The Ultimate Goal

The Ultimate Goal:

‘One thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal, for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 3:13b-14 (loose translation)

When I was in Discipleship Training some twenty years ago, I was encouraged to know that suffering was for the purpose of building character and building character led to usefulness and crowns in Heaven.

Now I realize that the ultimate goal will not necessarily lead me to any victory, blessing or usefulness on earth, but that the only reason for suffering may be to bring me closer to the character of Jesus. I may not be otherwise blessed at all.

So much for prosperity gospel. So much for victorious living and God’s blessings. Is being like Jesus enough?

This past year, 2013, has been the most difficult year in my 30 years as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. I have my health, I have a safe and warm home, I have my family; I am blessed in many ways. But what I have ‘lost’ is the belief that I will one day achieve something for the Kingdom which is of lasting benefit and significance. I have, as one friend said recently, experienced the ‘death to the dream’ or as Dr Larry Crabb puts it, I have experienced Shattered Dreams (Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, Colorado, (c) 2001).

This past year has been a year of expectations disappointed, of strain with no resultant achievement, of realization that just because I believe and work hard does not mean I will succeed in finding a job or finding an audience for my writing. That’s been a difficult lesson.
I’ve watched others in similar situations, faithful brothers or sisters in Christ, who have experienced similar. Some tell stories of God coming through in the end. Others are still waiting. For myself, I’ve stumbled upon a new reality: Jesus came to save from sin – which is both a one-time finished salvation and also a slow process of self-discovery and sanctification which may have no other end but purity.

I wonder how many believers have faith in ultimate goals being realized: hopes and ambitions that God will train us so that we can be better people in our work and ministry, only to discover eventually that life hasn’t panned out quite how they expected. And if any of those disappointed that their own dreams – what they believe or believed were the ‘desires of their hearts’ – will not be realized, have become bitter or disillusioned. My own sense of self-importance, which dies hard, has thought I will one day minister and be fruitful in producing writing that will speak to millions and change lives. Now I’m thinking that will not be how God uses me and that He may not even use me at all. Realizing this has been hard. But do I still love Him, in spite of thinking my secure middle class existence and hope for notoriety is speedily coming to an end?

Yes, I do. I may not love Him as much as I thought I did, but the seed is still there. Thank you, LORD. And I will persevere, in spite of discovering there may be no reward but the assurance I am saved by His grace. And I will love Him all the more as I see the ugliness of my selfish ambition and know He still loves me.

The ultimate goal is not to reap prosperity, nor even to be involved in the conversion of others to the knowledge of God’s ultimate gift in giving us His son Jesus. The ultimate goal is simply to be transformed to be more the likeness of the Son. And that is sometimes a hard journey.

Dr Larry Crabb’s subtitle to his book Shattered Dreams is not a promise and not a reason to persevere, but it is a hope; Shattered Dreams is God’s Unexpected Pathway to Joy. I wouldn’t urge others to persevere for the sake of it, but it is helpful to know there is a hope at the end of the tunnel. As I grow in Christ, as I journey in my faith, the tunnels seem to get longer, but so far they’ve always ended. I’ve no reason to believe the one I’ve lived in during 2013 will end on 1st January 2014, but I do have every reason to believe it will, one day, ‘burst forth into glorious day’!!

God bless and Happy New Year!

There is always Hope

There is always Hope

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Hope Springs Eternal

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Snow in May

As recently as a few weeks ago, I traveled from Northern Ontario to the South East of the province and along the road there was ample snow. That seemed a bit discouraging as it was mid-May. But as the van traveled south, it wasn’t long before the snow line gave way to proper spring surroundings.

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Spring Thaw in N Ontario

Isn’t that the way with our Faith? We expect something good and it is delayed; we accept deep freeze and are suddenly and unexpectedly blessed.

We who walk by faith and not by sight will be learning that God’s sense of humour and sense of timing are rarely compatible with ours. But He is faithful and will never leave us nor forsake us. As we walk, we can expect the unexpected – be it trial or grace moment – and always something good will come out of any circumstance.

For “all things work together for our good” and for those who trust in the LORD with all their hearts, He will make their paths straight. He will never leave us nor forsake us; we can count on that.

