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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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Walking in Faith, Hope & Love

In my last post we finished looking at the book of James, the first epistle given by the Holy Spirit to the church. During that time, a man named Saul of Tarsus was persecuting the believers.

After an encounter with Christ Himself, Saul became a Christian and his life was totally changed. He was eventually called to preach and became a missionary to the gentiles. The next revelation of God’s Word to the church was through this man, who changed his name to Paul.

On one of his journeys, Paul went to the city of Thessalonica and many were saved. (These events can be read in more detail in Acts 16-18.) Because of intense persecution, Paul had to leave quickly. This immediate exit caused him to be concerned about the health of the newly formed church.

Paul eventually traveled to Corinth, where he stayed for over a year. During that time, he sent Timothy to check-up on the church at Thessalonica. Timothy brought back a good report that the young believers were standing in the truth.

The letter of First Thessalonians was written to encourage this church, after Paul listened to Timothy’s report.

Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-3

Paul opens the letter by remembering their faith, hope, and love. These are the three things that the Bible says will be with us eternally. Too often we think about them only in spiritual terms.

We sometimes get the idea that they’re just good feelings that Christians should enjoy. Some believers act like they’re wonderful gifts that should be tucked quietly away in our hearts.

NO WAY!!! According to Paul, faith, hope, and love are the sparks that ignite our ministry before God. There are three different things that happen in us as a result of their influence upon us.

First, faith produces our work. That word literally means your assignment. It’s the task that God has given you. As you go before God in faith, He gives you grace for the calling He’s placed upon your life. As I trust God more and more, I learn to follow His ways. Eventually I start to understand why He wanted me in His kingdom. Faith causes me to stand in my assignment.

Then comes love – it prompts us to labor. That word labor, means to use up your strength in performing a task. Without the love of God, we’ll never pour ourselves into the calling He’s placed upon us. We’re called to work with all of our strength. Without love, that will never happen.

Finally, hope inspires endurance. It’s easy to start out strong, but it’s how we finish that matters the most. Hope is the biblical word for expectation. If I do my part, then I can expect God to show up and do His part.

That’s what keeps me going even when I don’t feel like it. I know what God says in His Word. Because I place my expectation on Him, I can continue to live for the Lord. Hope gives you the endurance to persevere to the end.

Let faith, hope, and love give you more than just a warm feeling. Let them spur you on to accomplishing your destiny in the Lord’s Kingdom.

Question: How have you seen faith, hope and love at work in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2017 in Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Are You Religious?

What comes to your mind when you hear the word religious? Do you think about someone who goes to church, reads the Bible, and prays a lot? The Bible has a very different definition of what religious should be.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:26-27

The word religious in this passage comes from a Greek word that means ceremonial observances. That means that you do things out of tradition. So to understand it, we need to realize that this doesn’t apply to our spiritual walk with Christ.

Being spiritual is all about relationship, not religion. I come to Christ in prayer, in the church, and in the Scripture, not because it’s tradition or ceremony. I come to Him because I want to know Him better as a person.

The better I relate to Christ, the more growth I experience in my Christian walk. I do know that there are many Christians who treat their walk with God in a religious way. However, in my opinion, it’s much better to cultivate a relationship with Christ, then to simply follow religious observances.

What, then, does this Scripture want us to be religious about? I can see three things that we need to observe as a tradition in our lives.

First of all, we need to religiously control our tongues. James goes so far as to say that if you don’t control your tongue, you’re deceiving yourself as to your maturity. It doesn’t matter what else you do, it’s all worthless without bringing the tongue under control.

That’s because our mouth doesn’t speak on its own.

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:45

Control of the tongue is about controlling what you put into your heart. So if you’re not constantly filling your heart with the Word, your tongue will declare it publically.

The next part of good religion is to help those in distress. We don’t just live for ourselves. There’s a world of hurting people around us. Orphans, widows, single parents, and those in prison all need encouragement and help. There are many more than just those groups.

If we truly want to start a tradition, it should be one of helping others in their need. More than any other group, Christians should be the ones that help those no one else cares about. After all, that’s what Jesus did in His ministry.

The final part is to keep yourself from being polluted by the world. That’s a tough assignment. The Scripture literally says to keep from becoming spotted or stained by the world.

Every day, as we work and interact with those around us, the dirt from society is coming at us. If we’re not careful, we can start picking up some of the same attitudes. This will greatly hinder our walk with God.

We need to be in the pattern, the tradition, of going to God daily for repentance. As the Holy Spirit prompts us that we need to be cleaned of something, we need to be quick to respond. In that way we’ll be free of the stains of the world.

If you want to be religious about something, these are the things you should major on; and keep your walk with Christ as a growing relationship.

Question: What are the religious traditions in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2017 in Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Why Scripture?

BibleIn my last article, I began posting about the Scripture. Do you know what it is and what it’s for? Let’s look at what Scripture says about itself.

