Piece 24-His Word

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. -Matthew 24:35

This life contains many false promises. Fine print. Interest charges. With Jesus, all of those go out the window because He is “the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) When Jesus gives us his word, we can be confident that He will do everything He says. Jesus is the Word made flesh. The truth of His word, the Bible, reminds us that He is the light that shines in our darkness and that darkness cannot overcome it. The disappointments we share do not smother us. The heartaches we feel do not overwhelm us. Jesus gives us words that heal and encourage. His word never fails.

John 3:33 says that God is truthful. Jesus gives us His word that in Him we have true life (John 10:10) and nothing can “snatch” us out of His hands. (v.28) We are safe from the lies and misfortunes that try to take our attention away from Jesus, because He holds onto us and never lets go. Not only are we protected, we are empowered. Remember, we are saved to serve. While we are safe in our Savior’s hands, let’s recall the words of Psalm 115: “may the Lord cause you to flourish.” As we go through today, boldly telling people about Jesus, may we gain encouragement from His words: “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8) Jesus tells the angles your name!

Another important truth that Jesus gives us is recorded in John 12: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” Our Lord’s word creates a beautiful symphony of love and praise between heaven and earth. First, Jesus speaks to his angels and they hear our names and God honors us as we serve the Lord.

After Jesus washed his disciples’ feet he said, “Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Jesus, our master, gives us his word, that if we serve like He served, we will be blessed. We aren’t left to wonder how it is we go about this service. We didn’t receive a secret calling. As we head into this day, we do the works Jesus did. We walk in Him as we go because he is our Light that guides us through this dark life. “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:12-14)

The Lord’s word is our only truth and it lasts forever. Jesus won’t go back on it or ever change His mind. He loves us too much. He gave His life to save us. Is He your Savior? He has great things planned for you!

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Piece 23-Prayer

We are blessed with the gift of PRAYER, by which we have the chance to talk to the Living God who created us! Jesus said that our Father in heaven knows what we need before we ask. We might be tempted to think, Why bother?, but when we realize what prayer really means our hearts will yearn for the blessings that it brings. Picture how a drop of food coloring put in a glass of water, reaches down to touch the bottom…let’s pretend the water is our souls and life is the glass. God’s love is the drop of coloring.

The Bible showcases how God hears, cares for, and answers  his children. In Genesis, we learn that “Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.” (25:21) Moses gives another angle to our gift of prayer. In Exodus, we find Pharaoh had summoned him to ask for an end to the thunder and hail that was creating misery for his people. Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the Lord.” (9:29) “Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He spread out his hands toward the Lord; the thunder and hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down on the land.” (9:33) In both of these cases, God is faithful. When we talk to Him, we know that He listens. His love, like that drop of coloring begins to spread out throughout our being.

The LORD said to [Solomon]: “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. (1 Kings 9:3) “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.” (2 Kings 20:5)

The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer. (Psalm 6:9) Psalm 17:6 says, “I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer.” Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me! (Psalm 66:20) Cornelius answered: “Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me  and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.'” (Acts 30:30,31)

The gift of prayer also lets us worship the Lord. Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the LORD;” (1 Samuel 2:1) This example of prayer show us that our words to the Father are not just requests, but are a form of praise. The words of Nehemiah also highlight this aspect of praying: “O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name.” (1:11) And when Jesus taught the disciples about prayer, He reminded us of this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Prayer is glorifying our Creator.

This gift of communicating with our heavenly father isn’t a solitary event. In the writings of James we learn that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (5:16)  Back to the food coloring analogy: prayer brings a supernatural power that stirs the water of our souls and lets God’s love permeates our entire being! I love the words from the band Sidewalk Prophets that say, “When they see me do they see you?” Are my prayers to the Living God changing me, completely, from the inside out? 

Piece 22-Provision

Always and abundantly, Jesus provides! This next gift our Lord has for us is His PROVISION for everything we need in life. As with all of the other gifts Jesus gives us, His provision satisfies. In Christ, we find our greatest and richest prize.

Jesus was invited to a wedding in Cana, and there get a glimpse of his ability to abundantly provide for our needs. The party was in full swing, everyone having a good time and then…the wine ran out. Mary asked Jesus for help and then gathered the servants around and said, “Do whatever he tells you.” I want those words to become my daily motto. Lord Jesus, today, help me to do whatever You tell me to do. Jesus wound up turning water (somewhere between 1200-1800 gallons worth) into wine.

We find a crucial spiritual truth in this miracle. Not only does Jesus provide more than we ask for, but His provision is the best. What Jesus has to offer us is always better than what we could manufacture on our own. John’s gospel tells us that the master of the wedding banquet commented on the new wine that Jesus made: “You have saved the best for last.”