Accepting Our Calling

“Many are called, few are chosen”

There are a few things of which I am certain:

1 Jesus is Christ who died and was resurrected.

2 I am saved by the grace of God.

3 The Holy Spirit resides in me to lead me on to serve the LORD God.

Then there are the personal things:

4 I am a child of God called to give birth and to parent one child.

5 I am a Watchman

6 I have been called to write.

Today I come to the blog to comment on the LORD’s call to me to write.

In 2000 I returned from an experience in Hong Kong, where I now have friends and a place in my heart. The events and blessings I received there will be shared some other time. But during that 3 month residence, the LORD spoke into my spirit and said to me clearly to write. I have been doing so ever since.

This blog is aimed at women like me, who love the LORD and are in their middle years. As with all blogs it is available to all. But I would love others to join me who fit into that ‘mould’ and who would like to share their reflections and discoveries during their walk with the LORD.

Today I invite us all to pray, to seek His face, to discern our calling from Him. There will be seasons of harvest and barren seasons, but when we are diligent to follow His call, our lives will be a blessing and will be blessed with His peace and joy.

I have a book now published, several others started and some will come into the public forum. I’ve blogs, contributions to others’ blogs, all sorts of social network offerings. The LORD did not say to earn a living from writing. He did not say minister to others. He said, “write”; and so I write.

What has the LORD said to you? Have you heard? Have you obeyed? “Trust in your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

Every blessing to you, creations of the KING.

PARENTING SERIES: Getting Onto the Same Page – Gift Purchases

   Decisions Surrounding Gift Purchases for Our Children

When my son was 2 or maybe 3, he and his dad came home one day from running errands with a bright red electric car, perfectly sized for a little boy. They were so excited.

I was furious.

When is it okay to make spontaneous purchases for our kids devoid of spousal input and when is it not? If we could find a foolproof answer to that question, wouldn’t a lot of households run more smoothly? Ours would – and does, now that we’ve discovered our own and learned each others tastes and priorities for our son.

Navigating birthdays and Christmas, to say nothing of ‘occasional surprises’, has been an on-and-off topic of discussion between my husband and me for several years. Thankfully, we seem to be merging with regard to some choices and with others, respectfully communicating with one another before the ‘gift’ is presented. That way each gets a ‘say’ in what our son receives.

These days there is a plethora of toys. Screen-based items have a wide variety of games, apps and accessories, so in that arena the list is endless. What happens if, as in the case of the red car, there is differing parental opinion about what is suitable and what is not?

In our case, I made it clear to my husband – when my son was outside of sight or earshot – that I objected to the purchase of the car for an array of reasons. I won’t go into those reasons now, though readers of this post who have children will imagine with a degree of clarity, just how vehemently I expressed myself at the time (ahem!). Of course I didn’t expect the car to be returned because that would undermine the father’s decision-making and painfully disappoint our son. But herein is the operative word: ‘our’. Whether I agree or not with my husband’s choices or he with mine, the child is a part of both of us and we are, together, stewards of his life and development.

“How good and how pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity” is from Psalm 133. Perhaps more importantly than in any other relationship does this quote apply to couples parenting their children. Nowadays, if my hubby and I happen to have an intense discussion(!) in front of our son, who is now 8, he sings deliberately and loudly. Once he said,

“I don’t mind if you argue; I’m having a nice time anyway.”

Clearly, heated debate between spouses in front of their children lends a degree of stress to the child and is better left to privacy. But surely unity does not just mean ‘not arguing in front of the kids’ but rather living with the same ultimate goals, using complementary strategies, loving and respecting one another for the perspectives, insights and choices we make.

I believe that by discussing the issue surrounding the giving of presents to their children, parents can find common ground, or by taking turns, couples can at least find a way forward together. How can we find unity as parents when our priorities and experiences might be very different from each other? What principles can we apply to decide when and what to buy? What guidelines do we follow to decide how much to spend? To avoid arguments and stress between parents and to avoid the possibility of being bulldozed by a demanding child, finding answers to some of these questions will enable parents to take a stand together and can pre-empt disagreements.

J with Teddy

Sarah Tun “Christmas with Teddy”

I learned from the car experience, and I know too, that good can come out of anything. At 8 my son still fits in the car and drives extremely well. He even reminds me to signal when I’m changing lanes – on those rare (?) occasions when I’ve forgotten. And my husband has learned too. Last summer, he came home from an outing with a friend and summoned me to the car. In the back seat was an enormous teddy bear (53” to be precise), sitting in our son’s usual spot.

“$37.00,” he said, “And I couldn’t resist it. What do you think?”

