Friday, May 28, 2010

What To Expect On The Journey To Change

Inevitable in the process of change is regret. Shedding old perspectives is not unlike shedding a worn but comfortable pair of favorite shoes. We’ve walked so many miles in them, grown so accustomed to their feel, we’re hardly aware that we’re even wearing them. Not so the new pair which at first seem a refreshing change ... until we are forced to travel in them. The “breaking in phase” tends toward the uncomfortable ... we sometimes retreat to the old pair simply to escape the discomfort of the new.

Old perspectives which have dominated our decisions, actions and outcomes, and have dramatically shaped our current circumstance do not surrender easily. Indeed, though they appear to have quietly passed, we often discover that they have simply been gathering their strength for another assault! Frequently, their return intersects the first round of challenges we encounter on the road to change. With an air of “I told you so” they at once convey the specter of failure and cavalier certainty, painting our new perspectives and attendant actions as absurd and foolhardy. Suddenly, we long for that old pair of shoes and their welcoming familiarity.

The Bible provides helpful insight into this phenomenon. Exodus 14 details Israel’s departure from Egypt, Pharaoh’s change of heart and subsequent pursuit, and Israel’s reaction to this unexpected turn of events.

1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pthahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea.
3 For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.
4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so.
5 And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?
6 And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him:
7 And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.
8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.
9 But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon.
10 And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD.
11 And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? 12 Is not this the word that we did tefl thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die In the wilderness.

Moses, whom they followed as deliverer and leader they now reviled as an inept and feckless fool who had certainly led them to their destruction. And while we, knowing the narratives conclusion, wag our heads in wonder at their behavior, frequently, though less obviously, decline into such attitudes with more regularity than we care to admit.

Jesus, in His Parable of the Sower offers these thoughts concerning the challenge of change.

16 And these axe they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended. Mark 4

Because they failed to understand
• the inevitability of challenge as inherent in change,
• the latent power of perspective (this unique quality demands endurance as a prerequisite to promised change),
• the uneasy sensation bred by unfamiliar, even foreign experiences and encounters,
• And the loss of equilibrium that chaos breeds
these individuals immediately jettisoned their new perspective in part or whole and viewed with growing disdain the very truth that once seemed so promising.

Those who hope to see change through to it’s end must “receive the word which was spoken” that is, they must wholly identify with it, hold it with an embrace so complete as to become one with it, and understand it long-term effects, value and benefits.

Paul the Apostle speaks to this matter in his epistle to the Hebrew Christians …

1 Wherefore seeing we also axe compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Hebrews 12

The interplay of spiritual and psychological dynamics intrinsic to the process of change is clearly on display in this passage of scripture. Implicit in this journey is both a necessary urgency and the danger of short range thinking. In his epistle to the Church at Ephesus Paul urged them to regard each moment as a thing pregnant with possibilities, but which if squandered, would yield nothing but the passage of time.

15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5)
In the Greek text “circumspectly” occurs as akribos, meaning “accurately, carefully.” Time occurs not as chronos meaning “time as such”, but as Kairos meaning “time as regarded in its strategic, epoch-making, opportune seasons.” The suggestion is that our lives regularly intersect “divine appointments”, consequently we should seek a perspective which contributes to a reflective, intelligent and accurate perception of God’s will.
Knowing that such “appointments with destiny” exist we are compelled to press forward now and continue to advance even against adversity. A perspective shaped by God’s wisdom permits us to “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen” Corinthians 4:18

What once existed just beyond the edges of oar perception now seems defined and accessible. Challenges which once threatened crisis now become the staging grounds for great advances.

Ancient Israel reached it’s apex of influence and wealth under Solomon’s rule, though the wealth so apparent under his rule was obviously available under his father David’s reign. Why such a pronounced difference? A perspective dominated by God’s wisdom promoted the profound distinctive of Solomon’s rule. Resources once hidden ... were suddenly revealed, once perplexing and limiting difficulties soon yielded to solutions which transformed them into advantages.

What unimaginable treasures, what extraordinary opportunities await us when our perspectives are ordered by the Word of God and held fast to despite the discomfort they may seem at first to yield. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations”. With these words James encourages the believer to adopt a radically new and unlikely perspective when we encounter challenge. To view it as an opportunity to develop more fully in God’s grace and His purpose and, furthermore, to eventually enjoy a state of such well being that we are found “wanting nothing”!

