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The Law is not Your Friend

The Law is not Your Friend

We’re continuing our study through Paul’s letter to the Roman church. We’re looking at the example of a marriage in talking about our being set free from the law, sin, and death.

We are told, from this Scripture, that in Christ we died to these things and can now bear fruit to God.

For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death.

Romans 7:5

This verse takes us back to when we were in the flesh. Paul now introduces this new concept. He uses the phrase, in the flesh, translated controlled by the sinful nature. He first used this term in Romans 6:19. But now he’s giving us some added details..

Remember that the flesh is the nature and will of the body. Paul told us, in chapter 6, that our major weakness is in our flesh. This is important for us to understand.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

In this verse, Paul literally says that I am crucified in Christ, yet I live in the flesh. This may sound like a paradox.

By faith, our flesh is crucified in Christ. This is the key point. Even though my flesh is crucified, I run into problems when I try to crucify only a part of it.

The devil wants you to concentrate on a small piece of the flesh. God wants the whole thing – that’s where your victory comes from so that you can live by faith in Him.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.

2 Corinthians 10:3

The original text of this verse reads that we walk in the flesh. It tells us that though we walk in the flesh, we don’t strategize according to flesh. That’s because the flesh doesn’t want what God wants.

Looking back to Romans 7:5, we see how this works. The phrase translated, the sinful passions aroused by the law, literally means that the influence of sin was energized or empowered by the law.

The law gave sin all of its power along with the accompanying emotions, pleasure, and guilt. Of course it also included all of the conflict that we experienced.

At that time, the law and sin was our husband, spiritually speaking. This sin planted a seed in us. It was then activated by the law, and produced the fruit of death. (A list of this fruit is found in Galatians 5:19-21)

These are all the things that we look back and say, “How could I have done that?” It’s all rooted in being married to sin and the law. The law said, “Don’t do that.” The flesh responded, “Why not?”

Whenever you say, “I shouldn’t do that,” you’re planting a seed of death in your heart. The key is to stop trying not to do sinful things. Instead, start living by faith in Christ crucified.

But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Romans 7:6

Here Christ is telling us that the only way out of prison is to die in Him. So, we died in Christ and now we’re raised in the Spirit. We’ve been resurrected into a new life apart from, freed from the law.

Now we can voluntarily choose to serve a new way, in the spirit. We no longer have to serve in the old, antiquated way of following a set of rules.

Question: Why does following a set of rules make it impossible to serve God?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2021 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Producing Fruit

Producing Fruit

In my last post, we started looking at Paul’s example of the marriage. He was using it to explain how Christ set us free from the law, sin, and the world.

So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.

Romans 7:4

This is the verse that we ended with. However, we hadn’t talked about the second half of the verse.

Paul makes it clear that we’ve been set free for a purpose. Now we can be fruitful toward God. Remember, this is in the context of using marriage as the example.

When we’re speaking about marriage, being fruitful is equivalent to having children. Gently put, it’s the seed of the man delivered into the life of the woman. This is another common illustration of Scripture.

Think about what Christ taught in His parable of the sower and the seed.

But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Matthew 13:23

Jesus was talking about a person who is receiving the seed of God’s Word. In terms of our discussion, I would say that the good soil is a life that’s lost connection with sin, the law, and the world.

This is in agreement with other verses we’ve been given.

All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.

Colossians 1:6b

The Good News is the Word of God. Does it immediately bear fruit when you receive it? No, you must receive it and understand God’s grace working through it.

Think about it. Sometimes a group of believers are all attending the same church. They all hear same good news – the Word of God. Yet, in spite of this, only some bear fruit. That’s because they’re missing the grace ingredient.

That brings us to an obvious question; what’s the fruit? Jesus talked about it with His disciples.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

John 15:7-8

For every fruit in the natural, there’s a supernatural expression. Jesus had the ability to either provide money from His purse or the mouth of a fish. He made it clear that He could either buy a meal for 5000 people or break fish and bread to feed them all.

The fact is, as long as we’re content to serve in the natural, we have no need of intimacy with Christ. If we want to see the supernatural work of God through us, that will require the Word of God and His grace in us producing fruit.

