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Loving God

As Jesus was nearing the time of the cross, He was questioned by various religious leaders.  Some with good motives and others who were trying to trap Him in what He said.  There was one who seemed to want a real answer.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating.  Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Mark 12:28

Jesus was always willing to answer those who asked a serious question.

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”
Mark 12:29-30

The Lord gives this man the most important command of the Law.  It turns out that Jesus didn’t give him a rule to follow, such as sacrificing, tithing, or reading Scripture.  Instead, it was a command to know who God is and then knowing how to respond to Him correctly.

This is still a valid command for us today.  As Christians, we need to understand who it is that we serve and what it takes to show our love for Him.

Love God with all of your heart.  Your heart is the garden of your life.  It’s where you put things that you want to grow.

It’s the good soil that you should be planting the Word into.  Loving God with all your heart means that you will only plant things that will please God.

If I were a servant tending to a garden for my master, this would be simple to understand.  If my master hated green beans, then there would never be any green beans in my garden.  We should only be planting the things that please God in our hearts.

Love God with all of your soul.  That’s the seat of your decision making.  We show our love for God each day by the decisions we make.  Do we take God’s will into account when we decide what direction our lives will take?

Love God with all of your mind.  Your mind is the storehouse of your life.  Whether you remember it or not, everything that you see and hear is stored forever in your mind.  That’s why it’s so important to be careful gatekeepers of what we watch and listen to.

When the Lord walks through your storehouse, what does He see?  Are there things that are offensive to Him?  If so, then you can clean it up through repentance and faith in the cleansing power of the blood of Christ.

Love God with all of your strength.  I think that this is the one command that seals all of the others.  Without it, our love falls short.

That’s because your strength speaks of actually doing something.  You can’t say that you love without putting it into action.

I’ve heard people say, “I love God in my heart even though you don’t see it in my actions.”  Actually, that’s not real love.  Whether you’re talking about a human relationship or walking with God, love has to be shown by what we do.

It takes all of these together to make a complete love package.  Our heart, soul, mind, and strength must be working in unison.  It’s through these that we fulfill our greatest calling.

Question:  Why is this the most important command of Scripture?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

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Posted by on June 6, 2018 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Has Your Faith Been Approved?

ApproveStarting with this post, I’m going to do things a little differently. I usually talk about issues dealing with revival, church leadership, God’s power or the return of Christ. But up until now I haven’t really followed any plan.

Lately I’ve been feeling that I need to write in a more systematic way. Over the past couple of years the Holy Spirit has been teaching me a lot by having me read through the New Testament in the order that it was given to the church.

In that way you can see how some of these themes were expanded upon as the Spirit revealed more and more to His people. I want to take that same approach to the teachings in this blog.

Of course, if the Lord gives me a message to share that will benefit you; I can always follow His leading at any time. I can post it when I receive it and then pick right back up where I left off.

I believe that the book of James was the first Scripture to be recorded for the church. So that’s where I’ll begin.

It was written by a pastor to give his congregation the foundation they needed in serving Christ. James was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. His words are as applicable today as they were when he first wrote them.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
James 1:2-3

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time identifying with James when he equates trials with joy. And he’s not the only one. The Apostle Peter says the same thing in his letters. It’s not that I don’t want to grow, but I would prefer not going through trials – they just don’t feel good to me.

On the other hand, I realize that they’re a part of life. There’s never going to be a time when we’re not faced with something challenging. Nobody is exempt from this. The world is full of problems, and people who cause them. I’ve even been known to bring them upon myself from time to time.

The real issue is what I do with the trial once I’m in it. They can’t be avoided, so I might as well make the best of it. James is explaining to us the attitude best suited to overcome our trials. He doesn’t say to be joyful because you’re being tested. He says to count it pure joy because of what you know.

It’s our knowledge of what the trial produces the gives us joy during the hard times. What is it that I know? If you read this section in the original Greek, you find that James says that it’s the “approved part of our faith” that produces perseverance – the ability to come through a challenge victoriously.

Everyone says that they have faith. The question asked by this verse is – Is that faith approved? Has it been tested and found to be genuine? It’s easy to say that I trust God, yet give up in the hard times. It’s the genuine, approved faith that carries us through.

It’s like the song that says, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Well, I know that the Lord won’t allow the test to kill me. But as it tries my faith, it will strengthen me to trust God in a greater way.

So the joy is not that I’m being tried, but that I’m growing stronger. My faith is being proved, and I’ll be able to stand in it. I may never look forward to tests and hardships, but at least I know that they provide a vital part of my growth in Christ.

