stop the process, you feel like something’s missing.

As problems increase, your usage increases.  It’s easy to tell when someone is in the final stages of a “Christ addiction.”  When the normal believer faces a crisis – the loss of a job or a loved one – you don’t see them around for a while.  After all, they need time to sort things out.

Addicted people are different.  During times of crisis or turmoil, you find them seeking more fellowship, prayer, or worship.  Their goal is to use the strength of the Lord and His church to get them through the tough times.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?
Psalms 42:1-2

David understood the concept.  In my estimation, an addiction to Christ is the best thing you could ever experience.  It becomes your strength in weakness and your channel of blessing.  It will keep your walk with God from becoming stale or stagnant.

Cultivate this holy addiction!

Question: What’s your strategy for developing an addiction to Christ?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Are You Addicted to Ministry?

I normally don’t use the KJV in my posts, but this verse from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church gives me a lot to think about.

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)
1 Corinthians 16:15

Stephanus and his family were a great help to Paul as he preached the Word of God.  He goes on to tell a little more about them.  He tells the church…

…to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it.  I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you.  For they refreshed my spirit and yours also.  Such men deserve recognition.
1 Corinthians 16:16-18

What was it about Stephanas and his family that caused Paul to describe them as addicted?

I looked up some facts, not from Christian sources, but from the American medical community.  How do they describe addiction?  You may think you’re “all in” for the Lord.  How does what these doctors say stack up to your experience?

You need an increased level to maintain the feeling.  Are you feeling tired and burned out by what you do for God?  Or are you hungering to go deeper with Him?  Addiction means that the amount you’re doing now doesn’t satisfy you the way it used to.  You want more, greater, and higher dosages in order to stay fulfilled.  I believe that’s the excitement of the ministry.

You are obsessed with the ministry.  What’s your thought life like?  When you’re not actively involved in your calling, are you still thinking about it?  Addiction means that it’s constantly in the back of your mind.  You continually think about ways to improve and increase what you’re doing for the Lord.

Even in recreation times, a thought, word, or something you see will trigger an image of what you could be doing to further the Kingdom.  Thinking about it is uncontrollable.

You are continually sneaking “quickies” throughout the day.  Addiction to the ministry is a lifestyle.  Do you find yourself sharing about Jesus at the mall, school or workplace?  Are you prone to spontaneously be a blessing to people around you, simply for the enjoyment of it?  Maybe you find yourself praying for people as soon as you hear about their need.  This is a sign of an addiction to Christ and His ministry.

You undergo a change in your appearance.  Does the knowledge that you represent Christ change how you present yourself to others?  Does the fact that you’re God’s ambassador to the world make a difference in how you live?  The more we become addicted, the more radical the change.  How much has your ministry affected you?

You are in “denial” – you continue deeper even though others may argue against it.  Some people may say that you’re doing too much for God.  After all, look at the lifestyle of most believers.  “God will let you get away with a lot less commitment.”  Arguments like these don’t even faze you.  You want to touch as many people as you can for the Gospel.

You may like to think that you’re addicted – after all, it sounds good.  But the truth is unless you’ve come to the place I’ve just described, it’s only wishful thinking.  Hey, don’t get mad at me – this is what the American medical community says about it.

If you find that you’re not addicted and you want to be – my next post will be about the 5 steps to becoming addicted!

Question: How has an addiction to the ministry affected your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Arrogance – The Ministry Killer

How open are you to the constructive criticism of those who are further along than you?  It’s amazing how defensive we get when we find out what we’re doing isn’t the best.  Scripture shows that this has always been a part of human nature.

Did the word of God originate with you?  Or are you the only people it has reached?  If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.  If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.
1 Corinthians 14:36-38

Paul is concluding his exhortation concerning the gathering of the saints.  He has explained that the worship service is not a vehicle to show off how spiritual you are.  Instead, it should be a place of ministry and blessing for all who attend.

Having founded this church, Paul knew many of the personalities involved.  He also knew that some of them would resist his guidelines.  Because of this, he made some very strong remarks to get their attention.

God’s Word didn’t start with them.  As a matter of fact, the Apostle Paul was the first person to bring it to them.  He established their church.  Furthermore, they are one of many churches that were started by Paul’s ministry.