That’s the real question. Do I want the glory; or do I want God to receive glory through my life? For God to be praised, I must allow His Word to work through me. I must develop intimacy with the Lord through His Holy Spirit.

Question: What does it take to allow God’s Word to produce fruit in us?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Squatters in God’s Kingdom (Repost)

I’m taking a couple of weeks to be involved in some ministry events.  While I’m gone I’ve felt that I should repost some of my most read articles that I feel are important.  Some of you have been following me long enough to have read them already.  If so, my prayer is that they will again be a blessing to you.

What’s your purpose for being a part of God’s kingdom?  Are you fulfilling that purpose?  Jesus gives some parables to explain God’s priorities.

Today I’ll be looking at the Parable of the Vineyard as recorded in Mark chapter 12, verses 1 through 12.  You may want to read it in Scripture before continuing with this post.

In this parable, Jesus tells of a man who owned a vineyard and rented it out to some farmers.  According to the terms of the lease, the owner was to get a share of the harvest as payment.  This was a normal agreement for property owners in those days.

It’s interesting to see that the owner did all the work to set up the vineyard.  All the farmers needed to do was move in and start harvesting.

How does this relate to the kingdom of God?  Simply put, the Lord is looking for fruit.  It’s not about our church attendance, Bible reading, or even our tithing.  He’s looking for the fruit of our relationship with the Holy Spirit that He placed within us.

During His ministry with the disciples, Jesus made this abundantly clear to them.

“I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

What we have to understand is that this is not our kingdom, but God’s.  Everything we have is owned by someone else.  Even our very lives belong to the Lord.

Because of this, God is well within His rights to demand anything He wants from us.  We know right from the outset that He’s looking for the fruit of the Spirit.

Please understand that the fruit of our relationship with Christ is for the benefit and refreshing of those around us.  The fruit of the Spirit are not merely for my personal gain.

The tenants in the parable didn’t understand this.  They wanted to keep everything for themselves.

We live in a society where we’ve been taught that in most places – restaurants, stores, etc. – it’s all about what I want or need.  Somehow we’ve transferred this mindset into our spiritual life.  When it comes to being a part of a local church; I base it on what I can get from it.

What services do you offer me and my family?  Do I like the type of music and the length of the worship service?  Do I enjoy the way the Pastor delivers his sermons?

Wait a minute!!!  Why does God have me in His kingdom?  Is it purely for my comfort and enjoyment?  No!  I serve at the Lord’s good pleasure.

The tenants in this parable made a great mistake.  They figured that if they could get rid of the owner’s son, then they could take over the vineyard.  After all, squatters have rights.

Too often, I’ve seen this attitude in God’s people.  The Bible refers to it as godlessness.  Yes, there are many godless Christians.

To be godless simply means that God and His will don’t figure into any of your decisions.  You’re living as if there’s no God.  These are the squatters in God’s kingdom.  They’re living on God’s property as if it belongs to them.

If you’ve been guilty of this attitude, then it’s time to repent.  Get back to the purpose you were saved for.  We need to be producing the fruit of the kingdom.

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
John 15:8

Question: What are the fruits of the spirit that you have produced most recently?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2019 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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Divisions – Good and Bad

I’m continuing my series through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  At this point, the apostle begins a new subject.  He starts instructing them about their public meetings.

He opens this section with a statement that’s sure to get their attention.

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.
1 Corinthians 11:17-18

What a thing to say to a church.  You’re worse off when you meet together.  It sounds like he’s saying that if they continue this way, it would be better for them if they don’t meet.  What would cause Paul to say such a thing?

Over the next three and a half chapters, the apostle will explain it all to them…and us.  Let’s start at the beginning.

In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.  No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.
1 Corinthians 11:18-19

You might think that there were specific things that they were doing wrong.  There might also be some things that they should have been doing as a church but weren’t.  While these issues were definitely a part of it, the big problem was below the surface.

Paul uses an oxymoron to describe the situation.  What do I mean by that?  He said that when they come together…there are divisions.

