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.

The Domestic Bride

I have met some lovely young brides over the years and been delighted by the heart-felt desire of each one to please her husband. The home and its domestic challenges is an area where many brides long to excel and through which they plan to bless their husband.

Yet the domestic role of a bride is also an area where some misunderstanding and unclear concepts can lead the couple into strife. So this post is for the domestic bride.

Beautiful Bride with a Beautiful Heart

I know that not all young brides are as wonderful as others, but I want to pause for a moment and commend the many amazing and sweet young ladies I have met over the years who earnestly long to delight their husband. Some of those lucky men have been ignorant of how blessed they are. Some of them have gone on to bruise the tender heart of their darling bride.

So, to you amazing and gorgeous young ladies, I commend you for your eager and delightful intention to bless your young man. Mankind is blessed to have the undeserved devotion that you give. I pray that God bless each of you with the rewards of His grace, even if your wonderfully blessed husband does not realise how privileged he is.

Tender Hearts Get Bruised

I am sorry that it is so, but tender hearts do get bruised. Insensitive young men and starry-eyed young brides end up with the pain of disappointment, hurts and misunderstanding. Sometimes the bruises are so sore that the marriage never regains the innocence and tenderness of its initial hopes and dreams.

With the progress of time many marriages completely lose their wonder and delight. Both bride and groom draw back from their innocent hopes and their willing abandonment. Many a cranky older couple started out as two tender hearts longing for things they could never find. I will look at this subject from another angle at some time, with reference to the ‘spirit of the marriage’.

Understand the Problems

Entering into marriage and this wonderful new level of relationship with some understanding may help you. So allow me to cover some points that should help you understand the problem.

In simple terms the main problem stems from the bride’s longing to serve and bless, and the husband’s ignorance of what he wants and how things should be administered. It is hard to effectively serve and bless someone when that service is ill defined.

The Dangerous Assumptions

In marriage, the easy assumptions to make include such things as the idea that you are both wonderfully compatible. Another assumption is that it will just work out fine, all by itself. Then there is the assumption by the man that the woman will somehow instinctively do what pleases him, and the assumption by the woman that the man will instinctively be delighted by what she gives him.

All of these assumptions are dangerous, because all of them are most likely not true. They set the couple up for surprises, disappointment, argument, misunderstanding and hurts.

It is unlikely that the husband has ever clearly catalogued what he likes and what he wants. He has most likely been a passenger in life’s journey, floating along with the things his mother did for him. What ever she did will be what he sees as ‘normal’, even if she is the only person on the planet who does things that way.

If a young husband was asked to explain the domestic management of a home very few would have much depth of understanding. Most husbands are happy to leave things up to their bride. However this creates several problems.

Integration Problems

Since two separate domestic worlds are brought together by the newly-weds they will have to work through the integration issues. If they have never done such a thing before then they will be surprised how many issues arise.

There are often no right and wrong ways to do things. But we each have a sense for what is familiar to us. That familiar process is the one that will “seem right” to us, even if it is the most inefficient process ever imagined. If the bride and groom have different ideas of what is ‘right’ they will end up stumbling over each other’s perceptions. It will be easy to use words like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, bringing a sense of condemnation into the relationship. If emotions are aroused, then insults and hurtful words can spill into the situation.

Tender and fragile emotions can be damaged in such an unexpected exchange.

Many a young man has rebuked his wife for not being able to cook meals the way his mother cooked it. His tastes and expectations have been moulded by his family experience and he may not realise that there is such great diversity in food and its preparation.

The Wrong Response

When a person does not have a clear idea of what they want or how to communicate it they can leave the other person directionless. Most young husbands will tend to leave their bride to do her best, not quite sure what she is going to do and how well she is going to do it.

These husbands can’t give positive guidance in such situations so the only guidance they can give is to point out what they think to be wrong. This I call the ‘wrong’ response. And the ‘wrong’ response is the wrong response!

When a husband can only tell his bride what is wrong he is set up to bludgeon her tender hopes into a calloused heart that gives up the hope of pleasing him. Or that gives him what he wants, but without any delight on her part any more.

