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Anyone Can Doubt

Anyone Can Doubt

We’ve been looking at Luke, chapter 7. So far, we’ve seen a miraculous healing where Jesus didn’t even need to go to the person’s home for the healing to manifest. Then, the Lord raised a dead young man to life. Many people were spreading the news about Jesus, throughout Israel.

John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'”

Luke 7:18-20

Many believers find this to be a surprising passage of Scripture. How could someone like John the Baptist have any doubts?

He baptized Jesus. He saw heaven open and he heard the voice of the Father confirming that Jesus was the Christ. What was he thinking?

Some people are under the impression that if you get far enough along in your Christian journey, you become immune to doubts. I’m here to tell you that this is just not the case. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers – none of us have a spiritual “force field” against the temptation to doubt God’s Word.

What we need to learn is how to handle doubt when it comes our way. On the positive side, it’s important to note that John the Baptist went straight to the source. He needed to reinforce his relationship with Christ.

The Lord knew exactly how to deal with this issue. He gave John the weapons he needed to overcome his insecurities.

At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

Luke 7:21-23

Many times doubts arise because we don’t see the whole plan of God. We only see bits and pieces. That was john’s problem.

John knew from Scripture who Messiah was supposed to be. However, there are two pictures of Christ given in the Old Testament.

John the Baptist concentrated on Christ the Judge (Luke 3:7-18). He spent much of his ministry exhorting people to “flee the coming wrath”. What he didn’t realize is that this part of the Messiah’s calling was for His second Coming.

At this point in time, Jesus was called to love, heal, and preach the good news of God’s kingdom to all who would listen and believe. As John was being persecuted, he began to wonder why Christ wasn’t bringing wrath down on all of these “sinners”.

Jesus had to remind John to look at the totality of what God was doing. People were being drawn to submit their lives to God. As they saw His power, it became a way for them to hear about the life that was being held out to them.

We need to follow this example. When we’re tempted to doubt, we must stop looking at the problem or what we think God is not doing. Instead, we must concentrate on what the Lord has done or is doing in and around us.

Like Jesus said in His last statement, we can’t let ourselves be tripped up by who He is. That means we can’t focus on only one part of His work in us. There’s a whole plan that God has for us. I need to let the Lord have His way in me.

Don’t get caught up in the problem. Look at everything Christ is accomplishing in you.

Question: How have you been blessed by God so far?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2022 in Faith, Spiritual Walk

 

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God’s Plan – Starting Strong

God’s Plan – Starting Strong

As we continue through the Gospel of Luke, we just looked at the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. Now, Luke talks about his childhood years in Luke 2:21-40.

It’s obvious that both Mary and Joseph were devout Jews. They did everything according to the Law of Moses. This law is found in Leviticus 12.

According to this law, Jesus had to be circumcised on the eighth day. Then, Mary had to wait 33 days for her purification. At that point, she needed to go to the temple to offer the sacrifice for her purification.

This tells us a lot about the family of Jesus. All this moving around the country had taken a toll on their finances. They went to Jerusalem for their purification…

…and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Luke 2:24

Actually, according to the law, this is the sacrifice if you were too poor to afford a lamb. Mary and Joseph were struggling to get by. Yet, they maintained the spiritual connections the best that they could, in order to raise Jesus correctly.

After all, they could have made the excuse, “We can’t afford to go to Jerusalem yet.” But they went anyway, and God had a great blessing waiting for them there.

There happened to be an elderly man in Jerusalem named Simeon. God had impressed him that he wouldn’t die until he saw the Messiah. As soon as he saw the baby, he knew that the time had come.

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Luke 2:28-32

This prophet of God had some amazing words to say over this child. First, Simeon reveals that Jesus is the salvation of God.

Then, he speaks of the Lord’s ministry. Christ will be a light to the world. This light will be revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Israel.

As parents, I can only imagine what Mary and Joseph were thinking while Simeon was speaking out these words. But, he didn’t end there. He had a special prophecy that he spoke over Mary.

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Luke 2:34-35

He makes it known that the ministry of Jesus will not be a “bed of roses.” The Lord will definitely make a lot of powerful enemies. He will reveal things that those in authority will want to remain hidden. Mary needed to be ready for the outcome of God’s plan – Messiah going to the cross.