On the surface, they’re all together.  They’re one church meeting in one place.  But under the surface they’re divided.  There are different groups and factions that happen to all be present at the same place.

They may seem like they’re acting together.  They pray, sing, and worship the same.  But within each grouping is a different perception and each has its own agenda.

Of course, Paul also makes it clear that not all differences are bad.  The phrase, differences among you, actually refers to differing choices.  Our character is manifest through the choices we make.

Jesus taught his disciples that they could discern people by their fruit.  The choices we make are the fruit that can be inspected.

It’s in this fruit that you can see the difference between someone who has God’s approval, versus those without it.  Unfortunately, God’s approval is something we don’t hear about very often these days.

God loves each of us unconditionally, but His approval is on a higher level.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15

The way we show God’s approval is how we handle the Word that God has entrusted to us.  Have we applied it to our lives?  Or is it just a good suggestion?

There are differences between those who walk in God’s approval and those who don’t.  We need to take what we’ve heard, and use it to make the choices that bring glory to God.  That’s the fruit of a life that’s submitted to Christ.

Boldness is a characteristic of an approved believer.  Strive to hear the Word and put it into practice.  That’s the group you want to be a part of.

Question: What are some choices that you’ve made to apply God’s Word in your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Christ – The Foundation

In my last post, I talked about the way that the Lord rewards us for fulfilling our callings.  They’re based on what Christ has planned for us.  Paul then explains how his ministry relates to the church.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:9

Paul understands that as a part of the 5-fold ministry, he can’t complete his calling by himself.  It will require supernatural assistance.  He sees himself as a co-worker with God.

But what’s the work which he and God are busy at?  He talks about two parts of church ministry.  The church is God’s field – that’s the production of fruit for the kingdom.  But the church is also God’s building.  I believe that’s talking about the growth of its structure.

We must have both if we’re going to be the witness the Lord wants us to be.  We must have both spiritual and numerical increase.

However, there’s one thing that Paul is very clear about.  It’s the basis of every function of the church.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it.  But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:10-11

We’ve turned our lives over to the Lordship of Christ.  We’re in His hands.  He’s our foundation.  Without that groundwork, nothing we build will succeed.  It has to be based upon the work of Christ in us.

But how many Christians are actually building?  And what exactly is it that we’re supposed to build?

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8

Wow!  That sounds like a daunting task.  But remember, we’re building.  It doesn’t come together in an instant.  It’s worked on over time.

I’ve seen many impressive buildings in some of the cities that I’ve visited.  Some of them took years of planning and construction to complete their structures.  Don’t get upset that you aren’t perfect yet.

The Greek word, add, in the above Scripture means to choreograph over.  I think that’s a pretty interesting way to put it.  How do we build?  By choreographing or lives in deeper and deeper patterns.

It’s like a dancer learning all the moves needed for their recital.  Faith – goodness – knowledge – self-control – perseverance – godliness – brotherly kindness – love.

We have to transform our lifestyle into a more intricate choreography.  This takes the wisdom and the strength of God, especially when it involves many people working together.  That’s why we need the proper foundation.

The work of this building process is beyond our limited capabilities.  We need to yield to the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit within us.  That’s how we can begin building by faith.

In my next post, I’ll continue by talking about the final test of this spiritual building process.  If you haven’t yet done so, I encourage you to subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss any of the articles.

Question: How far along in the building process are you?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Squatters in God’s Kingdom

What’s your purpose for being a part of God’s kingdom?  Are you fulfilling that purpose?  Jesus gives some parables to explain God’s priorities.

Today I’ll be looking at the Parable of the Vineyard as recorded in Mark chapter 12, verses 1 through 12.  You may want to read it in Scripture before continuing with this post.

In this parable, Jesus tells of a man who owned a vineyard and rented it out to some farmers.  According to the terms of the lease, the owner was to get a share of the harvest as payment.  This was a normal agreement for property owners in those days.

It’s interesting to see that the owner did all the work to set up the vineyard.  All the farmers needed to do was move in and start harvesting.

How does this relate to the kingdom of God?  Simply put, the Lord is looking for fruit.  It’s not about our Church attendance, Bible reading, or even our tithing.  He’s looking for the fruit of our relationship with the Holy Spirit that He placed within us.