Negative responses produce negative responses. A husband who guides his bride by disapproval is wounding her heart.

Is There a Simple Solution?

In matters of relationship there is usually no simple solution. I will offer a few simple suggestions, but I doubt that many people will heed them. I fear that many more lovely and tender young brides are going to head down the road to hardened and hurt older wives, despite what I present here. But for the sake of the one or two who may be saved from pain by my thoughts I will venture my simple solution.

Brides should be taught to expect that everything they bring into the marriage will have to be modified. They should be encouraged to go on a two-year journey of discovery of what works best in their home. They should be told that they will face some difficult challenges in this process but that they can succeed and create the most amazing new domestic formula for them both to enjoy.

The reason I put this on the bride is because she is the one who will otherwise be hurt. Her insensitive hero is less likely to be damaged in the sort-out of domestic process than the wife is. So my simple solution aims at shielding the most vulnerable party – that beautiful young woman.

If brides enter marriage with an expectation of their need to change, and a long-term time-line for getting things sorted out, there will be less pain in finding that the couple are less compatible than she hoped. There is time for the two of them to talk and explore their options. There is no silly idealism about it working perfectly from day one.

All of that helps the tender one to be more resilient in the inevitable sorting out process.

Other Helpful Steps

Obviously it is valuable for the young husband to understand the situation and how easily he can and will offend his darling bride. Men should be challenged to expect a long season of exploration and discovery. They should expect food to taste different and things to be done differently, because they are a new family, with new horizons and new possibilities.

I recommend that the couple set up an expectation – possibly suggested to them in the pre-marriage preparation process – that the husband review the bride’s processes and program at regular intervals.

While that might sound very sexist and man-serving at first glance, allow me to show why that is valuable.

The bride is built to please her man. How can she do that if she does not become attentive to what he needs or wants? If she makes her own assumptions and assessments independently of him she may spend her whole life doing things he does not want her to do in ways he does not want her to employ. This undermines her whole design and motivation.

I have also observed that two heads are better than one. I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the first to observe that fact. When any person acts for their whole life without the benefit of additional input and review they are in danger of doing the wrong things the wrong way for a long time. The most valuable and understanding contributor to the wife’s situation should be her husband. So having him give input in a regulated and consistent fashion is logical and appropriate.

And I also recommend that young men be given at least some understanding of how to protect the tender heart of their beloved. The pushing of the feminist notion that men and women are equal and almost identical has robbed men of appreciation for the woman’s needs and denied women the loving care that they are due.

Helped but Not Helpless

Aussie males have a problem getting the help they need. This is probably true in other cultures as well. It’s the problem of ego and ignorance making people think that to need help makes one ‘helpless’. That thought is not true, and it’s a mental stronghold that needs to be pulled down. So, I’m starting up my bulldozer and pushing straight toward that stupid idea.

Here’s an analogy to help you see what I’m on about. Imagine you like driving your off-road vehicle through the bush (that’s the Aussie word for the scrub, off-road, off-the-beaten-track, wilderness, or whatever you call it). Let’s assume that you drive happily and successfully for several miles until you come to a place where your forward passage is blocked by a fallen tree. At this point you need some help.

Fortunately for you another person comes along and sees your predicament. They help you cut up the fallen tree and pull it out of the way. You thank them and drive on happily for another few miles.

As you enjoy your ‘bush-bashing’ journey you come to a swollen creek and are unsure whether it is safe to cross. You have been warned that there are some deep holes in the creek, but you cannot see where the warning markers are, since the creek is now flooded. After a few minutes of waiting, another vehicle comes along on the other side of the creek. They too are nervous about the depth of the water, but eventually they drive into the creek and manage to get across without incident. You note the place where they crossed and make your crossing there too. Without them realising it, they helped you find a good place to cross.

Yet further down the track you discover that your fuel gauge is broken and you have very little fuel left. You now have too little fuel to get back to the road. Thankfully another vehicle approaches and the driver sells you his spare drum of fuel which enables you to get back home.

