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Looking Forward to the Resurrection

Cloud2I’m posting about Paul’s teaching on the Second Coming of Christ found in First Thessalonians. He was answering some questions that the church had. The first was about believers who die before the resurrection.

We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
I Thessalonians 4:14

Because of the foundation of the teaching of Jesus Christ Himself, we know that Paul is talking about the day when Jesus returns. He’s speaking here about the Last Day, the Day of the Lord.

We remember how Jesus taught that on that day, when He returns, every eye shall see Him. This passage reminds us that on that day, He’s going to bring with Him those who have died in the Lord. All the saints that Jesus referred to as being gathered from one end of heaven to the other will be there.

According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.
I Thessalonians 4:15-18

In other words, those who have already died in Christ have a better place in the resurrection than we do because they’re the first to be called. At one point our church had a Christian Academy. Every morning we had opening exercises for the children.

At the end, my wife, Cheryl, (who was the Principal) always said, “O.K. ladies, you’re dismissed, young men, please wait.” The young men were not to precede the ladies in leaving the sanctuary. Sometimes it was very hard for them. Sometimes you could see that their legs just didn’t want to stay still. I think that’s what it’s going to be like for us.

The Lord returns, but we’ve got to wait for those who’ve passed on before us. The Scripture says here that we’re not going to precede those who’ve died in the Lord. There’s a divine order to the resurrection.

Obviously, it’s going to take place in an instant. It’s not like we’re going to have to wait around for an hour. But in that instant, when we’re resurrected, the dead in Christ are going to be resurrected first.

Paul is calming their fears that those brothers and sisters who have passed on before us will not be missing out on anything.   They have a good place in the resurrection.

This should be an encouragement to each of us. What we see of the material world is not all that there is. We have a hope that goes beyond the natural. We should be looking through an eternal perspective.

Question: How should our future hope affect our present way of living?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

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Permanently Temporary

TentI’ve been posting about the obedience that springs from our faith. In my last post I talked about one of the attitudes of obedience to God. Today I want to talk about the second. We’re looking at what Hebrews, chapter 11, says about Abraham.

By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.
Hebrews 11:9

The literal Greek of this text says that he lived permanently in tents. As an avid hiker and camper, I think that’s an interesting statement. In other words, he was living permanently in a temporary home.

But it wasn’t only Abraham. He was with others who were called as well.

The next attitude of obedience says that even though I’m trusting God to move me forward, I’m willing to stay here forever waiting for the Lord’s call. How could Abraham be so content to stay in his tents?

For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Hebrews 11:10

This is the secret to Abraham’s obedience. This verse literally says that he could obey because he accepted from the source, a city built by God.

This should be the same for us. We obey because we’ve accepted God’s destiny for our lives. We know who it is that promised.

I can only find the strength to obey God if I’ve accepted His destiny even if I don’t know all the details. That’s the tough part of this attitude. I have to accept His plan before I know where it will take me.

We walk by faith, not sight. Think about how incredible the place is that He is taking us to.

This city has foundations. We know from the Scripture that Christ is our foundation. We’ve started to build our little spiritual house. The thing is, God wants to take us to the city level. We have such a small vision some times.

This is a city whose architect and builder is God. Every time you obeyed a calling, God was building. Every pain and inconvenience – God was building.

But it gets even better than that. The word Builder in the above verse literally means public worker. The Lord does all the public works of the city.

Think about that for a minute. What if He did all the public works in your city? There would be gold streets, gem encrusted fire hydrants, and who knows what else.

Waiting on God’s destiny for your life is worth all the inconvenience of obedience.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1 Timothy 6:12

This is what the fight of faith is all about. It’s the fight to obey your calling. You must push through to wait upon God and listen for His voice calling you forward. It may seem hard to take in the short term. But in the end you’ll find that it was well worth the struggle.

Question: Why are we so reluctant to wait in the place of prayer to hear God’s voice?

©Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2014 in Faith, Ministry, Prayer

 

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Do You Interrupt the Lord?

SpeakerWe all know that it’s impolite to interrupt someone when they’re speaking.  Have you ever thought about this in relation to Christ and His work in you?  He speaks to us in various ways.  Are we guilty of interrupting what He’s doing in us?

