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What image comes to mind when you think of God?  Some people think of a loving, compassionate father.  Other people can’t relate to God as father because they had a terrible father.  Some people think of God as a priest absolving them of their sins.  Other people can’t relate to God as a priest for a variety of reasons.  Some people think of God as a shepherd or king.  Other people can’t relate to God as either of those for cultural reasons.

I mentioned in my last post that sometimes people get the God that they want, that they can imagine and relate to.  In the parable of the talents or bags of gold, the first two servants saw their master as a kind man who saw their abilities and trusted them with his wealth.  The master rewarded their perception of him by inviting them to share his happiness.  The third servant saw his master as a hard, greedy, stingy man, and the master fulfilled his perception by throwing him out into darkness to grind his teeth.

Allen Coppedge, in his book Portraits of God, searched the Bible for the primary ways that God has chosen to reveal himself to us.  He found eight different images that God uses to help us relate to him, all based on God as a holy God.  Those images are God as Transcendent Creator, Sovereign King, Personal Revealer, Priest, Righteous Judge, Loving Father, Powerful Redeemer, and Good Shepherd.

Why does God use so many different pictures to reveal himself to us?  Because no one portrait of God is fully adequate to describe him.  Coppedge says that “multiple images are necessary for a holistic picture of God.”  Individual Christians, churches and periods in the history of the church, sometimes have had major problems because they emphasize one or two roles at the expense of others.  This gives an unbalanced picture of God and results in an unbalanced relationship with God.  If we want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we need to realize, appreciate and take hold of all the various ways God presents himself to us in  scripture.

I especially relate to God as Father and as Shepherd.  It makes me happy to think of God as a compassionate, loving Father who cares for me and supplies my needs.  Likewise the shepherd, the Good Shepherd who leads me to green pastures, cool waters and makes sure that I want for nothing.  But if that is my entire concept of God, and I don’t also consider God as King, Creator, Redeemer and Priest, then my relationship with God will be skewed and I will not be as happy and fulfilled as I otherwise would.

God loves us and wants us to be happy.  Seeing God in all his roles should make us happy, for in all His roles, he gives us good and happy gifts.  As Creator, he gives us life and a beautiful creation to enjoy.  As King, he gives us protection and boundaries to keep us safe.  As Personal Revealer, he  gives us insight into his nature.  As Priest he forgives our sins.  As Judge,  he shows us our great need for him and his help.  As Father he nurtures us.  As Redeemer he rescues us from slavery.  As Shepherd he leads us and guides us along the path of abundant life.  Our lives our less complete if we neglect to relate to God in any one of these roles.

As we read the Bible, meditate on the nature of God and appropriate the various roles of God into our hearts and minds, we will be truly happy people.

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The concept of God is the most determinative factor for all Christian theology and spiritual life.  A right understanding of the nature of God sets a proper pattern for systematic theology as well as for personal knowledge of God.  The most crucial question for any individual or church is, “What is God like?”  The answer to this question will determine both their doctrine and experience.  Allan Coppedge in Portraits of God

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Receiving Good Gifts

I have received a lot of good gifts lately.  Different groups come to Foundation For His Ministry’s home for needy children here in Oaxaca,Mexico to give.  They give generously of their time, talents, and treasure.  Recent groups  gave a lot of time in helping me to prepare an area for the planting of a soccer field.  They gave of their treasure in buying dresses and books for my daughters, peanut butter and brown sugar for my wife, and an umbrella for me.  Janelle, who works in the main office in San Clemente, California, visited the mission with Charla Pereau, the founder of FFHM, this week.  She knows I like magazines and the Civil War, and brought me super gift.  She brought me a National Geographic magazine all about the Civil War.  Perhaps the best gift that I, and all the staff members received, was a moving speech by the talented speaker, Charla, who just turned 81, and may have made her last trip to Oaxaca,Mexico.

A successful basketball coach once said something to the effect that it is a good day if you do three things; think, laugh and cry tears of joy.  Going along with that idea, I think someone gives a great talk if it makes me think, laugh and cry.  Every time Charla speaks publicly I do all three, and this time was no exception.  I thought deeply about FFHM’s commitment to making disciples as Charla spoke about the Mission Statement.  I laughed heartily when she told about her conversion to Christianity as a young lady, and how she ran home and exclaimed to her father that she was going to do great things for God.  He told her that God didn’t need her help!  Then she told her mom that she was going to do great things for God.  Her mom told her that she could begin by making her bed!  Finally, tears of sadness rolled down my face as she described  her first visit to a Mexican garbage dump and told of the pitiful situation of  children living there, scrounging around for food and stuff that they could possibly sell for a few pesos.  Then I cried tears of joy as she shared with us that the first group of kids to live at the home for needy children that her and her friends created, were rescued from a garbage dump in Ensenada, Mexico.

Charla's Family With My Family

Charla’s Family With My Family

More Blessed to Give Than To Receive

Jesus talked about giving good gifts.  In the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 7:9-12), Jesus asked a question.  When your child asks for a piece of bread, do you give him a stone?  If your child asks for a fish, do you give her a snake?  Obviously no.  Jesus continues by saying that though we are evil, we know how to give good gifts to our children.  How much more will our heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him!

Our eyes light up at the prospect of getting good gifts from our heavenly Father.  He gives the best gifts!  He gives the most gifts!  He gives great gifts!  He loves us and wants us to be happy!  One of the best gifts our Father gives us is the ability to give good gifts to others.  In Acts 15:35 Paul says that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  The word “blessed” can be translated “happy”.  Jesus is saying that you will be happier when you give good gifts than when you receive good gifts. Jesus goes on to say, in the Sermon on the Mount, that in “everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”  If we like to receive good gifts, we need to give good gifts.

A-S-K

But we need to A-S-K.  Ask, Seek, Knock.  Jesus said in Matthew 7:7,8, “Ask and it will be given to you;  seek and you will find; knock and the  door will be open to you.”  In context, I believe one of the things Jesus is telling us to do, is to Ask God what good gifts can we give today, and to whom.  Then we Seek to find the ways and means to implement the giving of the gift.  Finally we Knock, which is the actual giving of the gift.  For example, one day I was asking God what else he wanted me do here as part of the ministry  in Oaxaca.  I sensed that he wanted me to teach English and share the Gospel at the prison across the street.  So I asked and received an answer.  Next was to seek.  I had to seek permission from the administrator of the home for needy children here, then I had to seek permission from the prison  warden, then I  had to seek curriculum that I could use to teach ESL (English as a second language).   I did the seeking and found what I needed to proceed.  Next was to Knock.  The day finally came when I stood before the huge metal doors of  the prison and actually knocked on it.  A prison guard opened the door and I went to the classroom and gave the good gift of English and the Gospel.

Good gifts. It makes us happy to receive them, and even happier to give them.  Let’s glorify God today by asking our Father what gifts we should take out of our bag of Time, Talents and Treasure and give away.  Let’s seek what we need to implement the giving.  Finally, Give the Good Gift!  Knock on the door of someones’ room, someone’s house, or someone’s heart and GIVE.

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Foundation for His Ministry is a mission whose purpose is to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ. To this end we share and demonstrate God’s love through the power of the Holy Spirit by meeting basic spiritual, physical and educational needs of those in Mexico and beyond. This will be done in such a way as to establish the Mission as a model of effective ministry for other parts of the world.           Mission statement of Foundation For His Ministry