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Watch for Stumbling Blocks

Watch for Stumbling Blocks

We’re continuing to study the Gospel of Luke. We’re now starting chapter 17. Jesus makes a comment that many people think is just a random exhortation.

That’s because of the way our Bibles were put together. Remember, originally there were no chapters and verses. They were added later to make it easier to find things. This is one of those places where they mess things up.

Jesus is continuing His same thought from chapter 16. He has just told the story of the rich man and Lazarus. This comment refers to that story.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves.”

Luke 17:1-3a NIV

The phrase, things that cause people to sin, actually means things that cause offense. It means things that could possibly trap you in anger and bitterness.

Going back to the rich man and Lazarus, we can see the connection. Everyday Lazarus was placed at the rich man’s doorstep. Everyday, Lazarus watched the lavish lifestyle that was lived out in that house.

Everyday he longed for the scraps that were carelessly thrown away, but he was denied from getting them. This means that everyday Lazarus was given an opportunity to be offended and become angry and bitter at God.

These offenses are not isolated incidents. By His language, the Lord makes it clear that they will come upon us regularly. Like it or not, you will be given the opportunity to be offended. It’s how you handle that temptation that matters.

Sometimes this word, offense, is translated as a stumbling block. The rich man was probably oblivious to the fact that he was laying down stumbling blocks, everyday, in the path of Lazarus. The implication is that Lazarus had to watch his attitude everyday.

That’s why the Lord said we need to watch ourselves. I don’t think Jesus is talking about us watching out to not offend people. He offended multitudes. His focus is that we don’t pick up bitterness and anger when given the opportunity.

If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”

Luke 17:3-6 NIV

The disciples were having a hard time with this. The Lord taught that if someone offends you seven times in one day, you must still forgive them. That means you have to release any bitterness and anger against them.

The disciples tried to sound holy to get around it. “We don’t have enough faith for that yet!” Jesus made it clear that you don’t need faith, you only need obedience to His word.

It’s good to see that the Apostle John grabbed hold of this truth. He wrote about it in one of his letters.

Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.

1 John 2:10 NIV

If you walk in the love of Christ, then you’re walking in the light. This verse literally say that in that case, you have no offense – no stumbling blocks – inside you.

We need to live free of bitterness. Release your offenses to God. Walk in forgiveness, the same forgiveness that was shown to you on the cross. Only then can you walk in the peace and joy of the Lord.

Question: How free are you from offense and bitterness?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2022 in Faith, Relationships, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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The Running God

The Running God

As we continue through the Gospel of Luke, I’ve been blogging about the parable of the Prodigal Son. We saw how he left home to get away from the rules. Now he realizes the mistake he’s made, and he wants to return home.

He even has a speech prepared.

“‘I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.”

Luke 15:18-20a NIV

This is the attitude of humility. We need to approach God wanting to do whatever it takes to live a life pleasing to Him. This prodigal didn’t really understand the heart of his father.

It’s much like us. We don’t fully understand the heart of God. We can’t even come close to grasping the love He has for each one of us.

Have you ever felt like God was mad at you because of some sin? Maybe you’ve been keeping away from the Lord or His people because you’re ashamed of something you’ve done. That’s not the way to go.

In this parable, the son distanced himself from his father. But then, when he hit rock bottom, he decided it was better to go home, no matter what the consequences were.

So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Luke 15:20b

Most people agree that Jesus was telling this parable about His Heavenly Father. To review, the young man in question, took an early inheritance and blew it all on wild living. He ended up in poverty and became a servant who was feeding hogs.

Finally, he came to his senses and thought about what life was like in his father’s house. Even the servants were eating better than he was at that moment.

The young man decided to humble himself and return home. He had spent his inheritance and was now willing to simply be a one of his father’s hired servants.

He then made the long journey home. What would he find there? What would be the response of the father he had so humiliated by his leaving?

How would we write the story? A father standing, arms folded, with a stern “I told you so” written across his face. Would he listen in silence to the young man’s plea, only to say, “We’ll see how you act over the next few months.” Maybe there would be outright rejection.

We always seem to project these natural, human, responses onto our loving Father God. I’m so glad that He doesn’t treat us the way we treat each other. I’m even more thankful that He doesn’t treat me the way I deserve to be treated.

