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Monthly Archives: January 2014

  • Best Business Practices

    Posted on January 31, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God... Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them. Nehemiah 5:9, 11

    The best business practices are founded on the fear of the Lord. Almighty God, not the almighty dollar, is the standard for doing business. Just because the majority support an unseemly brand of commerce, does not give Christ followers permission to do the same. A Christian business leader can be shrewd without being selfish. They can take advantage of an economic opportunity without exploiting individuals. Best business practices are based on generosity, not greed.

    Nehemiah rebukes the business leaders of his day for monetarily kicking their people while they were down. During the famine crisis those with more took all from those who were starving, in exchange for food. Desperate times expose the desperate to exploitation. However, for those who love Christ it is our opportunity to be Jesus by giving, not taking. A person who has fallen needs a lift up, not a push down. Best business practices help those in need with economic solutions.

    If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. Exodus 22:25

    Regardless of the industry, we can exemplify integrity. If ministers, we can model care for the poor. If bankers, we can offer full disclosure in our financial dealings. If manufacturing, we can constantly upgrade the safety conditions of the workplace. If insurance, we can reward policy holders who have an excellent claims history. If a service company, we can exceed the expectations of the customer. If medical, we can offer affordable healthcare. If education, we can maximize technology. In all work sectors we have daily opportunities to employ best practices.

    Furthermore, by God’s grace create a culture of generosity in your company. A company known for giving back to the community will be supported by the community. A generous leader is worth following. Much better to be known as a benevolent George Bailey than a crusty old penny pinching Mr. Potter. Most of all look to your Heavenly Father as the ultimate Giver of all things good, beginning with His son Jesus. Best business practices have their genesis in God.

    “We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.” James 4:13-15, The Message

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, use me in my work to model Your best practices for Your glory.

    Related Readings: Isaiah 2:22; Proverbs 12:14, 27:23; Luke 12:18-20; 2 John 1:8

    Post/Tweet today: Almighty God, not the almighty dollar, is the standard for doing business. #bestbusinesspractices

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with Nehemiah

  • Embrace Grace from Liz Curtis Higgs

    Posted on January 31, 2014 by Family Christian

    Liz Curtis Higgs

    I’ve been waiting for you. Holding this good news close to my heart, longing to share it. And now here you are, standing on the threshold. To say that I’m glad to see you is a major understatement. Thrilled is more like it.

    Curb my enthusiasm? No way. Not when it’s you. There are a few things about you that I don’t know: your age, your appearance, your occupation. Facts that describe you but don’t define you and have little bearing here. There are also things about you that I do know because we share them: the need to be loved unconditionally, the desire to live a life that truly matters, the longing to shed a tightly woven mantle of guilt.

    Or am I the only woman who wears past failures and present mistakes like an old wool coat, scratchy and uncomfortable, chafing the skin around my neck? Ah. You too.

    Sadly, heavy overcoats get in the way of a good hug. Our arms are too stiff, our bodies too padded. No one can sense our warmth through the thick fabric. In the same way, remorse and shame insulate us. And isolate us.

    If only we could toss those miserable garments into some dark closet and tiptoe away. If only the ratty things didn’t feel so cozy and familiar. If only we could shake off the conviction that we need to wear our guilt—deserve to wear it, must wear it—whatever the season.

    Maybe it’s time to release that burden and lift our arms toward the One who loves us most. That’s what this visit is all about: slipping off the old and putting on the new. Letting go of the past and embracing freedom with our whole hearts. Come inside where it’s warm, beloved. Let me help you with your coat.

    “Take hold of the life that is truly life.” - 1 Timothy 6:19

    The forgiven life. The grace-filled life. It begins with an embrace, which is more than an elegant word for hug. Hugs are short-lived and friendly, handed out like after- dinner mints to acquaintances and strangers alike. Here, have one.

    An embrace is more intentional. Longer. Warmer. Far more personal. We gather someone close—a spouse, a child, a friend, a sibling—and murmur words of comfort and affection. Or we simply let the strength of our embrace express the depth of our thoughts and feelings. I believe in you. I support you. I treasure you. I love you.

    Wherever you are spiritually, whatever you have been through emotionally, you are already wrapped in the Lord’s embrace. Held close by nail-scarred hands. Enfolded in the arms of One who believes in you, supports you, treasures you, and loves you.

