Don Goulding - Blog

Inseparable

The Byzantine Market Square in Durrës 02For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38, 39)

We were in the coastal city of Durres, Albania for an outreach. Our local friends were eager to show us their ancient Roman ruins where the Apostle Paul had walked. Historians record that he appointed a bishop over seventy Christian families in Durres during his missionary travels.

We dodged traffic and passed shoddy buildings from recent decades. In a vacant lot of weeds and litter, a graceful circle of Roman columns stood in contrast to the postmodern dilapidation. It was like a diamond tiara laying in the city dump. This site withstood two thousand years of wars, earthquakes, and twenty-five regime changes.

The secret to the longevity of Roman architecture was concrete. They combined powdered cement and water with an aggregate like stones or gravel, and concrete set into a nearly indestructible construction material. Concrete has the unique property that it becomes stronger over time. Even today, those columns are getting harder than when they were first made.

Precious souls reborn into Christ are like the aggregate hidden inside Roman cement. No matter our shape or history, no matter who we are or what we’ve done, the love of God binds us in impenetrable unity. It would sooner be possible to separate the aggregate from the Durres columns than it would be to remove the love of Christ from around his followers.

This love binds to my soul and encases me with spiritual protection. And it’s growing stronger. My place in heaven is more permanent now than when I was first made a Christian.

Death, angels, time—nothing in any realm can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Prayer: Protector of my life, I am forever bonded to your love.

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More

DSCN0131 1If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13)

“Mo, mo.”

With his hand outstretched and a one word vocabulary, our toddler grandson asked me to pick more blackberries. How could I resist those chubby, purple-stained cheeks? Of course I hand-fed him the sweetest plump fruits, and also taught him about the dangerous thorns.

The Bible says God only gives good gifts, the plump sweet fruit of blessing. I agree with that truth in my head, but my heart secretly rages. Why does my wife have multiple sclerosis and my granddaughter suffer kidney disease? Isn’t God at least partly responsible for the misery in our world?

No, he’s not. A chain reaction was triggered by sin in the garden of Eden and it’s fueled by every human being since. The multiplied dysfunction of life is entirely the result of mans’ mistakes, not God’s. He creates the berries, we make the thorns.

I can’t throw humanity’s mud at God and expect it to stick. Our heavenly Father is goodness. All through man’s long history of failure, God’s character has remained perfect goodness. He eagerly shares his good gifts with those who ask and teaches us the danger of the thorns.

I asked God for more wealth and he gave me treasure in heaven, because God gives juicy berries, not spiky thorns. I asked for more popularity and he gave me eternal family, because he gives berries, not thorns. I asked for more health and he gave new vitality to my spirit, berries, not thorns. I must learn to ask rightly.

My grandson understood the formula. He knew what to ask for so I could never refuse his, “Mo, mo.”

Now it’s my turn to ask for more, and ask correctly.

Prayer: Father God, please give me more of your Spirit.

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Faith Muscle

IMGP7559Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold - gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away - and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:7)

A hunched man sat outside his house gazing into the stunted pines and granite crags of China’s Yellow Mountains.

“I was a porter for fifty years,” he explained through my translator. “Every day I carried goods up sixty thousand steps to the top.”

The man before me was a knot of muscles developed from five decades of hauling loaded buckets, balanced from a pole across his shoulders. Most locals I met played mahjong tiles everyday, but this gentle soul had done something extraordinary with his life. He’d carried bricks and parcels up more than one billion stairs.

Faith is a muscle that atrophies without exercise. When there’s no resistance from trials in life, my faith in God gets weak and flabby. Hardship makes me pray and trust God until my faith increases. Trials build up faith, and faith builds up glory.

Faith is my most valuable strength. I may be a deeply religious person and have an impeccable service record, but those don’t move the heart of God like faith in his Son. My heavenly Father wants to see a well developed, highly sculpted faith in my life. He wants my time on earth to be extraordinary, not mahjong-boring, but soaring-faith glorious.

Back in the Yellow Mountains I gave my new friend the gospel message, which he eagerly received. But he gave me something of almost equal value in return. He demonstrated that living a significant life requires overcoming significant hardship. If he’d loitered among the mahjong players instead of fighting the gravity of those stairs everyday, we would’ve never been touched by his incredible story or spurred on to glorious faith.

Prayer: Master Trainer, use trials to build up my most holy faith.

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