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Giving Results in Thanksgiving

I’ve been posting about the outcome of a lifestyle of giving.  What’s the result of walking regularly in the grace of giving?

We’ve seen how God increases the seed and the harvest of those who sow into His kingdom.  Now Paul continues this thought.

You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:11

I know there are many who get upset when you talk about God’s abundant financial blessings on the lives of giving Christians.  But, I have to be true to what the Bible says.

This verse literally says that in everything you will be made wealthy.  Of course, in context, he’s talking about sowers.  But this is a verse that you cannot deny or explain away.  It says what it says.

There’s more to it than just getting wealthy.  According to the above verse, there’s a point that this wealth is taking you to.  The purpose of this blessing is to bring you to generosity in all things.

God doesn’t want to bring you a financial blessing just you can sit on a fat bank account.  He wants you to do something with it – be generous with others.

Then, there’s an even further result.  As you bless others, thanksgiving will go up to God.

So there’s a test you can take.  If you have wealth, is it the source of thanksgiving to the Lord?  If not, then you’re not using your finances correctly.

Paul goes on to elaborate on this.

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.  Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.  And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.  Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
2 Corinthians 9:12-15

I really need to tell you what Paul means when he says it’s the service that you perform.  He uses very detailed Greek words.  He is actually saying that this is a liturgy of servanthood.

Giving generously is actually a spiritual exercise.  It’s a part of the mature Christian walk with Christ.

The apostle tells us that it’s the proof of your obedience to God.  It shows that your confession of Christ as Lord is not just lip service.

It becomes obvious to all who see you that God is bestowing upon you this grace of giving.  It’s not from your own abilities or actions.  It’s His power working through you.

Thanksgiving to God will be multiplied as others begin to follow your example of giving.  This is truly a great gift to walk in.

Question: How have you experienced God’s blessings?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2020 in God's Provision, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Growers and Consumers

We’re continuing to go through Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church. He’s talking about the grace of giving and the rewards associated with it.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.
2 Corinthians 9:10

Paul gives us a good description of the God we serve.  He shares a few important pieces of information.

The first thing he says is that God completely supplies.  He’s not a partial God, but one who does the whole work needed.

The Lord supplies seed to the sower.  That begs the question; what is a sower?  A sower is not someone who puts a few tomato plants in his backyard.  A sower is a farmer whose livelihood depends upon the crops that he sows in the ground.

A sower is someone who is regularly sowing.  They have a lifestyle of planting good seed into good soil.  They also water, weed, and watch over what they sow.

The good news is that God supplies seed for those who are sowers.  Whatever it is that you sow regularly, God will keep you amply supplied.

The next thing Paul says is that God supplies bread for food…or, literally, eating.  That’s for spiritual consumers.  They simply take.  They expect God to do everything for them without putting anything into His kingdom.

Jesus did say we could pray for our daily bread.  But that’s daily.  It’s for people who only want enough to survive.

I believe that the best choice for any Christian is to become a sower.  The rest of the verse is for them.  Someone who’s eating their daily bread has no need for a storehouse of seed.  That’s for those who are intent upon planting.

The Lord promises to increase your storehouse and your harvest.  The more you plant, the more He’ll give you.

But there’s more. The Greek word for increase and enlarge is a word from which we get our English word, choreograph.  In other words, if you’re a sower, God will choreograph things in such a way, that you’ll get more seed and a greater harvest.

That’s why it’s always better to be a sower than a consumer.  The promises of God are better.  What’s more, you’ll live a more fulfilling life.  You’ll be sowing blessings into the lives of many people around you.

Here’s the way Jesus said it…

“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 6:38

That’s how to live in order to be a blessing and be blessed at the same time.

Question: How have you reaped the rewards of giving?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2020 in God's Provision, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Heart of Giving

We’re continuing to study Paul’s exhortations concerning the grace of giving.  In my last post, we saw the principle of sowing and reaping.  Now we’ll move on to the next truth.

