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The Purpose of Prophecy

In talking about the Gifts of the Spirit, I’ve said that each gift has its own unique purpose.  Prophecy is no exception.  Paul explains this to the Corinthian Church.

But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
1 Corinthians 14:3

The first thing that we see is that prophecy is for the benefit of others.  The person operating in this gift is speaking to people.  The church needs to hear a Word from God.  This Word provides three important benefits to the hearers.

Strengthening.  This is a very interesting concept.  The Greek word actually used is a compound word.  It literally means house-building.

It’s not just about the construction.  The word picture is of a house being completed.  The Holy Spirit is in the process of constructing a new, abundant life for you.

In order for the work to be completed according to the Lord’s specifications, we need to hear a Word from Heaven.  I believe this is applicable to us whether you’re talking about our lives personally or collectively as the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Prophecy is a big part of the building process.  It’s too bad that many think these gifts are unneeded in the modern church.

Encouragement.  This is from a Greek word that means to call alongside.  I think the best way to explain it is to think about the job of a coach.  An athlete’s coach comes alongside them and calls out instructions for the player to carry out.

In this way, the athlete can function at the best of his or her ability.  The coach can usually see things that the players miss.  That’s because the coach operates on the “big picture”.  The athlete, on the other hand, sometimes is focused only on their particular role.

The Holy Spirit wants to be our Life-Coach.  We need to hear prophecy to give us the course correction needed to bring out the best in us.  Don’t minimize the importance of this in your life.

Comfort.  This is one of those words that are jam-packed with meaning in the Scripture.  The Greek word, itself, is about a talk that’s designed to change your attitude.  There are a few specific changes that are included in this.

One of these changes is in persuading you when you’re unsure.  You might think that God is leading you in a certain direction, but there’s uncertainty.  A word of prophecy can confirm it to you one way or the other.

Another case is when you need to be aroused or stimulated.  We sometimes get apathetic about the things of God.  A prophetic word can stir us back into action.  We need it to stay focused on our calling in the Lord.

Finally, it can work on us when we’re allowing anxiety and doubt to cloud our thinking.  A prophecy can break though our wrong thinking and set us back on the solid footing of God’s Word.  When the fog of doubt lifts, fear and anxiety will have no place in our mind.

As you can see by these effects, the Word of Prophecy should be an important part of any church.  When we come together as believers, this gift can uplift us to a new level of walk before God.

I don’t believe that the true use of this gift has to sound weird or spooky.  It’s simply being used by the Holy Spirit to speak a needed message into the lives of those around us.  Spend time in the Lord’s presence, making yourself available to be used in this valuable gift.  He may just give you a word that someone desperately needs to hear.

Question: How has a word of prophecy strengthened your walk with God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Power of Love

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s view of the spiritual gifts.  He’s explaining them to the church in Corinth.  The apostle was trying to straighten out some of their foolishness.

For the last few posts, we saw that the Gifts of the Spirit are useless without walking in love.  That’s the most important ingredient in any ministry.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
1 Corinthians 13:13-14:1

We’re told here, that of the three most important concepts in Scripture – faith, hope, and love – the greatest is love.  Paul then tells us to pursue love.  In order to do that effectively, we need to walk in the spiritual gifts.

It literally says to be passionate about the things of the spirit.  We should especially desire to show love by speaking a Word on behalf of God.  That’s what prophecy is.  God is love and if you speak His Word, then love will be evident.

In order to understand First Corinthians, chapter 14, we need to keep it in its context.  Paul is writing to a church where everyone’s doing their own thing.  All they care about is their own wants and desires.  Love for others doesn’t enter into their thoughts.

He wants them to use their gifts to bless others.  That’s the context of his next statement.

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.  Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
1 Corinthians 14:2-3

There are those who look at these verses, and the ones that follow, and conclude that the gift of tongues is bad and prophecy is good.  That’s not what Paul is trying to get across to this church.  That’s why I talked about the context.

The apostle wants us to see that in the church setting, love needs to be the major component.  Prayer in tongues has a definite purpose.  I use it to build myself up.  That’s a good thing, but it doesn’t directly show love to others.

So if I come to church and all I do is pray in the spirit, then I’m not loving others.  Instead, I’m being self-centric.

In the church, there needs to be an evident communication of God’s love.  Prophecy is a great gift for showing God’s love.  God’s Word can be a powerful encouragement to those around us.

In the church, I have a choice.  I can major on making sure that I’m blessed.  That’s what the Corinthian Christians were doing and Paul wasn’t happy with them.

My other option is to go to church with a desire to bless others.  Through the gift of prophecy, I can speak a word of strength, encouragement, and comfort.  I believe that’s what “being the church” is all about.

And in reality, I’ve found that when I want to bless others, God finds a way to bless me in the process.  There’s a mutual encouragement in the body of Christ.

