Published: Monday, 30 January 2017 18:53
Written by Don Goulding
…Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)
What does it mean to be pure in heart? I have unclean thoughts and words everyday, so how can I be pure hearted? I have to know because I want to see God, as Jesus declared.
We picked our way through mud toward a palm-thatched hovel. A six-year-old mute girl in a bright yellow dress shot out from the curtained doorway, ran past the Nigerian Bible college student leading me, and threw her arms around my legs. Normally in the villages, my white face frightened children who’d never seen a Caucasian, but this precious girl clung to me with unfettered love.
Who was pure hearted that day? The girl’s mother was inside the hut practicing witchcraft. The neighbors mocked the child. The Bible college students tried to pull the kid away from their missionary. I stiffened and set the girl aside. It was my chance to swoop her up and say, “don’t try to stop her, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” But I missed it. None of the adults were pure hearted.
The six-year-old wasn’t troubled by what others thought about her. She didn’t concern herself with pride in her stature. She only wanted to give and receive love, and that made her pure, eligible to see God.
It’s been fifteen years since I encountered the pure hearted girl. But whenever I need a reminder of what God expects from me, I look down, close my eyes, and see the yellow dress. I feel the squeeze of love at my knees, and I know that pure hearted isn’t complicated. It’s just loving others more than prideful self.
Prayer: Jesus, give me pure love for others.
Published: Monday, 23 January 2017 00:41
Written by Don Goulding
For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11)
“Waisake, stand up,” I said to the six-foot-six Fijian inmate. “You have been a fighter of men, but I anoint you as a warrior for God. From now on, you battle demons and evil instead of people.”
As I made a cross with coconut oil on Waisake’s forehead, tears dripped onto his orange prison smock.
Waisake was serving time for first degree assault. Fellow prisoners feared his Herculean fists, but when he gave his heart to Jesus, a new Waisake emerged. Through counseling, the Holy Spirit set him free from the abuse he’d received as a child. The moment I put oil on his head, God changed his identity from brawler to lover. Powerful, friendly Waisake became a favorite of inmates and guards alike.
Like Waisake, my identity defines me. How I and others see me influences my actions. So what am I? A brawler, a lover, a fanatic, a pacifist? There are a great many human labels and we each wear several.
My identity has changed a few times. It shifted when I left the business world to become a pastor. On the mission field, I faced conflict with ministry staff three different times. It left me with questions. What am I—a businessman, a pastor, a missionary?
Every steppingstone of identity eventually sinks. The only unmoving foundation is the love of Jesus Christ. Since he purchased my place in God’s family, that’s my identity—a child of God, and brother of Jesus.
Life’s changes may cause the universe to crumble on every side, but for me and Waisake, our weight is on the immovable stone.
Prayer: Jesus, you are my identity.
Published: Monday, 16 January 2017 22:06
Written by Don Goulding
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)
I stared over the edge of a precipice that dropped into despair. Behind me was the theory of peace with the God who cared. Wavering between the pit and the theory, I asked that God would speak. The returning silence sickened my heart.
With my toes over the edge, I examined thought trails down the cliff—did I have a purpose? was joy snuffed by pain? The more I thought, the less clear was the difference between the silent God behind me and the void of puzzles below. Insanity seemed the natural conclusion of reasonable contemplation.
It’s called the dark night of the soul, and both classical and contemporary teachers speak of times when God withholds his presence and forces us to depend on the promises of Scripture alone. It can last for days, months, even years. Often, the reasons our loving Father chooses to subject us to spiritual vacuums are only revealed much later.
For me, the nearness of Jesus flowed through the fuel line to my soul until I took it for granted. When a bubble of deprivation slipped into the line, I sputtered and reeled, sucking on the air of my own thoughts. Too much thinking about me is always perilous. I experienced the pointlessness of life without the Holy Spirit.
Teetering on the brink of that abyss, I smelled rancid breath calling me downward, and was horrified out of complacency. I fell to my knees and begged God to whisper. Then I waited, and waited some more.
The faintest movement of hope blew and I said, “Good enough, I’ll take it.”
Prayer: Father, may I never go into that night again, but if I do, even then will I trust you.