Don Goulding - Blog

Monkey Fist

IMG 3206Command those who are rich in this worldʼs goods not to be haughty or to set their hope on riches, which are uncertain, but on God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. 1 Timothy 6:17 (NETFull)

The monkey watched from the safety of his high branch as an African man chained a clay jar to a tree. The man hid something colorful inside the jar and left. The monkey caught a sugary scent. He climbed down and reached a nimble hand to the candy. The mouth of the jar was too narrow to withdraw his closed fist so he dragged the pot toward the safety of his own tree with his arm inside.

The chain clinked taut.

The monkey clamped his fist tighter around the candy and howled. The noise attracted the man who slowly pulled the chain and the monkey toward a cage. The little animal refused to abandon his sweet prize, instead, he screamed in panic. In that situation, what else could a monkey do?

“Let go,” the Lord says to me. “Open your hand from the things of the world and live in freedom.”

Jesus would have me be smarter than the monkey, and yet, I keep mental fists around popularity, health, comfort, my bank account—the list goes on. Like the monkey, I clamp down on my expectations of what I think I should get.

The devil’s chain is not long. While I grip temporal gifts, Satan draws me toward eternal imprisonment. The only breakable link between me and his hellfire is where my own palm seizes earthly privileges. My one hope is to open my hand.

My heavenly Father has a better supply program in mind. He watches over me to provide for all of my needs and some of my wants but, not all, so I’ll learn to discern between the sacred and the superfluous. This is the way life is supposed to work, me looking to my Provider and him looking after me. Simple, dependent gratitude with no debasing monkey fist.

Prayer: Giving Father, I will thank you for each bite of life.

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Baptism

P7260070Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself. (Acts 2:38-39 NET_FL)

A boy beat a drum as he led our colorful throng out of his village for baptisms in Andhra Pradesh, India. Others sang, shook tambourines, and laughed as the Indian pastor and I struggled in the lake against the sucking mud. One-by-one beautiful Indians waded out and were buried in the water only to be raised up into new life.

A woman waiting at the end of the line howled. Her demon lamented its imminent eviction. When her turn came, the woman forced herself and the evil spirit into the water and, with great struggle, submitted to baptism. She left the water free of her torment.

This was not an isolated incident. I have witnessed deliverance connected with baptism in Africa, India, and Fiji. I don’t know all that is transacted in the heavenly realms at baptism but I do know the demons are very concerned with the ceremony and we should be too.

Baptism is the most beautiful sacrament given to God’s children. Immersion represents burial of the old self, and then comes resurrection into life in Christ—it’s brilliant, life-altering symbolism. Except for pride, why would any believer opt for private elopement when they can be publicly wed to Christ through baptism? I would do it over and over again if it weren’t for the fact that union to Jesus is complete upon the first baptism of an informed follower.

Prayer: Precious Jesus, I celebrate the day I began this journey with you through baptism.

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Purity and Patience

RoyJesus also told this parable to some who were confident that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else. Luke 18:9 (NETFull)

Roy’s old truck squeaked and rattled on a dusty Mexican road. My heart was as dry as the tumbleweeds that blew past. I’d contrived to be alone with this thin, gentle man so I could take the second step in confession. Confessing to God had gained forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Now I needed to confess to a trusted brother for healing from my sin’s wound (James 5:16). 

Roy was perhaps the godliest man I knew, yet he was humble toward his own shortcomings. My admission was barely out of my mouth when he steered around a pothole and launched into prayer.

“In the name of Jesus, I proclaim Don free from the power this secret had over his life. His sin is removed as far as the east is from the west. Amen. Now, son, don’t speak again of what’s forgotten.”

All Christians find forgiveness, some advance toward holiness, very few discover Roy’s combination of purity and patience. That’s where Jesus wants my heart to go next, demanding personal holiness from myself while maintaining resolute patience with his work in others. Both sides of that equation are nearly impossible to attain, yet the power of grace is available for the transformation. Through Jesus, my heart can be made into a habitat that slams the back door on sin and holds the front door open to others.

Rattling down the bumpy road of life, I must focus on the five-mile gap between my holiness and that of Jesus and not on the one-inch of improvement I think I’ve gained ahead of someone else. The integrity to admit how far I fall short of God’s mark is essential to improving my righteousness, accepting others, and to getting along toward Roy’s Christ-likeness.

Prayer: Strong Jesus, work grace in me to hate my sin and be patient with others.

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