Question: What have you gone through that has increased your faith?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Don’t Give Up

WomanHave you ever felt like giving up? Everyone goes through times like this. We feel like giving up on our jobs, ministries, or marriages. You’re not alone. Even the prophet, Elijah, went through a point in his life when he felt like this.

It took place when the Queen of Israel, Jezebel, was threatening his life.

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
I Kings 19:3-4

Elijah is probably one of the most powerful Old Testament figures. Through him, God performed incredible miracles to turn Israel around. Yet at this point in his life he was ready to throw in the towel. He actually prayed for God to take his life.

What could cause such an uncompromising individual to leave the race? The answer lies in the first line. Elijah was afraid.

The evil queen, Jezebel, had ordered his arrest and execution. Fear had gripped his heart in spite of the presence of God in his life.

How many times do we lose sight of our calling when faced with the overwhelming problems of life? We need to take the same path that Elijah took – but not the same attitude. We need to run to a place of solitude with God and pour out our heart in prayer.

Just like Elijah, we need to admit our faults and failings. Only the Lord is able to meet the needs of our inner man.

We must use this time to seek the Lord’s help for the challenges we face. This may include confessing your failures and trials. God stands ready to enfold you in His arms. By doing this, we allow His strength to work in us the restoration that is needed.

Then he [Elijah] lay down under the tree and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
I Kings 19:5-8

While he was on the very edge of despair, Elijah received sustenance from the Lord. As he was running away from the stress in his life, God provided him with supernatural food. God knew that the journey before him was too much for his flesh to handle. So, He provided what Elijah needed.

I’ll let you in on a secret. If you’re following God’s plan for your life, then your journey is more than you can take. You’ll need this supernatural food to sustain you.

That’s why your time with the Lord is so important. Spending time with the Holy Spirit is one of the most powerful, life-changing events you could ever plan for. Don’t neglect your spiritual food.

Take the time to find nourishment for your soul in the Lord’s presence. Cast your burdens upon Him and allow His strength to revive your spirit.

Question: How has the Lord strengthened you in His presence recently?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2015 in Encouragement, Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Strength for the Battle

GlovesMy last post talked about the spiritual battle that we’re in. We need to be prepared for it. We are going to face hardships whether we’re ready or not.

It’s unfortunate that many Christians wait until they’re in the middle of a spiritual firefight to learn how to be victorious. You can’t wait for a fight and download the Karate program. It doesn’t work like that.

How do we prepare for the challenges ahead? The same way a soldier does. Boot camp consists of two aspects – knowledge and work.

For us, it’s knowledge of the Scripture and God’s voice. Then we have to work at implementing what we know to do.

You may be thinking, “That’s not an easy thing to do.” You’re right. In most cases it turns out to be beyond our ability. But that’s why understanding the spiritual battle is so important.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Ephesians 6:10

I’m glad that we’re not told to psych ourselves up and power our way through the challenges. I don’t want to have to rely on my willpower. I’ve got an advantage that the world doesn’t have.

I’m told to be strong in the Lord. Sometimes this goes against our nature. We want the ability to brag about our accomplishments. We want to say that our intelligence or strength was what it took to overcome the obstacles before us.

That’s why so often we make our plans then ask God to bless them. Wouldn’t we be much better off if we asked the Lord for His plan right at the start?

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:11

The fact is that it’s not about my glory, but His. If I were able to lay hold of my own destiny, why would I need Christ? The work before me is too much for me by myself.

When we finally learn to admit this truth, life gets so much more enjoyable. Not that I can sit back and let God do all the work, but I know He’s there to cover my weaknesses. I don’t have to worry about whether I can handle the problem or not.

If I’ll draw on His strength and listen to the Holy Spirit, then there’s nothing that can stop me. We need to rest in God’s ability and not our own.

Question: What are you going through right now that’s too big for you to handle?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2014 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Warfare

 

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Know When to Give Up

SunriseIn my last post I talked about the times we find ourselves wrestling against God’s plan for us. We’re looking at Jacob as an example of this.

Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
Genesis 32:26

No, God wasn’t getting tired. No, God wasn’t going to turn into a pumpkin when the sun came up. Why then did He impose a time limit? Purely and simply out of His love for Jacob. God knew that having fought all night, Jacob was getting to the end of his strength.

The Bible teaches elsewhere that God will not allow our struggles to go beyond our ability to endure. This is how God worked with Jacob. He made Jacob fight to the end of His strength. Up to this point, Jacob always found the easy way out of his troubles.

The scheme, the bribe, the fixed fight, whatever it took to win without breaking a sweat – that’s who Jacob was. God, however, knew he was better than that. He was created to father a nation. Through this experience God taught Jacob that he was able to overcome by his inner strength and determination alone, without all the scheming.

