Don Goulding - Blog

De-Onion

And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

I’m an onion. 

The pungent sharpness of my personality stings the eyes of those around me. The other day I used words to slap down my son’s friendly conversation. When I later apologized, he didn’t recall the event. That only demonstrates the numbness he had to adopt to cope with my reek.

When God created man He said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” That likeness was nothing less than magnificent. Then sin corrupted our human splendor. The disease of rebellion infects every one of us.

Because the blood of Jesus cleanses me from all sin, I’m a saved onion. Every layer of my personality stands before God, redeemed. But the only thing more rancid than a human onion is one who accepts the gift of salvation, then continues to sit in his own foul odor. So Jesus offers to deonion me. It’s a painful process, but it’s the only way to replace my stench with his sweet aroma.

I must spend time alone with God’s word every day, and submit to the removal of the never-ending layers of my old self. My oniony heart has to be held under the Spirit’s influence until he tugs off the next sticky fault. Gradually, the clinging bonds of pride, self-centeredness, and fretfulness peel away. They yield to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It’s a lifelong process of replacing rotting personality traits with the fruit of God’s sweet character. 

I return to the process day after day, because I really don’t like the smelly old me—apparently, no one else does either. How clean and right it feels to be transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, make me like you and don’t stop until it is done.

Soaring in the Spirit

God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24)

“Mr. Don, in Pakistan girls not learn bicycle.” Michelle looked at me with the brown eyes of a deer.

I was determined to give this child the thrill of cycling. I held on to the bike and ran after her, calling out winded advice. Michelle’s brothers watched me wear down until intervention was in order. They introduced the Middle Eastern method, which was to ride the bike myself, with the pupil perched in front, and let her gradually take over steering. It worked. Michelle quickly centered her weight, and felt the joy of gliding through space.

Cycling is learned experientially. You have to get on the thing and feel your way forward.

I spent much of my Christian life dodging encounters with the Holy Spirit. There was a nebulous fear that I might “fall off the bike” and look the fool, or it would take me someplace I never wanted to go. I satisfied myself with watching others, and judging their experiences.

In our age of reason we think we’ve given all when we mentally embrace the Trinity. But true worship requires more than a commitment of intellect. I must also lay my body, emotions, and spirit on the altar. A desire to have all of God finally drove me to step out from the sidelines and throw my leg over the bike, to learn experientially. With sweet reminiscence I can name the time and place where I first soared in the Spirit.

The body of Christ is diverse by design. It’s an error to conclude I worship in spirit and truth because someone else’s experiences have come to me. The correct measure is when I have moved out from behind my fears and said, “Unite with me, Lord, in whatever way you choose.” The deeper joy comes, not from receiving supernatural experiences, but from yielding to the Spirit of God.

Prayer: Sweet Spirit, break out of any limitations I have put on you.

Pinball of Joy

Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return;
they will enter Zion with a happy shout.
Unending joy will crown them,
happiness and joy will overwhelm them;
grief and suffering will disappear. (Isaiah 51:11)

My mind shoots up toward hope like a pinball, but then it U-turns back to despair. Thoughts arc through God’s sweet zone, only to succumb to the gravity of carnal habits and a bitter outlook.

Joy is the byproduct of obedience. Therefore, it is a choice. I can watch idly as my mind falls into negativity, or use the flippers and bumpers to propel myself upward. Under my right hand is the paddle of God’s word. Press that button and the bright promises of forgiveness and paradise launch my heart up to hope, where it belongs. In my left hand is prayer—reflexive taps send every temptation up the sovereignty ramp. Then there are the bumpers of praise, fellowship, and songs. Father gave me ample resources to keep my heart out of the gloom.

Joy is the natural disposition of God’s creation. Only here in this earthly pastime, does hell’s curse of negativity hold sway. We were not created for this box—for the downward pull of darkness. Our spiritual genetics are joy. We inherited that from our Father, who is joy.

The epicenter of all realms is God’s throne, surrounded by rejoicing creatures. We were meant to be permanent celebrants at that party, but Satan antagonized us into cashing in our birthright through disobedience. God couldn’t endure the death of our joy, so he gave us another chance through Jesus. He gave us the pinball game and free will to choose how we play.

One day Christ will lead me out of these arcade confines and into a place without physical or spiritual gravity. Nothing bad will tug on me, and I’ll float in God’s bliss. Until then, I have the levers, paddles, and bumpers to roll my heart back and forth over joy.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I choose you, I choose joy.