Don Goulding - Blog

Paradox Resolved

Notice therefore the kindness and harshness of God- harshness toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. (Romans 11:22)

God is kind beyond any person in history. He mourns every human tear and laments each grain of hatred that blows against us. Like the velveted nose of a bunny sniffing after spring grass, his soft mercy is ever tender. Because he is gentle and humble of heart, a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. God is as kind as the universe is wide.

God is more demanding than any taskmaster ever born among men. He will sever the head of evil and slam retribution onto the smallest offender. Even tiny sins of dark thinking and unkind words, muttered without volume, are judged. Every infraction is recorded in his book. Wrath will be meted in teeth gnashing hellfire. His vengeance crushes our rebellion like an iron boot upon an eggshell. God is harsh.

My narrow thinking tries to reduce God to a useless blend of kindness and harshness, where he is not very kind and not very harsh. I make him into a distant grandfather who laughs at our failure and says, “Ah, they’re only human.” It’s the oldest heresy in Satan’s playbook—imagining God to be who we want him to be instead of letting him reveal who he truly is. In reality, God is consummate kindness, and he is eternally wrathful against wrongdoing. He is both extremes.

With great genius, God resolved the paradox of his kindness and his harshness by sending Jesus Christ. Through the kindest act known to mankind, the righteous wrath of God was exhausted on Jesus at the cross. A blinding, holy, untainted God must never relent against that which is his opposite, namely sin. Thus, the substitutionary crucifixion extends God’s kindness to the saved, but still punishes every sin—either on the body of Jesus or on the unsaved in hell. No sin, no matter how small, is ignored.

The right way for me to embrace the polar diversity of God’s character is not to push him into a box of my making, but to intertwine with Jesus. Jesus is the only solution to God’s kindness and harshness. 

Prayer: Jesus, keep my heart in the confluence of love and awe of God.

Mystery Revealed

My goal is that their hearts, having been knit together in love, may be encouraged, and that they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2, 3)

I felt God calling me away for a deeper encounter with him. We had a small motor home, and I drove up the northern California coast. The last miles on dirt roads wound through rain drenched groves of redwood and cypress. At the end of the beach, winter dashed her waves against the cliffs and blew gifts of mist into the silhouettes of jagged pines.

Not a soul was in sight. Just God and me for three days of prayer, fasting, and Scripture. Surely the Holy Spirit would reveal himself in a burning bush, or at least with one of those tingly experiences you read about.

By day three, my spirit was cleansed and saturated with God’s word. It left me hungry for more. As a light drizzle fell outside, I invited the Holy Spirit to fill me. A blessed peace surrounded my being and I basked in his presence for another hour. Ah, that was so good and right, but where was the electricity, the downpour of glory too powerful for my frame?

God loves that I want more of him. In fact, he wants to give more than I want to receive, because I only want to receive on my terms. I look for heavenly sparks so my otherwise mediocre commitment might be endorsed. Those are my terms. 

Under God’s terms he wants to bring his character into the commonness of my life. If I’d let him, he would reclaim every moment with purity, love, and selflessness. That is how God chooses to reveal himself.

There is a fog that veils my eyes from the mystery of God. It rises up at the crashing of life’s tumultuous vexations. And while I’m preoccupied with those difficulties, or busy groping after supernatural evidence, God gently wafts his very being into the jags of my small life. 

Prayer: Jesus, grant me the riches of the knowledge of you.

Mustard Seed Faith

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” So the Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this black mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled out by the roots and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5, 6)

I tell others I believe, I sing the songs and pray the prayers. But in my heart is Jesus solid? My faith is a tiny, black mustard seed—no bigger than a dot on a page. What can I do with such an insignificant dose of life’s vital ingredient?

My world is destroyed by sin and I need a replacement. I can’t remain a permanent resident of this cursed planet. There must be something more, someone perfect, someplace of peace and love. To continue living, I have to hope in that reality. I’m forced to use my mustard seed dot of faith.

There on my palm is the round, black seed. It’s not much, but I take it between thumb and finger and place it on the ground. Next, I lay hold of my eternal future and set that mass atop my seed. I take up Sundays, think twice, then grab all the days of my week, and lay them on the mustard seed. My income, career, and retirement go on top of the growing pile—all supported by that little seed.

What will I do with my entertainment, rest, and me time? I’ll put them onto the seed. I have no choice. It’s my only option for rescue out of this world. I can’t logically expect the seed to also bear the weight of my broken family and loved ones, but where else can I lay them? On the seed they must go.

My heaviest burden of all, the one that crushes joy, is the unfairness of life. What will I do with child soldiers forced to murder, with cancer ridden saints, and with earthquakes that kill grade schoolers by the thousands? I assumed God would at least take over those loads. But no, they too must rest on my seed.

Here am I, a pitiful, hungry soul, with a minuscule faith. My dot refuses to enlarge, and yet, by force of my will, I choose to stand all that I am, all that I have, and every choice I make, on that tiny bit of faith.

Prayer: Jesus, Savior and Lord, all my hope is in you.