Published: Monday, 08 April 2019 15:07
Written by Don Goulding
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3) (NIV)
In the Winnie the Pooh story by A. A. Milne, Rabbit suggests they cure Tigger of his bouncing by losing him in the woods overnight.
“Oh, we'll find him again next morning, and mark my words, he'll be a humble Tigger, a sad and small Tigger, an ‘Oh, Rabbit, am I glad to see you’ Tigger. And it'll take the bounces out of him, that's what!”
The misguided plan backfires and it’s Rabbit himself who gets lost. His friends rescue him and he comes out of the long night humbled from his pride.
When it comes to nonessential doctrines, I feel like Rabbit. I used to be confident of my beliefs and critical of those who differed. I reveled in debates to prove my points but what came out of my mouth was often intended to make me win rather than magnify Jesus.
Students of theology are soon faced with a bramble of opinions and the thorny disagreements that have plagued church history. They learn how wholly inadequate human speech is for heavenly truths and feel the prickliness of wordy debates. They realize navigation by human intellect without direction from the Holy Spirit leaves us thrashing in circles far removed from God’s path.
It’s time to stop pretending I or any human can fully elucidate subjects like predestination or eschatology. I must admit I’m Rabbit, lost in the dark woods, afraid and confused. I can’t get myself free of the tangle of nonessential doctrines.
From outside the forest I hear voices. Jesus and my truest friends are searching for me. They’re calling me out of the maelstrom. I no longer have to systematize biblical conundrums. I need only follow the voice of Jesus, return to his simple gospel, and let him bring me past the doctrinal thickets into the full light of grace.
I went into the bramble of secondary doctrines with an attitude of “I have answers that will unbounce others.” I’m coming out of those same woods a broken Rabbit, an “Oh, Jesus, am I glad to see you” Rabbit.
Prayer: King Jesus, may humility close my mouth except to glorify you.
Published: Monday, 01 April 2019 15:21
Written by Don Goulding
You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3) (NIV)
A young missionary couple took me aside at a party.
“Can we tell you about how we met?” blonde Californian Leah said.
“I really wanted to attend Calvary Chapel Bible College Europe but I had a brain tumor. As churches around the world prayed, a torrent of God’s peace swirled through my heart. It grew into an all-consuming flood. I wanted it to swallow me. I told my doctor I would forego treatment and trust God. He told me I was foolish.”
Leah enthusiastically sold her belongings in preparation for college or death. Whichever came first was fine with her.
Balazs took over the story with his Hungarian accent. “I was forced to drop out of college because I had aggressive testicular cancer and less than a ten percent chance of survival. As hundreds prayed for me, bubbling peace filled my heart also. I didn’t know Leah who lived on the other side of the world but I knew the same overwhelming peace she discovered.
“My body wasted away until I could wrap my thumbs and fingers around my thigh. I grew eager to meet the source of my amazing peace.
“When treatments were no help, I discontinued them and waited to see how I would win—with a miraculous cure or go to heaven. The doctors fought my decision with legal actions, calling it suicide, but I laughed and continued to trust in God alone.”
Back in America, Leah’s doctor raised his eyebrows in amazement over her latest test results. The tumor had disappeared. As a result, he became a Christian, quit his practice and left for the mission field.
Leah left for Bible college in Hungary. Leah met Balazs. They had a lot in common, including God’s peace and a miraculous cure that later came to Balazs as well.
“He asked me to marry him and I couldn't resist his handsome smile.” Leah’s eyes beamed at her husband. “Now we live only for God.”
After his parables, Jesus often said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” His point was that some stories are meant to change the listeners. This is one of them.
Prayer: Prince of Peace, reign in my heart above all else.
Published: Monday, 25 March 2019 14:49
Written by Don Goulding
Jerusalem will no longer be enclosed by walls because of the multitude of people and animals there. But I (the Lord says) will be a wall of fire surrounding Jerusalem and the source of glory in her midst. (Zechariah 2:4-5)
“Brr, swoosh,” a big-eyed, brown skinned boy glided a shard of mirror through the air at his orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico. I watched from a distance to avoid bursting his imaginary world. A fragment of glass isn’t a safe plaything and I considered taking the shard away. I couldn’t confiscate his toy without deflating an entire universe of souls desperate for rescue by the heroic Shard of Mirror.
In my own life, I can pick up one shard of life’s brokenness and build an entire universe of delusions around it. A big part of my make-believe world is the wall that surrounds my heart. I imagine bricks of acceptance mortared with ample finances will save me from deadly missiles. I get so caught up in adding defenses that I’m not even aware demons are handing them to me.
The higher my wall rises, they more necessary it becomes in my mind. My wall makes perfect sense to me. Your wall is the one I question. I don’t understand your preoccupations and you think my worries are silly.
“Wake up,” Jesus says. “You don’t need your pretend defenses because you have me.”
He’s right. While some of my fears are from real threats, my defenses are as imaginary as the orphan child’s fantasies. Jesus is the only true wall around me. He alone saves me from my sin guilt. He is the one shield that prevents the missiles of life from ever touching my eternal soul. Wherever I go and whatever happens, Jesus my Sovereign King is there ensuring I have everything I need to honor God in the moment. He will never leave me or forsake me—his words.
I have a wall of fire protecting me and his name is Jesus.
Prayer: Mighty Defender, take down my ridiculous walls so I’ll depend on you.