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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.


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

What do you do in secret?  What do you do when nobody is looking?  In your private time when you are alone?  Jesus told his followers that our heavenly Father sees what is done in secret and that he will make it known (“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” Luke 8:17).  How does this make you feel?  It makes me want to celebrate!

I have been reading Matthew 6 for the last week.  Jesus is teaching his disciples and the crowd in his famous Sermon on the Mount.  He talks a lot about our “secret time” in chapter 6.  He is talking about practicing righteousness.  He tells the people, “Don’t practice righteousness to be seen by people.  Do your acts of righteousness secretly.”  What are the acts of righteousness that he is referring to?  Giving to the needy, prayer and fasting.

Giving to the needy

There are many ways that we can give to the needy.  We can give money.  We can give of our time.  We can give our talents or skills.  Jesus said that when we give of our time, talents and treasure to help those in need, that our right hand should not know what our left hand is doing.  What did Jesus mean by this?  How can our right hand not know what our left hand is doing?  That’s easy.  It happens all the time.  When we sit down to eat a meal we don’t consciously tell our right hand to pick up the fork and stab a piece of broccoli and put it in our mouth.  It happens naturally without much, if any, thought.  And after eating the broccoli, we don’t proclaim to those around us what a good deed we have just done (unless we are little children who hate broccoli and want our parents to be proud of us for performing such a disagreeable task).  It should be just as natural for disciples of Christ to give money to the down and out, or to volunteer at a homeless shelter, or to change the oil in the car of a struggling single mother.  It’s nothing to boast or brag about, unless we have such a childish faith, that we crave the attention of people more than the reward of our heavenly Father.  Jesus tells us the Father, the Unseen See-er, sees what we give, and will reward us.  Those who boast about what they have given and receive praise from people have gotten their reward.


“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray … to be seen by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.”  Jesus was talking to the crowd about how to pray and how not to pray.  Here he  is telling people that when you pray to your Father, pray to HIM!  Talk to  HIM!  Don’t pray to  your ego.  Don’t pray to impress people.  Don’t pray to  preach at people.  Pray to  communicate to God.

How is this  best accomplished?  Jesus continues, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is  unseen.  Then  your Father, who  sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  If we want to be rewarded by our Father who is in  heaven, by answered prayers, intimacy with God, contentment, fulfillment, joy and peace, then we need to do our praying in secret; in silence and solitude.

Jesus says you don’t need to make long prayers, to inform God of your needs; to go into great detail about your aches and pains; your work situation; family matters; emotional turmoil; spiritual disappointments; struggles with sin and the like.  Jesus says in his introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, that God already knows our needs.  He is not in  the dark about your situation, just waiting for you to spill your guts so that he will understand what you are going  through.  When he gives us the Lord’s Prayer as a model prayer, he purposely kept it  short.  He knows our needs, and simply wants us to acknowledge our needs before him, and depend on him and trust him, believing that he is good and that his love endures forever.  Having confidence in him that he loves us and wants us to be happy, and that he will do the right  thing.  We do all this, if we are  obedient to Christ, in SECRET.


I don’t fast a lot.  It’s not my strongest spiritual practice.  I’m somewhat relieved that Jesus didn’t tell us that we need to fast.  He just told people, that if they choose to fast, that they shouldn’t make a big deal about it.  It is easy to make a big deal about it in our culture.  If  you want to impress  people with your spirituality, tell them that you going without food for a meal, or two or three, in order to get closer to God.  That will get their attention.  We love our food.  We don’t just have three squares a day, but we usually graze in between meals with all manner of snacks.  So giving up food for a while,for spiritual growth,  is a big deal, worthy of a reward.

But where do you want  your reward to come from?  From the praises and adulation of people who are impressed with your spiritual practice?  That can be good for your ego, but what about your soul?  God gives you a choice, you can receive your reward for fasting from friends and family, by letting them know what you are doing, or you can receive a reward from the Unseen See-er, our heavenly Father, who wants to bless our socks off with  rewards, if  we keep fasting our little secret, a little secret between me  and God – between you and God.

