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The Gift of Prayer

In my last post, I talked about how God watches over us in challenging times.  Paul continues this thought as we move forward in Second Corinthians.

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.  Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
2 Corinthians 1:10-11

Paul starts with a testimony and a faith statement.  He declares that God has delivered them and will continue to deliver them.  This is an important attitude that we all need to cultivate.

He goes on from there to explain why he has such faith.  He bases it on the fact that he knows who’s supporting him and his ministry.

“…as you help us by your prayers.”

Paul knew that his ministry was being upheld by the prayers of many believers throughout the area.   As he had ministered to them, they were now helping him.

This is something that’s left out of many Christians’ daily routines.  We need to be praying for others.  We need to know the ministers, missionaries, and ministries that we support.  Then, we need to be praying for them regularly.

This is something we learned when we studied the book of James – the first book of the New Testament to be given to the church.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
James 5:16

We need to be uplifting each other in prayer.  It’s not just a job for those who are called to be intercessors.  Every believer should have a list of people and ministries that they regularly bring before the Lord.

Paul’s final statement gives us the reason why this is so important.  He says that many will see God’s grace at work, and give thanks for His faithfulness.  That’s the result we’re looking for.

The power of God at work in our lives is an awesome testimony to those around us.  It gives them something to think about.  It empowers the saints and convicts the unbelievers.

I love the way this verse reads in the original Greek.  Paul says that because of the prayers of many, this gift was bestowed upon us.

Do you realize that when you pray for someone, you’re actually giving them a gift?  You might not be able to give money or a physical item to everyone.  But your prayers are more valuable than material possessions.

Please don’t get me wrong.  If the Lord prompts you to give an offering or a gift to some ministry, you need to do so.  But apart from that, we can have a lifestyle of blessing and supporting ministries every day of our lives.

If you don’t already have this habit in place, you need to make a list of all the people and ministries that God has placed before you.  Then, even if you only pray for one a day, start giving them the gift of prayer support.

By the way, while you’re at it, put my name on that list as well.  I thank God for all those who faithfully uplift me, my family, and my ministry in prayer.

Question: Who is on your prayer support list?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2020 in Ministry, Missions, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Spiritual Battles – The Price of Victory

In my last post, I talked about what it means to bring our petitions to God in prayer. It’s all about being moved in our spirits by the same passion that stirs the Lord.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Ephesians 6:18

We must be passionate as we live in this spiritual battle zone. We need to be passionate about our duty. This is what we’re called – under orders – to carry out.

In Scripture, we’re told what’s important to our Commander. God’s people should be petitioning for workers in the field, healing, deliverance, protection, baptism in the spirit, and for God’s will to be accomplished.

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs — he wants to please his commanding officer.
2 Timothy 2:3-4

It’s clear from Scripture that there are two different mentalities. You could think like a soldier or as a civilian. Which are you?

In my last post, I used the illustration of a company of soldiers who were ordered to take a hill. They’re making a passionate call for reinforcements, air support, and medical evacuation of the wounded so that they could fulfill their orders.

At the same time, back home, there are people safe in their houses watching TV. They don’t know or care that this company of soldiers is pinned down. They don’t know or care about the objective to take that hill. They don’t know or care if these soldiers succeed or die trying.

Maybe the next day they’ll hear a news report about soldiers who were killed in the line of duty and say, “That’s too bad.”

The key mentality of battle is that each soldier knows the importance of the objective. They know just how precious every foot of ground is. They also know what the cost of advancement is.

There are people in the body of Christ right now, who go to church on Sunday. They sing, clap, and hear a message that uplifts them. Then they go off happily to their homes. Or maybe they go off to work or play. They don’t know or care that there’s a lost soul about to enter eternity that needs to hear the message of the cross NOW.

“God, send reinforcements.”

They don’t care that the enemy has trapped someone in a prison of drug addiction.

“God, send air support. Break the stronghold so we can set them free.”

That’s what this word, petition means. Knowing the objective and passionately begging for the support from on high. Not because we need to beg, but because we know the cost of failure. We know how precious a soul is to the Lord.

We know the price of victory. We have a warrior’s mentality.

Question: How do you fulfill the call to bring petitions to the Lord on behalf of others?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Spiritual Battle – Passionate Petitions

I’m posting about the spiritual battle that we face in our generation. In my last article, I talked about the need to be diligent and press in past our comfort zone.

The New Testament speaks a lot about prayer. That’s what we really need to be strong toward. That’s what the enemy would like to stop. That’s where our victory comes from.

In talking about Moses, the writer of Hebrews said…

By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.
Hebrews 11:27

This is an important verse for us to understand in our times. Moses SAW Him who is INVISIBLE. It sounds like an oxymoron. Of course, many things in the spirit don’t make sense in the natural.

The fact of the matter is that Moses pressed in. It wasn’t easy to get the children of Israel out of Egypt. He kept running into unseen hurdles along the way.

In Moses’ original encounter with God, he was basically told to “Just do this. Go to Egypt and bring My people out.” It sounded simple enough at the time.