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7

This is another verse I’ve heard people use for their own agendas.  They explain to me that they can decide to give whatever they want…or nothing at all.  Is that what it’s really saying?

First of all, in the original text, the only place the word give appears is at the end of the verse – the word giver.  It’s also important to note that the beginning of this verse is not so easy to translate.

The Greek word translated as decided is only used this once in the entire New Testament.  I realize that all the major translations use words such as decided, purposed, and determined.  But in actuality, this word is pregnant with meaning.

It’s more than a simple decision.  It means to prioritize what you’re deciding to bring forth from your storehouse.  I understand why that phrase is hard to place into this verse and still have it be readable in English.

I think what Paul is trying to get across is that each person should bring forth what is the priority of their heart.  That puts a whole different spin on it.  That’s because what comes out of our heart is in direct relationship to what we’ve put into it.

In telling His disciples about how to recognize people by their fruit, Jesus said the following…

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

In the context of this verse, Jesus is relating this to how someone speaks.  But I believe, based on how the Lord worded the principle, that this could be applied to any area of life.  It fits right in with what Paul was saying to the Corinthian church.

That’s why the apostle tells us that our giving should not come from grief or distress.  We’re not buying a blessing from God to relieve our problems.  I’m not giving because someone made me feel guilty.

I give because of what’s planted in my heart.  I continually put God’s Word into it.  Then, the Holy Spirit has something to work with when it’s time to give.  I hear from the Lord and I give from the overflow of what’s in my heart.

That’s the best way to be a cheerful giver.  This means that you feel good about what you give.  In that way, you will both be a blessing, and be blessed by this grace of giving.

Question: how you seek God when it’s time to give an offering?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2020 in Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Walk, Word of God

 

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Financial Equality

We’re continuing to look at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s talking to them about money and the giving of offerings.

As I’ve said, the churches of Judea were experiencing a famine and Paul wanted the Gentile churches to help out in this time of need.  He now explains a principle that we all but ignored in the modern church.

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.
2 Corinthians 8:13-14

What Paul says here is that he doesn’t want one part of the body of Christ at ease and relaxed while another part is under great pressure.  He wants to see an equal sharing of God’s work.

Unfortunately, we don’t see this in the church today.  Actually, it’s not been seen for a very long time.  In most cases, it’s every church for themselves.

Throughout the church, there are believers who could care less about the work of God.  They’re about going to work and making money.  They feel their part is attending church most weeks and giving a little something in the offering.

The way the world is right now, it’s time for the church to wake up.  We need to get back to the priority of sharing Christ.

At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.  Then there will be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”
2 Corinthians 8:14-15

This verse says that your surplus will supply their deficit.  I praise God for churches who see beyond their own four walls.

Too many ministries have taken on the structure and attitude of corporate America.  American greed is at an all-time high.

The head of the company makes more money than they could spend in 10 lifetimes.  While their employees have to take on multiple jobs just to survive.

It shouldn’t be that way in the church.  We’re here to make Christ known.  What does the world see when they look at us?

There are ministry leaders across the country with multiple homes, cars, motorcycles, and jets.  At the same time, there are ministries that are struggling to survive.  What message does that send to the world?

What am I trying to say?  As much as it depends on us, we should be a giving people.  We should also seek to be a part of a ministry with open hands.  Giving is a part of the lifeblood of the church.

Question: What is your attitude toward the giving of offerings?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2020 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Excel In Grace

In my last post, we saw how the churches in Macedonia walked in the miraculous grace of giving.  Now Paul wants to use them as an example to the Corinthian church (and us).

So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part.
2 Corinthians 8:6

The last time Paul visited Corinth, the church promised a big offering for the churches in Judea.  They were going through a time of great famine and Paul wanted the Gentile churches to be a blessing to them.