During His ministry with the disciples, Jesus made this abundantly clear to them.

“I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

What we have to understand is that this is not our kingdom, but God’s.  Everything we have is owned by someone else.  Even our very lives belong to the Lord.

Because of this, God is well within His rights to demand anything from us.  We know right from the outset that He’s looking for the fruit of the Spirit.

Please understand that the fruit of our relationship with Christ is for the benefit and refreshing of those around us.  The fruit of the Spirit are not merely for my personal gain.

The tenants in the parable didn’t understand this.  They wanted to keep everything for themselves.

We live in a society where we’ve been taught that in most places – restaurants, stores, etc. – it’s all about what I want or need.  Somehow we’ve transferred this mindset into our spiritual life.  When it comes to being a part of a local church; I base it on what I can get from it.

What services do you offer me and my family?  Do I like the type of music and the length of the worship service?  Do I enjoy the way the Pastor delivers his sermons?

Wait a minute!!!  Why does God have me in His kingdom?  Is it purely for my comfort and enjoyment?  No!  I serve at the Lord’s good pleasure.

The tenants in this parable made a great mistake.  They figured that if they could get rid of the owner’s son, then they could take over the vineyard.  After all, squatters have rights.

Too often, I’ve seen this attitude in God’s people.  The Bible refers to it as godlessness.  Yes, there are many godless Christians.

To be godless simply means that God and His will don’t figure into any of your decisions.  You’re living as if there is no God.  These are the squatters in God’s kingdom.  They’re living on God’s property as if it belongs to them.

If you’ve been guilty of this attitude, then it’s time to repent.  Get back to the purpose you were saved for.  We need to be producing the fruit of the kingdom.

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
John 15:8

Question: What are the fruits of the spirit that you have produced most recently?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2018 in Ministry, Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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What’s Your Season?

We are now looking at the week before Christ’s death on the cross as recorded by Mark.  Jesus is in the area of Jerusalem and a lot is going on.  He spends the evenings in Bethany where some friends live.

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple.  He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
Mark 11:11

Right after His triumphal entry into the city, the Lord goes to the Temple area and looks around.  I don’t think it was just a casual observing.  He was listening to the Father’s voice instructing Him what He was to do next.

Jesus must have been grieved by what He saw going on in the Temple.  As the feast of Passover was approaching, Jerusalem was the center of all the activity in Israel.  People were coming in from all over the world to worship here.

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.  Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit.  When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.  Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”  And his disciples heard him say it.
Mark 11:12-14

This is one of those events in the life of Christ that many people ask about.  They don’t understand what’s happening or why Jesus cursed the tree.

Let’s work our way through it.  Jesus was in Jerusalem, watching the outward, lifeless trappings of religious people.  They were going through the motions, not because they were worshipping God, but because they were following the rules.

Jesus probably spent the next morning in prayer, as was His custom.  He heard the Father’s heart, breaking over the condition of His people.

As He and His disciple start heading back to the city, they’re hungry and ready for some breakfast.  Seeing a fig tree off in the distance, they’re checking to see if it has any fruit.  After all, it has plenty of leaves.

There’s one slight problem.  The Bible tells us that it’s not the season for figs.  Why would Jesus be upset at the tree if that’s the case?

This whole incident was a life-lesson for the disciples.  In many places in Scripture, Israel is likened to a fig tree.  Messiah had arrived on the scene.  It was the time for them to be producing fruit for the kingdom of God.

Instead, all Jesus saw was empty religion.  Everything was just for show.  A lot of leaves, but no fruit.

Many in Israel were starving, spiritually.  Yet those who were in leadership did nothing to fill the longing of their souls.  The priests of Israel were mostly just feeding their own egos.

What about us?  How do we apply this to our lives?  We need to hear the exhortation the Paul gave to Timothy.

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.
2 Timothy 4:2

It doesn’t matter what season you’re in.  The time to produce fruit is when there’s a need.  That’s why we must always prepare.