After Simeon finished his assignment, another person came to these parents. She was an elderly prayer warrior named Anna. She also recognized the child by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. She spoke more words of encouragement to all who were listening.

Joseph and Mary did everything that was needed to be done in order for God’s plan to be fulfilled in their child. And, God rewarded their efforts. They saw the confirmation of all that God spoke to them.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

Luke 2:39-40

After they had gone through with their spiritual duties, they left for home. But, they didn’t go to Bethlehem, where the Child was born. Instead, they went back to Nazareth, where they had grown up and were connected with friends and family.

In this environment, Christ grew, and it was obvious that God had a great calling upon Him.

Question: What are the things you need to do to fulfill God’s plan in your life?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2021 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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My Plan vs. God’s Plan

My Plan vs. God’s Plan

We’re continuing through the book of Romans. At this point we’re in the final stretch to the end. But, Paul still has some important insights for us.

It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”

This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.

Romans 15:20-22

In this verse we get a glimpse into Paul’s heart for ministry. His great desire is to make Christ know where He was formerly unknown.

Speaking as a pastor, this is my heart as well. I never wanted to take people away from their church. My overwhelming desire is to see believers grow in Christ, and to live out their faith to the fullest.

However, there’s another insight into grace that Paul gives us here. Sometimes we have to put our desires on hold because of the grace we’ve been given.

The apostle very much wanted to go to Rome and fellowship with the believers there. But God had other plans. There were cities where the Gospel of Christ hadn’t reached yet. The Holy Spirit was sending Paul to the places he was most needed.

We need to remember this in our Christian walk. Many times we pray for things that we desire. But, we don’t always get what we want. Sometimes the answer is a resounding “NO!” But, there are other times when God is simply telling us to wait, because it’s not time for that yet.

For the next seven verses (Romans 15:23-29), Paul talks about his plans for the future of his ministry. I suggest that you read this section and compare it to the last eight chapters of the book of Acts. It’s interesting to see what Paul is planning versus what God had already mapped out for him.

His agenda was to go to Jerusalem with an offering from the Gentile churches in Greece and Asia. Little does he know that he will be arrested when he gets to Jerusalem. He will then make it to Rome, but as a prisoner headed to trial.

Most Bible scholars believe that this was his first trial in Rome. He was eventually acquitted, and made his journey to Spain. Then, later in his life, he was tried and executed in Rome.

We need to see that even though Paul knew the outline of his future ministry – Jerusalem, Rome, Spain – he didn’t know all the details that the Holy Spirit had in store for him. We face the same challenges in discovering God’s will for our lives.

We pray and seek God for His wisdom. The Lord then imparts the outline for His plan into our spirits. Then, many times, we run off, thinking that we know how to get to the goal line. It’s only after bumping into a few closed doors that we find the true path God intends for us to follow.

In all of this, Paul understood the key to reaching the finish line.

I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Romans 15:30-33

Paul calls out to the church with an important request. He asks them to join the struggle with him through prayer. We have to realize that most people pray for their own concerns. He wants them to take up a concern for those yet to be reached by Paul’s ministry.

We know from the book of Acts, everything that Paul is about to face. We also know that God took him through it victoriously. A large part of this victory was the churches who stood by him in prayer.

Make sure that you stand in prayer with your leadership, missionaries, and other ministries (like mine!), to see God accomplish his will in our generation.

Question: What is God’s outline for your life right now?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2021 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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Our Unique Callings

Our Unique Callings

We’re continuing in the book of Romans as Paul explains to us the place of Israel in God’s plan. He now looks at the Jew-Gentile relationship. He starts by asking another question.

Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!

Romans 11:11-12

He asks the rhetorical question; did Israel trip to the point where they fell and lost it all? The answer is a resounding “No!” He says that their side-slip opened up salvation for the Gentiles. At this point, God is using this chance at salvation to provoke a rivalry.

So, if their side-slip means riches for the world, and their deterioration means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their completion be? God’s goal through all of this is not Israel’s destruction. The Lord is looking for their total restoration.

Paul now reminds us who he’s talking to.

I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.