Why does the embrace of this new perspective promote such extraordinary results? Perhaps a closer examination of this passage found in the first chapter of his letter to the church will offer some clues.

2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; {temptations: or, trials}
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

An infusion of wisdom, it would seem, promotes a heightened awareness of those “blessings” which are ours “in heavenly places in Christ”. Additionally, this wisdom undoubtedly yields greater insight into God’s “thoughts and ways” ... vastly new approaches, insights and strategies are adopted as God’s revealed wisdom finds a home in our hearts and minds. The inclusion of these new perspectives may, of course, set in motion a new set of challenges ... of a different sort ... the sort that are spawned internally by the contrast between the new ideas and models promoted by God’s wisdom and our old notions and patterns.

37 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.
38 But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.
39 No man also having drunk old wine stralghtway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better. Luke 5

Only by identifying old perspectives and their attendant consequences as painfully unsatisfactory and destined to fail can we hope to free ourselves from their hold. The nature of this conflict places a demand on humility for the resilient strength of old, even previously abandoned perspectives is found in human pride.

When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)

Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom. (Proverbs 13:10)

A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit. (Proverbs 29:23)

Anticipating challenge, yet empowered by certainty we must tolerate no compromise with abandoned perspectives, harness the energy of chaos and chart our course by the internal yet invisible vision that guides us through the illusory world of the seen and felt. With the Psalmist we declare ...

28 For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
29 For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall. Psalm 18

Dramatic changes in our circumstance and situation demand dramatic and fundamental changes in our perspective. The acquisition of new models may at first feel as if you are forcing the proverbial square peg into a round hole. Such discomfort ought to be expected ... we do ourselves and those who journey with us a great disservice if we imagine otherwise. Mid-course corrections are one thing vacillating between philosophies and underlying principles is quite another.

If incongruity exists between what we espouse and what we do, we will generate more antipathy than loyalty. If we point in one direction only to do an about face, we should not be surprised when we collide with those trying to follow our lead.

2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.
4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.
5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. 6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. {unto this...: or, thou shalt cause this people to inherit the land, etc}
7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. (prosper: or, do wisely)
8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. {have...: or, do wisely} 9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

The journey to change is an adventure ... as we advance toward “things hoped for” we will encounter a myriad of challenges ... some external, others distinctly internal. For those who see such challenges through, a promised place will welcome them into God’s best. Let us not be afraid, rather let us with courage and God’s strength press through to complete victory.
When we choose life on this scale, then we may truly say “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

© Larry Easton, Jr. 2003

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Rain is Falling

The wind is blowing again! That popular charismatic chorus, for many years, echoed regularly throughout tiny storefront churches and cavernous auditoriums alike. In time, though, overtones of nostalgia lent a bittersweet note to the song. The "wind" had settled to little more than a lazy breeze … tantalizingly hinting at the possibility of some greater thing, a wind that blows with abandon, upsetting everything in its path.

Florida is a peninsula, quite nearly an island save for one side which joins us to the continent and serves as a land bridge for the tanning lotion drenched hordes we gently refer to as tourists. Moisture laden breezes, rushing inland from the warm tropical waters surrounding much of the state, collide with heated interior air. Driven upwards, they are carried aloft mile after mile as they pile up into that meteorological wonder called cumulous nimbus clouds … or more commonly … thunderheads.

These are great ... if you're accustomed to them. As a native Floridian, I'm captivated by thunderstorms. The crash and boom of lightning and thunder is like a grand show to me. To the uninitiated though, a good boomer is a real attention getter. What I find so enthralling, they view with something approaching terror. Once, however, their focus moves from its terror to its wonder, they slowly settle into the embrace of its grandeur and power.

A thunderstorm, though, is more than noise, for with its pulsating rhythms come torrents of life renewing and refreshing rain. Get caught in one these storms and you'll be drenched in only a few moments. Florida's verdant, jungle-like growth offers evidence enough that liquid life falls in abundance from the heavens overhead.

While there's nothing gentle or subtle about a thunderstorm, they're also no surprise. Often, even before the skies grow dark with purples and blues, a wind - not a breeze mind you - an unapologetic wind, strong and certain, boisterously announces that a downpour approaches. Like a mobile oasis it carries to the thirsty land a gushing outpouring of life and refreshing.