Prayer, meditation on the Word, and intimate times with the Lord make us ready to produce kingdom fruit.  Don’t follow empty religion – all leaves and no fruit.  Time in the Lord’s presence prepares us for blessing others, whether we feel like it or not.

Question: When was a time that you produced fruit “out of season”?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2018 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Spirit Fruit

In my last post, I talked about the warning signs telling you that your flesh needs more change from the spirit.  But did you know that there are signs to look for showing you that your spiritual walk is maturing?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

This is one of the most popular passages with many Christians. Unfortunately, many believers have no clue what this section is actually saying.

What is fruit? Fruit are those yummy balls of sweet goodness that hang from various kinds of trees. How do they get there? Does the tree have to sweat and fret and work hard to push them out? Does a tree try and fail and get frustrated and try again to do better?

Of course not! Fruit production is a natural result of being an apple tree. They are produced simply because the tree is healthy, and has access to everything it needs (air, minerals, water, and sunlight).

This is something that many Christians miss. They think that producing the fruit of the spirit only comes by hard work and a lot of will-power. That’s not what God intended. The fruit mentioned here will not be produced by reading the Bible or going to church.  They will not even come by willpower or guilt. These things are the fruit of the SPIRIT.

All the fruit of the spirit are the natural product of a life lived in the realm of the spirit. As our spiritual relationship with the Lord grows, then so will the fruit. They will not be produced from our strength.

As a matter of fact, if you understand what these different fruits are, then you’ll know that you can’t fake them.  You can’t be producing them on a habitual basis without the power of the Holy Spirit working in you.

I think that one of our problems is that we read this list of fruit and assign them the definitions given by our present society.  Actually, what God calls love is not what the world calls love.  It’s the same with all the rest.

If we look at how the Lord describes these characteristics, we’d see that they can only be done consistently by walking in the spirit.  This is one of the reasons why prayer in the spirit is so important.

Over the years I’ve seen this work.  In my own life and the lives of others, who regularly spend time in the spirit, this change takes place.

The key word is time.  It usually takes place gradually as we spend time with the Holy Spirit.  I wish that it would be instantaneous, like a New Year’s resolution.  But the fact is, I’d rather have it take place slowly and permanently instead of quickly and only a temporary change.

I think that it’s important to know what the Holy Spirit is trying to accomplish in us.  So I feel led, over the next nine posts, to go over each of the fruit separately.  In this way, we’ll know what to look for in evaluating our growth toward maturity.

Question: Why is it impossible for our flesh to discipline itself?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Prayer in the Spirit, Spiritual Walk

 

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8 Keys to Receiving Answers from God (Part 2) #answeredprayer

PhoneThis is the second of two posts about how to receive answered prayers.  The Scriptures say that we can ask anything from God.  But few people know the requirements to these passages.

In my last post I talked about the first 4 requirements.

5. Your asking must be in the name of Jesus.

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
John 14:13-14

Too often we think of this in terms of a spiritual formula.  We pray whatever we want, then say “In Jesus’ name” at the end.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  We’re representatives of Christ.  This means that we’re asking on behalf of Christ.  We are praying what He would be praying in the same situation.

6. You must remain in Christ.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
John 15:7

This one is all about relationship.  Many want to know how to get all their prayers answered while living for themselves.  That will never happen.  The closer my relationship with Christ is, the more I pray according to His will.  Then I see the answers because they’re in His will.

7. You must be bearing spiritual fruit.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
John 15:16

Spiritual fruit are a sign of maturity.  The more of the Word of God we plant in our life, the greater the harvest.  It’s the same in the natural.  I don’t know any children who get everything they ask for.  Maturity breeds answered prayer.

8. Your asking must be with a clear conscience.

Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.
1 John 3:21-22

Too often we know what God is calling us to do, but we ignore it.  When our conscience is not clear before God, we are open to the enemy’s accusations.  It’s hard to trust God when we are under the cloud of a guilty conscience.  That’s why a repentant life is so important.

When we operate in the calling of God it’s His good pleasure to supply what is needed to complete our destiny.  That’s the true secret to seeing our prayers answered.

Question: What’s the relationship between the will of God and answered prayer?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Prayer

 

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