I am Your Opportunity

Every opportunity you receive is double-edged. It is an opportunity for gain or loss, to achieve breakthrough or be overcome, to succeed or fail. If you respond to the opportunity properly it becomes an open door to better things. If you respond poorly it becomes the iron door of a prison cell that traps you.

So, you need to see your challenges in a fresh way, and take care not to respond in a way that will enslave you or limit you for the future. One way to address your challenges and see them in a new light is to ‘personify’ them.

Stop seeing each challenge or problem as an inanimate, isolated entity on its own, but as an assignment sent to create new opportunity for you. To help you retune your thinking as I suggest, read the following situation I have created, to see how your challenges can inform you, “I am your Opportunity”.

The New Man at Church

Imagine a man turning up in a church and introducing himself to the pastor, “I am your Opportunity“. Over the next year the man provides the pastor with many challenges, due to problems created in various ways by this man’s presence in the church. When the pastor talks with the man to work out what is going on the man repeats, “I am your opportunity”.

Confused, the pastor asks the man to explain. The answer goes like this.

“God has great plans for this church and for your future ministry. However, God requires that you and the congregation grow in several key areas. So, the Lord sent me here to provide the opportunity for growth in each of those areas.”

Trouble Maker

The pastor responds, “But you made nothing but trouble”.

“No,” the man replies, “I have created opportunity. You and the congregation have made the trouble.”

“But you upset the leader of our Bible study group and he quit!”

“I spoke up in the meetings and asked the study leader to explain his theological inconsistency. He claimed to be Biblical, but his values were clearly just a dressed-up version of the local culture. When I challenged him about this he chose to become upset, rather than have a teachable spirit and an open heart. I was his opportunity to move forward, because God needs him to be ready for leadership in a revival that is coming.”

“Then, what about the man who thinks you are stealing his wife?”

“The woman needs much care and healing. Her husband has been neglecting her for years. When I took time to listen to her she became emotionally drawn to me and this has deeply angered her husband. He is stung by his own failure, but, rather than admit his own need, he is directing his anger toward me as a trouble-maker. I have done nothing wrong in action or in heart. I am not stealing the man’s wife. God plans for this couple to move into pastoral ministry, but they must first heal their marriage, and that means the man must humble himself.”

Who is Wrong Here?

“Parents are upset that you are giving wrong advice to their children.”

“Several youth have come to me for advice and I have given them Biblical counsel, including their need to honour their parents. However, several parents do not want their children to find godly wisdom, but simply to help the parents look good according to the local community values. Some youth give me more respect than they do to their parents. This is what is upsetting them.”

The man went on to counsel the pastor. “Pastor, the fact that people are upset at you does not mean you are wrong. People rejected and accused Jesus, Paul, Moses and the apostles. Your congregation are upset by me, just as God planned. They are being given many opportunities, in preparation for some powerful responsibilities and blessings soon to come.”

“If people reject opportunity they make a clear choice to seek something else.”

Are you the trouble maker?

So, friends, consider the troubles you are facing. Who is the trouble maker? You probably think that some other person is the problem or the trouble maker, since their presence has contributed to the upheaval. But that does not make them the trouble maker.

In the church example I have just given you the new man at church was not the cause of the trouble, but the wrong attitudes in the existing congregation with the true trouble makers.

Elijah was accused by King Ahab of being a trouble maker. Elijah had declared there would be no rain until he said so. This caused a severe drought, as God wanted. However, the wicked King Ahab did not humble himself or repent of his idol worship.

When Elijah finally met with King Ahab again Ahab revealed that he saw Elijah as the problem and the trouble maker. A severe drought was clearly a serious problem and that problem had been created at Elijah’s word. So it could be said that Elijah was the source of the problem.

“And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, Are you the one who is troubling Israel?” 1Kings 18:17

However, Elijah saw the big picture, from God’s perspective. The localised drought problem was a divine judgement on a nation which had rejected God. So the problem was not caused by Elijah, but by King Ahab and the nation which had fallen into idol worship.

“And Elijah answered, I have not troubled Israel; but you, and your father’s house have done it, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and have followed Baalim.” 1Kings 18:18

Identify the Real Problem

Issues will arise in your family, marriage, career, community and so on, and those issues may be created by you. Yet, like King Ahab, you may point the finger at someone else and say that they are the problem.

Consider what the real problem is in these following simple examples of upset people. What needs to change inside these people so they can experience the same situation but not be upset?

“He makes me so upset. He comes in and shows off his wealth and I feel so humiliated!”

“I tried three times to give my opinion, but everyone was talking too much to listen.”

“The others all have the money for the mission trip, but I’m only half way there!”

“They are going to lay off half the staff and I’m desperately anxious about losing my job!”

“How did that guy get such a beautiful wife? My wife never looked that good.”

