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The Final Exam

As we continue to go through our study of First Corinthians, Paul is explaining to the church about the importance of God’s calling.  The Lord’s work is different in each of us.  He deals with us all as individuals.

Our rewards are based upon what we’ve done.  My work isn’t compared to yours.  It’s judged against what God’s plan for my life required.

God desires to continually bring about changes in us to get us to where we need to be.  As I submit to these changes, I fulfill more of my calling.

But what happens if I don’t allow God to continue with His plan to renew my life?  Paul gives us some insight into the question.  In the letter to the Corinthian church, Paul is addressing a group of mostly baby Christians.  According to the Apostle, they’re not babies because they lack experience, but because they chose not to grow up.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it.  But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15

When we were initially saved we were placed onto the foundation of Christ.  It’s afterward that the building program begins.  We have the choice to build for ourselves – wood, hay, and straw.

Think about it in the natural.  All over the world wood, hay, and straw are normal building materials.  They’re used because they’re readily available and easy to build with.

It’s a lot more difficult to build with gold, silver or costly stones.  They speak of what’s built by the spirit.  If we submit to the will of God for our lives, then we’ll see a beautiful structure arise.  Not only that, but it will be beyond our expectations for what we could have ever accomplished on our own.

The good news is that we’re told how it will all turn out.  We’re not in the dark.  We know what we’ll be judged on.  The test is fire.

You can build some elaborate and beautiful houses with wood, hay, and straw.  I’ve seen some grandiose mansions around the country.  Here’s the problem, they’re not going to be judged on how high they were built or how ornate they are.  They’re going to be doused with gasoline and lit up.

Think about what’s important to you right now.  The test is not how high you climbed up the corporate ladder.  It’s not how much money you accumulated.  It’s not even about how many good deeds you did or how many friends you have on Facebook.

The judgment will be based upon how close you stuck to the plan of God for your life.  Did you allow the Holy Spirit to work His changes in you?  The final exam is how close your life came to God’s will for you.

That’s what will matter the most to you in the end.

Question: How high on your priority list is knowing and accomplishing God’s will for your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on January 23, 2019 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Asking in God’s Will

As we continue to look at the Gospel of Mark, opposition to the ministry of Jesus is growing.  There are many who are trying to take His life.  But in spite of this, the Lord continues His mission.

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.  Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.  “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law.  They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.  Three days later he will rise.”
Mark 10:32-34

The disciples still didn’t understand that the Lord was talking literally at this point.  But they did know that “rising” was a good thing.  They probably thought it meant that He was going to rise, as the King, to the throne of Israel.

This gave a few of them the incentive to move forward.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him.  “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
Mark 10:35-37

That’s an interesting thing to ask.  Even the way they asked it was specifically the way they were taught.

Jesus told them that He would do whatever they asked in prayer (John 14:13-14).  So now they were asking.

But that brings up an important point.  Some people think that just because they can quote a Bible verse in their prayer, it automatically qualifies them to receive whatever they ask God for.  But is that what the Word teaches?

Look at the Lord’s answer to them.

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said.  “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant.  These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
Mark 10:38-40

The first problem was that they really didn’t understand what they were asking.  Of course, that’s why we need to pray in the spirit.  There are many areas that we don’t understand the scope of our need.

But even more than that, they had yet to understand God’s will for their lives.  Before I can pray effectively, I need to know God’s plan intimately.

The more time I spend in the Lord’s presence, the more I understand His will for my life.  Then, as I pray with this understanding, I see a greater amount of answered prayer.  John, himself, understood this later on in his ministry.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
1 John 5:14

John learned the lesson.  Prayer according to His will is answered positively.  Let the understanding of God’s will be your goal in His presence.

Question: What part of God’s plan have you understood recently?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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No Pain, No Gain

JogI’ve been posting about the uses of Scripture as listed in 2 Timothy 3:16. Today I’m going to talk about training in righteousness.

This word training means to mentor or to train up like a child from infancy to adulthood. The Bible is written for all. It doesn’t matter where you are in your spiritual walk.

If you’re a baby Christian, who was just saved, it can be your milk bottle. If you’re mature in the Lord, it has the meat of the deep truths of God. It can satisfy any hunger.

But what exactly does it train us in? Paul is very specific – training in righteousness.

In Scripture, you’ll find that righteousness is the whole package of what Christ has paid for on the cross. Throughout the Word righteousness is associated with: Rewards, victory in battle, prosperity, salvation, honor, life, and healing. Scripture truly is the owner’s manual for our walk with the Lord.

When Paul speaks about training in righteousness, he’s talking about the whole plan of God for your life. The job of Scripture is to take you from wherever the Lord found you when you were saved to the heights of His perfect plan for your life.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11

The word discipline in this verse is the same Greek word as training in Second Timothy. The writer of Hebrews tells us that there is pain associated with this kind of training. Why is that?

The answer is simple. This training is what causes us to grow from infancy to maturity. Growth means change, and change hurts. Think about it – when I was an infant I could throw my toys all over the floor and my parents would joyfully pick everything up.

Then, there came a day when I was told, “It’s time to pick up your toys and put them away.” There must have been a look of pain and distress on my face when I had to clean my room.

