Don Goulding - Blog

Like Waking Up

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And I — in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness. (Psalms 17:15) (NIV)

I willed my life force past my face and lifted off the ground. Soaring above people, trees, and hills, a power line appeared. I gauged the obstruction’s height and pushed higher to let it pass beneath. But there were more wires. As I attempted to fly through the maze, my strength ebbed and I couldn’t stay above the tangle. 

This is the reoccurring dream that has thrilled and frustrated me since childhood. It represents my joy at rising above earthly life through the Holy Spirit, but I can never overcome the obstructions of sinfulness.

The fact that we dream points to an enormous life in paradise, as though the concept of dreaming is a metaphor for temporal life. Dreams are mere garbled shadows of our waking hours, and this life only provides fragmented hints at what is to come. When I am sleeping, the dream seems real enough, just as earthly life feels like the genuine article. And yet, compared to the solidity of paradise, it’s a smattering of vaporous episodes.

The scale that measures wakefulness divides our sleepy fog into one thousand layers. As we progress upward, each stratum is thinner than the last. The bottom layer lies heavy against the ground when we’re in deep slumber. Our dream state hovers around the tenth layer, while our daily lives function at the hundredth layer. There are still nine hundred grades of wakefulness above us before we burst into the clarity of heaven.

One day Jesus will call my name, and I will wake. I will finally leave the entanglements of my old dreams about wires, and my earthly life, far below. I will continue to wake, rushing upward through nine hundred layers of alertness. Then, I will be satisfied with seeing his radiant face.

Prayer: Jesus, it’s sweet to dream of the moment when I’ll awake.

Expensive Prize

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If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? (1 Peter 4:18) (NIV)

Kumar was raised in Hinduism, but his gods turned on him. I met him and his coffee-brown wife in Chennai, India. They wanted freedom from the evil spirit that was causing Kumar to fall into fits, lose his job, and beat his already suicidal bride. 

I presented the cure of Christ and waited for their response. No one spoke. The humming ceiling fan pushed hot air around the office.

“Can we follow Christ, but pray to the gods with my parents?”

“Jesus would not have his followers bow to his enemies,” I said. 

Kumar’s brow furrowed. If he went against his parents, with whom they lived, his family would shun them. Yet, he was desperate for relief. Husband and wife stared at the floor, as the cement of their situation hardened around them.

I’m astonished by how difficult it is to follow Jesus. My sacrifices are not as big as Kumar’s, but to me, they’re still huge. The prize, however, justifies the cost. 

The prize is the glory that goes to God when a creature of free will chooses to pay a high price to honor him. Our God deserves much honor, therefore, the cost to follow is high.

Salvation is the simplest hard thing we’ll ever do. It’s simple to pray for forgiveness, but that prayer requires a repentant heart. That’s hard.

Are we willing to sacrifice before our God who sacrificed for us? Both Kumar and I have to answer, and end our days standing by our decision. The ceiling fan turns, and heaven awaits our reply.

Prayer: Your glory, O God, is my expensive prize.

Outstretched Hand

Indeed, the Lord who commands armies has a plan, and who can possibly frustrate it? His hand is ready to strike, and who can possibly stop it. (Isaiah 14:27)

My sins, even the small ones, are an anathema to God. He loves me, but detests my treason.

“Do not do that,” he said. 

I did it in his face.

Holy wrath stirs, and the mighty hand rises. It’s not some future event, it’s already moving against my anarchy. The hand is poised, twitching with readiness to sweep me into the hellfire I deserve. Yet it pauses. For a brief moment in history, it hovers. It is the moment of grace.

During the moment of grace, the hand of wrath is redirected against Jesus. By his wounds I am healed. I may run to the place of his punishment, and claim it as my own.

Because of the divine substitution, the outstretched hand will not harm me. It becomes a hand of protection. I take shelter beneath its reach, and love overshadows me. At the great judgment, the hand will fall against sin, but not against me. The wrath I deserve has long been spent on my Savior.

God warned of his intention, many times over. Now, the hand is outstretched, ready to slam down. To pretend everything is okay with man’s sin is to inflict the worst cruelty on the unsaved. I must cling to Jesus, and call others to do the same. 

The hand will strike. Be ready!

Prayer: God of compassion, extend the moment of grace to save many.