We see this beautiful reality of the Lord’s abundant provision in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus had just been informed that his friend John the Baptist had lost his life at the hands of Herod. Scripture tells us that Jesus went to a solitary place to seek privacy, but the crowds followed him. We see another wonderful aspect of our Savior’s heart in this passage. He had just lost his dear friend, but when Jesus saw the crowds, “he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matt 14:14) Jesus takes our meager “5 fish and 2 loaves” living and transforms it into a miraculous provision of grace. When the 5,000 were finished “and were satisfied,” the disciples collected twelve basketfuls of leftovers. Jesus provides for our daily needs no matter how big or small, and He does so abundantly. We will never have a need that Jesus can’t fill. Ever.

Another time, Jesus took seven loaves of bread and and a few fish and fed 4,000 because He had compassion on them. “The people ate and were satisfied.” (Mark 8:8) As with the feeding of the 5,000, there was an abundance of the Lord’s blessing. This time the disciples collected seven basketfuls of leftovers were collected.

After Jesus rose from the grave, he appeared to his disciples who had been spending a fruitless night fishing on the Sea of Tiberius. Jesus met them on the shore and asked if they had caught anything. The Bible says that they said they hadn’t. Jesus told them to go back out and guaranteed that they would find some. They obeyed. When we let Jesus guide our daily steps down the path he has charted for us, we reap abundant blessings. The disciples caught so many fish that they couldn’t haul in the net.

Heavenly Father, thank you for letting Jesus come down here to save us! Jesus thank you for taking our place on the cross! Jesus give us strength to get out of your way in our lives. Help us to remember that you offer abundantly more than anything this life has to offer. Help us walk the path that you have chosen for us, not the one we think might bring the most earthly satisfaction. And, help us listen to you and obey your precious commands. In your mighty Name we pray. Amen.

Piece 21-Living Water

Confession time. I’ve been guilty of drinking well water. Problem is, it always leaves me thirsty for more. This is why I am drawn to the fourth chapter of John’s gospel where Jesus meets a Samaritan woman next to a water well. He asks her for a drink, to which she replies that since Jesus is a Jew she shouldn’t associate with him. Jesus alludes to a gift of LIVING WATER that the woman doesn’t understanding. The woman, like me, enjoyed the familiar well water, even though something much better and eternal was hers if only she asked.

Jesus compared well water to living water: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” When I pursue the things in life that I desperately think will bring satisfaction, I’m not drinking living water. It’s like I invite Jesus over for dinner, only to make Him wait in the family room while I eat my meal alone. Once I realize that Jesus is my everything, I’m aware that I’ve been indeed drinking from the wrong well.

Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37,38) What’s really interesting is that the well the Samaritan woman was drawing water from wasn’t even a spring-fed well, but one into which dew and rain water seeped. (NIV Life Application Study Bible) What we think are priorities are in fact not, compared to the goals that Jesus has for us. The best part of this new gift of Living Water, is that it changes our heart desires. Once the woman at the well knew Jesus and what He offered, her desires were eternally transformed. Scripture says “leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town” and told people about Jesus. That water jar had been her priority. It symbolized what was most important to her. After receiving the Living Water of Jesus, the Samaritan woman had a new desire: share the Good News of Jesus.

An Old Testament king named Hezekiah, knew all about this ‘priority change.’ The Bible says, “Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord…he removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses.  And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. (2 Kings 18) King Hezekiah took a stand and cleared out all the things that had taken the peoples eyes off the Living God. Like the woman at the well left her jar, Hezekiah left his pride and went on to proclaim that the Lord is more important than man-made possessions.

The wonderful news is this gift is eternal. “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:13) Dear Friends, let’s drop what we’ve been holding on to and go tell our community about Jesus and His gift of Living Water that will never leave them thirsty for anything else!

Piece 20-Strength

When I think of the word strength I think of exercising. We can go to the gym and lift weights to increase our arm strength. We might even make a habit out of running to develop leg strength. But, when it comes to real strength, only Jesus gives us what we need to be “heart” strong. The Bible says, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”- (2 Chronicles 16:9) Our next gift that Jesus has for us, STRENGTH, isn’t just physical power, but the miraculous opportunity to live life like God intends for us.

The life we’ve been given is for loving the Lord and loving others. After all, if we go all the way back to Eden we sense the simplicity and beauty of life the way God designed it be lived. God made man in His image and placed him in paradise to be in relationship with Himself and each other. Thousands of years later, sin has clouded our vision, making us think that somehow WE can discipline ourselves long and hard enough to be STRONG for whatever life throws our way.

Instead, when we realize this and seek to love the One who gave us life and seek to love others, we are filled with the same strength that made the galaxies, the Grand Canyon, and even raised Jesus from the dead! By doing so, we become a light in our dark world so that everyone may see Him for who He really is. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” -(Deuteronomy 6:5) With every thing we do, the Lord’s gift of strength, helps us love Him and others because His strength is supernatural.

This is a vital thread running through the Old Testament. Nehemiah undertook a very strenuous task of rebuilding the city wall around Jerusalem. He had a lot of detractors. Many people hoped he’d quit. His spirit for the project was weak. In the middle of it all, Nehemiah prayed: “Now strengthen my hands.” Nehemiah used his hands to love the Lord and through the answering of his prayer, the Lord filled him with supernatural power to complete the task!