"A rushing mighty wind" heralded that first great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, recorded for us in the first few chapters of Acts. An outpouring which not only spawned a nascent church brimming with life but also thrust it onto the world's stage and into the arena of human need. More organism than organization, people thrown together through faith in a living Jesus formed a body which experienced and celebrated the presence of Jesus in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Organization served as a means rather than an end. Purposes were served through organized efforts, yet the church behaved in a fluid, dynamic, living way. Here, Christ did not serve as a titular head but as a very present partner, guide and source of strength … in union with His church. A remarkable dynamic soon emerged in this community of faith which offered an irresistible curiosity and witness to onlookers. In short, they were magnetic.

This was a people offering more than narrative, more than new ideas … they exuded Him. Indefinable yet undeniable, His presence seemed to collect where they gathered. In groups, large and small … He was there, among them and in them. The real presence of a living Jesus was anticipated, and experienced. Jesus had promised a new dimension of intimacy and power …. and now he was delivering on that promise. Not merely among men, but now in them, God had burst forth not only from the holy of holies but from an entire form of worship.

One of the early church's clearest distinctives was a palpable sense of Jesus in the now. Leaders led through following. They announced. They taught. But more than anything they promoted encounter with a living Jesus. They did not present Jesus merely as a historical figure, or a spiritual abstraction but as a present reality … eager to commune with His own and lead them into mission.

These same leaders seemed to humbly recognize the limitations of human effort and to walk in profound reliance on God's spirit. Not animated merely by ideas, these first leaders desperately embraced the leadership of Jesus, in the person of the Holy Spirit. They were guided not only by Jesus' sayings … but also by what Jesus was saying … at that moment.

Clearly, they believed that Jesus had indeed come to them, just as He had promised (John 14:18 ). They sought regular, personal encounter with Him. They taught others to do the same. Because these leaders believed that God would speak to them, they approached decisions by carefully listening for his voice. With Jerusalem as its epicenter, a spiritual seismic event began to rock the region; city after city witnessed the presence and power of Jesus through His church. Miracles and joy - great joy - followed in the wake of those early Christians. Overtime, whole regions would experience the reality of a living Jesus through the witness of those who knew Him through encounter. Nothing would ever be the same.

In time, though, the Church, like the proverbial wineskin, began to harden. No longer supple, its rigid contours no longer welcomed the bursting energy of new wine. The Living Christ gradually devolved into an historical and doctrinal Christ. Structure, rather than mission began to define the church. It became a static entity rather than a dynamic expression of God in motion. It had become an organization … an institution. Defined more by roles and rules rather than purposeful action and the presence of Christ, the Church began to behave less as a verb and more as a noun.

That first great outpouring of the Spirit which had given birth to the Church and powered a movement began to yield to entropy. Its human component found comfort and meaning in form and tradition as, more and more, Jesus became an ideal to strive for … rather than a present reality to be experienced. The movement which had been born in the heat and passion of encounter … stalled. It was time, once again, for the old to give way to the new. After all, it was His presence and Life which not only animated the Church but gave it meaning and value. The Church didn't give birth to His presence. His presence, in the person of the Holy Spirit, gave birth to the Church.

The movement born of that encounter began to wane as the presence of God yielded to the ambitions of men. In time a new generation, restless and wearied, yearning for an authentic encounter with Christ, would hunger for something more than tradition could satisfy. That generation would then come to know God through more than ritual; they would know Him through encounter … they would experience His reality. A new movement would be born; a fresh wind would sweep through the Church and the voice of God would once again sound in the voices of men … those words wouldn't conclude in an echo but would thunder throughout the land.

Throughout the church age, periods of renewal have swept through the church, revitalizing it through encounter with the living Jesus. Yet, over time, many of those same movements have met similar fates. As the presence of a living Jesus wanes, life diminishes. Corruption closely follows death. God pledges no loyalty to movements. They are, after all, merely vehicles which allow progress in the eternal purpose of God, and once their utility is passed they are of little value … to God.

But for those whose identity, purpose or place is defined by that movement, the movement becomes a touchstone, or worse, a sort of surrogate god. For them, the Church and the resulting organization are synonymous. Preserving the status quo slowly replaces mission as the church turns inward, exhausting its resources and energy in simply sustaining itself. Even when it has long since served God's purposes, even in the face of fruitless bareness, these leaders insist upon devotion to it. Overtime such movements enshrine their rich histories, binding themselves to the past and making their adherents stewards of a memory rather than an experience.