    He is waiting for you to embrace him in return. To accept the gift he’s offering you. To listen for the whispered words you’ve longed a lifetime to hear: You are loved. All is forgiven.

    “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” - Titus 3:4–5 6

    “Mercy.” An old-fashioned word, fraught with meaning.

    “Mercy!” my friend Sara says, her hand pressed to her heart. Mercy, God says, yet it’s our hearts he touches.

    “And God is able to make all grace abound to you.” - 2 Corinthians 9:8

    A single syllable, grace is God’s word for love, expressed through divine forgiveness. Sometimes we respond with an even shorter word. No. We persuade ourselves we have good reason to shrug off the Lord’s touch and refuse his gift of grace. Consider the heartfelt words of one of my readers: “I don’t feel I am worthy of having God forgive me of my sins and weaknesses. I feel like a failure.” How poignantly she states what we often feel! Unworthy? Me too. A failure? Oh yes. We get it.

    “I feel like I have let God down, and I can’t seem to find the forgiveness I seek. Even on Sundays I don’t feel his presence or direction, and I long for it.” We understand that longing: to sense the realness of God, to know that he is with us, no matter what we’ve done. For all our good days, we’ve stumbled through bad ones too.

    “I am struggling not to lead two separate lives—the Good Girl versus the Bad Girl.” We’re with you, sis. The battle is genuine, yet the grace of God prevails. I cherish such words from our sisters because they remind us we’re not alone. You’ll hear dozens of women’s voices echoing throughout Embrace Grace.

    Honest women. Hurting women. Hopeful women. I carefully omitted any identifying details—no names or initials, no locations or occupations—and included only brief comments that speak to our shared experience of yearning for freedom, yet feeling encumbered by previous mistakes and current challenges.

    “Even though I belong to God, I sometimes feel so unworthy because of my past.”

    “I still get that heavy feeling in my chest over who I used to be.”

    We feel it too—that woolly overcoat sensation—making our shoulders sag in defeat. Whether our “past” refers to some crucial mistake we made a decade ago or a poor decision last week, regret can weigh us down.

    “I often carry the guilt of ‘if only they knew who I used to be, they would not like me as much as they do.’ ” I cannot speak for what “they” think, but I am certain of what God thinks. He does know who you used to be. And he not only likes you, he loves you. Completely. Always has. Always will.

    “For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” - Psalm 100:5

    Incredible, isn’t it? To imagine God’s love reaching across the boundaries of time, encircling us in his ceaseless embrace. Do you yearn to feel his heavenly arms around you? Holding you, comforting you, cherishing you?

    “I want to want a relationship with God. I also want somebody to tell me that they love me and to know they mean it.” Be assured, no one—man, woman, or child—says “I love you” with more certainty than the Lord. His regard for us goes far beyond kind words and warm feelings; his is a show-and- tell love, held up for the whole world to see.

    “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” - 1 John 4:9

    At times living through him seems too daunting; just living is hard enough. “I’ll never be perfect, and God is never going to forgive me for this, so what’s the point?”

    “I have no strength left, and I don’t feel like I belong anywhere.”

    You belong right here, dear one. Looking for answers. Seeking encouragement.


    Excerpted from Embrace Grace by Liz Curtis Higgs Copyright © 2013 by Liz Curtis Higgs. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Grace, Liz Curtis Higgs

  • Secrets of Happily Married Couples

    Posted on January 31, 2014 by ShauntiFeldhahn

    Shaunti Feldhahn

    "If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!" Proverbs 11:27 (NLT)

    My dear friend's marriage was crumbling; her husband's heart had turned to stone. For years he had dearly loved his wife, but had never known how to show it in the way she needed. Her insecurity grew. He eventually believed he could never please her, never make her happy. Sadly, he left.

    Despite my friend's deep hurt, she took ownership of what she could change as she mourned her marriage and moved forward. As she considered her part in what had happened, she realized that starting in the earliest days of her marriage she had subconsciously believed the worst of her husband, rather than the best.

    For example, if he said something that hurt her, she subconsciously thought: He knew that would hurt me and he said it anyway. Not: He loves me, so he wouldn't deliberately say something that would hurt me. Or she would think: If he really loved me he would do this particular thing. But since he isn't ... he doesn't.

    Deep down, without realizing it, my friend believed her husband didn't care. Even though, for most of their marriage, he did.