I want to look at an incident in the life of Jesus that illustrates this.  It’s found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12.  At this point in the Lord’s ministry, He’s publicly teaching somewhere when all of a sudden a loud voice interrupts Him.

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Luke 12:13

Can you imagine that?  Jesus is walking down the street giving words of instruction and perhaps ministering to the sick when somebody yells out, “Tell my brother to give me my share of the inheritance.”

It makes you wonder what type of individual would be so self-absorbed, that they would make a public statement like that.  Well, that kind of presumption was enough to set Jesus off in a new direction of teaching.

Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”  Then he said to them, “Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Luke 12:14-15

When Jesus got done, that person probably felt as though he should have kept his mouth shut.  Jesus used this interruption to teach the crowd about the foolishness of greed.

He told them a parable about a rich man with no common sense. This man got a big harvest, built bigger barns, and stored it all up.  Jesus explained that the man ended up dying before he could spend all of his wealth.  That foolish man lost the eternal to gain the temporary.

The Lord’s message to those gathered around Him was that our life does not consist of what can be accumulated.  You’re not to worry about what you’re going to wear or what you’re going to eat.  God will provide for you.

Worry about serving God.  Worry about doing the Father’s will.  In that way you’re laying up treasure in Heaven.  Christ said that where your treasure is, that’s where your heart is going to be.

This got me thinking.  The Lord is attempting to do a particular work in my life.  He communicates His plan to me through a series of events.  He speaks to my heart, allows circumstances to come my way, and teaches me through the lives and words of others.

How often do I “interrupt” His plan with a totally unrelated request?  I get my eyes off His plan and onto my desires.  When it comes to the Lord, I need to think before I ask.

We must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit at work in us.  Make sure that your requests are in line with His plan.  Don’t be discourteous and interrupt the Lord.

Question: Have you ever found yourself guilty of interrupting God’s work in you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2013 in Encouragement

 

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God and the Candy Machine in the Sky

CandyI’ve been posting about how similar our modern attitudes are to the crowd in John Chapter 6.  They seem to have their eyes on the temporary, while Christ is trying to point them to the eternal.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty…And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.  For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
John 6:35-40

Notice that Jesus repeats Himself here.  Two times He said to them, “I will raise them up at the last day.”  It’s a very simple statement.  It’s so simple, in fact, that most Christians miss it as well.

He told them that if they come to Him and put their trust in Him, He’ll give them eternal life and He’ll raise them up at the last day.  The key is that you must have this eternal life in you BEFORE you enter the grave.  If you have this eternal life in you, then death will not be able to keep you any more than it could hold on to the Lord.

He said it twice yet they didn’t hear him.  Look at their reaction.

At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
John 6:41

It went right over their heads.  They missed it.  The Lord said you can have eternal life and that He’d raise you up at the last day.  All they heard was that He thinks He’s bread that has come down from heaven.  “What does He mean He’s bread coming down from heaven?”

They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered.  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
John 6:42-44

Jesus is desperately trying to get it into their head that He wasn’t emphasizing bread coming down from heaven.  He was trying to get them to embrace eternal life.  Over and over again He said, “I’ll raise him up at the last day.”  They just didn’t get it.

I think, that just like us, they didn’t want to get it.  They could tell that what Jesus was talking about meant change.  They would have to change their views and attitudes about God.  The Lord would no longer be that big “candy machine in the sky,” but a friend with whom you must spend time cultivating a relationship.

Question: How do you deepen your relationship with Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Encouragement, Return of Christ

 

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The Temporary vs. the Eternal

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been posting about the discussion Jesus had with the crowd in John chapter 6.  Having told them that He understood their motives; Jesus goes on to explain further.

“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
John 6:27

The Lord is about to tell them that He’s the Bread of Life and He has the Words of truth.  He goes on to explain that if they’ll come to Him in faith, they’ll never lack for life.  The point is that you can’t spend all your time and energy chasing the things of this world.  There’s a more important issue at stake here.

Too many believers spend their prayer time with the Lord running through their lists of needs and wants.  While there is a place for petitioning the Lord in prayer, that should not be the major part.  Prayer is where we get to know Christ in relationship.  It’s give and take.

Yes, it is talking, but it’s also listening.  If we’re going to be prepared for the last days, then we must get past this mentality that chases God around simply for what we think we can get from Him.

The crowd made their motives very plain to Jesus.  Even in their answer, they show Him that His assessment of their true character was correct.