Apparently, Titus, Paul’s son in the faith, was charged with the arrangements.  He was to make sure the money was collected and brought to the needy churches.

It’s continually made clear that giving is an act of grace.  God works through us to help others.

But just as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us — see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
2 Corinthians 8:7

The Corinthian church had many things going for it.  They were one of the largest churches of their day.  They also had a powerful ministry.

The apostle acknowledges the incredible work they were doing.  He said that they excelled in everything.  That word means to super-abound in quality or quantity.  They were a church doing a great work.

The first thing Paul lists is faith.  That’s where it all starts.  A church with no faith has no vision.  It doesn’t take faith to make sure you have a service every week.

You have to see where God wants to take you to.  What’s the next level in your ministry?

Another thing they excelled in was their speaking.  They must have had a great preaching and teaching ministry.  That’s a big part of church growth.

People need to be trained.  New believers need mentoring.  Mature believers need to learn the art of leadership.  We never stop growing.  A church without a teaching ministry is bound to stagnate.

Along with this, they also excelled in knowledge.  They wanted to learn.  That’s probably why they followed the corrections in Paul’s first letter.

A teachable spirit is very important.  The more we learn, the more we must be open to change.

A great pastor friend of mine says quite frequently, “Growth means change, and change is uncomfortable.”  So we have the choice; we can be comfortable and stay the same or uncomfortable and grow.

Finally, the apostle commends them for excelling in earnestness.  That’s an important component.  It’s the Greek word from which we get the English word, speed.

It’s one thing to know what you need to do.  Many churches know the changes that need to take place to bring them to the next level.  The hard part is taking that first step and doing what needs to be done.

The Corinthian church was graced in all of these areas.  Now Paul wanted them to launch full speed into the grace of giving.  We need to learn from their example.

Question: How quick are you to obey a new instruction from God?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Giving Yourself to God

We’re continuing to look at the miraculous grace of giving.  Paul writes about it in reference to the Macedonian churches.  They were able to give supernatural offerings as a result.

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.
2 Corinthians 8:3-5

This is one of the most miraculous verses in the Bible. How can you ever give beyond your ability? I don’t know, but that’s Paul’s testimony of what they did.

I believe that the key to all this is found in verse 5. Paul said that they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us.

Your first calling is not to a church or a ministry. It’s to God Himself.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t commit yourself to a church. What I am saying is that committing yourself to a church without first giving yourself to God is counter-productive.

These Macedonian believers understood the principle of success.  You need to present yourself as a gift to God.  That means we give up all personal rights over to His will. Paul understood what this meant.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:57-58

The context of this verse is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Paul goes into great detail explaining the importance of His rising from the grave.

Paul concludes this section by talking about our victory in Christ. The resurrection is the foundation for our victory in this life. We know that the victory is ours in Christ, no matter what the situation may look like right at the present moment.

So in this passage, Paul uses the word, therefore. It’s because we know that Christ is victorious – past, present, and future – that we can give ourselves fully to God. We already know the outcome, so we can give ourselves willingly.

The problem is, that willingly and fully are two very different things. I can willingly serve God with only part of my life, time, and resources. The real victory comes when I willingly give all to Christ.

Please understand that this has nothing to do with your abilities. It has everything to do with your willingness to fully commit your life to God. That’s the lesson the Macedonian churches had learned.

It’s only when you first give yourself to God, that you can accomplish something beyond your ability. That’s when people notice that it’s God working in you. Only then will God get the glory from your life, and people will be attracted to the Gospel.

Question: How fully committed is your life to God?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2020 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Needs of the Lord

As we continue to go through the Gospel of Mark, we’re coming to the culmination of the earthly ministry of Christ.  He is approaching Jerusalem, knowing that the cross awaits Him there.  As the Lord is about to enter the city, Mark records an interesting event that takes place.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden.  Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.'”
They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?”  They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.
Mark 11:1-6

We need to understand what’s happening here.  It has a lot to do with attitudes and faithfulness in the kingdom of God.