This young man started into his prepared speech.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.

Luke 15:21-23 NIV

Because of the work Christ has done, all I need to do is start heading in His direction. It’s at that point that He runs to be with me. There’s no condemnation, no probation, and no judging. He only brings acceptance and forgiveness with Him.

Maybe you’ve done some things that you think are hard to forgive. Maybe you’ve been a long time away from God. It doesn’t matter. Return to the Lord and He’ll run to you. You can be restored in an instant because of the love of the Father.

Trust Him. He’s the God who runs.

Question: How have you experienced the love and acceptance of God the Father?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2022 in Encouragement, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Identification Principles

Identification Principles

As we continue through Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is teaching the disciples as well as the crowds following Him. Since the Jewish leaders are now trying to discredit Him, the Lord explains some important concerns that they need to deal with.

I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.”

Luke 12:8-9 NIV

The first thing the Lord talks about is agreement. The word, acknowledge, is a Greek word that means to speak the same as. In other words, you agree with Christ, both His claims and His teaching. If we do this, then the Lord acknowledges us before His angels. Why is that so important?

It makes a difference because in many instances God uses His angels to answer our prayers. If we’re not in agreement with Christ, we don’t have that blessing. I imagine it as if we pray for something, and the angels look to Christ for His acknowledgment. But, if we’re not in agreement with Him and His plans for us, the Lord just shrugs His shoulders, and the angels ignore the request.

Acknowledging Jesus is more than just saying, “I’m a Christian. I love Jesus.” It means that I’m getting to know Him personally. I want His will to be accomplished in my life.

And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”

Luke 12:10 NIV

Now the Lord deals with an even deeper issue. It’s something that the religious leaders of Israel need to consider carefully. Of course, it’s also something that a lot of Christians get worked up about, hoping that they haven’t committed the unpardonable sin.

First, Jesus deals with Himself. By calling Himself the Son of Man, the Lord is speaking of His earthly ministry. The fact is, not many people in Israel knew what to expect in the Messiah’s coming. Some of their misgivings were based upon a lack of knowledge. That can be forgiven.

However, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is another matter. That word, blasphemy, means that you’re speaking evil about someone. You are actively trying to injure someone’s good name.

This brings with it some assumptions. It assumes that you know that you’re talking about a real person. Then, you also know that this person is good, you just want them to look bad in the eyes of others.

In this case, the Pharisees and other leaders knew that the hand of God was at work in Jesus’ ministry. They knew it was the power of the Holy Spirit healing and delivering from demonic forces. Yet, in an effort to discredit the Lord, they said it was the power of the devil. By doing this they were placing themselves on very dangerous ground.

What about us? I’ve been asked many times how to know if someone committed the unpardonable sin.

The answer is simple. Since it’s the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin and draws us to Christ – a sin against the Spirit is a dangerous thing.

But, as I said, it’s the Holy Spirit who draws us to Christ. So, I ask, would it be upsetting and troubling to you if you found out you had committed this sin? If the answer is “Yes” then you haven’t committed it.

Anyone who had committed this unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit would have absolutely no remorse about it. They wouldn’t care at all. That’s because the Spirit would no longer be working on their heart.

So, as long as you have a desire to repent, you can be forgiven for your sin. The real question is, are you identifying yourself with Christ? Do you want His will to be accomplished in your life? That should be the top priority of your soul.

Question: How intimate are you with the Holy Spirit?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Prayer for Forgiveness

Prayer for Forgiveness

As we continue through the Gospel of Luke, I’ve been posting about the Lord’s Prayer. It should be an example to us of how we should approach God in prayer.

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

Luke 11:4 NIV

This is a very simple statement, but it contains a world of truth. Forgiveness is such an important concept in our walk as Christians.

We start by asking the Lord to forgive our sins. In my experience, many believers have no idea what they’re really asking. They think they’re asking God to forget about the evil things that they’ve done. That’s not what’s being said.

The word, forgive, literally means to pick up and remove totally. It’s like when you put your trash out on the street for the sanitation worker to come and take it away. You never want to see it again.

Along with that, the word, sin, doesn’t only mean evil. It means all of the areas where we miss the mark of God’s perfect will for our lives. Even if we’re just a little bit off in some area, that counts as sin in God’s eyes.