Romans 11:13-14

Paul is specifically writing to Gentiles. It’s important that we understand his ministry. That word, apostle, means one who is set apart and sent out on a mission.

According to Paul, his mission is the Gentiles. At one point Paul submitted his Gospel to the Apostles in Jerusalem. He wanted to make sure he was in sync with the rest of Christianity at that time.

As for those who seemed to be important — whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance — those men added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews.

Galatians 2:6-7

In their meeting, they clearly saw the hand of God at work. Peter was obviously called to evangelize the Jews. Paul, on the other hand, was uniquely qualified to bring the message of Christ to the Gentile world.

Both Peter and Paul understood this important truth. We’re not called to do everything and reach everybody. Each one of us has a unique and specific area of ministry. We get into trouble when we try to be like someone else.

In Romans 11:13, above, Paul tells us that he glorifies that area of service – it’s of great importance to him. Yet, in the next verse, he tells us that he’s still hoping to win Israel to Christ.

The Apostle Paul has to deal with the same issues in his ministry that we deal with each day. He has a God-ordained ministry, yet he would rather do something different. He would rather be reaching the Jews.

The simple fact is that Paul wasn’t a Peter. What was it about Peter that he could win a thousand Jews to Christ at a time? I don’t know, but God was at work through his gifts and personality.

Paul was a totally different person. It’s clear that reaching the Jewish people was not his strong point. In spite of that, he tried again and again to reach them. And, whenever he did, he ran into trouble – he was stoned, thrown into jail, or had to go into hiding and leave the city.

We need to learn this lesson. We have to go before God and spend time in His presence. That’s how we come to understand our unique calling. We’ll begin to see who we personally are meant to reach and how to accomplish it. Time in the spirit is a great benefit to our ministry.

Questions: Who are you called to reach? How has God qualified you to do it?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Zeal is not Enough

Zeal is not Enough

In our journey through the book of Romans, we now find ourselves in chapter 10. Paul is continuing to explain the place of Israel in God’s plan. However, a lot of what he says can be applied to us. He’s speaking out against self-righteousness.

He starts chapter 10 with a brief summary of what he’s been saying.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.

Romans 10:1-2

Here we get a look into Paul’s heart for Israel. Paul’s greatest prayer is for Israel’s salvation. That’s an important statement. The assumption is that they’re not saved. They have no spiritual exemption simply because they’re the physical seed of Abraham.

We need to take that to heart. Our children are not saved simply because they grew up in church. There are some who call themselves “Christian” merely due to the fact that they attended Sunday School throughout their childhood.

That’s not enough. Every individual has to choose to serve Jesus Christ for themselves. I’m a prime example.

I grew up in a Christian home. I was a third generation Italian Pentecostal. From my earliest recollection, I never missed church on a Sunday. My parents even took us to church when we were on vacation!

I knew all the Bible stories. I memorized all the verses I was given. I never rebelled against church. But, that wasn’t enough – I was still not saved.

There came a day when I had to make the decision for myself to serve Jesus Christ. In July of 1966 I was sent to a Christian summer camp. It was called Camp Woodhaven in West Boylston, Massachusetts.

They would have a service every night and a prayer meeting directly after it. We were in the boy’s bunkhouse. I was kneeling next to my bed. My counselor came over to me and asked if I had ever made Jesus the Lord of my life.

He then explained to me God’s plan for salvation. He tailored it to my level. That’s when I said “Yes” to Jesus Christ and my counselor led me in a prayer that forever changed my life.

Even before that day, I was zealous for God. But, as Paul says in the above verse, zeal for God is not enough. I had to know and agree to God’s plan for my life.

That’s also how it is for the Jewish people. They need to recognize and follow God’s truth. What is it that they need to recognize?

Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Romans 10:3-4

They needed to come to an understanding of God’s righteousness. It’s a righteousness that’s by faith in Him. They zealously sought to stand in their own righteousness. While at the same time refusing to put themselves under God’s righteousness.

Here’s the problem with that kind of thinking. The second verse literally says that Christ is the end of the line for the law. The law stops with Christ – He’s the focal point of everything in the Old Testament.