In order to accomplish his calling, Moses had to keep going back to the presence of the Lord. He stayed strong because, through prayer, he saw the end.

That brings us back to our original verse in Ephesians.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Ephesians 6:18

The phrase, keep on praying literally means through all diligence and petition in the Greek language. I had a problem with this – reconciling petition and life in the battle zone. I understood the need to be alert and diligent, but how did petitioning fit into all this.

It turns out that my lack of understanding had to do with being raised in the church. From what I learned, a petition was a list of needs presented to God.

“O God – bless my work, heal Joe, provide the money for this bill, etc.”

That’s what I thought it meant to bring my petitions before God. Because of that, I couldn’t understand it as a part of warfare.

The Greek word in that verse is deesis. It means begging. Literally, it’s what a beggar would do. Over time the church had turned it into a “holy” word. Actually, the root of this word is want, lack, need, desire, ask, or beg.

I began to pray and seek God’s wisdom as to what this means for us. I found that this word came from a root even further back. The root meant to bind, either by chains or duty. It spoke of someone who was duty-bound.

That’s when it clicked. When a military person receives orders, they are bound by their duty to perform it or die trying.

Here is a company of men who are told to take that hill. They’re pinned down by the enemy fire. But they have a duty to perform. What do they do?

Do they send off a list of things they need? NO! They get on their radio with a passionate call for air support. Their communication is specific, passionate, and urgent. As they make this call, they’re ready to move immediately when it arrives.

Now I know the Scriptural truth. A petition is more about our passion than the list of wants. This requires us to have the same heart as our Commander and Chief. It requires us to press in by the Holy Spirit.

Question: What are you passionate about in the Kingdom of God?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Spiritual Battle – Pressing In

Do you know where you are in the history of the church?  This question isn’t about a place, but time.

I’m posting about the spiritual battle that’s going on around us.  It’s vital that we know the times we live in.

And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
Romans 13:11

We need to know where we are on God’s timetable. I don’t like saying it, but the truth is that past generations of believers could “sleep” through their Christian walk. Not us. We live in dangerous times.

The Apostle Paul continues talking about this.

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Romans 13:12-14

In this generation, we need to lay aside the things that are a part of the darkness. In their place, we must put on the armor of God.

We must live carefully and clothe ourselves with Christ. And as I focused on in my last post, we need to watch and pray. That’s how we keep alert spiritually.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Ephesians 6:18

This verse literally says that we must keep watch with all persistency. That word persistency means to be strong toward, to be diligent. We must be diligent in the battle zone.

When we say that we need to be strong toward something, it speaks about a goal, a direction. We sometimes use the term “press in.”

In battle, there are places that are hard to get to. There are houses you can’t enter until you bind the strong man. It isn’t easy to press into the miraculous. If it was – everyone, every church would have it.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
Acts 2:42-43

Was it any easier back then, in the early church? Did those believers have all the time in the world to do all these things? I don’t think they were any different from us. It was as hard for them as it is for this generation.

If we want God’s best, it takes diligence. It will cause us to leave our comfort zone. But the spiritual rewards will be worth it.

Question: What do you find to be the most difficult about pressing into God’s presence?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Yeast Principle

I’m continuing my study through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  Chapter 5 is very controversial in some circles.  How do you deal with carnal Christians?  It’s an issue that every church leader has to face.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, the key attitude is a desire for restoration in the lives of these individuals.  Unfortunately, in our generation, many leaders simply ignore the issue, hoping that it will resolve itself.  Human nature should warn us that this rarely happens.

In my last two posts, we saw that Paul called for a spiritual separation to take place.  First, lifting up this person before God in prayer.  Then, if no repentance was forthcoming, surrendering the offender over to the enemy’s kingdom, for discipline.

Why did Paul find it so important to deal with unrepentant sin in the body of believers?  Why not ignore what people do in their private lives?  The problem is that we’re not just members of an organization, but parts of a body that need to function together.

Your boasting is not good.  Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast — as you really are.  For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
1 Corinthians 5:6-7

To explain this, Paul uses the illustration of the Passover celebration.  During that feast, the Jewish people must remove all yeast from their homes.  Any bread baked during that time must be unleavened.

Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, bore our sin to the cross.  In that sense, the final Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.  We are now in a continual celebration of that feast.

What the apostle is telling us is that sin is like yeast.  It needs to be handled in the same way.

I love bread.  I love baking bread.  There’s nothing like the smell of a fresh loaf when it’s in the oven.

I can tell you about yeast.  Once you add it to the dough, there’s no going back.  It’s not like picking carrots out of your soup because you don’t like them.

In God’s kingdom, He wants us to deal with the sin before it infects the whole body.  As we’ve seen, this involves a work that can only be done in the spirit.

We’re not talking about kicking a member out of the organization.  But, in the spirit, taking authority over the sin.

Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
1 Corinthians 5:8

Paul is clear that the person is not the yeast.  It’s the sin that infects the church that needs to be dealt with.