“My kids think he is the fount of wisdom, and they never take me seriously.”

Opportunity Knocks

Every situation you face is an opportunity knocking at the door of your heart. You can respond in a way that opens up greater growth and Christlike-ness, or you can respond in a way that makes you a slave to destructive things.

Consider the following examples …

A man and woman meet at a conference and both notice how attracted they are to each other. This is their opportunity to affirm their godly character and stand by their marriage vows, or to elevate their fleshly desires over their commitments, marriage, family and future.

A person becomes sick and receives prayer. They are challenged to trust their problem to God. The problem is then their opportunity to develop faith and endurance, or to pander to their fears.

Someone ends up cleaning up the mess from a group gathering, while the others go off to do something interesting. This is an opportunity to build the servant spirit and to bless others by attending to the menial task, or to become resentful, rejected and poisoned in spirit.

Biblical Notice

We are told in the Bible that negative things are our opportunities. We are to respond positively, since these things lead to the growth and development we need in our lives.

“… we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope” Romans 5:3,4

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:2-4

Meet Your Opportunities

Take a moment to list the areas where you feel challenged at present, through your home, work, family, friendships, finances, health and associates. Think of the people, circumstances and internal challenges which are putting pressure on you at this time. As you reflect on each one, imagine they are speaking to you with the following challenge…

“I am your opportunity to respond with humility, faith, grace, wisdom, godly character, freedom, fruit of the Spirit, ministry anointing, consistency, patience, endurance, hope, love, contentment, praise and thankfulness, peace and the expression of Christ formed within you.

Alternatively I am your opportunity to respond with pride, fear, selfishness, hardness, foolishness, vengeance, irresponsibility, slavery, fleshly reactions, human manipulations, madness, exasperation, faithlessness, abandonment of responsibility, covetousness, resentment, bitterness toward God, agitation and the character of the old sinful nature.”

Now, make your decision about how you are going to respond.

Baby in the Womb

A lovely young couple are currently expecting their first child. I recently felt to encourage the young dad to speak to his unborn baby. I asked if he spoke to the baby in the womb. He replied that his wife spoke to the baby at times, but he didn’t do it.

That prompted me to reflect on how we respond to the baby in the womb, especially the first one coming along.

New Relationship

Each new baby opens up for us a new relationship. With the first child we open up a whole new level of relationship. And like all new things we often face them with no real preparation. Often we don’t know that we have left things undone until many years later.

I have seven children and I have a unique relationship with each one of them. I can’t say that I have built the most exemplary relationships with them. In fact, at first, I assumed that relationship would just happen automatically. As a consequence the relationships are not as sweet or deep as they could have been.

Learning to Relate

I stumbled into relationship with my children. Because I didn’t have a concept of building relationship I ended up having to maintain relationship as a reaction to what went wrong, rather than as one building correctly from day one. My relationships grew out of the upsets, the good times and the bad times along the way. I thought that was the normal way to build relationships.

Many people do not have strong relationship skills. We usually have weaknesses in our ability, based on our own past failed relationships.

It is important to learn to relate to the child, as a conscious skill development. The new relationship is very important and needs to be pursued with intention. For those who are about to enter into relationship with a child about to be born it is important to promote the relationship rather than to just let it happen.

How to Build Relationship

Here are some suggestions for getting started on a good relationship, even whieh the baby is in the womb.

Value the relationship. Good relationships with children are incredibly valuable. Just ask anyone who lives with a broken or poor relationship with their child. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t be too casual about it. Be determined to build relationship and to so connect with your child that you are closely bonded for the rest of your lives.

Speak to your baby. There are lovely testimonies of people who have been strongly influenced by what they heard before they were born. One testimony speaks of a newborn baby in distress who settled immediately on hearing their father’s voice in the hospital ward. The baby had heard the father read the Bible to it each day as it formed in the womb. That baby knew its father’s voice from the womb and felt security from it once it was born.

Speak comfortably to your child. Over the years and from an early start, tell your child how valuable and special they are in your life. Speak of your love for them and your commitment to them. You are your child’s champion and hero, so speak into that role and encourage your child to walk in confidence because of your commitment and support.

Cast Godly vision for your child. Speak often to your child about your vision of their on-going place in your life and your on-going place in their life. Talk to them about how you are going to introduce them to God and often take them into God’s presence with you. Talk about how you are going to help them find God’s wisdom in the many challenges they will face through their childhood and youth. Speak about the times you will hug them and comfort them in the future and wipe away their tears.

If you have a daughter you can cast the vision of walking her down the aisle on her wedding day, to marry a young man who you have tested out to be suited for her. If you have a son you can cast the vision of them walking into their own areas of responsibility with the skills which you have taught them over the years and with your active support.

Love Your Child

The new relationship you will enjoy with the baby about to be born will be a relationship of love. You will have a new person to love for the rest of your life.