Be passionate about spiritual gifts.  And seek to show the love of God in all that you do.

Question: How were you positively affected by someone operating in their spiritual gift?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2019 in Fellowship, Ministry, The Church

 

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Love and the Gifts

We’re continuing our study of love in First Corinthians, chapter 13.  Paul is now going to compare its lasting effects to that of some spiritual gifts.

Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
1 Corinthians 13:8

This is a verse that has sparked a lot of debate over the years.  There are those who point to it and say that the Gifts of the Spirit had an expiration date.  They conclude that these gifts ceased to operate after the original 12 apostles died.

I don’t think that’s what Paul is trying to say.  He’s teaching us a more excellent way of walking in the gifts.  Love is a factor that brings greater results.

He starts by saying that love never fails.  This means that the effects of love are enduring.  An act of love will continue to touch someone’s life long after the event has passed.  With that in mind, look at some of the other gifts.

Paul says that prophecies will cease.  That word, cease, means to be rendered useless or idle.  It does NOT mean that people will stop prophesying.

The prophecies themselves are only temporary.  Once they’ve been fulfilled, they have no more purpose.  That’s because a prophecy will always point to something.  And once the focus of the prophecy arrives, we begin a new chapter.

He goes on to say that tongues will be stilled.  Again, this verse does NOT say that the gift of tongues will no longer be available.  The word, stilled, means to be paused or restrained.

This tells me that the gift of tongues will be paused or put on hold.  It also means that those who operate in this gift would be physically or legalistically retrained from using it.  A look at church history will prove the truth of this interpretation.

Finally, the apostle says that knowledge will pass away.  It’s actually the same Greek word he used when he said that prophecies would cease.  It simply means that the usefulness of the knowledge given will come to an end.

Why is Paul telling us all this?  Because he wants to take our supernatural gifts to a higher level.

The Gifts of the Spirit, all by themselves, are only temporary events.  People won’t remember that I gave a prophecy on a certain date in the past.  But they will remember if the prophecy was used to show love to them.

Prophecy, tongues, and word of knowledge – they all give temporary benefits.  But if they’re used to show love to others in a tangible way, they have a lasting effect.

The Corinthian church was boasting in their ability to “flow in the anointing.”  They had all the gifts evident in their meetings.  Unfortunately, it was all for show – “Look what I can do!”

They left out the most important ingredient – love for one another.  There were factions and divisions.  The poor within their congregation was being publically shamed.  Love was noticeably absent.

We need to learn their lesson.  Having a move of God with the Gifts of the Spirit is an awesome thing.  But we can’t leave out love for our brothers and sisters.

It’s not an either/or proposition.  We need both the Gifts of the Spirit and love if we’re going to minister as Christ did.

Question: How have you experienced the Gifts of the Spirit operated in love?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Voice of the Spirit

As we continue through Mark’s Gospel, it’s now the day of the Last Supper.  The disciples have no idea what’s about to take place during this feast.  All they know is that the Passover needs to be celebrated.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you.  Follow him.  Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’  He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready.  Make preparations for us there.”
Mark 14:12-15

To understand the importance of this passage, you must first understand the relationship between Christ and His disciples.  At that time, the role of Jesus to His disciples was the same as the Holy Spirit is to us today.

Remember that Jesus told His followers that He would send another Counsellor to lead and guide them.  The Holy Spirit wants to lead us in the same way that the Lord led His disciples.  That’s why it’s so important for us to develop sensitivity to the voice of the Spirit.

It’s sad that so many Christians think that God no longer works in this way.  I personally believe that the Holy Spirit still desires to operate through the church.  It’s the manifestation of the Gifts of the Spirit that will draw unbelievers to a saving knowledge of Christ.

In this instance, Jesus is functioning in the gifts of Prophecy and the Word of Knowledge.  Notice how specific His instructions are.  I believe that the Holy Spirit will be just that detailed with us if we’ll place ourselves in a position to hear Him.

What was the response of the disciples to this astounding instruction?

The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them.  So they prepared the Passover.
Mark 14:16

This simple statement shows the trust that had developed between Christ and His followers.  There was no question or hesitation.  They just went and did exactly as they were told.

So often we find two different extremes in the body of Christ these days.  The first is that some Christians come up with elaborate stories of what the Holy Spirit “told” them.  Then, a few days later the “spirit” tells them something that sounds just the opposite.

On the other hand, I’ve heard people who feel impressed to do or say something.  They don’t follow through on it.  Then, when it’s too late, they realize that they’d heard from the Holy Spirit and missed the opportunity for a blessing.  (I’ve been guilty of this more than once.)

We need to spend quality time in the spirit.  That’s where trust and sensitivity are developed.  I believe that’s why the disciples had an easier time hearing from the Spirit once Christ had ascended.  They simply transferred their focus to the voice of the Spirit.