So, what we’re really asking the Lord to do is to remove all of those areas where we’re missing God’s best. We want our lives to be brought up to the level where it should be in Christ.

But this begs the question; do we really want this forgiveness? What I think I’m asking is for God to forget that I’ve done wrong. However, I might not want to stop doing wrong in certain areas of my life.

True repentance is the desire for God to totally remove wrongdoing from my life. I want to see myself free of the things that displease the Lord. If I don’t want to repent, then I’m not truly asking for forgiveness.

Now we flip to the other side of the coin. How do we respond to others in the light of God’s forgiveness? You may not like the answer to this question.

That’s because we need to follow the Lord’s example and forgive others the same way. That means we have to remove something. However, the translation of this verse is a little off. It doesn’t really tell me to forgive someone’s sin.

The second word, sin, is actually a Greek word that means debts. This literally means people who we feel they owe us something or are obligated to us in some way. This is way beyond only the evil things that have been done to us.

This is something that we’re called to do, in the same way that the Lord accomplished it. What do I mean by this? To understand this we have to see what Christ did as He was hanging on the cross.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Luke 23:34 NIV

This is the hardest part of forgiveness. Jesus offered forgiveness before He was ever asked to forgive.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we’re saying that we forgive everyone who is indebted to us. It does not say we forgive all those who ask for forgiveness.

We need to release everyone from their debts and obligations to us, whether they ask for it or not. That’s tough to do.

Does that mean we don’t take the money or services that people owe us? Absolutely not! But, in our hearts, we have released them from their debts so that we don’t become annoyed or bitter if they take too long or even refuse to “pay up”.

We need to live our lives with an attitude of forgiveness. This is especially true when it comes to the way people treat us. If we get upset and bitter every time someone treats us poorly, then we’re in for a very miserable life.

Seeking true forgiveness from God, and living a forgiving life, is the best way to go. It’s not easy, but we’ll find that it’s the best way to keep the joy of the Lord within us.

Question: What are the obligations that you need to forgive in your heart right now?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2022 in Prayer, Relationships, Spiritual Walk

 

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Don’t Miss God’s Best

Don’t Miss God’s Best

As we continue through the Gospel of Luke, we now come to one of the more popular sections. It’s when Jesus teaches the parable of the sower and the seed. The parable itself is contained in Luke 8:4-15. You may want to look it up and read it before going on with this post.

There are a lot of important truths in this section. So I’m going to spend a number of posts on it. Apparently the disciples didn’t understand the meaning of the parable. Later, when they were alone with Jesus, they asked Him about it.

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’”

Luke 8:9-10

To understand what Jesus is saying here, we need to know His role in the lives of the disciples. Christ was to the disciples then, who the Holy Spirit is to the church right now. He was the One leading, training, guiding and teaching them. So how the Lord worked with the disciples is how the Holy Spirit works with us.

The goal of Jesus with His disciples was to bring them into an understanding of the kingdom of God. His words are spirit and life. Jesus tells us that by not accepting His Word, there are three consequences. Unfortunately, I see these very things at work in much of the church today.

Seeing but not seeing. The word used for seeing is the generic word, to look at. I believe the Lord is talking about those who see what’s happening, but never apply it to their own lives. He’s talking about those who learn what God has done for them, but never experience it.

There are many Christians who spend lots of time confessing their position in Christ. But they never do what it takes to cross over into the manifestation of it. It only comes about by hearing and obeying the Lord’s voice.

Hearing but not understanding. Hearing simply means to listen with your ears. That’s the easy part. Plenty of people do that every week in church services.

Understanding is on a higher level. The word literally means to put together. That’s where we usually miss out. I need to know how to apply what I’ve heard to the area of my life that needs it.

Again, that’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. If I’m not listening for His instruction, then I’ll never see the changes take place that will move me forward in my Christian walk.

Mark’s Gospel records Jesus as ending this talk with an important summation.

…otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'”

Mark 4:12b

This is obviously the most important part. But it’s totally dependent upon seeing and understanding. What exactly does this mean?

The word, turn, means to turn around and start walking in the opposite direction. That’s good, but it’s the forgiven part that most of us miss the depth of. Our understanding of forgiveness is very shallow compared to the Scriptural concept.