Job declared the same truth, “you have strengthened my feeble hands.” -(Job 4:3) Psalm 119:28 says, “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” And the prophet Isaiah wrote, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” -(41:10) In all of these examples, God does the doing, as we abide in Him through faith. When we receive this powerful gift, we are also acknowledging that we cannot do anything of eternal worth on our own: “The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.” -Isaiah 58:11

The thread of God’s strength being given to us as a gift of grace is also woven throughout the New Testament:

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God -Romans 4:20

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, -Ephesians 3:16

…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience… -Colossians 1:11

It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them. -Hebrews 13:9

But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. -2 Thessalonians 3:3

Dear Friend, remember that God-given strength isn’t earthly power, but rather a miraculous chance to move mountains in love for His glory!

Piece 19-Forgiveness

My original plan in mapping out thirty gifts that Jesus offers us was to end with the gift of Forgiveness. At first, I thought that was the greatest of all these spiritual presents and therefore should come last. After contemplating the true power of the Lord’s death on the cross for the forgiveness of ALL our sins (past, present, and future!), I smiled. Forgiveness can’t wait until the end of this journey. We need it now. The book of Hebrews says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”(9:22) I can’t wake up one day, decide to do good deeds and be saved. Only the blood of Christ, shed on the cross, is the atonement needed to cover my sin problem. On my own I can do nothing. The apostle Paul wrote of this reality to the early believers in Ephesus: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9) The beautiful gift of God’s forgiveness to save us from all of our sins comes by crying out to our Savior and surrendering our lives to Him. “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

John’s gospel tells a moving story about a Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well who had five former husbands. She finally found true love with Christ. After her time spent drinking the living water that Jesus offers, the woman was free to serve the Lord by proclaiming His glory. She had felt His forgiveness and it opened her eyes to look past herself to people who didn’t know Jesus. The result of her new mission was changed lives: “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” (John 4:39) Peter told Cornelius, “All the prophets testify about [Jesus] that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43)

The importance of this gift Jesus offers us is beautifully displayed in the fifth chapter of Luke. A paralytic man was carried by friends to Jesus in hopes of healing. The crowd that had come to hear Jesus preach was so large that the friends had to take the man up on the roof of the house. They devised a plan and lowered the man through the roof tiles, down “into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.” (Luke 5:19) When do our lives make the most sense? When we bring them to the feet of Jesus. Which leads us to an amazing discovery. Luke’s account shows us how important Forgiveness is to our Savior. He saw the lengths the men went to so their brother might be healed. Jesus turned to the sick man and said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Before Jesus fixes the man, he forgives! What matters most to Jesus? When we have a relationship with Him where we walk as forgiven sons and daughters of the Most High! Jesus healed the paralytic man and told him to take his mat and go. All the way home, he praised God, so much so we read that everyone who saw him also praised God.

What a clear mission statement for our lives today: Be transparent with Jesus. Tell Him what’s on our hearts and confess our sins. Remember He died for us so that His forgiveness can heal our deepest self-inflicted sin wounds. Keep our lives right in front of Jesus. And may we praise God all of our days for His glory and so others around us might do the same!

Piece 18-Hope

hope: 1. to cherish a desire with anticipation; 2. to desire with expectation of obtainment.

The next gift that Jesus has for us is HOPE. This is a precious gift that anchors our hearts to the Truth. In the churning waters of life, heavenly hope keeps us tethered to our Savior and His eternal promises. Psalm 33 shows us how this next piece of the Lord’s treasure lifts our eyes above the fray of life’s demands: “The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love… We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.  In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” Hope that Jesus gives teaches us patience and reminds us how much we are loved by the King!

Let’s take our definition of hope and insert it into a handful of verses that speak of this gift to see the power of the Lord’s promise.

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my [desire to be with you forever] is in you all day long. -Psalm 25:5

No one who [desires being with you forever] will ever be put to shame. -Psalm 25:3

[Desire] the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; -Psalm 37:34

For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people. And I will [cherish and desire] your name, for your name is good. -Psalm 52:9

Never take your word of truth from my mouth, for I [cherish and desire] your laws. -Psalm 119:43

You are my refuge and my shield; I [desire and cherish] your word. -Psalm 119:114

Those who [cherish and desire] the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:31

And [cherishing Jesus] does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. -Romans 5:5

And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will [desire and cherish Him].” -Romans 15:12

May the God [who cherishes you] fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with [desire for Him] by the power of the Holy Spirit. -Romans 15:13

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our [eternal desire], -1 Timothy 1:1

That is why we labor and strive, because we [cherish] the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. -1 Timothy 4:10

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their [desires] in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to [cherish] God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. -1 Timothy 6:17

Having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs [as we never stop desiring and cherishing] eternal life [with Jesus]. -Titus 3:7

[Our desire is Jesus. We cherish Him. He is] an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain… -Hebrews 6:19

Dear friend, I pray that you see how much the God of the Universe loves you and how much he desires a real relationship with you. Everyday. Forever. Cherish Jesus above all things and eagerly wait to see all that He has in store for you!