Think of it as a train ride. All who believe get off at this station. The station is righteousness by faith in the finished work of Christ. But, there are some who refuse to leave the train. Among them are the Jews, and some who call themselves Christians.

That’s why we need to constantly be on guard against self-righteous legalism in our lives. It can destroy our walk with God. We need to be aware of God’s work in us – the only way to true righteousness.

Question: How did you choose to follow Christ?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2021 in Faith, Israel, Legalism, The Gospel

 

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God’s Purpose, God’s Choice

God’s Purpose, God’s Choice

In my last post, I started talking about Israel as God’s chosen people. In looking at Paul’s writings, he said that it was only the children of promise that were Abraham’s true children. Paul continues…

For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.” Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac.

Romans 9:9-10

Isaac was the son born of a promise. But, the same was true when Isaac went on to have children of his own. Isaac and his wife, Rebekah, had twins. They were born at the same time, in the same bloodline, into the same family.

Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad — in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls — she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Romans 9:11-13

Now there’s a mouthful. What does that phrase, God’s purpose in election mean?

God has a purpose in choosing. Actually this goes along with Romans 8:28. Remember, in Greek that verse says, God works together with all who love Him to bring about good – the purpose to which they were called.

In the above verse from chapter 9, Paul uses a special word for purpose. It means something held out. It’s the Greek word that’s also used for the showbread in the Temple. They are also called the “bread of the presence.”

This showbread was displayed in the holy place of the Temple on a weekly basis. Then, incense would be poured on top of any that was not eaten. So it was eaten and burned each week.

Only those offering service to God may eat this in His presence with their prayers. It was constantly provided for the priests who served at the altar. I believe that it’s also a picture of Christ, since He called himself the Bread of Heaven (John 6:51).

That’s the word Paul used in describing God’s way of choosing. God has a purpose in His calling and choosing.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:11-12

Everything that God does is based upon His preordained plan. His plan was set out from the beginning.

So, God wanted to show that it wasn’t by works that He makes His choice. He didn’t wait to see who gave Him the better offering or service. BEFORE they did anything – God looked ahead and chose the one who would obey His plan for their life.

Getting back to the verse in Romans, in order to see what’s being said, we have to understand love and hate. Contrary to current opinion, when the Bible uses these words, they’re both without emotion.

It’s all about choices. Love is the choice to positively participate in someone’s life. Hate is the choice to negatively participate or not to participate at all.

Knowing that Jacob would participate with His plan, God participated with him. Knowing that Esau would ignore His will, God chose not to work with him.

At first, it may seem unfair that God would say such a thing. But, after the twins progressed, it was obvious that God made the right choice. That’s especially true since it was obvious that Isaac was trying desperately to groom Esau to be the chosen son.

It’s good to know that God has a plan for me. He knows the choices I’ll make, even before I make them. I’m so glad that He works with me to bring about His destiny for my life.

Question: How do you see God’s hand upon your life?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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I’m Not a Victim of Sin

I’m Not a Victim of Sin

In my last post, we looked at Paul’s view of the infancy stage that all believers pass through. The goal is to go through as quickly as possible. It’s not an excuse for a sinful lifestyle.

Let’s look at these verses in detail. Remember, in this section, Paul is not talking about himself, but writing from the perspective of a baby Christian.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

Romans 7:15-16

It’s interesting to note that every word translated as “do” in this verse is a different Greek word. The literal translation of that first sentence is, I do not comprehend what I am fully accomplishing.

There’s another verse that can help us to understand what Paul’s saying here.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Philippians 2:12-13

We have to realize that God is working in us. His work includes the changing of our will and our actions. We simply need to submit to the Lord’s process.

So, in Romans, Paul isn’t saying “I don’t know what I’m doing.” He’s expressing to us that as a baby believer, he doesn’t fully comprehend what’s being accomplished in his life.

The simple fact is that I don’t understand how God is working His will in me. He’s getting me to think like He thinks. In that way I’ll begin to act on His plan for my life.

Going back to the original verse in Romans, Paul tells us why he doesn’t comprehend what he’s accomplishing. Again, the literal translation of the next sentence reads, the reason I don’t comprehend it is because what I intend is not what I practice habitually.

