Don Goulding - Blog

Sheep or Goats?

Waiting in our van until the goats clear the roadWhen the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Matthew 25:31-34 (NETFull)

While in route to an outreach in southern India, our van was surrounded by a large flock of sheep mixed with goats. In temperate climates, sheep often don’t grow a fleece and it’s difficult to distinguish them from goats.

“The sheep carry their tails down, the goat’s tails are up,” one of the nationals informed us, but tails were twitching both ways.

As our driver tooted the hooter and inched forward, several necks in the flock sported personal collars. It occurred to me the shepherds knew each animal, perhaps by name, and they certainly knew which ones were sheep and goats. The passengers gawking through the windows proved wholly unqualified to identify the animals.

When Jesus said he will one day separate the sheep from the goats he was comparing the short-haired middle-eastern sheep of his time to goats. The two looked so much alike that only the shepherd was qualified to identify the species.

Everyday my life intertwines with both saved sheep and dammed goats and I can’t tell them apart. And it’s not my job. I act the fool when I assume the Shepherd’s task of labeling humans and separating the blessed from the cursed. It’s a full-time job sorting out my own heart and it leaves me no time for categorizing and correcting others.

My responsibility is to love everybody, no matter how goatish they seem, because who knows, the Shepherd may yet call them a sheep.

Prayer: Mighty Judge Lord Jesus, forgive me for assuming your job.

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Standing On Garbage

IMG 0257The Levites - Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah - said, “Stand up and bless the LORD your God!”

“May you be blessed, O LORD our God, from age to age. May your glorious name be blessed; may it be lifted up above all blessing and praise. You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, along with all their multitude of stars, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You impart life to them all, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. Nehemiah 9:5-6 (NETFull)

A smell of sour milk wafted into my car window in India long before I could identify the source. Blocks later, I spotted mountains of garbage overflowing a landfill. On top of the layers of plastic bags, broken cement, and roadside filth were dome-shaped hovels made from the same refuse beneath them. And next to the huts were humans walking over the rubbish like ants searching for bits of life.

I approached a family to share the gospel through my interpreter, only to discover they were already Christians. They were chased to the city dump by persecuting Hindus living in the refuge camp.

One fellow stuck in my mind. Besides his ghastly living conditions, his fingers were missing because of leprosy. He used his stubs to sift garbage for any recycling he could sell to salvagers. There he stood, the soil beneath his feet made of human trash, white nubs for fingers, and a toothless grin because he had the joy of the Lord in his heart. The family repeatedly thanked me because I merely stopped to encourage them.

I am relieved that in the kingdom of God the first will be last and the last will be first. That man will be honored through eternity because he stood above his rubbish heap and shined the love of Christ.

What rubbish is beneath my feet? Do I let money problems, health failure, or family grievances pull me down under the garbage? Or do I use this time on earth as my opportunity to stand on top of suffering and grin because I have the love of God in my heart?

This is my time, my moment to put all the smelly broken things of life beneath my feet, raise my head, and sing to God.

Prayer: God my Savior, may I praise you no matter what comes my way.

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Everywhere Friends

img 3114 picnikA person who has friends may be harmed by them,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 (NETFull)

My childhood friend came for a visit. We laughed about old times and got somber over shared grief. How was it that I’d left this guy behind? I asked him how long he could stay and he said he’d be with me as long as I needed. I invited him to sleep on the couch and he was grateful.

I needed groceries from the store. I also wanted some unhealthy indulgences.

“Um, would you mind waiting out here?” I didn’t want him to see what went into the bag. “I know right where everything is and it will be quicker this way.”

A twitch of dejection crossed his face.

Next, we stopped to pick up documents from my office. I thought about asking my friend to come see where I worked, but what if we ran into my boss? I knew my friend was too direct for my manager’s tastes. I left him in the car.

That evening, I created a distraction for my friend while I planned an upcoming vacation with some buddies. I sent my childhood pal out to buy ice cream. He returned to see me with a bunch of off-color hooligans and watched without comment.

At the grocery store, I’d made him wait outside like a dog. I kept him out of my work life, vacation plans, and relationships like he was a flea on a dog. Soulmates don’t treat each other like that.

I broke the silence, “I don’t know what I was thinking. I want you with me everywhere I go. I’m sorry, Jesus.”

Prayer: Lord, I invite you into every activity.

 

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