And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:19-21

Peter tells us that Scripture was given to bring light into our hearts. In the pages of the Bible is everything we need to accurately set the course for our lives. We don’t have to live stumbling around in the darkness.

Next, Peter says that there’s an overriding principle that we need to understand above all else. Nothing in Scripture is there all by itself. There’s an eternal purpose for everything that’s written.

It’s the Holy Spirit who gave it. No passage can be interpreted apart from the whole. We cannot take a verse or two and interpret them out of their context. I need to know their place in the chapter or the book that they’re in. Context is everything when I read Scripture.

Finally, we’re told that no Scripture came about by the will – the choice or determination – of man. That would never have worked. No matter how hard I tried, I could never even imagine what God’s plan is, or how to bring it about.

On the contrary, it could only come forth by a moving of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people who were completely sold out to Him. They allowed the Lord to carry them along.

Scripture, therefore, contains the words of those who, moved by the Spirit, were speaking what God wanted to be said, the way God wanted it said. God used their language and personalities to speak what was in His heart.

The Greek word for Scripture is the word graphe, which means writings. Our working definition for what Scripture is would be: The written record of God’s Word to people.

Since the dawn of Creation, God has sent His Word to many different people, in different places, at different times, during different situations and circumstances. I’m glad that God desired these Words to be written down for future generations to read. I’m grateful that I can hold them in my hands and study them.

In my next post, I’ll begin talking about why was it so important to God that this word be written down.

Questions: What does the Scripture mean to you? How has it impacted your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2016 in Scripture Series, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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A Testimony of Change

HandsFor a number of posts I’ve been talking about the spiritual walk. As we pray in the spirit, we’re affecting the natural. We looked at a few verses that tell us it’s through the spirit that we overcome the flesh.

There are those who spend their entire lifetime trying to master the fruit of the spirit by their own strength and will power. I’ve found that those who are able to do this are easy to spot. The older they get, the deeper the frown etched on their faces.

They’re quick to tell you how hard it is to stay committed to the Lord. Doing this work on your own is very detrimental to your joy and I don’t recommend it for long periods of time.

Another observation actually had me upset at God for a long time until I understood what was really going on in the spiritual realm. The problem is that sometimes we have an experience in God and try to explain it based upon our observances instead of searching the Word. I’m thinking specifically about my grandparents, who were the first in our family to receive Christ.

Back when they first immigrated to America from Italy, they were rough, unlearned people. At that point, an evangelist came from Chicago to Boston to bring the Gospel to the Italian community. That’s when my grandparents heard the Good News and submitted their hearts to Christ. The church I grew up in was the Italian Pentecostal Church that grew from that evangelist’s work.

Growing up, I heard all the stories of how God moved in those days. I heard about the power, the healings, and the miracles. I learned all about the righteous lives that these “old folks” lived. Their conversion became legendary.

“If we would only live like they did…”

This is why I was upset at God. I was told that when they were saved, they were really saved. Their lives were changed instantly. There was suddenly no more profanity, stealing, or fits of rage. They began walking in love, joy, peace and the rest of the gifts.

I knew my grandparents well enough to know that what was said about their lifestyle was true. They lived close to God. They loved like Jesus did. They evangelized everyone they met.

That’s what upset me. I felt that I had been short changed in my salvation experience. I wanted to know why I was still wrestling with my sin. Why did their lives change so radically, and mine seemed to be a never ending process?

What I was taught about this did little to help me. I was told that God just works differently in different people. Some people He cleans up in an instant and others the Lord takes His time on. I just resigned myself to the belief that I was one of those that would take a long time to see the changes occur in my life. All this, because we based our theology on observation rather than the Word of God.

Here’s what actually happened to my grandparents, based on what we’ve just learned from the Scripture. When they heard the Good News of the Savior, they submitted to His Lordship in faith. They were saved and immediately baptized in the Spirit with the evidence of their prayer language.

Then they began to attend meetings on almost every day of the week. Some of these were services and some were prayer meetings. Here’s the key. No matter what kind of meeting it was, they always spent hours praying in the spirit.

I know from watching her, that my grandmother prayed hours a day. By observation, people saw that when someone was saved and baptized in the Spirit, their life changed. It seemed to be instantaneous.

But looking back, I can see through the filter of the Scriptures, what really changed their lives was that they spent hours a week praying in the Holy Spirit. There was not one particular work of holiness – it was the ongoing process of putting to death the misdeeds of the body through prayer in the spirit.

Then, over the course of time, the prayer meetings stopped being attended by the next generation. Instead of using the power of the Spirit, they learned to serve God using will power alone. Holiness became a thing of the past, “the stuff of legends”.

We just looked back and said, “Those old Italians knew how to serve God.” What they learned was that power was only accessed in that secret place of intimacy with the Holy Spirit. This is how we must receive the power as well. To the extent that we worship God in His language, at His level, we will experience His power.

