Taking Advantage of Opportunities – Or Others?

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Many a success story has been the result of someone who was willing to seize the day, strike when the iron was hot, and open the door when opportunity knocked – but, are there times when passing up a chance of a lifetime is the better choice?

I think the answer to this question becomes clear in one notable interaction between Jacob and Esau. After a long day of hunting, Esau returned home weak and famished only to be greeted by the smell of the savory stew Jacob had prepared. Rather than acting with compassion, Jacob exploited the plight of his brother. Although he did offer Esau something to eat, it came with one demand: the birthright must be given as payment for the meal. ‘“Look, I am about to die,”’ Esau said. ‘“What good is the birthright to me?”’ But Jacob said, ‘“Swear to me first.”’ So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob,” (Genesis 25:31-33, NIV).

Jacob wasn’t simply making the most of an opportunity – he had become an opportunist. Motivated by self-serving interests, he was willing to abandon the virtue of brotherly love for his own personal gain. He pursued a goal to the detriment of his principles, which resulted in a relationship that was deeply compromised and undermined.

Final thoughts…

Aspirations are noble. Ambition is commendable. Achievements are laudable. Yet, we would do well to pursue our goals in a way that ensures we are taking advantage of opportunities – not the ones around us.

Has conflict entered your space as a result of the opportunistic choices of others? Take it to the Father. Open your heart, and surrender it all to Him – the pain, the bitterness, the fallout. When you’re ready to work on the relationship, take one step… then take another. You can do it. Walk the path.

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Dale Pyne – CEO, Peacemaker Ministries

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A Dangerous Game

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Games are fun… or at least they’re supposed to be. Yet, there is one universally popular game that isn’t fun at all – just dangerous. Some who play the game are blissfully unaware, while others play it with great intentionality. This divisive, destructive game has a simple name. We call it “Favorites.”

The game isn’t new. While I can’t be sure when or where it originated, there’s no question that an active game of “Favorites” was being played in the home of Isaac and Rebekah. Their son, Esau, was a skillful hunter, but their son, Jacob, was happy to stay at home…. “Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob,” (Genesis 25:27-28, NIV).

Isaac and Rebekah’s family wrestled with many complex issues (Genesis 25:19-33:20), which tends to be true for many families who find themselves in conflict. Even so, there’s no doubt in my mind that favoritism was a significant contributing factor to their internal struggles.

As we consider their story – and perhaps our own – it’s not surprising that in the game of “Favorites” there are winners – and, well… losers. Those who find themselves on the short end of the stick may feel diminished, inadequate, undervalued, and even unloved. While favoritism doesn’t always result in a full-blown conflict, over time, there’s a decent chance it can compromise the overall well-being of relationships within the family.

Final thoughts…

It’s not uncommon for those who play “Favorites” to either be unaware or in denial concerning their involvement in this dangerous game. When this is the case, the issue of favoritism becomes an even tougher problem to tackle.

Is favoritism creating division within your family? If you don’t know the answer to that question, or if the answer is “yes,” go to the Father. If you’ll come to Him with a humble heart, He can help you recognize and address the issues in a way that can bring about hope and healing in your home. It may take some time, but don’t let that deter you. Instead, look to your Savior. Trust Him to lead the way. Then, walk the path.

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Dale Pyne – CEO, Peacemaker Ministries

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When Differences Divide

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They say opposites attract. When it comes to relationships, there’s plenty of evidence to back up that theory. Often times, a saver will marry a spender, an introvert will marry an extrovert, and a procrastinator will marry a planner. As time passes, the differences that initially were appreciated – or maybe just tolerated – tend to be the very things that will lead to relational conflict.  In some cases, that which is opposite no longer attracts. It repels. While this is true in some marriages, this same issue can occur between other family members and friends, too.

That said, sometimes opposites never attract. They only repel. Take the twins, Jacob and Esau, for example. These boys were as different as night and day, and their struggle with one another apparently began before birth. So much so, that the Lord explained to their mother, Rebekah, the reason for the jostling taking place inside of her: ‘“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger,” (Genesis 25:23, NIV).  As Jacob and Esau got older, their differences became even more apparent: “The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents,” (Genesis 25:27, NIV).

If you are at all familiar with the rest of Jacob and Esau’s story, then you know the conflict between them escalated for many years. Sadly, their ongoing struggle resulted in a tremendous amount of pain and heartache for both them and their family.

