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The Resurrection – Our Great Hope

GravesI believe in the soon return of Jesus Christ. As I see what’s happening all around us, it looks like we should be working to bring in the end-time harvest of souls. I want to take a couple of posts to talk about what Paul wrote concerning the Second Coming in his first epistle to the Thessalonians.

First Thessalonians was written because Paul went there, evangelized that area, and then had to leave quickly. We learn in the Book of Acts that persecution broke out, and the people of that region threatened to kill Paul. The church sent him out of the city very quickly.

Because of this, he didn’t have time to really establish their church the way he usually did. When things started to calm down, he began to worry about them. He was afraid that they were not grounded well enough and that they were in danger of quickly falling away.

Paul sent his spiritual son, Timothy to check in with them and see how they were doing. When Timothy came back, his report was better than Paul could have hoped for.

The church was doing great. They were established in the Lord. They weathered the persecution and they were growing in grace and in the power of the Spirit. Paul then wrote this letter to thank God and encourage their church to continue on in the faith.

When Timothy got back to Paul, he also brought some questions that the church had asked during his visit. Paul sent the answer to these in his letter as well.

One of the questions they asked was this: When Christians die, does that mean they’re going to miss out on the Second Coming of Christ? That’s a good question. Another thing they asked was; when are all of these things going to happen? When is the END OF THE AGE going to take place?

The first question he answers is about those who die in the Lord, and whether or not they miss out on the coming of Christ.

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.
I Thessalonians 4:13

Please realize that the term ignorant was not being used in a bad sense. Paul means that he did not want them to be without knowledge. He did not want them to be lacking in their teaching on the Lord.

He also uses the term fall asleep. The early church used this to signify that someone was dead. They realized that when a believer dies, they don’t cease to exist but rather enter the presence of the Lord. Their body, however, looks like it’s sleeping.

They would say, “Brother John fell asleep” as a nice way of saying that he died. So in effect, Paul is giving them more godly information on those who die in Christ.

His first instruction to them is that they’re not to grieve as the world does. We are not to act as people who don’t have any hope. We have an eternal hope.

We know about the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day. Because of this knowledge, funerals don’t hold the same fear over us that the rest of the world has. We shouldn’t act like we’re never going to see the departed Christian again.

Yes, I realize that there’s a parting process. You’re not going to see that person for a long time – so there’s going to be that kind of grief. But don’t grieve as if you’ve lost them forever. Don’t mourn like somebody who has no hope.

Question: How should our future hope affect the believer’s view of death?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

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Good Friday Meditation

Cross SunsetToday is Good Friday. Around the world, Christians of all cultures are thinking about the death of Christ. That’s a good thing in that it gets people thinking about what Jesus did.

What I don’t understand, is why in some regions they go about in mourning. As if Jesus is still dead. He’s not. He’s alive and well and living on the inside of us.

When I watch a movie for the first time, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m in suspense when something bad happens to the hero. Sometimes they’ll do something I don’t understand.

When that happens, we usually wonder how the hero could possibly survive. But then as the movie progresses, we find out that everything he did was part of a plan to bring down the villain.

If I liked the movie, I may watch it again. But this time I know what’s going to happen. I’m not in suspense. I’m actually happy when I see the hero going into danger because I know how it’s going to turn out.

That’s my take on Good Friday. I’ve seen the movie before. What Jesus did on this day was a carefully planned, strategic attack on the enemy. He wasn’t taken by surprise.

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
John 10:17-18

This was the plan of the Lord all along. It’s actually Satan and his kingdom who should be mourning today. They were the ones who were hurt the most by what happened.

None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
1 Corinthians 2:8

Every time the enemy looks back and remembers this day a chill should run up his spine. It was his greatest mistake. He never saw it coming.

In that one move, Jesus Christ took down the entire kingdom of sin that was holding us captive. We are now free to serve God without fear or condemnation. All because of what happened this day.

So when I look back at the events of 2000 or so years ago, I’m not mourning. As a matter of fact, I have a sly smile. Because I know that even though it looked bad, three days later it all turned around. And that’s something to rejoice about!

So as you go through your day today – think about what Christ did for you on the cross. But just remember, it ends with the resurrection. And that’s better than any movie I’ve ever seen – or ever will.

Have a blessed Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday!

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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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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