Spend the time necessary to learn to hear and obey the Spirit.  I believe that’s where the Lord is leading His church in this generation.  It’s through hearing and obeying that we’ll see the end-time harvest of souls before the return of Christ.

Question: What can you do to develop a listening ear in the spirit?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2018 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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False Christs

In my last post, we started looking at Jesus’ warning about the fall of Jerusalem.  The disciples knew what was coming and could prepare accordingly.  But there was one more aspect of this that they needed to know.

“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.  For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect — if that were possible.  So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.”
Mark 13:21-23

The Lord also warned His disciples about false Messiahs.  During times of great crisis, there are always those who want to rise to power.  They convince the masses that they have the solution to all the problems.  I find it amazing that the real Author of peace and life was rejected, while society will accept anyone else who promotes himself as the hero of the day.

Jesus reminds the disciples that no matter how wonderful this messiah sounds, they will not live to see the return of Christ, so there’s no question that this person is false.  Their signs and miracles would be so convincing that the apostles themselves would be fooled – if Jesus had not told them ahead of time that they would not see His return.

What many Christians never hear is that this second fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy has already occurred.  Even though the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the Jews still regarded this site as holy.  Around 132 AD the Roman emperor Hadrian decided that Judea needed to be Romanized.  He put many policies into effect that were intolerable to the Jews.

He made it illegal for Jews to enter Jerusalem except for one day a year.  He banned the rite of circumcision.  He made it a crime to practice or teach the Jewish religion.  The most detestable change of all, however, was that he established a pagan temple to the god Jupiter on the former Temple site.

At this point in history, two men came onto the scene in Israel.  One was named Akiba Ben Joseph and the other was Simon Bar Kokba.  Bar Kokba was a Jewish leader who incited the people into violent rebellion against these hateful policies of Rome.  Today, he would be labeled a terrorist.

Akiba Ben Joseph was a rabbi who was imprisoned for teaching and practicing the Jewish religion.  When he saw what Bar Kokba was doing, he proclaimed this leader as the long-awaited messiah, giving him the title “son of the star”.

Akiba taught that Bar Kokba was sent by God to restore Israel and to reign in righteousness over the entire world.  With Akiba’s support, Bar Kokba was able to raise a huge army of Jews who were willing to fight the Romans.

The Romans in Caesarea eventually killed Akiba.  Bar Kokba then attacked the Romans.  He defeated them and captured Jerusalem and over 50 towns and villages.  When the emperor Hadrian sent an army to stop this rebellion, Bar Kokba defeated them as well.  Things were looking good for Israel.  Unfortunately, trying to be a messiah without the power of God can prove fatal.

In 135 AD Hadrian was at the end of his patience.  He sent his best general, Julius Severus.  It was a long campaign, but eventually, the Jewish army was annihilated at the town of Bethar, near Jerusalem, in August of that same year.  It’s interesting to see the result of this false messiah in the light of what Jesus said would happen.

The Temple had been destroyed in 70 AD, 65 years earlier, but the city of Jerusalem was still intact.  But, when Hadrian polluted the Temple grounds (the abomination that causes desolation), a false messiah rose up to deceive many and bring about the final destruction of Jerusalem.

On the day of Bar Kokba’s defeat, over 500,000 Jews were killed.  Thousands of Jewish women and children were sold into slavery.  Others were forced to leave Israel and settle throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa.

This was the final dispersal of the Jews spoken of by Christ when He said that they would be taken as prisoners to all nations.  It turned out just like Jesus said.  From that point on, the Gentiles held Jerusalem for almost 2,000 years.

It’s important for us to see, as believers, that this part of Jesus’ teaching has already been fulfilled.  The prophecy of the book of Daniel ended up pointing to two different events.  Some say it will happen again.

They teach that the Jews will rebuild the Temple, and in the last days, we will see this take place.  Those who teach this are only speculating.  There’s nothing in Scripture that directly supports this.  Only time will tell how it will all turn out.

What we shouldn’t do is get caught up debating what the end-times will look like.  The important thing is to be preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.  We need to be working to bring in the end-time harvest, knowing that the Lord’s return is imminent.

Question: How are you preparing to reach the lost in these Last Days?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2018 in Return of Christ, Revival

 

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The Warning

We’ve been in the Gospel of Mark, looking at Jesus teaching His disciples about the end-times.  Having warned them of what they were about to face, the Lord now answers their original question that started it all.

He tells them the signs that signal the approach of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.  Because we live on this side of the historical event, it’s easier to look back and interpret the Lord’s words.

