Don Goulding - Blog

Identity Stone

IMGP7624For 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.

Dark Night of the Soul

IMGP0221My 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.

Master of Time

Gods Amazing Universe.001From one man he [God] made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live… (Acts 17:26)

Scientists wanted to know if Einstein’s theory of relativity was true, so they placed an atomic clock, accurate to a billionth of a second, on an airplane. They flew the clock around the globe then compared its time to another atomic clock. The times were different—proof that time changes with motion.

With data streams beamed from the space probe Cassini near our heavy sun, physicists demonstrated that gravity also alters time. Seconds, minutes, and hours pass more slowly on a massive star than on earth, relative to motion and gravity.

God created the universe and the multitude of laws that govern. He is sovereign over the dimensions of time that I cannot begin to grasp. Time is merely one of the tools he uses to carve history into a monument to his glory.

On God’s timeline, we have lived in the era of redemption since Adam. The tiny span of each life must be redeemed through Christ—some retroactively through the years and others prospectively. Indeed, the goal of every minute of this era is eternal redemption.

Inside this era, God uses time to make us his partners in the work of redemption. The master of time let’s me join his cause for a few sacred years. And yet, it’s limited. Time will run out. The minutes of our lives will end, and the era of redemption will close. It’s vital that I use whatever time God gives me to insure redemption for myself and others.

 Prayer: Master Creator, may I honor you through my allotted time.