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A Psalm for 2023

A Psalm for 2023

As we begin this new year, we should take the time to meditate on where we’re headed. I want to use this post to give you some thoughts to pray on.

For many years, I’ve had a tradition when it comes to the New Year. I’ve only posted about it a few times, but I want to start making it a yearly thing.

A long time ago, I noticed that since 1901, the Psalms have pretty much lined up with what was happening in world events. For at least 20 years, I’ve been using them to prepare me, and those under my ministry, for the year ahead.

Last year, I noticed something that I find very interesting. With the global pandemic that started in 2019, a majority of Christians stopped attending church in-person. Coinciding with that, from Psalm 120 on, are what’s known as the Psalms of ascent. That means they are Psalms calling God’s people to meet together. Hmmmm!

In last year’s post, I showed a call to return to in-person meetings. Unfortunately, there are large groups of believers who still don’t meet together for whatever reasons. To read last year’s post, click here.

Psalm 123 is the Psalm of Ascent for 2023. That’s what I want to talk about in this post. It’s up to you whether or not you see it as a prep for the coming year.

I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy.

Psalm 123:1-2 NIV

This Psalm begins with an acknowledgment that God is higher than we are. We need to start looking up – seeking His face. This has to be done in the humility of a servant’s heart.

That in itself is an important concept. We look to the Lord’s hand. The Hebrew language distinguishes between an open hand and a closed hand. In the above verse, we look to the open hand of our Lord.

We need to understand this because an open hand is significant in Scripture. An open hand speaks of power, means, and direction. All of these things are to be sought from the hand of God.

This is where the Holy Spirit is leading us in the coming year. That is, if we’re willing to seek His face. That’s the place where we obtain mercy.

In this verse, the Hebrew word for mercy literally means that a superior being is bending or stooping in kindness to an inferior, in order to bestow favor on them. This is where the Lord wants us to be positioned.

However, the question this brings up is; why – why do we need this divine impartation at this time? The Psalm gives us the answer, although you may not want to hear it.

Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us, for we have endured much contempt. We have endured much ridicule from the proud, much contempt from the arrogant.

Psalm 123:3-4 NIV

This cry for mercy is because of the attitude of the world around us. These verses say that our lives will be abundantly filled with disrespect, contempt, and ridicule.

Our society has already begun this type of assault against true, Bible believing Christians. I believe that it will ramp up this year. Some of it is deserved for our timid service to Christ.

I believe that God is allowing this in order to get our attention. We need to get back to a lifestyle of seeking God’s face. We must let 2023 be a year of pressing into the Holy Spirit.

Question: How deep is your walk with the Lord?

© 2023 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Last Days – “Don’t”

The Last Days – “Don’t”

As we go through Luke’s Gospel, I’m taking a few posts to look at what our attitude should be like in the last days. Specifically, we’re dealing with the principles given to us by Jesus in Luke chapter 21.

First, I want to talk about three things that the Lord told us NOT to do.

He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.”

Luke 21:8 NIV

His first command to us is, don’t follow them. We are to ignore those who claim, “I am he.” We should already know that one. Jesus said that at His coming every eye would see Him. It will not be a private return.

In spite of this warning, many have come claiming to be another incarnation of Christ. Over and over again, I hear about people going to hear someone who claims to be a new messiah.

The second statement that the Lord made was a little more subtle. He said not to follow those who come in His name claiming, “The time is near.”

Please understand, I believe that the coming of the Lord is near. The difference is that this is only a small part of my message. Christ is talking about those whose whole focus is on the soon coming of the Lord and the signs surrounding it.

Remember what I told you in my last post. In Scripture, the Second Coming is never the main focus – it’s always the reason for living correctly. You have to be very careful when you see a whole ministry based upon “the time is near.”

Usually these “end-time ministries” like to play on the sensationalism of possible outcomes. Any new astronomical event, international crisis, or natural disaster gives them new ways to bend Scripture to look like the end is upon us.

This type of ministry seems to sell a lot of books. But most of them are only exciting reading for a year or two. Then, it becomes obvious they were on the wrong track with their predictions.

“When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.”