Renewal, the effect of fresh encounter with Jesus Christ, allows those with hungry hearts and hearing ears to recover the dynamism and vibrancy of God in motion among men.

The last great outpouring yielded what became popularly known as the Charismatic Movement. A fresh wind blew through staid and lifeless churches; indeed, whole denominations were rocked by those gusts of His presence. Church members who had once found little interest in Bible study or prayer, or waited impatiently for the sermon's conclusion on Sunday morning and found little relevance to daily living in their faith … were now suddenly and wonderfully transformed.

Apathy was swept aside by a new and urgent hunger to know Him. Sunday mornings found enthused and eager members following sermons with Bibles open. Spontaneous prayer meetings and informal Bible studies spread, house to house, like wildfire. People, who before would have never ventured to share their faith, were irrepressible witnesses. An ebullient joy fueled a fervent devotion to Jesus and ministry. As this fiery new witness was loosed upon the earth millions flooded the kingdom.

New wineskins replaced old. God's voice resonated through a new generation of leaders whose yearning for Him promoted a refreshing authenticity and simplicity that appealed to the millions who sought for a more biblical expression of church. For a time it seemed that the days of refreshing would never end.

No single moment or event signaled its ending, but slowly life and its attendant joy began to ebb. Something changed. It became more obvious with the passage of time. Something was clearly missing. What was it? Some essential dynamic had somehow taken leave.

A creeping weariness seemed to plague so many congregations and their pastors. Unable to gain any real traction, for many pastors, vision often became a source of frustration rather than inspiration. New programs were introduced only to punctuate predictable routine. Structure no longer seemed to support growth but maintain the status quo or worse, to merely stem creeping attrition. Like the "new cloth" sown into old, these programs or initiatives often fail to promote the change or growth hoped for.

The attraction of new cloth may lie in the seductive notion that we might merely add a new program, or apply a new technique rather than embrace wholesale change. Of course, it rarely works. Incremental change tends to become, overtime, completely overwhelmed by the problems endemic to the larger whole. Change is no easy thing. Perspectives must radically reorient to a new reality. Roles can dramatically alter or even disappear. And our craving for security, which the familiar seems to offer, must give way to an embrace of the unknown. In the absence of such wholesale change, the sort of change born of unyielding hunger, a hunger that invites life … there is only death.

A movement highlighted by a passion for Him and for others has given way to a creeping self-indulgence. One time servant-leaders have succumbed to an inflated sense of entitlement and importance. Having become accustomed to strength, they have forgotten the power of acknowledging their weaknesses. Unguarded by humility, the capacity of their weaknesses to harm has gone unchecked. Insulated from reality, but not consequence, their numbers now swell … and the church's reputation is crumbling under the sheer weight of their infamy.

The charismatic movement is dead … long since dead. It doesn't need revival, but a burial and obituary. Its purpose has been served … and God has moved on. "Behold I will do a new thing" follows on the heels of God's command to "Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old".

The moment of a fresh visitation is upon us … one of our most urgent tasks is that of cultivating an environment which encourages a hunger for and anticipation of an encounter with Jesus Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit. Such an encounter revitalizes our faith and ignites a passionate, irresistible witness. By encouraging a "hearing ear" we are humbly requiring of Christ His leadership in our lives and in His church.

Such an encounter allows us to know Christ experientially; that is, to not merely know about Jesus Christ but rather to know Him. Indeed, "know" as it often occurs in scripture is translated from the Greek word ginōskō. A unique word, ginōskō, suggests more than enlightenment. It is suggestive of a deeply intimate encounter with the living Christ whose real presence becomes a transforming experience.

This epiphany carries with it the extraordinary capacity of communicating the essence of Jesus in a fashion which overwhelms our biases, our preconceived notions and all of the vagaries and shortcomings of human language. Language, while enhancing our ability to communicate, is still subject to all the variables that individual experiences and their attendant perspectives can impose upon it.

We've all experienced this inherent weakness of language. Recall those moments when, to your surprise, something which you were certain you communicated clearly was completely misunderstood … or conversely, someone registered surprise at the conclusions you arrived at regarding their remarks Our individual frames of reference can play havoc with language and sometimes distort, almost beyond recognition, what we've heard. Would God make Himself hostage to such a flawed mechanism to make Himself known to man?