Now, in that adventure you required help three separate times. So, does that make you ‘helpless’?

Of course not! Getting help doesn’t make you helpless. You were perfectly capable of making good progress most of the time. You are a competent driver and a good navigator. You struck some hitches along the way and you managed to solve them, with the assistance of others.

And that’s how most of us live our lives. We make good progress most of the time and we get helped out when we get stuck. We call a mechanic when our car needs fixing and we call a plumber when our pipes need fixing. We go to a dentist when our teeth need fixing and we go to an accountant when the books need ‘fixing’ (that’s a joke!). It’s completely normal to need assistance at many points along the way.

Even the awesome professionals need help all the time. Professional tennis stars rely heavily on their coaches, who can’t even play as well as the pro’s do! Most businesses rely on consultants, while medical and legal experts rely on second opinions. The reason we have expensive reference resources in many professions is because people need help from resources outside themselves.

Do you get the picture?

So, why is it that many people cringe at the idea of telling someone they have a problem? Why is it that people think it shameful to admit that they need something explained or that they even need someone to point the way out of their situation?

The blockage is pride. Male ego is another term for it in men. Counsellors recognise that women are far more likely to seek help and be open about their problems than men are. But there’s no real reason to be coy about getting the help we need. Help is not only needed by everyone, the most successful people build a team of helpers around them, to cover for all the possible contingencies.

Take a look at a top formula one racing team and look at the amount of ‘help’ that goes into enabling the top drivers to get into the points. Engineering, design, pit crew, race strategists, sports psychologists, tyre technologists, analysts and so on, are all built into a winning team. That’s an abundance of ‘help’, but that doesn’t make us jeer at the Hamiltons, Schumachers, Senna’s or Alonzo’s.

Guys, it’s time to get real and to pull down the idea that getting help makes you helpless. Getting help makes you successful and proves how smart you are. Pretending you are a self-made man and can do everything without help is lunacy. It relegates you to the underperformer paddock, where all the also-rans are sent. Real professionals have no qualms about saying, “I want to be the best and I’ll get whatever help I can get to make sure I get to the top!”

It’s time to stop being helpless and to start getting help. Once you cross this swollen creek, or get that obstacle out of your path you will be able to make good progress again and get to the places you always dreamed of reaching.

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.

Hurt Spirits Picnic

How would it be if a bunch of smelly, spiteful, murderous and hateful creatures were having a picnic on your lounge-room floor? How would it be if a bunch of ‘hurt spirits’ regularly turned your home into their picnic ground? Well, that’s what a lot of marriages allow to happen.

I talked before about how Hurt Spirits work in marriages (see: Hurt Spirits Working). The spirit stirs up hurt feelings in one or other of the spouses, prompting them to act out of that hurt. The spouse may be prompted to pout, withdraw, accuse, manipulate, contend, be angry or whatever. As soon as the ‘hurt’ spouse begins to behave like that, especially out of their own hurt feelings, their actions cause hurt in the other spouse. Thus the cycle of hurt is ignited and the relationship is set on a course of destruction and pain.

I believe that this process is epidemic in marriages today and most couples, including Christian couples who should know better, get caught in this ‘device’ of the enemy. We are not supposed to be ignorant concerning the enemy’s devices, but this one seems to have slipped in and caught many couples in the trap of celebrating their pain.

What the hurt spirits want to do is to move in to your home and host picnics in your kitchen, lounge-room, bedrooms and so on. They want to turn your home into a pain-filled picnic-ground where hurt spirits feel completely at home and can celebrate their evil influence over your marriage. The Hurt Spirits want to picnic at your place.

So, let me unpack for you what is really going on. The hurt spirits want to enshrine ‘hurt’ and hurt feelings as the top priority in the home. In a culture that is selfish and self-centred, that is easier than it would be in a godly culture. So, as the West becomes increasingly selfish, hurt spirits have a much easier time picking off the easy targets. There are more hurt spirit picnics these days than at times in the past.