Luke 21:9-11 NIV

The next thing Jesus tells us is don’t be frightened. You’re going to hear various bad reports. The world may be full of problems, but one thing remains true through the ages; Christ is still on the throne.

No matter what’s happening around us, Christians should never fear the future. The Holy Spirit is always with us. He leads and guides us. More than that, we know that He gives us the grace to stand strong in spite of the current situations.

Many people are predicting catastrophe for the United States. We don’t know what the future holds for our country. But I know the answer – Jesus Christ is Lord.

“But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.”

Luke 21:12-14 NIV

The Lord’s final general statement is; do not worry…how you will defend yourselves.

“What if it becomes illegal to be a Christian?”

It’s happened before and God brought His people through victoriously. In the Book of Acts Paul was headed to Jerusalem. Churches were telling him not to go because of prophecies that spoke of his arrest. He said he was not only willing to be arrested, but to die for Christ.

The key is that if you’re called to go through persecution or martyrdom, then you’ll receive the grace to stand firm. So – don’t worry about it now – the Lord will give you what you need when you need it.

Question: What is the result of following these commands the Lord gave us?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2022 in Encouragement, Faith, Power of God, Return of Christ

 

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Ministry Qualities Part 1

I’m continuing to look at Second Corinthians.  In my last post, I ended with Paul beginning to talk about the qualities of a true ministry for Christ.  Now we’ll see these in greater detail.

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger;
2 Corinthians 6:4-5

Great Endurance – This is from a Greek word that means to live or continue under. Sometimes that’s one of the hardest things to do.

God’s calling will lead you to a certain place or group of people.  Things don’t always work out the way we want.  We’d much rather leave and do something different.  This attitude says, “I’m not leaving here until God sends me someplace else.”

The kingdom of God doesn’t work like corporate America.  We don’t search for the best pay packages and move on when something better opens up.  We follow God’s call wherever it leads.

Troubles – This word actually means pressure.  This always comes with the calling of God.  We feel the pressure to complete what God desires us to do.

Of course, we also feel the pressure of the normal conditions of life.  We must fulfill the call to provide for our home and family.  We need to take care of our social requirements as well.  You can never get away from the pressures of life.

Hardships and destresses – I’m dealing with these two together because they’re very close in meaning.  Hardship means constraints while distress means narrowness of room.

They both talk about the fact that there’s very little “wiggle room” in the call of God.  As followers of Christ, we need to watch how we live before people.  They will always judge the Lord based upon what we do and say.

We have to be careful to let Christ be seen in us.  We can’t live like everybody else.  We want others to be drawn to the Lord and not turned away by our actions.

Beatings and imprisonments – I’m glad that I live in the United States.  But for many believers around the world, this is a real possibility.  We should always remember to pray for our brothers and sisters who are under persecution and remain true to Christ.

Riots – This Greek word literally means instability and disorder.  That’s a good description of what’s happening across our nation right now.

As Christians, we’re always called to be the voice of hope in extreme situations.  We must always be prepared to share the love of Christ no matter what’s happening around us.

Hard work – This should go without saying.  But Paul lets us know the truth about the ministry.  It definitely involves hard work.

That’s because we have to help a lot of hurting people.  One of the things that you learn quickly is that hurting people don’t mind hurting those who are trying to help them.

Of course, that’s when we need to pray for great endurance.  It’s hard to continue to walk this road continually, showing the love and joy of Christ.

But in the end, it’s all worth it for the blessing of seeing transformed lives.  I’ll continue with this in my next post.

Question: How have you experienced these qualities in your life and ministry?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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To Be Continued…

In my last post, we saw how Paul encouraged the Thessalonian church to remember the way the Gospel was passed down to them.  He now wants them to think about others in need of the truth of Christ.

Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.
2 Thessalonians 3:1

The apostle asks the church to pray for a couple of things.  The first is that the Word of Christ may advance quickly.  He not only wants it to run forward, but to be honored by those who hear it.

That should be our prayer as well.  It’s wonderful that I heard and honored the Word.  I’m saved because of it.  But for me, it shouldn’t end there.  Others need to hear that same life-changing Word.

Paul goes on with his request.

