Published: Monday, 06 February 2017 17:17
Written by Don Goulding
But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. Then they were all astonished at the mighty power of God. (Luke 9:42-43)
“A seizure overtook my body and everything went black.” Fifteen-year-old Jemi’s bright eyes shown from a brown face as she and her father, Pastor Daniels, recounted the events of her death in Chennai, India. “There was no pain but I died in my mother’s arms. My father was away and he knew in his spirit he needed to pray for me.
“Two angels took me to the Lord. When I saw him, Jesus said I had to return to my grieving family and bring others to salvation, then I would come back to him later. Then my body started breathing again.”
Jemi was born with a Hindu name that she wouldn’t speak to me. Her great grandfather practiced witchcraft and gave his daughter, Jemi’s grandmother, the secret name. That lady spent her life physically paralyzed. Jemi was her namesake and the generational curse reached a gnarled hand to destroy the girl’s life as well with deadly epilepsy.
The first thing the family did after the angels brought Jemi back was to break the curse by proclaiming the power of Jesus over her new name, Jemi New Grace.
Many Westerners roll their eyes at Jemi’s story. Angels, resurrection, and family curses are not empirical enough. But Jemi and her family don’t follow a tame Jesus, they follow a valiant Jesus. Their Lord is the Great Deliver, who’s very name has power over unseen enemies.
Jemi’s life is enmeshed in the spiritual battle between light and dark. My life is buffered from her worldview by modern entertainments and scientific explanations. While I squint into the magnifying-glass of technology, she gazes through the telescope of Biblical experience.
I propose that fifteen-year-old Jemi New Grace has a bigger grasp of reality than me.
Prayer: Mighty, powerful God, open my eyes.
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.