Don Goulding - Blog

Sweet and Sour

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For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now. Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. (Romans 8:22-24)

What rolls along your tongue, teasing it first with honeyed fun, then with sarcastic tartness? It’s the brilliant pairing of sugar and vinegar in sweet and sour sauce. God’s Spirit also blends a sauce that is sweet and sour at the same time.

The sweet ingredient is the experiential presence of the untamed Creator of the universe abiding in our hearts. The word that expresses this sugary confection gathers a hundred descriptions of the goodness of God, and pins them in the bull’s eye of speech. The word is joy—ecstatic, welling, dancing joy. 

Next, God adds the sour ingredient. As we intercede for our loved ones, country, and world, the weeping of Christ folds groans into our prayers. It begins as a peculiar stillness, but it grows into a bone deep sadness. The world is far from what it should be, and Jesus grieves his pain through us for the hopeless, the harassed, and the hurting. We endure the crushing sorrow, yet, we do it with him.

The Christian’s deeper prayer life is a base of sweet joy spiked with sour groans. It’s a beautiful union with God’s great victory that shall overcome this present tragedy. It enters into Christ’s laughter, and his tears. We are named his friends, and called to share his business, both the sweet and the sour.

While we await our completion as sons and daughters, this holy sauce will flavor our prayers right up to the day that Jesus returns for the redemption of life.

Prayer: Dear Savior, I open my heart to both your joy and your pain.

True King

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…because the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
the one who accuses them day and night before our God,
has been thrown down…
He is filled with terrible anger,
for he knows that he only has a little time!” (Revelation 12:10, 12)

A blast of orange and black fire roars on the right. Thunderous reverberations belch with steam from the left.

“They have sinned and cannot abide with the Perfect Presence. The ancient laws that judged me must also judge them,” a booming voice echoes.

If this were a scene in the Wizard of Oz, the dog, Toto, would pull back a curtain to reveal a false wizard—a little man pulling levers and shouting into a microphone. 

Satan is a wizard without real power over those in Christ. He rants about the curse over us, and it sounds convincing amplified through the machinery of half-truth. In reality, it’s harmless smoke and levers. The danger has passed, because the accusations are without legal standing. For those who choose God, eternal pain and torture ended on the cross, when Jesus said it was finished. All that’s left are the ravings of a lunatic whose days are numbered.

When the false wizard blows hot air of all I’ve done wrong, I stop up my ears and hide behind Jesus. I don’t answer to guilt. Love is my master. When Love says his blood heals and makes me perfect, I listen.

The true King declares, “There’s no place like home. I want you to be here with me. Until that day, I’ll grant your requests for a new brain, a new heart, and courage.”

The one who welcomes me to paradise, and remakes me from top to bottom—that’s the only King I will listen to.

Prayer: Mighty Jesus, help me ignore the false wizard and hear only you.

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.