When we think of being forgiven, it means that we did something wrong and now it’s okay. This is not what the Greek word indicates.

The word, forgive, in the Greek, means to pick up, remove, and throw away. This brings a whole new view of what’s happening in this verse.

When we see, understand, and obey a word from God, it causes us to turn around. Then, at that point, things start dropping off and being removed from our lives. Things like habitual sins, sicknesses, lack, and depression.

Hopefully, as we continue looking at this parable, we’ll learn to walk in this truth and experience God’s best for us. If you haven’t yet subscribed to this blog, take the opportunity now so that you won’t miss an installment.

Question: What is your current level of experiencing God’s best in your life?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2022 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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The Two Debts – Part 2

The Two Debts – Part 2

In my last post, I started talking about the Pharisee who had a dinner in honor of Jesus. I talked about the background of that event. This Pharisee was healed of leprosy by Jesus, earlier in His ministry. That’s an important point as we look at what happens at the dinner.

As I already said, during the dinner, a “sinful” woman came in, washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, and anointed them with an expensive perfume. The Pharisee became judgmental.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is — that she is a sinner.”

Luke 7:39

This Pharisee is assuming some things. The first is that Jesus thinks the same way he does about people. This is a trap many fall into.

We think that God is like us. We spend so much time trying to get God to agree with us. We want to get God on our side.

This approach never works. Our focus should be to get into agreement with God and to join with Him on His side.

The fact is that Jesus had no problem with this woman worshiping Him. He spent a lot of His time ministering to those that the Pharisees rejected as unworthy people.

I like the way Jesus turned things around. He asked this Pharisee a very leading question.

“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Luke 7:41-42

He gives this Pharisee a parable of two people in a hopeless, helpless situation. Knowing the whole story, we understand that this religious leader was healed of an incurable disease. He owed a great debt to the Lord that he could never repay.

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Luke 7:43

Unfortunately, he still doesn’t get the point. The Lord has to tell him plainly what He’s talking about.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

Luke 7:44-47

Here’s the bottom line. Jesus explains the real foundation for walking in love. This woman could show love in a real way, because she understood the depth of her condition. She received a forgiveness she could have never earned on her own.

The Pharisee saw himself as a good person. He didn’t need much from God. That’s the pitfall of self-righteousness.

If I see myself as better that anyone else, I don’t show much love. It’s only when I come to realize that no matter how good I am, I could never repay the forgiveness I needed from the Lord. The “filthy rags” of my own righteous works could never bring God’s blessing.

Forgiven much or forgiven a little is all a matter of perspective. No matter how good we think we are, we’re helpless and hopeless without the Lord’s grace. Understanding this allows us to love others the way Christ does.

Question: What is God’s forgiveness worth to you?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2022 in Legalism, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Two Debts – Part 1

The Two Debts – Part 1

As we continue through the Gospel of Luke, we now come to an event that many have preached about. However, few people know the whole story, because it requires a lot of digging to get to.

This is found in Luke 7:36-50. I encourage you to take the time and read through this section of Scripture to see the truth of what I’m describing.

A Pharisee had invited Jesus over to his home for a dinner in the Lord’s honor. When Jesus arrived at the house, the Pharisee neglected a few simple courtesies that were a way of life in that region of the world. He didn’t offer Jesus a kiss, water for His feet, or oil for His hair. This was a slight against the Lord.

During Jesus’ visit, a woman came in and did something unique. She knelt before Him and wept, allowing her tears to fall on His feet. Then she wiped them with her hair. Once His feet were cleaned, she opened an alabaster bottle of expensive perfume and began to anoint His feet.

As this was going on, the Pharisee was thinking that if Jesus were really a prophet, He would know how sinful this woman was. According to the Pharisee’s thinking, Jesus shouldn’t let her touch Him.

Jesus, knowing his thoughts, turned to the Pharisee and told him a parable about two men who had their debts forgiven. One had a large debt, and the other a small one.

Here’s the rest of the story that never gets told. This party was also recorded in Mark 14:1-10 and Matthew 26:6-13.

Luke calls the host of the party, a Pharisee named Simon. Mark, however, calls him Simon the Leper. That’s important because in the entire book of Mark, he only records one leper being healed by the Lord. That’s in Mark 1:40-44. Listen to what Jesus said to the man after he was healed.

Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

Mark 1:43-44

I believe this is the same Pharisee who gave Jesus the party in Luke’s Gospel. There are two important reasons. First, Jesus assumes that this man knows what sacrifices were required for the cleansing of leprosy. The normal outcast would probably not know this.

The second is the most obvious to me. The Lord told this man to go to the priests to be a testimony to them. A Pharisee who was diagnosed with leprosy would be well known to them. He would be going to the very priests who banned him from the temple worship.

His healing would definitely testify as to the power of the Lord. Some unknown leper would never have the influence to be a credible testimony to the company of priests in Jerusalem.

You may remember from reading this blog, that Luke also records the healing of this leper in Luke 5:12-14. Look at what happened just a few days later.

One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick.

Luke 5:17-18

I believe that there’s only one reason Pharisees from all over Judea and Jerusalem would come all the way to Galilee, to hear Jesus. That was because one of their own number was miraculously healed of leprosy. That man’s testimony drew quite a crowd of religious leaders.

This gives us new insight. In the account of the Pharisee and the “sinful” woman, both of them owed Jesus a debt of gratitude. This is what the Lord was calling attention to in His parable.

Because of the power of the Messiah, the Pharisee had his leprosy removed while the woman had her sins removed. Now the only question is; who would thank the Lord for what He had done for them?

In my next post, we’ll see the lesson that Jesus tries to get across to the Pharisee.

Question: How do you show your thankfulness to Christ for what He’s done for you?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2022 in Healing, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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It All Comes Back Around

It All Comes Back Around

I’m continuing, now, with my study of the Gospel of Luke. We’re looking at the Sermon on the Mount. The Lord now gives us four things that return to us as we give them out.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Luke 6:37-38

The first is judgment. That speaks of a decision between right and wrong. It seems that we’re always so quick to judge the words and actions of others.

Of course, we don’t like it when others give us their verdict. Judging is something that hurts when it’s used improperly.

It always amazes me how our judgment differs depending on the object. From my perspective, when you do something I think is wrong, you have no excuse. When I do something wrong, however, I have a good reason why I did it!

We need to learn to stop being so judgmental. Or, at least we need to keep our judgments to ourselves. In this way we’ll not be judged as much.

The next thing the Lord talks about is condemnation. This is the actual punishment for what we think is a self-evident wrong.

This punishment can take on many forms. Sometimes it’s avoiding someone we think has wronged us. Other times it may take the form of gossip and slander. We want others to know the damage that was caused to us.

This type of behavior has no place in the body of Christ. If you’re quick to pass out condemnation, then it will come back upon you. Others will scrutinize your life more closely. This is a position I wouldn’t want to find myself in.

These are two negatives that we need to avoid. Now the Lord gets to the positive things to give out.

The first is forgiveness. This is a very important concept in the Scripture. It literally means to release and free fully.

It’s the opposite of judgment and condemnation. When we judge and condemn someone, it’s as if we’ve locked them away in our mind. We attach them to what they’ve done and constantly remember it.

Forgiveness, on the other hand, releases them from this internal prison cell. We no longer associate them with what they may have done.

Forgiveness is more than simply saying the words, “I forgive you.” It’s a choice to forget, or act like you forget, what they’ve done in the past. It’s giving someone a fresh start. After all, isn’t that what Christ has done for us?

Then, Jesus uses the generic word, give. This applies to all of our giving. It doesn’t matter if it’s money, resources, encouragement, or any other thing. When we give, it opens the door for us to receive.

The thing we have to realize is that the blessing comes in many forms. Just because I give someone money, doesn’t mean I’m going to get money in return. There are many times that God blessed me with things that are worth much more than simply cash.

The important thing is that we understand, the return is always more than the initial giving. That’s true in all of these areas. When we give judgment, condemnation, forgiveness, and resources, the return is “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.”

We must make sure that we’re careful in what we give out. All of us want good things flowing into our lives. If that’s the case, then we should strive to be a conduit of God’s blessings flowing out to those around us.

Question: How have you seen this principle at work in your life?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2022 in Relationships, Spiritual Walk

 

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Preparing the Way

Preparing the Way

As we continue going through the Gospel of Luke, I’ll go on talking about us as being the “John the Baptist Generation”. We should be calling God’s people to wake up and prepare for the second coming of the Messiah – Jesus Christ.