It’s not that I don’t do it. The problem is that it’s not a habit yet. Paul is saying that at this point the baby Christian hasn’t reached the level of habitually doing what he knows to do.

Instead, this immature believer finds himself doing things that he hates. But, there’s an important difference. This phrase does not imply a habit, but something that he falls into from time to time.

That brings us to the next verse.

And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.

Romans 7:16

There are times I find myself doing something that I actually don’t want to do. The good thing is that I recognize that it’s wrong. I find myself agreeing with God’s will. This is the first baby step to freedom.

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.

1 Peter 4:3-4

Peter explains it well. He says that when you were in sin, you chose to do it. Now, you’ve determined not to do it, you even hate it. You may still fall into it from time to time, but your heart is changing.

The world thinks it strange that you want to do good. They think that serving God is a bad thing, it’s no fun. But, now you’re agreeing that the law is good. This is the growth you want to see as an infant believer.

Question: How have you seen your attitude toward God’s law change over the years?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2021 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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The Interdependent Body

We’ve been looking at Paul’s description of the body of Christ in his first letter to the Corinthian church.  In my last post, we saw how we were all uniquely made for God’s purpose.  But we need to see that being unique doesn’t mean we’re independent.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!”  And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
1 Corinthians 12:21-22

We were all created for a different purpose.  Therefore, we all need each other.  This is true whether you know it or not.

That’s one of the tough facts of being part of a body.  Each part has an effect on all the others.  Sometimes you don’t even know what that effect is on the surface.

You can’t just look at what someone is doing for God and say, “That’s not needed.”  It all works together to bring about God’s plan.

On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.  And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.
1 Corinthians 12:22-24a

Even those who are weak in the Lord have a role to play.  This was brought home to me a couple of years ago when I had an accident.

While walking in the woods, I had climbed a rock and coming down from it I landed awkwardly.  I felt a sharp pain in my knee.  It turns out that I tore my ACL and bruised my meniscus.  I didn’t even know those parts existed until I heard the doctor’s diagnosis.

Part of the healing process was occupational therapy.  I was told to stand on one leg.  To my surprise, I couldn’t balance on one leg.  That’s because one of the jobs of these parts is to provide balance.  So, these two weak, unknown parts were actually doing something that I considered very important.

It’s like that in the body of Christ as well.  You may think that this weak Christian is just a nuisance.  Instead, they may be providing an opportunity for the growth and strengthening of others in the body.

Of course, there’s always the unpresentable parts – the ones that need to be covered.  I may be judgmental, but there are believers that shouldn’t let anyone know that they’re a Christian.  They’re actions do more harm than good for the Gospel.

But does that mean that they’re unneeded in the body of Christ?  Absolutely not!  Every believer is required for the church to function as God desires.  There’s a place for everyone; even if it’s not always front and center.

But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
1 Corinthians 12:24b-26

The simple fact is that we’re all in this together.  We’re interdependent upon each other.  Even though it may not be obvious on the surface – I need you and you need me.

It takes the whole body, functioning as a unit, to complete God’s plan for the church.  That’s why prayer for each other is so important.

We wonder why we don’t see the miraculous like we feel we should.  I believe it’s because God wants to work through the body and not simply through individuals.  As we all grow in our callings together, we will see the hand of God more and more working through us.

Question: What are some unseen functions of believers that have a great effect on the church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2019 in Encouragement, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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Good Advice?

“Stick to what you’re working at.  Concentrate on what you’re doing.  Don’t get side-tracked.”

That sounds like good advice.  And it is…most of the time.  However, we have to come to the realization that good advice doesn’t always line up with the will of God for you.  And, God’s will doesn’t always sound like good advice.

That’s what happened from time to time in the ministry of Jesus.  I’m talking about an incident that took place when He got off a boat near the Sea of Galilee one day.  You can find it in Mark 5:21-43.  You may want to read that passage before continuing with this post.

When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake.  Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there.  Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying.  Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”  So Jesus went with him.
Mark 5:21-24

At this point in His ministry, the Lord was gathering crowds wherever He went.  Today was no exception.  But these were not simply people who were following Him.  They were expecting something from Him.  They wanted Jesus to heal them or set them free from demonic oppression.