At one point the Lord impressed us to start having a prayer meeting only for prayer in the spirit. We met for one hour a week to pray in our heavenly language. During that time I observed that people who spent even moderate amounts of time praying in the spirit started to change at an incredible rate.

The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;
Romans 8:6

The good news is that you don’t have to know how it works for it to affect you. But, you do have to walk in it for the effects to be realized. Don’t just use the gift of the heavenly language as a once in a while plaything. It’s the access key to the release of the power of God in your life. You should use this gift daily. If you choose to do this, your life will never be the same.

Question: How have you seen the effects of praying in the spirit?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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Spirit Overcomes Flesh

FlyingIn my last post we saw how the spiritual walk, specifically prayer in the spirit, will bring change from the inside out. This truth is also brought out in other parts of the Scripture.

No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.
Romans 2:29

This is another piece of that same puzzle. Our outside will never change unless we have a change of heart. The problem is that our heart itself is very deceptive. We can’t always trust what we’re feeling.

That’s why true change can never be imposed upon it from the outside, by the written code. It must come from the inside, by the power of the spirit. Isn’t it great to know that your spirit can change your heart?

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Galatians 5:16

Our new knowledge of the power of prayer in the spirit should give us a whole new insight into what this verse is actually saying. Many times, when people quote this verse, they’re using it as a weapon.

I’ve heard people say things like, “Look at how that person lives, and they call themselves a Christian. They’re walking in their flesh so they must not have the Holy Spirit in them. They can’t really be saved.”

This isn’t a verse that Paul gave us to test whether a person is saved or not. This is a passage of Scripture to tell us how to receive the power we need to walk in victory over the flesh. The only way you’ll have the power you need to not gratify the flesh, is to live your life in the spirit.

You cannot do it by exercising the will power of your soul, or even disciplining your body. This means that you spend time praying in the spirit, communing with God in the realm of the spirit. That’s where we access the power to overcome the desires of the flesh.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

This is one of the most popular passages with many Christians. Unfortunately many believers have no clue what this section is actually saying.

What is fruit? Fruit are those yummy balls of sweet goodness that hang from various kinds of trees. How do they get there? Does the tree have to sweat and fret and work hard to push them out? Does a tree try and fail and get frustrated and try again to do better?

Of course not! Fruit are a natural result of being an apple tree. They are produced simply because the tree is healthy, and has access to everything it needs (air, minerals, water, and sunshine).

This is something that most Christians miss. They think that producing the fruit of the spirit only comes by hard work and a lot of will-power. That’s not what God intended. The fruit mentioned here will not be produced by reading the Bible or going to church.

They will not even come by will power or guilt. These things are the fruit of the SPIRIT. Why would we then think they would be the product of our works, will power, or trial and error?

The fruit of the spirit are the natural product of a life lived in the realm of the spirit. As our spiritual relationship with the Lord grows, then so will the fruit. They will not be from our strength.

In my next post, I’ll give some examples of how this works.

Question: Why is it impossible for our flesh to discipline itself?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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Climbing Higher

CliffAs the weather starts to get warmer, I begin thinking about the outdoors again. If you follow this blog, then you know that I enjoy hiking. There’s nothing I like better than spending a few days in the woods; hiking, praying, and meditating on the Word of God.

It seems that the more time I spend hiking, the more insight I get into those Scriptures that speak of our “walk” with God. Sometimes it’s an uphill climb.

Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.
Psalm 43:3-4

I think that it’s funny when I hear people talking about our emotions in terms of mountains. They say things like, “Some days you wake up on the top of a mountain, and some days you find yourself in the valley.”

I say that it’s funny for the following reason. I’ve hiked hundreds of miles of trails. I’ve spent countless nights in the woods. Yet I have never once fallen asleep in the valley and woke up on the top of the mountain.

There’s only one way to get to the mountaintop. That’s by putting one foot in front of the other, and continuing on the uphill climb.

If you want to ascend God’s holy mountain – to enter His presence – you must take His route. You won’t get there by accident. Unfortunately we’re incapable of following that path. It’s much too difficult a climb for us. It requires absolute perfection.

The Good News is that the Lord knows this and has provided a way for us. He has sent His Guide to us. We have access to the Light of His Spirit and the Truth of His Word. They’re what’s needed to bring us just as we are into the Lord’s awesome presence.

What I need to learn is that I’m not admitted into the presence of God because of my struggling to ‘be good’. It doesn’t have anything to do with me being a pastor or minister. I can enter His holy presence because of the work Jesus Christ did on the cross.

Now, because of His work, I can access the mountaintop through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. This is a blessing we could have never attained to on our own.

It should be our daily oasis. Simply spending time in His light and His truth should bring refreshment to our soul and usher us before the Creator of the universe.

It’s up to us to pick the time and the place with the fewest distractions. We want our time with Him to be fruitful. It’s very important that you use this time to build your relationship with the Father. Enter His presence today and enjoy His company. Follow His truth and light to take you on the path up His holy mountain.

Question: What have you learned by spending time in God’s presence?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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