Final thoughts…

It’s easy to get hung up on our differences. Trust me, I know. Been there. Done that.

Relationships struggle when we allow that which divides us to overtake that which unites us. Are you struggling with a relationship that is divided by differences? I encourage you to look to the Father.  Examine your heart. Then, do all you can to make it right. It’ll take selflessness. It’ll take patience – but it’s worth it. Walk the path.

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Dale Pyne – CEO, Peacemaker Ministries

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When Difficult People Interrupt the Peace

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Most of us desire a life of peace and tranquility. Yet, as we diligently work to pursue that goal, we will encounter a few “interrupters” who are quick to find fault, take issue, push back, stir the pot, and ruffle feathers. When our paths cross, tension mounts as our patience is tried and our plans for peace are tested.

I think it’s safe to say that Isaac encountered a good number of “interrupters” at Gerar. In their envy, they not only made life unbearable by filling his wells with dirt, but the king actually ordered him to leave the country, too. Under these challenging circumstances, Isaac moved his family, his flocks, and all his belongings to a new location to provide for their needs.

You would think that would have put an end to the conflict, but Isaac’s troubles had just begun: Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there.  But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, ‘“The water is ours!”’ So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, ‘“Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land,”’ (Genesis 26:19-22, NIV).

When someone interrupts our peace, often our first impulse is to respond in kind. Yet, when Isaac encountered such adversity, he didn’t demand his rights. He laid them down. Although this came at a great personal price, God honored his quiet perseverance. In the end, Abimilech (king of Gerar) recognized the blessings of God on Isaac, and together they forged an agreement to live at peace with one another (Genesis 26:26-31).

Final thoughts…

When difficult people interrupt the peace in our lives, we have a choice to make. While some grievances simply cannot be overlooked and elicit a need for an honest, loving response, there are other times when the better option is to look past an offense, take the hit, absorb the loss, and choose to move past the injury.

While it’s not always easy to discern which offenses merit justice and which ones call for mercy, as we seek the Father’s heart and then examine our own, He can empower us to make the kind of choices that are a clear testimony of His goodness and grace at work in our lives. Dealing with difficult people? Peace is possible. Walk the path.

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Dale Pyne – CEO, Peacemaker Ministries

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When Discontentment Leads To…

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It’s been said that comparison of ourselves with others breeds discontentment – and often times, this is true. When we look at those around us, it doesn’t take long to find someone more educated, accomplished, successful, or financially secure with a perfect spouse and model children. If discontentment is allowed to linger, it can morph into something vile and ugly – we call it envy.

Envy is not merely a 21st century problem, but can be traced back to the events recorded early on Scripture. A perfect example of envy is found in Genesis 26. During a time of famine, God directed Abraham’s son, Isaac, to take up residence in the land of the Philistines. God promised to bless Isaac, and while he was there, his crops yielded a hundred fold and he grew in wealth and possessions.

As you might imagine, this did not set well with the locals. “He [Isaac] had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him,” (Genesis 26:14, NIV). Jealous of Isaac’s increasing wealth and possessions, the people of Gerar retaliated against him, filling his wells with dirt. Eventually, the king even forced him to move away from their territory.

Have you ever been in Isaac’s shoes? Have you dealt with other people, who through a process of comparison, determined that you were a barrier to their success? If their discontentment turned to envy, it may have led to some form of retaliation. Perhaps they took action to undermine or harm you, your reputation, your career, or your family. If so, the offense was significant. The hurt was substantial. The pain was real.

Now, let’s look at this from another vantage point. Have you ever been in the shoes of the Philistines? Have you seen someone else prosper, and felt that their success might stand in the way of your own? Whether this only led to envious thoughts, or resulted in harmful words or actions, there’s no doubt that the other person was negatively impacted by your jealousy – and so were you.

Final thoughts…

Each of our stories are different, but I wonder how many of us have found ourselves on either side of this equation at one time or another. Whether we’ve experienced envy-induced retaliation, or we ourselves have felt diminished by the success of another, these are the kinds of things that can cause us to lose our way on the Path of Peace.

When envy rears its ugly head, it’s best to take our eyes off people, and focus on our Father – to stop fixating on what’s taking place in their hearts and lives, and carefully examine our own. As we do, we are more likely to find a way to live in peace with our fellow man. Dealing with envy? Walk the path.

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Dale Pyne – CEO, Peacemaker Ministries

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