When conversing with the Samaritan women at Jacob's well Jesus implies that because "God is a spirit", knowing Him requires a transcendent experience; one in which God lifts us out of our own meager understanding and experience and reveals Himself to us … as He is rather than merely as we imagine Him to be. Paul further explains this phenomenon …

Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1Corinthians 2:13-14

While this disclosure or revelation eventually informs our intellect, it is not chiefly a psychological phenomenon. It is first and foremost a distinctly spiritual (and powerful) experience. This extraordinary happening offers an accurate understanding of God, and more to the point, an intimacy which satisfies our yearning for Him. Encounter on this level liberates a robust and enduring faith, an ebullient joy, a supernatural peace … and miracle inducing power.

Jesus offered a simple invitation to those who would know Him … "Follow me". This same invitation continues to sound in the ears of all those who would know Him. Not as an echo, not as a cliché but as an intensely personal and impassioned summons to intimacy and adventure. We are not called to merely follow rules or even in His footsteps. No, we are called to follow Him. Moment by moment, day by day, we live in fellowship and walk in mission with Him. With this dynamic, prayer becomes a running dialogue with a present Jesus. This transcendent experience yields a life-transforming encounter and the irresistible power of grace unleashed.

It is when we walk in such living accord with Jesus Christ that the Church ceases to be defined by form or structure. It is a movement … God in motion, in men and among men. His presence, in the person of the Holy Spirit, palpably present in His people … speaking to them, speaking through them and showing Himself alive though miracles.

One of the hallmarks of the outpouring of God's Spirit is an ebullient, energizing joy (not hype). The nearness of God inspires not merely hopefulness and expectation but it answers the yearning of our heart to know Him. Such an encounter triggers unfettered and contagious joyfulness. This "nearness" of God spawns miracles … a wholesome supernatural display of God's power.

This is the real thing. The supernatural, when it is the effect of His presence, edifies. It doesn't emotionally violate; it's not unseemly or bizarre. It encourages wonder among observers … not revulsion. It is magnetic. It attracts those who hunger for something real, but in a fashion that both encourages and survives scrutiny. It does not demand the suspension of belief but rather encourages us to believe.

The wine presses are bursting with new wine. A fresh, boisterous rollicking wind is rushing across the landscape signaling the approach of a great soaking rain. A fresh wave of renewal is washing over the earth … and the thirsty are rushing out to greet it.

At the heart of renewal is encounter. It is what Jesus yearns for. It is what our hearts hunger for. It is always the same … Jesus, in the person of the Holy Spirit, revealing Himself to a new generation. It is in the miracle of encounter that His words come to life, that our lives become a living epistle.

When Jesus leaps from the pages of scripture into now, he is no longer merely a figure of history or literature, but a living reality … the author and finisher of our faith. In the intimacy of knowing Him, we experience His transforming power. His love is no longer a theological concept but an experienced reality which breeds faith and love.

The miracles, healings and wonders which attend renewal are its effects, rather than its cause. They signal His presence rather than promote it. Jesus is the focus of renewal. The Holy Spirit, the agent by which He is revealed, becomes a point of focus but only in as much as it is through the Spirit that Jesus comes to us. This is renewal's great reward … a living Jesus. His invitation to "Follow Me" is offered personally to each of us. This is the great joy of renewal … fellowship and communion with Him.

Monday, June 1, 2009

WYSIWYG ... Its Role In Desired Outcomes

WYSIWYG ... is an acronym for What You See Is What You Get. In computer speak it means a a system in which what appears during editing displays as final content ... its also a fairly handy way to describe the phenomenon of Perspective and it's influence over our lives.

Life can be a grand adventure ... or an endurance event, based largely on our approach to it. Perhaps you've observed people who have encountered difficulties ... challenges which seemed to call into question their hopes ... and yet they refused to believe the worst. Driven instead by an unreasonable optimism, they fiercely resisted discouragement and clung tenaciously to a vision of better things.

Remarkably, the very circumstances which once seemed to hold hostage their hopes, now become the building blocks of a preferred future. Ground which once grew only the the thorn and thistle now yields fruitfulness and beauty.

There are others, though, unfortunate souls who seem only to see the worst in every situation. They seem bent on discovering hidden difficulties and looming disaster. Hope, for them, is merely a cruel hoax which promises little more than the pain of disappointment. They expect little good to come of their challenges ... and consequently are rarely disappointed by surprise!

Does God's Word speak this phenomenon? Is there a dynamic, invisible yet irresistibly strong, which has the power to change stumbling blocks into stepping stones ... which can transform testing into triumph?

to be continued ...