So, do you have a secret?  Do you do things in secret that nobody knows about?  Things that you prefer to keep under wraps?  I hope so.  I hope it’s Giving to the needy, Prayer, and Fasting.  Sometimes the rewards for doing  things in secret are material, physical, or spiritual during our life here on earth.  Sometimes the rewards are out of this world!  I think that when we get to heaven, God will say, “Well done,  good and faithful servant.”  And then God will reveal to us, and to the multitudes in heaven, what we did for Him on earth, in secret, and how that made a difference in peoples lives.  What a reward that will be!

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The one who gives without regard to who  is looking and does not even notice it as anything special themselves, no “big deal”, is the very one who has God’s attention and becomes God’s creative partner in well-doing.  He or she will know the fellowship of God and see the effects of these deeds multiplied for good in the power of God.  Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

Sometimes kids think they have the worst parents in the world.  And then, when they go out into the world and live by themselves, all of a sudden, they realize, they have had the best parents in the world all along.  When I look back on my life, I realize I have the best parents.

Many are  the reasons I think I have the best parents, but one of the main reasons is that my parents were always making deposits of kindness into the Bank of Goodwill.  What I mean by this is that my parents were, and still are, very generous people.  Growing up, I remember, that when they saw a need, they tried to relieve that need.  They were always kind towards people in need, and sought to relieve those needs.  They were continually making deposits of kindness into the Bank of Goodwill.  In helping others they were storing up treasures for themselves in heaven.  Storing up treasures for themselves in heaven was not their motive, but it is a biblical principle.

An example:  When I was about ten years old, there was a poor family in our church that seemed to me like the most hard luck family that I had ever seen.  They suffered from a variety of health and economic issues.  I remember that they had an old, beat up, station wagon.  The engine died one day and there was nothing they could do about it.  My dad found out about the situation and towed the car it to our house.  He worked on it for about a week, rebuilding the engine at his own expense.  When he was done fixing the vehicle, it ran better than it had in a long time.  He returned the car to them at no  cost.  For the hard luck family, it was an awesome answer to prayer.  For my family, it was a deposit of kindness into the Bank of Goodwill.

Many times my father helped people in need with his mechanical skill or his skill in construction.  Neither one of these skills was his “profession”.  He taught himself most of what he knew in these areas and used this knowledge to benefit our family and many other families.  My parents have always, faithfully given to their local church and supported foreign missionaries.  On occasion I have had financial needs and they have been generous in helping me.  All, deposits of kindness into the Bank of Goodwill.

The Bank of Goodwill is run by God.  He faithfully takes care of the deposits and sees that they give a good return.  And the interest is out of this world!  He tells us that “we reap what we sow”.  We harvest what we plant.  We receive back what we put into the Bank of Goodwill.

God tells us that He is generous to those who help the poor; that when we give of our time, talents and treasure, He gives back in good measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing.  For me, those are all expressions of what happens when we make deposits of kindness into the Bank of Goodwill.

My parents are retired now, at least from jobs that give them a regular paycheck.  They live comfortably in a nice, little house on a nice little piece of land in Colorado.  They are ever thankful to God for the blessings that they enjoy, praising Him because He loves them and wants them to be happy.  They continue to glorify God and  enjoy Him by continuing to be faithful givers to their church and to missionaries abroad.  Dad continues to help others with  his construction skills.  If he had a business card, which he never had in his life, I think  it would read – Have Nailgun, Will Travel.  Mom helps “the least of these” in a hundred different ways.  In other words, there is never a time to quit making deposits of kindness into the Bank  of Goodwill.  I read a bumper sticker once that said Practice Random Acts of Kindness.  Perhaps it’s better to Practice Intentional Acts of Kindness.  Or, how about today, We All make a deposit of kindness  into the Bank of Goodwill.

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The truth is, those who flourish always bring blessing to others – and they can do so in the most unexpected and humble circumstances.  John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be – Becoming God’s Best Version of You

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Next blog – “I Am Thirsty”

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