If you are casual about the relationship then it may never become a healthy and happy relationship. A love relationship requires that you love the child and encourage them to love you in return.

Don’t see this child as just a ‘baby’ or ‘another mouth to feed’. This child is potentially the most special person in your life. While the marriage union is always to be held above relationship with the child, yet the bond and delight that can come from the child can be incredibly enriching to your life.

Alternatively you can raise a child who despises you, cannot relate to you and who brings great pain and trouble into your life.

Get Started Now

Don’t wait until your child is old enough to help you in the kitchen or workshop. Don’t wait until they are adult. Don’t wait until they have gotten past their childish ways.

Get started now. Start building close and intimate bonds with your child from the moment they are conceived. Build it for life, not for a temporary moment.

If you are a new parent please take it from me as an older dad, that you need to take the relationship seriously, not for granted.

You have no guarantee of the child’s affection for you. If you send them to pre-school and school they will be sorely tempted to bond with their peers and not with you. When you let them down, or they feel like you have – even if you haven’t – they will pull back from you.

Make a priority of building special relationship, right from the start. Get connected with that baby in the womb.

Little One 1

Welcome into my family, precious one. You are a gift from God. God, Himself, chose to trust you into our family and my care. I am so thrilled to have you as part of my life. You are a precious jewel that I have the privilege of keeping, loving and preparing for the throne-room of God.

I love you and I rejoice in the delight of having you in my care. Please make yourself completely at home in my love. Be ready at any time to call on me to help and to bless you.

I commit myself today to be everything God asks me to be in your life. I realise I don’t have the strength, wisdom or character to be the perfect parent such a wonderful child as you deserves. So I humbly ask God to help me. I ask Him to rescue me from my limitations and my selfishness, and all those things that will get in the way of nurturing you to the fullness of God’s plan for you.

I also realise that you will have some hard lessons to learn, as God deals with your weaknesses and directs your strengths. Some times we will have to work through problems created by my failings and your own. Only God can help us through those times. So I commit myself to you today, to be ready and willing to seek and find God’s grace, so that we can successfully triumph over ever obstacle. We will learn every lesson, cross every hurdle, avoid every pitfall and be delivered from every evil. That will happen despite our own failings, because we will find God as our deliverer and saviour, even when we are the ones who have created the problem.

So, I’m looking forward with joy to the amazing journey ahead for us all. It is much more than a journey of friendship and family. It is much more than the navigation of human and social challenges. It is an eternal journey, starting here on earth and continuing forever, in God’s presence. We will not only experience wonderful things, but, together, and as a family, we will all impact others in ways that change them for eternity too. We will be blessed and we will be a blessing. We will be an example and we will be trophies of God’s grace. We will be pipes through which God will pour some of His finest blessings into others.

So, it’s a delight to bring you into that amazing process. It’s a delight to welcome you into the team. We all have so much to explore and discover in the years ahead. And there will be so many wonderful moments, so many smiles, and hugs and celebrations. There will be many tears as well, but those will be part of making us wiser, stronger and deeper than we could have been. So we are not afraid of the tears, but confident that each tear drop will become a splash of joy as God works His wonderful purpose in our lives.

You have just stepped into eternal destiny. You will work as part of our family destiny, and in the process God will allow you to own it and to expand on it in your own unique way. I just can’t wait to see what God is going to do through you as we all build you toward your life calling.

Welcome. Welcome into the wonderful world of God’s grace.

Cursing the Roots

Do you spend time pruning things in your life, only to have them grow back again? Are you struggling to deal with issues in yourself and our culture, without going to the roots? It’s time to rethink your strategy.

I have a laurel bush growing on my fence line. The neighbour is often frustrated by its virulent growth and I have to deal with it several times each year. One day, when I am ready to change the fence, I will get it dug out from the roots. But for now, as long as the root system remains, I have an on-going maintenance challenge.

And that’s how it is for many of our personal problems. We prune away the excesses and the worst elements of the problem, but we often leave the roots. Thus we must deal with the issues all over again.

Jesus once talked to a fig tree and cursed its roots. A short time later His disciples noticed that the tree was dead, having dried up from the roots. Jesus dealt a death-blow to the hapless tree, not by cutting back its branches, but by going straight to the source of the tree’s life.

We use the expression, the “root of the problem”, reflecting the same concept. When you have a problem you need to find the real root issue. The symptoms might mislead you. The real cause, the root may take quite some digging out. But unless you deal with the root system the problem will continue to shoot up again and again.

In my Steps to Release I advocate finding the real problem at hand. In order to best remove the problem it is ideal to find out what you are really dealing with, so the root of the issue can be dealt with and the problem resolved.

Your personal problems have roots. Pride is a root problem that leads to various results. We know that pride leads to destruction and a haughty spirit leads to a fall. Fear is a root problem that causes torment in people’s lives and leads them into slavery.