Then, there came a day when I couldn’t just do as I pleased all day long. My parents came to me and informed me that I would be starting school next week. Suddenly there was a place I had to be every day. At school, they made me read, learn, and take tests whether I wanted to or not. It was painful to me.

As a matter of fact, almost every new responsibility throughout our lives causes some degree of discomfort. That’s what this Scripture is talking about. As we’re brought to maturity there are going to be painful changes.

There are things we used to do, that we’re no longer able to do. There are also things we’ve never done that we’re now responsible for. Through it all we must let the Scripture do its work, so that we can be mature and complete – not lacking anything that the Lord has provided for us.

Question: What did you find painful in this maturing process?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2016 in Scripture Series, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Seeing Like a Disciple

GlassesAs I post about what it means to be a disciple of Christ, there’s one more thing I want to mention. It just may be the hardest to accomplish.

We were looking at Andrew as he brought his brother, Simon, to Jesus.

And he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).
John 1:42

One of the biggest misunderstandings in the Bible is when we refer to Simon as Peter. Let’s look at the whole picture.

Andrew comes to his brother and says, “You’ve got to meet the Messiah.” Simon then agrees and goes to see Jesus.

The first thing that happens, according to Scripture, is that Jesus looks into him. This phrase is used only a few times in Scripture. Like with the rich young man who asked Jesus how he could inherit eternal life. The Bible literally says that Jesus looked into him and loved him.

This is a look of discernment that sees beyond the external. The Lord saw who Simon could become. That should be how we view people.

“But that’s Jesus; I can’t see into people’s lives.”

Remember the definition – a disciple wants to become what their teacher is. Disciples of Christ should look beyond the outward appearance of those around them.

Let’s talk about Simon. Jesus looked into him and said, “You are Simon (which means obedient listener) the son of John (which means God’s grace).” He then went on to say, “You will be called Cephas.”

The only Greek word to translate Cephas was Petros – which is Peter to us. I believe that’s why the Holy Spirit recorded it here for us. So that we would know what Jesus was really saying about him. Cephas is a very specific Aramaic word. It’s only used two times in the Old Testament.

It literally means a hollow rock. In both places in the Old Testament it was used for a place people ran to for hiding. It was a place of refuge.

It turned out that Peter was a rock that the disciples could hide in. When he was around, no one else needed to talk. He answered all the questions, right or wrong.

When he came to the Lord, Jesus looked and saw beyond the rough exterior of a fisherman. He looked into the plan of God for his life.

“You are a place of refuge – a hollow rock.”

This is the greatest anointing you can use to win the lost. We need to look at people through the eyes of Christ. To see them as what they can become in Christ. Sometimes that means that we see what could be called a flaw now; but how Christ could use it for His glory in the future.

God is great at turning defects into His glory. He can turn a big mouth into evangelist. He can change a worrier to prayer warrior. In my experience, the easiest person to befriend was the one no one else liked in the group or the office.

Be open to the Spirit. Be courageous. Tell what you found in Christ. Lead people to Jesus. And look beyond the outward.

Be an Andrew for the glory of the Lord.

Question: What was a flaw in your life that God turned around and used for His glory?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2016 in Faith, Ministry, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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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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Let it Burn – By Guest Blogger Heath Midkiff

FireLast Thursday morning, I found myself sitting in a chapel at Word of Life Inn, Schroon Lake, NY.  I was at a regional student convention, helping as a judge for various student competitions going on.  We had a morning devotional and it was Pastor Dave Sangster speaking on the topic of “Let It Burn.”

Pastor Dave was phenomenal and the message was impactful.  It made me start to think.  I wanted to apply the changes to my life and I hope it has the same effect on you.  I will be paraphrasing his devotional and adding some of my own thoughts.  I hope you enjoy!

Reading in 1 Kings 19, we see Elijah being told by God to go and anoint Elisha to succeed him as prophet. Elisha was an ordinary man and Elijah found him out plowing his fields with oxen.

Understand, that before Elijah called Elisha to follow him and succeed him as prophet, these oxen and the lands he was plowing were all Elisha owned and how he supported himself.

Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. ‘Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,’ he said, ‘and then I will come with you.’… So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.
1 Kings 19:19-21

In this passage we see what Elisha did that solidified his commitment to working in the ministry.  He took all he had, and all he had ever known – working his fields with his oxen and equipment – and destroyed it all. He killed his oxen, and burned his equipment to cook the meat on.

Some people might call this a bit extreme; Elisha couldn’t turn back now even if he wanted to.  This is the point I want to make and why this blog is titled “Let It Burn”.  God wants the same level of commitment that Elisha showed to be evident in us.

When we feel the call on our lives from God, and we find what our ministry is, he wants to burn up whatever our plan was for our life.  It doesn’t matter how far we have moved up or how much we have achieved.

Another godly example is the author of this blog, Pastor Nick Zaccardi. He was in a great position with a great company making a good amount of money.  However, when God called him out of it and placed him in a ministry in a different state, he left without hesitation and “let burn” the taste of success he already had achieved.

Be encouraged today to spend time with God, and find out what plans He has in store for you.  And when those plans are revealed, be prepared to give up everything you know now to walk in His perfect will.

Question: How much are you willing to “let burn” for God’s calling upon your life?

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Encouragement, Guest Bloggers

 

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