“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”
John 6:34

Their thoughts are, “You’ve got the bread from heaven.  Give us this bread.”  Again, they’re thinking in a material way.  If His earthly bread was good, the heavenly must be even better tasting!

It reminds me of the woman at the well.  Jesus said that He could give her living water so that she would never thirst again.  Her reply was, “Great, then I won’t have to come to this well every day to draw water.”

Why are we all so foolish?  Jesus longs to give us eternal, abundant life, yet we are content to simply ask Him for things.  I know that in His Word He’s promised to take care of our needs.  The problem is that we seem to major on the physical.

My true needs are so much deeper than that.  He wants to satisfy the longing of our souls, but this will require that we spend time in His presence.  We fail to enter the abundance that He has for us because we’d rather have the “quick fix” of more money or more stuff so that we can then get on with our plans.  The better solution would be for us to bow our knee to the Lord and take up His plan for our lives.

Question: Why do the temporary issues of life seem so important sometimes?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Encouragement, Faith, Prayer

 

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Spiritual Power – The Holy Spirit versus the Law

PowerI’ve been posting about the two different sources of spiritual power – the Holy Spirit and the law.  Remember, it’s the law that powers sin.  There are some important differences between the law and the Holy Spirit.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8

Literally, this verse says God is powerful enough to do everything you need according to His grace.  In all things, at all times – this means that the power of the Holy Spirit is permanent, whereas the law is temporary.

If I base my walk on how well I follow the law, I’ll soon be in big trouble.  Everything is fine while I’m at church, especially if I just went to the altar and repented.  I go on my way feeling strong spiritually.

Then it happens, on my way to the car I get into an argument.  It all goes downhill from there.  Now Satan has a base for accusation again and I can feel my power dwindling.

On the other hand, I can base my spiritual walk on the Holy Spirit within me.  I know that He’s always there.  I can run to Him in all things, at all times, and I know that He’s able to meet my need no matter what.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.
1 Corinthians 4:20

There’s a second difference – the Holy Spirit is true, but the law is deceitful.  What does that mean?  When it comes to the law, you can always talk a good game.

“I pray, read my Bible, and am always on time for church.”

You can make it appear that you’re very powerful in the Lord, if that’s what it takes.  It’s a good thing that most believers don’t know what true power is or the charade would be over.

With the power of the law, you can hold the batteries in your hand.  Show off how much voltage you’re capable of.  We can even hear other’s proclaim, “Boy, those are a lot of pretty big batteries.”

The reason I said that the law is deceptive, is because the batteries can be dead and no one would know the difference – unless they looked for change being produced.  I’m going to let you in on a little secret – even the little pink bunny that keeps going and going eventually dies.  His batteries run out.

When yours do, because you’re relying on how well you follow the law, then you’re left with only the appearance of power.  That’s when we get together and “Remember when…”  Remember when our batteries were charged and we saw someone saved, or healed so many years ago.

It’s time for the church to tap into the only reliable source of power – the Holy Spirit whom God has placed within us.

Question: How have your attempts at following the rules turned out?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2013 in Power of God

 

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Viewing Eternity

Ecclesiastes 3:11
He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

What you can see makes a big difference in your attitude.  Once, while I was hiking, I spent a night in the lean-to on the top of Glastonbury mountain in Vermont.  I was told that you could see all the way to Massachusetts from the shelter.  Unfortunately, the night I was there it was thick fog and rain.  The shelter felt closed in and miserable.

Of course I also remember hiking up Mount Katahdin in Maine.  The day of that trip was crystal clear.  From the top you could see to the horizon in all directions.  It was life-changing.

What made the difference?  Obviously it was the view.  It is the same in life.  How far ahead you look determines your attitude.  There are some people who don’t look beyond what is right in front of them now.  They want the quick fix.  They’re only looking for the “feel good” experience.

If we want the best that life can offer, then we must take God’s advice.  We must view the eternal rather than the temporary.  We must live today knowing that we will exist a million years from this day.  Not only that, but we must ask ourselves what will be important a million years from today.  This allows us to live in this moment with a view of eternity.

As you go before God today, ask Him to increase your vision.  Let Him work in you to see the eternal over the temporary.  Make it your goal to live for that which will never fade away.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Daily Thoughts

 

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