“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong — let the reader understand — then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
Mark 13:14

Jesus quotes the book of Daniel.  He makes mention of the abomination that causes desolation.  Literally, it reads the detestable thing that causes destruction.  Then Mark himself adds his admonition to the reader of this gospel to “use your mind, think and consider” what Jesus has said.

I know a lot of Bible teachers who say that this is a future event and have a variety of teachings and beliefs on this subject.  I ask you to please read the Scripture without preconceived ideas about what’s being said.  Put yourself in the place of the disciples who are hearing this for the first time.

The reaction of the disciples must have been one of surprise.  Every God-fearing Jew knew that the quote Jesus gave them from the book of Daniel had ALREADY BEEN FULFILLED.

Around 170 BC there was a Syrian ruler named Antiochus IV.  He was so full of himself that he gave himself the title “Epiphanes,” which means “the manifest god”.  As many emperors did, he forced those around him to worship him.

Antiochus Epiphanes led his army to successfully conquer Israel.  On December 15, 168 BC, he set up the image of Zeus on an altar in the Temple of Jerusalem.  Ten days later, he dedicated it by sacrificing a pig in the Temple.

Heathen altars were then erected throughout Israel, their celebrations being compulsory.  Any Jew would receive the death penalty if found in possession of the Torah.  Observing the Sabbath and circumcision were forbidden.  Because of their faithfulness to the Law of God, many Jews were killed in those days.

As the disciples heard Jesus speak about Daniel’s prophecy, they must have also thought about the reign of Antiochus.  Now they’re hearing from the Lord that it will be fulfilled again.  This was a new concept for them to grasp – the fact that a prophetic Scripture could have two fulfillments.

“Let no one on the roof of his house go down or enter the house to take anything out.  Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.  How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!  Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now — and never to be equaled again.  If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive.  But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.”
Mark 13:15-20

This sounds all too familiar to the disciples.  Throughout history, the Jews had been conquered again and again.  Now one of the worst chapters in their history was going to repeat itself.  All they could do was listen and be prepared.

This should encourage us.  I believe that this is how the Holy Spirit operates.  If we’re listening, the Spirit will always prepare us for what’s ahead in our future.  We need to continue developing our spiritual sensitivity to hear His voice.

Question: Why does the Holy Spirit want to reveal the future to us?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2018 in Encouragement, Return of Christ

 

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Are We Listening?

This is my last post which will look at the first of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians.  In his conclusion, the apostle encourages them in their spiritual walk.  He gives a few exhortations that are just as applicable today.

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-20

These verses literally say don’t quench, put out, the Spirit and don’t act like prophecy doesn’t exist.  I believe that this sentence gets at the heart of one of the biggest problems in the church today.  A large segment of the modern church totally ignores the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

When we bow our knee to Christ as our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us.  But that’s not just for show.  He lives in us in order to lead and guide us into the Lord’s plan for our lives.

The Biblical term for ignoring the Holy Spirit’s work is godlessness.  To be godless doesn’t mean that you’re an atheist, or even unsaved.  Godlessness is living as if there’s no God, or as if God’s plan doesn’t really matter to you.

It’s so unfortunate that many believers try to figure out on their own how they want to live.  They come up with the plan of what they’ll do for God and what they’ll do for themselves.  They act as if God doesn’t speak to His people anymore.

Personally, I don’t know how anyone could live for Christ without spending time in His presence.  That’s where we truly learn to live life to the fullest.

Test everything.  Hold on to the good.  Avoid every kind of evil.  May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Brothers, pray for us.  Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.  I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
1 Thessalonians 5:21-28

When you’re walking with the Holy Spirit, you can test, or literally approve, everything that comes your way.  Some things are for you to get involved in – the good, and others are not for you – the evil.

We get into trouble because of our skewed concept of good and evil.  We think that just because something isn’t intrinsically evil, then it’s okay for us to get involved in it.  I’ve had so many people ask me, “What’s wrong with…?”

The point isn’t whether something is right or wrong.  It’s all about whether or not it’s a part of God’s plan for your life.  That’s why time in the Lord’s presence, listening to His Spirit is so important.  There may be something that looks good, that God doesn’t want me to waste my time on.

On the other hand, just because something is not for me, doesn’t mean that it’s not in God’s plan for your life.  I can’t make you walk within the boundaries that God has set for my life.

Now please realize that in all this discussion I’m not talking about those things that the Bible calls sin.  Sin is sin, and it’s never God’s will for us to fall into it.

I’m talking about the normal day to day decisions of life.  God wants to be involved in all of our planning.  That includes our time, money, career, family and educational choices.  When we ignore God’s voice in these matters, we’re quenching the Spirit and treating prophecy with contempt.

The important thing to see is that Paul wanted this read to everyone, not just the leadership.  We all need to be listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice and following His leading.

Question: What’s the last instruction you’ve heard from the Holy Spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2017 in Prayer, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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