Hurt spirits want to make ‘hurt’ the central theme of your home. So these spirits arouse feelings of hurt in marriages. They remind people that they are being neglected, misunderstood or offended. They point out that their spouse is not being what they wanted them to be. They stir up feelings of offence, frustration, disappointment and so on. As soon as a person buys into the hurt the next stage is to accentuate it until it becomes a central issue for that person, not just a passing feeling.

As the couples begin to fight with each other and hurt each other the stage is set for the home to be polarised by hurt feelings. The couple may withdraw from each other, only heightening the feelings of hurt they each carry. They may play ‘no speaks’, or one or other may become demanding, contentious, angry, resentful, or the like. Before long the unresolved hurt feelings have become king in the home.

No progress seems possible until the huge burden of hurt can be dealt with. Yet the mountain of hurt feelings is SO enormous that it would take a giant person to be able to wade through it all. The marriage may end up just limping on, with both spouses making the most of the good moments and battening down for the stormy times.

Both husband and wife will desperately want their marriage healed, but the hurt spirit will continue to stoke the fires of hurt, frustration, offence, etc, to ensure that the barrier between the couple remains firm.

Now, that’s the enemy’s strategy. Would you like to know the solution? I think it’s remarkably simple and delightfully do-able.

First step toward breaking this cursed cycle is to recognise that it is going on. I explained to a couple recently that their problem is the action of a hurt spirit and they were able to make gains in their relationship from that very night. So, this article needs to be passed on to as many people as you can get it to, so couples recognise what they are really dealing with. For some, that very realisation will be liberating and allow them to move toward forgiveness and healing.

The second step is to dethrone the hurt. Hurt and hurt feelings are not meant to picnic in your home. They are not meant to be on the throne in your heart. They are not meant to have any place in your home or heart at all. If you keep them on the throne, demanding that they be placated, you will stay in slavery to their destructive work.

Much more worthy and noble things should be on the throne in your home and heart. Righteousness and the fear of God should be exalted in your home, not hurt feelings. Humility, submission, grace, love, peace, forgiveness, compassion, hope and joy are much more worthy things for centre stage than hurt can ever be.

As you dethrone hurt you now need to push past it, knocking it to the ground and walking all over it. When a hurt spirit jumps up and says, “You should despise your spouse”, knock that thing to the ground as you step toward your spouse and fulfil your godly calling in their life.

Husbands, press in to love your wife, while she is throwing hurt into your face. Wives, press in to submit to your husband while he is hurling hurt into your heart. Determine that you will be who God has created you to be and you will serve Him, not some dirty demon.

Don’t let the demons picnic at your place. When the hurt spirits turn up with their picnic basket, throw them out. And fall on your knees to worship the true and living God, not some filthy demon who hates you and your marriage. Don’t give in to their goading and their fear-filled stories of what will become of you if you don’t stand up for your rights and fight your spouse. Reject their taunts and the aroused emotions of your heart.

Be who God has made you to be and do what He wants you to do, whether you have hurt feelings or a heart of joy. As soon as you change course to accommodate hurt feelings you have elevated hurt above God and allowed the hurt spirits in with their picnic baskets. If you purpose to do what God asks you do to, no matter whether it is easy or hard or whether you are filled with joy or struggling with pain, you have dedicated your heart and home to God, and fortified it against evil spirits.

It is time to withstand the enemy’s scheme. It is time to resist him to his face. It is time to fight the demons, not our spouse. It is time to so worship God that we do what He asks us to do, despite the hurt feelings our situation prompts within us. Cast your care onto Him, don’t take arms against your spouse.

And let us celebrate the glorious liberty which God gives us as His children. Don’t let that bully who hates you have any place in your heart, home or marriage.

“Lord God, we ask You to empower us with wisdom and insight, to see the enemy’s hand at work and to resist him with all the authority of heaven. Lord, forgive us for elevating hurt feelings when You ask us to elevate forgiveness. Forgive us for fighting with our spouse, instead of fighting with the enemy. Forgive us for pressing on in our own strength, instead of working in Your power. Now, come and deliver us from all evil we pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.”