He then mentions two groups of people – those who think that they’re a prophet or highly spiritual.  He lets them know that if they really are sensitive to things of God, they’ll acknowledge that his letter is a Word from God.

That’s interesting.  We can look back on these events.  We don’t give it a second thought.  Of course, First Corinthians is the Word of God; it’s a part of Scripture.

But to them, it was something new.  Many of them looked at it as if it were simply another letter from Paul – the traveling evangelist.

They should have known by his lifestyle and the fruit of his ministry that what he said held a lot of weight.  He had pressed into the Holy Spirit more than any of them.  So they should have received this command accordingly.

I watch a reality show where a famous chef, making millions of dollars with his Michelin Star restaurants, tries to help struggling restaurant owners.  I’m blown away by some of their reactions.

Here’s someone who knows the restaurant business.  He knows what it takes to be successful.  Yet the owners resist his advice, telling him that he doesn’t understand their business.

I’ve seen this happen over and over in the ministry.  Young Christians, or even ministers, hear the advice of those who have already been through many spiritual battles.  Yet they resist the advice that could save their ministry, marriage, or church.

I’ve heard this so many times.  “You don’t know what I’m facing.”  “I understand what you’re saying, but I know what I’m doing.”

The unfortunate results are that they eventually crash and burn.  Their arrogance insulated them from the truth that could have protected them.  Take stock of the advice you’ve received.  Don’t put yourself in this dangerous situation.

Paul concludes with this summary.

Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.  But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
1 Corinthians 14:39-40

We should take this to heart.  Don’t resist the gifts of the Spirit.  Yet make sure that they’re only used to build up the body of Christ.

Question: What advice have you received that saved you from future problems?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Love Defined

In my last post, we saw that ministry without love, no matter how powerful, is not up to God’s standards.  Love must play a major role in all that we do.

But do we really understand what love is?  People have so many ideas.  Let’s see what God has to say.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Think about what this verse says – patient, kind, not rude, and not easily angered.  Are there any times during which we have a better chance of doing this – times when it feels more natural?

Of course, it’s when we’re around people that we like; when we’re with our friends.  I was first able to grasp this concept while reading the book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis.

Remember, this type of love carries with it no emotional attachment.  It’s purely based on decision and will.  True love cannot be based on emotion, it must be my choice.

I find that it’s easiest for me to treat people I like in this way.  Sometimes I choose to treat them correctly even if I don’t feel like it, simply because I like them.  This brings us to the definition of love that I first heard from C.S. Lewis.

The way of love is to treat people as if you like them – whether you do or not.  Also, I would add, whether you know them or not and whether you’re in their presence or not.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I Corinthians 13:7

This is the atmosphere that should surround a ministry of excellence.  When you’re ministering to people, all these aspects should be evident in your work.  Too often, we’re guilty of loving our ministry more than the people we’re called to perfect.  This verse tells us that we’re to always protect, trust in, hope for and persevere for THE PEOPLE.

The ministry is a good thing.  But it’s still a thing.  Things can never be more important than people.  Excellence will never develop in an atmosphere where you love what you’re doing to the extent that you don’t care for the people.

You’re not their Lord, Jesus is.  Your ministry is never more important than God’s plan for their individual lives.  If you’re walking in excellence, in the way of love, you’ll be able to balance the two.

Love for people must start with your family.  Too many Christians think that it’s noble to give up their family for “God’s work.”

I even heard a guest minister once prove how devoted he was to the ministry by saying that his children were not walking with the Lord.  It was a sacrifice he had to make for the ministry.  I never let him preach at our church again.  God has never accepted child sacrifice.  The Bible is clear that ministry begins at home.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

It’s clear from the life of Christ (and we probably don’t want to hear it) that the way of love sees everyone as our friends.  Jesus even laid down His life for those who were His sworn enemies.

If so, then He included the whole race of mankind into His list of “friends.”  We cannot use this verse for an excuse not to love.  Christ’s example stops us from doing this.

He laid down His life for the Pharisee and the Atheist, as well as the disciples.  When you walk in the love of Christ, you exhibit the same evidence of love that He did.

Question: What is the evidence of the love that can be seen in your life and ministry?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

<Note – This post was an excerpt from my book, Breaking Free from the Pack – How to Develop a Spirit of Excellence available on Amazon>

 

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