The first thing I see is that something is needed to fulfill the ministry of Christ.  It was foretold in the Old Testament that Jesus would enter Jerusalem on the back of a colt.  It was time for this to be accomplished.  In every ministry, there are needs that must be met in order for God’s will to be done.

Next, I see a supernatural revelation as to how this need was going to be filled.  Notice that Jesus didn’t say to His disciples, “Guys, I’m going to need to ride in on a colt.  You have to go out and find me one quickly.”

That tells me that to accomplish my calling, it will always require faith.  After all, there were other ways this could have been done.  Jesus could have purchased a colt in Jericho, the last town He visited.  Then He would have had it ready to go upon His arrival.

But that’s not how the Father wanted this to happen.  He desired the disciples to act in faith toward the instructions of Jesus.

Finally, it comes down to attitudes.  The disciples know what the ministry needs and how God intends to provide it.  The problem is that it all depends upon another party – those who own the colt.  All they heard was, “The Lord needs your colt to accomplish God’s will.”

Think about it.  How many times have we been in a meeting listening to a missionary share their excitement over the people-group that God has called them to reach?

“The Lord needs your money to accomplish His will.”

I know what you’re thinking.  The disciples told the owners that the colt would be sent back when the Lord was through with it.

“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 6:38

Why do we get the attitude sometimes, “Oh, no!  Another special offering.”  We need to understand that God looks at these gifts as loans to His kingdom.  He always repays with blessings we couldn’t ever get on our own.  But it all comes down to attitude.

Get your money or resources involved in kingdom work as the Lord leads you.  You won’t regret it.

Question: How have you been blessed by giving something to the Lord’s work?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2018 in Faith, God's Provision, Ministry

 

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Open Hands

In my last post, we saw how hard it is for the rich to walk in the full power of the kingdom of God.  They must first overcome the temptation to depend upon wealth to fulfill their calling.  Now the disciples continue with this topic.

Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!”
Mark 10:28

Peter seems to always be the one who speaks up, usually without thinking first.  I read what he says, but I don’t know if I totally agree with it.

The fact is that Peter still owned a home.  It’s clear that they went back there from time to time (Matthew 8:14).

He didn’t give up his business either.  Peter, along with Andrew, James, and John, went right back to fishing after the death of Christ (John 21:3).

I think that Peter was looking at himself as being a little better than he actually was.  His boasts were usually just words.  If you remember, he also boasted that he would never deny the Lord.

Jesus, however, didn’t argue with them.  He simply explained the kingdom principle of true giving.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields — and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Mark 10:29-31

Jesus is helping them to understand the truth of giving and receiving.  I don’t know if they really understood it yet.  I know that many in the body of Christ don’t understand it in this generation.

Some concentrate on giving, while others look for how to receive.  The truth is that the giving and receiving are always tied together.  Paul explained this to the Philippian church.

Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only…
Philippians 4:15

This is a very rich statement.  I don’t think the translators did it justice.  What Paul actually says, in the original Greek, is that no one participated in the Word of giving and receiving except for them.  That’s an interesting phrase – the Word of giving and receiving.

This doesn’t mean that we have to give everything away in order to please God.  What it does mean is that I place everything that I have and all that I am into the Lord’s hand.  I let Him know that whatever, whenever He asks, I will give without hesitation.

In our hearts, we have given everything over to God.  All that I have is available for His use.

The good news is that when my hands are open before God, they’re ready for two things.  With open hands, I can give, and with open hands, I can receive.

Don’t be self-deceived.  The Lord’s last statement about the first and the last apply to this.  Peter thought he was in line to receive.  Many run to the front of the “receiving line” thinking they’ll get something from God.

Jesus taught that giving and receiving was a package deal.  Put your life and all you have in the Lord’s hands.  Then you can trust Him to provide all that you need.

