Don Goulding - Blog

First-Hand

IMG 0030Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they can see my glory that you gave me because you loved me before the creation of the world. John 17:24 (NETFull)

For years I heard Venice, Italy was the most romantic city in the world. Friends spewed about the gondolas, cathedrals, works of art, and blah, blah, blah. Their descriptions and pictures bored me.

Then one year we visited the famous “City of Light” for ourselves. Only when I rode the boats, explored the maze of bridges, watched fireworks drape golden sparkles over St. Mark’s Square, and heard an orchestra bounce music from the walls of an ancient church did I realize how understated the descriptions had been.

Like my difficulty with Venice, I have a tough time gaining a full appreciation for all that Jesus is. The reason I live with doubt, fear, and conflict is because I underestimate the scope of his majesty. If I truly grasped his sufficiency to absolve sin, I wouldn’t worry about how others judge me. If I would fully see the glory God gave to Jesus after his trials, I would rest in what God is doing through my own trials.

Jesus existed before there was time. He currently holds everything together. He is Immanuel (God with us) and I Am (the name God gave himself) and Jesus (which means God saves). He is the Righteous Judge all men are destined to face, the Word of God, and the light in paradise.

But these encyclopedic facts on their own don’t penetrate my heart. Only when I grab his hand over the stony paths of life, and trust his guidance over bridges of change, and see his provision for places of grace do I begin to grasp the breadth of Jesus. It is in the daily experiential union with Christ that the facts about his majesty become real to my heart.

Prayer: Holy Awesome Lord Jesus, let me experience life with you.

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Mighty Embrace

His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me. Song. 2:6 (NIV)caring man protecting hug people holding sky WVZ

We were three man-friends trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. A rogue bear cleaned out our treed food cache. The shortest way out was to cram two days of hiking into one day and climb over a 14,000 foot peak. Survival mode kicked in and we plied the stream for fish and combed the meadow for edible plants and roots.

Drawing on our wilderness savvy to overcome a bit of peril bonded us as guys. It was a grand adventure. We emerged from the woods a few pounds lighter but high on testosterone.

Outside I might act the self-sufficient manly man but spiritually I’m vulnerable as a trembling schoolgirl. Demons swoop about my head while my own flesh threatens to dash my faith on the rocks of sin. I’m defenseless and weak-willed, exposed and shaking. I don’t need a far away, one-day-when-god but one who can hold me through the dark night.

Jesus pulls me into his embrace and tells me to stay low. If I rise to my feet of self-effort, he can’t guarantee protection. His left hand cushions my skull against the hardness of life as he whispers promises that drive fear away. I wonder at our intimacy when he has billions who depend on him. Still, his right arm—the symbol of his might and power—is around my waist. It protects me from attacks and keeps me from bolting.

This is the Savior I need. Not one who adds me to his list of followers then marches away but one who keeps me close until the storms are over. I can’t endure the horror of the world without a shielding lover and so I’ll never survive if I squirm from his embrace. The manly thing to do is to recognize my dire need and curl under his strong embrace.

Prayer: Mighty Lover, don’t let me go.

 

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Successful Prayer

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Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. Even all the hairs on your head are numbered. So do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31 NET_FL)

The night was thick with hot air and loud worship music. As the evangelistic festival in Tamil Nadu unwound, three Indian coeds pressed through the crowd for prayer. Most people ask for healing or general blessing but these daughters of Christ were different.


“The Hindu landlords won’t rent to Christian girls and for months we’ve tried to find a safe place to live.”

The ladies pulled their shawls over their heads and bowed while I lifted a prayer to heaven on their behalf. Swirling into the muggy either was compassion, faith—mostly theirs—and doubt—mostly mine. After I said amen, I could see their fear was gone. They knew Father God would take care of them. Our prayer was already a success.

When Jesus compared us to sparrows he said we’re precious to God. We matter, we’re not ignored. We are encouraged to pray for our needs, then wait on God’s answer. My job is to trust that his reply and timing are better than my understanding of what is best. I have to transfer responsibility for the outcome from me to him. When that happens, my prayer is successful no matter what the outcome.

Jesus never said we’d always make sense of God’s answers but he unequivocally promised we’d never have cause to fear. Prayer that takes away fear is the definition of successful prayer.

The girls returned the next evening bubbling with excitement. Our prayer had been answered that morning and they had a place to call home. I knew it was really answered the night before, when trust chased fear from their hearts.

Prayer: Compassionate Father, thank you that I can wholly trust you.

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