“Wonderful,” I said and then we summoned our son.

Who We Are In Christ

Power of Prayer:

Of course prayer is powerful. We know that. It can also be directional.

How many of us yearn to fulfill God’s will for our lives and yet wonder why we aren’t managing to quite be in the place we believe God has for us?
How do we find the place He wants us to be?        I believe prayer is the starting point.

Many years ago, when I wanted to know what all the gifts and abilities I had added up to, I sought the LORD. It took me three years of prayer, reading, memorizing scripture, attending meetings and sometimes declaring the scriptures.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

Finally, after 3 years, one afternoon I attended a weekly prayer meeting and a guest speaker was already at the front when I arrived. She was holding up a book called “The Watchman”. I’d attended theology school, I’d read the Bible at least 3 times in entirety, I’d been a follower of Jesus for perhaps fifteen years by this time.

Sarah working under sun umbrella

Alan Tun “Diligence Under Sun Umbrella

“What’s a Watchman?” I thought to myself. I hadn’t heard the term before.

Well, I learned by the end of that talk… I learned through my ears but more importantly I learned through my spirit: I am a Watchman.

A Watchman is one who is gifted to see beyond the natural, both dangers and snares, and I suppose also available blessings . A watchman signposts. Nehemiah was an administrator and set watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem as they rebuilt. Ezekiel was a prophet and a watchman in that God told him he must speak up and warn sinners, or else he’d be as liable for their sin as the sinners themselves.

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear the word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me….if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.” Ezekiel 3:17-21

I am a Watchman. The discernment, the call to encourage (and sometimes to exhort), the prophetic edge, the various jobs I’ve had which have utilized these supernatural abilities, all add up to who I was created to be in Christ… and the answer I’d poured so much energy into finding, was revealed after 3 years’ search on a mundane, ‘usual’ day.

We in Christ have much and as we seek we shall find more and more of who we are in Jesus.

Incidentally, my sole identity is not wrapped up in being a Watchman. A am a wife, mother, writer, friend and much more. But now I know in a spiritual sense the sum of my parts. My husband is a Teacher of the Word. Though I am a teacher by training and education in the secular world, that is not my Spiritual Calling.

When I discovered Who I was in terms of gifts and calling, when I had a name for it, I was relieved and overjoyed. I found the balance to the equation: spiritual gifts + natural inclinations = Watchman.

Prayer + Perseverance + Effort + God’s Voice = Calling.

Persist. It’s worth it!

(There are many other scriptural passages to support what I’ve said. Your Concordance and Bible Gateway ( http://www.biblegateway.com/ ) are great tools.)

God bless.

What Snow and Jesus have in Common

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Snow is the blanket the earth needs when it’s cold.

Snow gets a lot of bad press. But I believe snow is beautiful. That’s merely my opinion.civilization snipped

What also gets a lot of bad press is Jesus. He got it when he walked on the earth and he still gets it. Oh, people who don’t follow him often show him respect as a person with wisdom or kindness. But those people are also calling him a liar. For you cannot enjoy or appreciate the Sermon on the Mount without accepting that he said he was God’s son.

There are those who say Jesus was misquoted or that he did not exist at all. We should take no offense because there has been a movement afoot – or several – claiming Shakespeare wasn’t a (single) person either.

How do you feel when the reality of Jesus is questioned?
Have you experience to share?

Culture Shock

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I have had the privilege of traveling quite a bit and have met people of many cultures.
I am in a ‘mixed marriage’ and my child is ‘mixed race’.
One thing I have learned is that God’s grace and love are everywhere.
Sometimes we receive His blessing. Sometimes we turn it down.
But His is always here.

Countries I have visited:
Australia, New Zealand,
Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Mainland China, Viet Nam, Burma,
Mauritius, Dubai, Israel,
Numerous in Europe, UK (citizen), America, Mexico, Canada (homeland).

My hubby is from Burma – or “Myanmar” – but was raised in England.
We have visited there twice.
The people are innocent, beautiful and generous.

I could not speak the language but that didn’t stop me making a special bond with several women.
Women bond regardless of language, age, culture or position.
One woman I bonded with was a child, another her servant, another a widow older than myself.
In each of these relationships real love for one another was present.
Love is a gift. May we share it, value it, treasure it from every source it comes from.

Love knows no language barrier, no borders.
That’s what travel has taught me.