I don’t know how I would have been able to handle it.  Crowds of people suddenly running up to me, screaming for my immediate attention.  Yet Christ was able to keep His composure through all of it.

All at once, the sea of people parted.  Someone who was well-known and respected by the community was coming forward.  The elder in charge of their local synagogue was in desperate need of a healing for his daughter.

Jesus agrees to go with him and they start heading in that direction.  Then, as they’re proceeding, an interruption takes place.  People are pressing in all around Him, yet the Lord stops and looks around.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him.  He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
Mark 5:30

“Wait a minute, Jesus.  Let’s do one thing at a time.  There’s someplace else we need to be.”

That might have been my thought when this happened.  But then, I would have been out of the will of God.  There was a bigger purpose than I could see.

The reason that Jesus could go through situations like this, unflustered, was because of His intimacy with the Father.  Time spent in God’s presence allowed Him to have a great sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

That might be one of the reasons why we get ourselves into trouble when unexpected things pop up.  We react with the best of our understanding.  Many times it’s our limited knowledge that fouls things up.

The Lord could hear and obey the voice of the Spirit, even in a stressful situation.  He could know which requests to accept, and which to ignore.  This was true even when from the outside it looked like the wrong plan of action.

We know, from the end of this passage, that Jesus was proven right by His decisions.  He remained in God’s will through the whole encounter.  We need to cultivate this same intimacy with the Holy Spirit.  I believe it will help us to see God’s plan unfold on a daily basis.

I will probably be talking about this passage over the next few posts.  There are some good lessons that we can glean from it.

Question: How do you cultivate personal intimacy with God?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Perfect Submission

When we think about Jesus, what words come to mind?  Savior, Lord, God Almighty, and many more.  But do we immediately think of “obedient”?  That’s the first picture we get in the Gospel of Mark.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark 1:9-11

Many people wonder why Jesus felt He needed to be baptized in the Jordan River.  After all, He had no sin that needed to be confessed.  The Lord was perfect in all of His ways.

The fact is that Jesus knew His purpose right from the start.  He came to earth with the cross in mind.  He was fully aware that in order to save us, He would need to die a cruel death, be buried and then rise three days later.

That’s what this baptism was all about.  The Lord was showing, by a visible sign, that He was in full submission to the Father’s will concerning His life.  Christ’s initiation into public ministry was a confession that it would end in death, burial, and resurrection.

That’s why the Father gave His seal of approval to the Lord’s work.  He was well pleased that Jesus was willingly going forward with the plan of salvation.

But there was more to the Lord’s obedience and submission than this act of faith.  There was a step by step, day by day leading that He had to follow.  From this point on, the Holy Spirit would be His guide and leader, giving Him the plan for each new day.

I’d like to think that following the Holy Spirit is easy.  No problems; just do what He says and it’s a clear road ahead.  That wasn’t the case for Jesus.

At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
Mark 1:12-13

Immediately after a public submission to the Father’s plan, you would think that there’d be a huge boost in His ministry.  Instead, the Holy Spirit sends the Lord off to the wilderness.  You would think that this was opposite of what He should be doing.

“Go to Jerusalem.  Proclaim yourself the Messiah and Savior of the world.”

No.  That’s not the path that the Spirit had for him.  Jesus needed to be able to listen to the voice of the Father.  The wilderness would be His training ground.

Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…
Hebrews 5:8-9

We sometimes think that the only time Jesus suffered was on the cross.  I don’t believe that’s the case.  It doesn’t matter who you are, forty days in the wilderness with no food is uncomfortable for anybody’s flesh.

That’s why the Scripture tells us that Christ had to learn obedience.  It wasn’t easy.  It involved some suffering.

The suffering I’m talking about is that of self-discipline.  Jesus didn’t have to go to the desert.  He didn’t have to fast for forty days.  He was being led by the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes I think that’s the hardest temptation there is.  The knowledge that you’re following God’s plan.  It’s not comfortable.  No one will know if you deviate, or even cut a few corners.  Yet, you stay on the path you’re called to, no matter what.

This is the path of submission and obedience that we see exemplified in the life of Christ.

Question: What was the hardest thing the Holy Spirit asked you to do?

© 2017 Nick Zaccardi

 

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