God wants to do that with us as well. He’ll allow us to get to the end of our strength so that we’ll cry out to Him. Don’t drop out of your fight too quickly. Make the determination to lay hold of the prize God has called you to obtain.

The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”
Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
Genesis 32:27-29

You would think that because he wrestled with God, Jacob would get in trouble. Nothing could be further from the truth. God doesn’t care if you struggle with Him as long as you learn the lesson He’s trying to teach you.

Up to this point in his life, Jacob had been trying to buy, fight, and steal his way to the blessing of God. Now he was to learn that the only way to obtain it is by freely receiving it from the Lord’s own hand.

He spent his life fighting God and man. Now God tells him that he has overcome. Overcome what? He has finally overcome himself. He now has the control to take his life and lay it at the feet of the Lord.

How do we know this? God gives him a new name – Israel – that means, “conquered by God.”

Perhaps you’ve been struggling in your walk with the Lord. Maybe there is an area in your life you’ve been refusing to turn over to God.

It’s time for you to give up and receive the blessing God’s been waiting to give you. Today, allow yourself to be overcome by God.

Questions: Are there areas, right now, where you’re struggling against God? What will it take for you to give up?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2014 in Power of God, Prayer

 

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The Locked Up Church

LockedIn my last post I talked about the picture of the church that the Lord gave me from Acts, chapter 16. In that passage, Paul and Silas are in prison, chained up, in the dark. Yet they were praying and singing as if nothing were unusual.

I said that much of the church is in that condition today. We go on praising God every Sunday, yet having no effect on the world the rest of the week. How did we get into this position?

I believe that it’s because we didn’t heed the warning that Christ gave us during His ministry.

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.”
Luke 21:34

Here Jesus tells us of three weights that can hinder us from fulfilling our destiny. They are called dissipation, drunkenness, and anxieties. We will never reach our true potential in Christ if we try to run with these hindrances.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Hebrews 12:1

We are warned to throw off the things that hinder. Probably the worst is dissipation. We allow the best parts of our life to be dissipated.

The world has so many distractions these days. Classes we could take, recreational opportunities, athletic events, and entertainment. All of these things, in and of themselves, add to our enjoyment of life. They’re good things.

“Everything is permissible for me” – but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me” – but I will not be mastered by anything.
1 Corinthians 6:12

Yes, they are all good things, permissible things, but they’ve become the masters of our lives. They dictate our schedules. They tell us what we can and can’t do for God.

We fill up our time with all these good things. Then, more often than not, God gets the leftovers. Our leftover time, strength, and resources.

What happens when God says, “I want you to take a week to meet together and experience my work of revival in you.”?

“Sorry, that won’t work for me. I have a class on Monday night. Tuesday is my bowling league. Thursday I have to get the kids to their Karate lessons. I just can’t make it out to weekday meetings.”

Where does all the time go? Dissipation. We have allowed the distractions of the world to dissipate the time that should belong to the Lord. Our schedules have become mastered by the good things of the world.

In this way the church has become a prisoner to our permissible things. We are in chains and in the dark. We need to be set free by the power of God.

Question: What will it take to shatter these chains from the church?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Revival, The Church

 

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Guidance for the New Year

20132012 is over.  We’re now in new territory!  What does this new year hold for us?  There is a way to safely navigate the unknown that lies before us.

Society is taking a dim view of the future.  With talk of fiscal cliffs and higher taxes, many are worried.  There are those who fear an increase in violence and unpredictable weather patterns.  Where can we turn to for answers?  The same place the truth has always been…

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Isaiah 58:11

Our God didn’t get stuck in 2012!  He is with us today.  He knows all about the latest technology – before it’s even invented.  He is well able to bring though to a victorious new year.

It’s a blessing to know that God will never leave us nor forsake us. According to this verse,  He’s the Guide that never fails.  He can find water in the driest desert.  He gives strength in the time of trouble.  If we rely on Him, we will be just like a spring whose source never fails.

Many times people look at us and wonder what’s the secret of our strength.  There seems to be nothing special about us.  On the outside we’re as weak and mortal as everyone else.

What they don’t know is that our strength comes from far below the surface – deep within – where we have tapped into the presence of an Almighty God.  This is the secret to the abundant life.  We must learn to remain in the presence of the Lord.

Because of the hand of God upon our lives, we seem to have an ability to move forward in ways that others cannot comprehend.  This only happens when we take a spiritual drink from the springs of living water that come directly from the Lord.  This is the road to victorious living.

Spend time with your Guide today.  Let Him empower you for the year ahead.  Become that “well-watered garden” in His presence.  That is the only way to assure an outcome of fulfillment and joy throughout 2013.

I pray God’s richest blessing upon you in the coming year!

© Nicolas Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in Encouragement, Faith

 

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