He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Luke 3:3

The first thing we have to realize is that our message is a little bit different than his was. We have to remember that John the Baptist preached before the cross of Christ.

Therefore, in order to be forgiven, there had to be true repentance. That word means a total reversal of direction. I had to stop doing wrong before I could be forgiven. My forgiveness was based upon my ability to obey God.

Praise the Lord! We live after the cross. It’s no longer “turn around and be forgiven”. But now, by grace, it’s confess your sin to God and be forgiven.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

God knows that I have no ability to change my life. I cry out to Him in my weakness. I confess how I’ve missed the mark of His perfection. Then, I allow the Holy Spirit to do the purifying work in me.

I think that we miss this sometimes. Too many believers are living in the Old Covenant. They think that they have to change themselves in order to please God. That will never work.

When I come to God, He is faithful to forgive – remove – my sin. Then, it’s only by His power that I can truly change my lifestyle to conform to His image.

But, there’s another part of John’s message that we need to lay hold of. Remember, John was calling Israel, God’s people, to prepare for Messiah’s coming. That same message is needed today in the church.

As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him…’”

Luke 3:4

I hate the fact that I have to be the one who says this. But, compared to the early church, we live in a spiritual wilderness. We’re no longer excited about who God is. (I’m speaking overall, not about the few who are awake)

What seems to really get our attention is what God can do for us. We ignore what God wants to do through us. We no longer think in terms of bringing people to the knowledge of salvation. We want to fit into society.

We concern ourselves with so many side issues that it crowds out our devotion to Christ. Our fear of the social problems around us keeps us from worshiping together.

So many churches are places where we come together to hear great inspirational singing. We listen to a motivational talk. But, we leave unchanged and continue on our way oblivious to God’s plan for us.

It’s truly time for us to seek God’s presence. We must want Him to show up at our services. That’s what making straight paths for Him is all about.

The problem is that many churches don’t want the Holy Spirit to show up at their services. It would mess things up. He would really throw off their schedules. And He’d make them late for dinner.

In this generation, we truly need a manifestation of the presence of God in our meetings.

But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

1 Corinthians 14:24-25

This is what we should be preparing ourselves for. This will bring in a harvest of souls. It’s what the world needs to see.

Question: What will it take for us to start truly seeking the presence of God?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2021 in Ministry, Return of Christ, Revival, The Gospel

 

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The Place of Repentance

As we continue in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, we begin to see the back story of the situation.  In Paul’s first letter to this church, he was very strong in dealing with the sins of some of the members.

Later on, he sent Timothy as his representative, to see how things were progressing.  Now we’ll see the results of all of this.

For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn — conflicts on the outside, fears within.  But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him.  He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.
2 Corinthians 7:5-7

It turns out that Timothy’s report to Paul was better than expected.  The apostle was greatly encouraged by the response of the Corinthian church.

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it.  Though I did regret it — I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while — yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance.  For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.
2 Corinthians 7:8-9

Paul’s joy was made complete because the Corinthian believers were brought to the place of repentance.  This had to be done in order for them to receive forgiveness.

Of course, we don’t like this word. It has a bad connotation for us. In Greek, it’s the word metanoia which means to change your mind. It also means to turn around.

“I was wrong. I want to change.”

Repentance is usually preceded by distress, sorrow, or sadness. We don’t like these feelings. In our relationships with other people, we would much rather use a word like apologize.

“If you apologize, I’ll forgive you.”

The fact is you don’t really want an apology. The Greek definition of the word apology is to give the reason. In that case, you might hear something like, “The reason I did that was that I hate you and I want you to be miserable.”

What you want from the other person is repentance.  It’s the same in our relationship with God.  He already knows why you did it.  He simply wants you to see that you were wrong and now you have a desire to change.

“I’m sorry over what I did.” (Godly sorrow) “If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t do it.” “I will never do that again.”

But we have to remember that with God, His forgiveness is given before repentance. It then takes repentance in order to position yourself to receive His forgiveness.

True repentance isn’t easy.  In my next post, we’ll see how Paul describes the road to repentance.

Question: How quick are you to go to God in repentance when needed?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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