At the same time you need to keep in mind that social issues also have roots. Feminism, for instance, is anchored in fear. Materialism has roots in insecurity and lust. I recall one observer suggesting that the root issue behind the ‘get fit’ mania that has taken the western world is actually ‘fear of death’. People are desperate to maintain health, out of their fear of ageing and death.

For those of you engaged in confronting evil in the broader context, make sure you seek God for wisdom about the root systems that nourish that thing. Don’t waste your time pruning branches, when you have the authority and power to curse the roots.

Nobility by Walking in the Spirit

I have pointed out in earlier posts that Nobility is anchored in our creation. Nobility is attached to things based on their birth or some other special quality. There is no more special origin and quality than to be made in the image of Almighty God. We are Imago Dei – made in the image of God.

Thus we are spirit beings, with profound spiritual significance. Our destiny is to express all that God is by our actions and lifestyle. We are to be like God, who is holy, loving, creative, totally faithful, responsible, forgiving, just, and so on. We must also recognize that we are created by a moral God and placed in a moral universe. We are therefore moral beings, accountable to God for what we do with our lives.

At the same time we are ‘flesh’. This means we are made of natural senses that empower us to engage with the natural world in which we have been placed. Those senses can, of themselves, provide us with delight, in taste, touch, sight, sound and so on. Humans, then, can choose to pursue the delight that human senses provide. When they do that they are now living out of their natural, sensual being, rather than their spiritual qualities.

Since nobility is based on our special-ness, when we live out of our spiritual value we have unparalleled nobility. When we live out of our natural senses we lower ourselves to the level of an animal in pursuit of natural experiences.

So, mankind’s nobility is tested by the fact that he is ‘also flesh’, as God described us in Genesis 6:3. Man is not to look out for opportunities to indulge the flesh but is to live by God’s spiritual destiny on his life.

The Apostle Paul put it this way, “do not use freedom as an opportunity to indulge the flesh, but serve one another out of love”, Galatians 5:13 (author’s paraphrase).

The challenge for humans, however, is that their natural senses can become quite obsessed with gratification. This is especially so if those senses have been awakened and indulged.

When the Israelites were fed supernaturally in the wilderness for 40 years they were fed a substance that sustained their bodies, but which did not indulge their appetites. The miracle ‘manna’ would form on the ground each morning and be collected for their sustenance. They made bread and other food from it. The food was physical but its essential quality was spiritual.

The Bible described the manna as “angels food” (Psalm 78:25). Angelic food would be sufficient to feed a spirit being, since angels are spirit beings. It was able to sustain natural bodies because people can be sustained and kept alive by having their spirit fed. Yet spiritual food would do nothing to pander to human appetite, even though it miraculously sustained human life.

As a consequence the people loathed the food, which they called ‘light bread’, and they lusted for meat, onions and other things their taste buds craved (Numbers 11:4-6,21:5). They said “our soul loathes this light bread”. While their body was sustained by manna, their appetites were unsatisfied with it. It did nothing to appease their natural cravings for strong flavours and tickled taste-buds.

The historical experience is metaphorical of the way humanity despises living for spiritual values. In order to walk in the Spirit and live out of our spiritual realities we have to put our flesh to death, dying to natural appetites.

The issue is not staying alive or sustenance, but the human pleasure derived from the natural senses. And therein is the nobility challenge for all humanity. When we turn our focus from the divine to the natural we are the ones who abuse our own nobility and degrade our own existence, selling out our true potential for such temporary and meaningless experiences as the gratification of our human appetites.

Let me put it another way. We are made in the image of God, imago dei. So we have divinity stamped in our being. This is the basis of our highest nobility. Yet we are made with natural senses that can feed appetites of lust and self-gratification. When we bring out body under control, and die to our fleshly appetites, living to fulfill spiritual destiny, we achieve our highest nobility. When we abandon spiritual focus and seek gratification of our appetites we degrade ourselves and can totally destroy any self-worth within us.

The Bible truth of our special creation by a loving God to whom we are accountable, is a solid basis for appreciating our nobility. The lie of evolution, baseless in science, defying proof or even a workable theoretical base, yet pushed as essential dogma for acceptance into many corners of western society, strips humanity of its nobility.

I call you to rise to your true nobility. I call you out of the trough, where the pigs wallow. You are created for much higher destiny and nobility than the pub brawl, seedy back alleys, hollow halls of human vanity, vain and baseless ambitions of self importance, and so on. You are created for the throne room, where your mentor, the Living God, waits to tutor you in eternal authority and global significance.

Fellow noblemen, please stand. Stand in the presence of God. Stand in your created destiny. Stand in your nobility. Stand against evil. Stand in freedom from human appetites. Stand in the glorious liberty of the children of God. Stand, because He has called you to stand for His glory.