I’ve heard the saying that, “we need to hate the sin, but love the sinner.”  That’s a Scriptural attitude, but it very hard to implement.  All too often we end up hating the sinner and ignoring the sin.

I apologize beforehand for my sarcasm, but the following two statements are how some people act.

“It was easy under the Old Covenant.  Kill the sinner and the sin is removed.”

Fortunately, we’re under grace now.  We’ve been given spiritual weapons with which we can deal with the sin without harming the person bound by the sin.  We’re commissioned to “set the captives free.”

It’s time for mature believers to take a stand in the spirit.  Through prayer and intercession, we can start the process of cleansing the bride of Christ.

Question: How does not dealing with sin allow it to spread through the church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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Discipline or Restoration

We’re continuing our look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  I have to warn you!  As we start chapter 5, Paul gets very practical about subjects many believers would rather not talk about.  These were real issues that the churches of his day were dealing with.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife.  And you are proud!  Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?
1 Corinthians 5:1-2

This verse creates a lot of problems for church leadership.  How are we to apply it in our generation?

When it was written, there were no denominations.  There was only one church in the town of Corinth.  People didn’t pick and choose churches based upon personal preference.

Today, in our sexually permissive society, there are believers who are following the ways of the world.  Sexual activity outside of marriage is common.  In many cases, if a Christian was approached by an elder in Christ who lovingly explains the error of such a lifestyle, they would be offended.

“How dare you condemn me?  What I do is none of your business.  I’m going to find a church that will accept me the way I want to live.”

That thought scares a lot of Christian leaders.  They don’t want to lose any of their members.  But there is a response that brings about God’s will.

First, we need to understand that the word proud is the same word translated as arrogance in chapter 4.  The leaders in this church were confident in their own ways.  They were blind to anything else going on around them.

According to Paul, there should have been a spiritual response.  We get the wrong idea because of the English words used to translate this verse.  “Put out of your fellowship” is actually “lift away”.  So the keywords of our response are to mourn and lift away.

This type of mourning is a sorrow that inspires action.  The action is to lift away the one living a life that’s inappropriate for a Christian.  This word lift is used in a number of ways.  I believe in this instance it means lifting up to God.

The apostles were commanded by the Jewish rulers not to heal or preach in the name of Jesus.

When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.  “Sovereign Lord” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.”
Acts 4:24

Too many leaders think that the response to sin in the life of believers is a knee jerk reaction to throw them out of the church.  Instead, it should be mourning and a desire to see God’s power at work to restore this person.

If I burn my finger by touching something hot, my reaction is to pull it away from danger.  I put it to my mouth or under cold water.  My response is not to cut it off because it touched something it shouldn’t have.  My goal is that it be healed and restored to its normal function.

When we lift the offending person to God, we pray for their restoration.  We also pray for wisdom in dealing with them.  It’s very likely that the Holy Spirit will send one of us to talk to them.

However, the goal of the talk is restoration, not discipline.  We’re not going to spank them, but to heal them.  Attitude is everything.  Of course, even done in love, not all help is accepted – especially in regards to sin.

I believe that the body of Christ needs to relearn how to handle sinful lifestyles.  Not ignoring, yet not condemning.  That combination requires leaders who spend quality time in the presence of the Lord.

Question: How have you seen problems like this handled in the church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2019 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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To Be Continued…

In my last post, we saw how Paul encouraged the Thessalonian church to remember the way the Gospel was passed down to them.  He now wants them to think about others in need of the truth of Christ.

Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.
2 Thessalonians 3:1

The apostle asks the church to pray for a couple of things.  The first is that the Word of Christ may advance quickly.  He not only wants it to run forward, but to be honored by those who hear it.

That should be our prayer as well.  It’s wonderful that I heard and honored the Word.  I’m saved because of it.  But for me, it shouldn’t end there.  Others need to hear that same life-changing Word.

Paul goes on with his request.

And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.  But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.  We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command.  May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
2 Thessalonians 3:2-5

These two prayers must go hand in hand.  The spreading of the Gospel message, and the protection of those who are bringing it.

Whenever the Word of Christ is preached, there are always two responses.  Some will have faith to believe it.  But there may also be those who oppose it – sometimes violently.

Of course, in our generation, there are those who have gone in a different direction.  There are some who have watered down the message so there will be little chance of persecution.

In Paul’s mind, the number one goal was the spreading and advancement of the Gospel.  Then he would trust God for his personal safety.

In our society it’s different.  Many have set their first goal as the advancement of their own comfort, entertainment, and wealth.  Then, if they have any free time, they can do something for Christ – as long as it doesn’t negatively affect their status in the world.

We need to change our thinking.  We must get back to the original message of the Gospel.  We don’t go out of our way to offend others, but the truth of God’s Word must be our priority.

Then, we’ll find out the truth of Paul’s prayer request.  We pray that the Word of Christ will spread and increase.  We pray that many will accept it.  And we pray that those who deliver it will have God’s divine protection.

Question: Do you see any differences between the way the Gospel spread in the early church and how it spreads in our present experience?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2018 in Ministry, Prayer, Revival, The Gospel

 

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