And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.  But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.  We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command.  May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
2 Thessalonians 3:2-5

These two prayers must go hand in hand.  The spreading of the Gospel message, and the protection of those who are bringing it.

Whenever the Word of Christ is preached, there are always two responses.  Some will have faith to believe it.  But there may also be those who oppose it – sometimes violently.

Of course, in our generation, there are those who have gone in a different direction.  There are some who have watered down the message so there will be little chance of persecution.

In Paul’s mind, the number one goal was the spreading and advancement of the Gospel.  Then he would trust God for his personal safety.

In our society it’s different.  Many have set their first goal as the advancement of their own comfort, entertainment, and wealth.  Then, if they have any free time, they can do something for Christ – as long as it doesn’t negatively affect their status in the world.

We need to change our thinking.  We must get back to the original message of the Gospel.  We don’t go out of our way to offend others, but the truth of God’s Word must be our priority.

Then, we’ll find out the truth of Paul’s prayer request.  We pray that the Word of Christ will spread and increase.  We pray that many will accept it.  And we pray that those who deliver it will have God’s divine protection.

Question: Do you see any differences between the way the Gospel spread in the early church and how it spreads in our present experience?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2018 in Ministry, Prayer, Revival, The Gospel

 

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The First Move of Restoration #Revivals past

Bible1In my last post, I talked about the church’s descent into the Dark Ages.  It was a horrible time in history.  Many people ask, “How could all this have happened?”  What about all that the Bible teaches?

The bottom line is, that at that time, the Church was the ultimate authority in the life of the believer.  Their teaching was viewed as infallible.  The clergy would not allow the common people own a Bible.

“We’ll explain to you the truth you need to know.”

Around 1300 A.D., it seems that God finally said, “Enough – I’ve got to prepare my bride for my coming.”  The Lord had to rearm his church.  As I look at the flow of history, I see that God was restoring the armor of Ephesians 6.  The bride had to be dressed and ready for the Lord.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,
Ephesians 6:14a

First thing that was needed to be restored was the Belt of Truth.  This is what the church desperately hungered for at that time.  We need a foundation of truth.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

I would never have known truth without Scripture.  I need to be taught the principles of God.

It seems that the church was without hope at this time.  The door to heaven was locked and the priests had the only key.

I think that it’s no coincidence that the printing press was invented during this period.  I also believe that it was a direct result of the move of God.  The first book printed with this new technology was the Bible.

The above verse tells me that sometimes I need to be rebuked, to be told when I’m wrong.  It’s how I react that tells whom I serve.  Am I willing to listen to the Holy Spirit and change, or am I hard-hearted and rebellious?

Thus, some of the greatest persecution of God’s people began.  Unfortunately it was not from unbelievers, but from the organized church, itself.

God started moving in the lives of His servants.  It was small at first.  Believers who wanted to read and study the Bible for themselves.

It’s hard for us in the United States to fathom this.  Most Christians have more than one Bible in their home.  We have access in stores and online.  We’re free to read Scripture whenever and wherever we want.

Throughout history this has not always been the case.  In my next post I’ll wrap up this series by recounting some of the precious saints of God who laid down their lives for us to have the abundance of Scripture that we now enjoy.

Question: How much do you appreciate your access to Scripture?  How do you show it?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2013 in Revival, The Church

 

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The Road to Damascus

Acts 9:3-6
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.  “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

We all make mistakes.  The unfortunate thing is, that sometimes we compound these mistakes by going off into a totally wrong direction.

In this section of Scripture we find that Saul (later to become Paul the Apostle) has become self-deceived.  He thought that by persecuting the church, he was in the center of God’s will for his life.

It took a wilderness journey and a voice from heaven to knock him off his horse and break through his defenses.  Apparently there was no other way to get through to him.  He needed to be shaken up in order for God to get his attention.

As we spend time in the wilderness we should be open for the Lord to wake us up and turn our lives around.  Every once in a while God has a life altering event waiting for you just around the next corner.  We need to be prepared and open for these heavenly interruptions.

As you go before the Lord today, make sure that you reaffirm your intention to obey Him no matter what comes your way.  Let Him know that you will remain true to Him even if it calls for you to change your plans.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2012 in Daily Thoughts

 

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