Question: What have you been intentional about turning over to the Lord for His use?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2018 in God's Provision, Spiritual Walk

 

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Blessed to be a Blessing

Come to JesusWhat does it mean to be a blessing? We use the word a lot, but do we really understand it? I want to take a couple of posts to talk about our ability to bless others.

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
Hebrews 11:20

Mature believers don’t just seek to be blessed, but to be a blessing. It’s a choice that has to be made. It’s by faith that we choose to be a blessing to others.

We use the word bless very loosely in the body of Christ.

“God blessed me with a parking space.”

We seem to think that anything good that happens is a blessing. That’s the modern church definition. But when you read the Bible, that thought will hide the truth about the blessing.

There are two opposites in Scripture, and we need to understand both of them. I’m talking about blessing and cursing.

Let’s start with blessing. What exactly does the word bless mean. In the Old Testament it’s the Hebrew word Barak. It means to kneel, which emphasizes the receiving aspect. In the New Testament, the Greek word Eulogeo is used. It means a well spoken word; and relates to the giving of a blessing.

One thing that we have to realize is that the blessing is always spoken. The actual word, bless, means to endue with power for success. That’s a tall order – to be a blessing to someone. How can I do that?

In Scripture we’re told to do everything in the Name of Jesus. It’s in His powerful name that we have what we need to bless others.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.
Psalm 118:26

If you have the name of the Lord, then you’re already blessed. It’s an event that has taken place when you made Christ the Lord of your life.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Ephesians 1:3

The good news is that I’m not looking for God’s blessing. According this verse, He has already blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heaven in Christ.

We know Scripture tells us that we can do all things through Christ. We have to remember this. We’ll never get that done on our own. We are blessed in order that we might be a blessing to others.

Getting back to what I said above. Now that we know what a blessing is, we can understand it better. A good parking space is not a blessing – it’s actually the result of the blessing that’s upon our lives.

This is the basis for blessing others. I can only bless those around me if I know that I am truly blessed. It takes blessed people to bless people.

Question: How has the blessing of God been evident in your life lately?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2016 in Ministry, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Giving – It’s Not What You Think

presentsUsually people associate the term giving with money. That’s not what I’m going to talk about. As a matter of fact, money is one of those things that we’re the most willing to give.

There are things that are easier to give than others. After watching mankind for centuries, Satan came to a conclusion about us.

Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life.
Job 2:4

According to his testimony, we’ll give anything before we will give our lives. But that’s just what we’re called to do. Jesus made it clear to His disciples that this was the case.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
Matthew 16:24-26

The truth is that a person will sell everything in order to save their life. It’s clear that there’s no greater prize than a person’s life. That’s why the greatest gift you can give to God is yourself.

It’s also the toughest thing we can do. We’d all like to remain in control of our lives. But the Lord tells us that the only way to preserve your life is to turn it over to Him.

“It’s my life. I’ll live it the way I want.”

That’s the cry of this generation. Unfortunately this attitude has crept over into the church. When we accepted Christ as our Savior, everything changed.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
John 6:37

In our act of surrender to Christ, the Father is giving us to Him. Jesus will never refuse anyone who comes to Him.

That’s a comforting thought. No matter what my condition is when I come to Him, the Lord will begin His work in me just the way that I am.

In the salvation process, God gives me as a gift to Himself. All the while He knows the deepest part of my soul. He knows all about my personality, my likes and my dislikes. The Lord knows what makes me different from everyone else.

That means that my life is like a gift-card for God to use as He wills. Every card is different. Some are for restaurants, others are for clothing stores.

In the same way, Jesus knows what we’re best suited for in His kingdom. Only He can use us to the best of our abilities. He can do more through us than we could ever imagine.

But before that can happen I have to willingly position myself in His hands. I want to talk about this for a couple of posts. We need to understand what it means to surrender our lives to His will.

Question: What does taking up His cross mean to you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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