Don Goulding - Blog

Mild Crucifixion

But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

Jesus walked toward crucifixion. He accepted his day of agony knowing it bought an eternity of joy for millions. In his mind, he held the image of a sea of worshipers before his Father’s throne—and he opened his hand for the nails.

My crucifixion doesn’t include nails and a cross. The things of the world are crucifiers to me. My crown of thorns is imperfect health. My forty-nine lashes are injured relationships. My cross is a sacrifice of temporary pleasures. As incomparable as those are to what Jesus suffered, they are, nevertheless, my crucifixion.

My suffering is nothing like Christ’s, and neither will my glory be like his, but one thing is the same. I must respond as he did. He didn’t preoccupy himself with escape. He kept moving toward Jerusalem, even though he knew the cross waited.

What about me? Do I accept my mild crucifixion, or do I panic and scramble away? Embracing suffering is not popular theology—at least it’s not popular with me. But, rather than run away, I must, like Jesus, keep my mind filled with the glory ahead, through every current hardship.

By the time I showed up on the earth, the work of paying for sin’s debt was complete. There was nothing left for me to do except bind myself to what Jesus finished. That’s why I begged forgiveness, swore allegiance, and was baptized in water—to unite myself to the work of Jesus. There’s only one thing more I can do out of gratitude. Mimic his life. He gave up temporal distractions so he could grow God’s kingdom. That’s my role model.

I want to grasp the depth of what Jesus did for me. His sacrifice was too terrible for a mere shallow appreciation. And the only way into that knowledge is if I accept my mild crucifixion.

Prayer: Jesus, help learn about your love through my brief trials.

Giver or Taker?

By all these things, I have shown you that by working in this way we must help the weak, and remember the words of the Lord Jesus that he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35)

A two inch bitterling swims among freshwater mussels to spawn. This sly minnow knows the mollusk shells will protect her eggs from predators. She selects an open host and inserts her breeding tube. The eggs settle between the mussel’s internal organs and the mother swims away. Next, a male bitterling releases his sperm, which are drawn into the mussel to fertilize the eggs.

At first, the bitterlings appear to be self-serving opportunists taking advantage of mussels. But the mussels see it differently. They eagerly await the arrival of bitterlings. The moment the fish show up,  the mussels release their own larvae into the water to attach to the gills. After hitching a ride, the larvae drop to the ocean floor and develop a new neighborhood of mussels.

Like the bitterling and the mussel, God’s creatures provide symbiotic and contributory relationships at many levels. It keeps our planet ticking. Why is it, then, that humans so readily take more than they give?

The Holy Spirit is effervescent life in my heart. New bubbles form, which presents a problem. My blessings swell beyond my needs and I have to relieve my bloat by giving to others. I can give large things and small—earn a wage and economize to fund missions, help with chores, work with my hands, teach, administer, give cookies, counsel, smile, hug, or pray. Hoarding gratifies for a fleshly minute, while giving satisfies for a spiritual eternity.

It’s the ultimate symbiotic relationship—there are people in need, and I have a need to give. 

Prayer: Jesus, change me from a taker into a giver.

Privileged Feet

How delightful it is to see approaching over the mountains

the feet of a messenger who announces peace,

a messenger who brings good news, who announces deliverance,

who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7)

“I’d like to introduce my daughter. She was intimidated to meet you, so I’m acting as an intermediary.” A Christian brother pointed to his daughter, a girl who sparkled with charm. Why was she afraid to meet dorky me?

Later, my mind replayed the conversation, and my ego worked out the explanation that the girl was intimidated because of my ministry skill. But then, even I was embarrassed at that line of thinking.

The reality my ego neglects is that all the good in me, or coming from me, is sourced by Jesus. All I contribute is the ore scrap that surrounds the gold of truth. My listeners must be miners, adept at excavating what is from the Spirit, and tossing everything else onto the slag pile.

Occasionally, there is gold in my words—rich, permanent truths that shine heaven into our decaying world. Bouncing the weight of those nuggets on our palm assures us of the solidity of God’s promises. Truths, like eternal adoption, peace with God, the New Jerusalem, and the fellowship of the Spirit, are a joy to pass from hand to hand. But how could I take pride in these treasures? I wouldn’t be able to conceive of Christ dying for sinners, let alone forge the event.

I’m the washroom servant, ignorant of all matters of state, but called before the throne for an errand. The King would have me deliver precious rings, engraved with “Forgiven,” to his wayward offspring. The only qualifications I meet are two feet for running and a hand for carrying. But oh, what a thrill, how exciting to be the knucklehead with the rings.

Prayer: Father, thank you for using me to carry your golden words.