    Have you ever believed someone didn't like you based on something they said or did? I know I have. But as followers of Christ, we need to ask ourselves: Are we searching for evil or searching for good?

    There's a benefit in looking for good. Proverbs 11:27 tells us we get what we look for: "If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!"

    My research confirms this truth. I've spent the last three years researching the most happily married couples to find out what they are doing differently. What is making them so happy? What are their secrets?

    Of all my discoveries, one thing stood out as a prerequisite for any good relationship: believing the best of the other person's intentions. Or to be more precise, refusing to believe the worst. In the happiest relationships, even if someone couldn't completely explain what had happened, they resolutely assumed that their spouse or good friend cared about them and had no intention of hurting them.

    And that is usually the truth! For example, in the thousands of married people I've anonymously surveyed, only a tiny fraction no longer cared about their spouse. Even in some deeply difficult marriages, most of the time, the hurt was not intended. In happy marriages, the offended spouse chooses to believe that; in unhappy marriages, they don't.

    For most of us, "searching for good" when we are in pain is not our default response. It is so easy to gauge what the other person intended by how we feel in the moment. But that only creates avoidable pain!

    Yes, sometimes the intentions of people we love aren't good. But in most cases, they don't want to hurt the people they care about any more than we do.

    The choice to search for a more generous explanation may not come easily at first. But try it. Bring your feelings in line with what you know to be true about this person. And once you see, over and over again, that the "good" explanation is usually the real one, you become fully convinced that this person is "for" you.

    Better yet, as our key verse explains, by expecting the best, you bring out the best. We all know this deep down; we just have to act on it. And when we do, everything changes.

    Lord, thank You for putting people in my life who care about me. And thank You for showing grace to me even when I don't deserve it. Help me to have grace and see others through Your eyes. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit help me to search for the good in each situation and not assume evil intent. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    The next time you are faced with a hurtful situation, pray to God for wisdom and ask yourself:

    1) What is the truth in this situation and is there a more generous explanation for what this person did?
    2) Is it really true that this person doesn't care about me, or am I allowing my thoughts to be controlled by my hurt feelings?

    Power Verses:
    James 1:19, "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." (NLT)

    1 Corinthians 13:4-7, "Love is patient and kind ... It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (NLT)

    © 2014 by Shaunti Feldhahn. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Proverbs

  • Prayer and Action

    Posted on January 30, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    But we prayed to our God, and because of them we set up a guard against them day and night. Nehemiah 4:9

    Prayer does not preclude action and action does not dismiss prayer. Being and doing are necessary for God’s will. Nehemiah and his team tethered their hearts to God in trust, but they also assigned a guard 24/7 to watch out for attacks from the enemy. Yes indeed, prayer empowers the person praying to be bold in the work of God. It produces an inner resolve to serve as unto the Lord. Prayer and watchfulness work together to accomplish the Almighty’s purposes.

    What tension do you feel between doing your part and trusting God’s part? Wisdom seeks Christ daily to determine how He is leading. His Holy Spirit will guide you in what needs to be done for today. Don’t allow unnecessary interruptions to rob you of experiencing God’s best. Beware of those who live frantic and faithless lives. Their problems need not become your crisis lest you are led astray. Pray for needy people and help them as the Spirit leads. Watch out for distractions.

    But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Luke 10:40

    Prayer produces the right actions. Activities without insight from Almighty God can miss being the most effective. Like a sailor on deck looks up to the captain on the bridge for a clearer view, so we are wise to peer into the Lord’s perspective as our guide before moving forward. Heaven’s telescope of truth is able to focus in on what needs to happen on earth. When we seek wisdom from above, we better understand what to do below. Actions led by prayer get the best results.

    So, what are you facing that invites prayer and support from other saints of God? Who can you summon into your confidence for comfort, love and intercession? Signs of trouble aren’t meant to be faced alone, but in the strength of the Spirit and undergirded by a caring community. You may be used to assisting others, but now is your opportunity to receive. It blesses believers to be a blessing to you. The Body of Christ is healthy when it prays and acts in love toward one another.

    Pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do. Jeremiah 42:3

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray You will lead me in where I should go and in what I should do.

    Related Readings: Jeremiah 42:20; Daniel 6:10; Matthew 6:5-7; Acts 9:40; 2 Corinthians 13:7

    Post/Tweet today: When we seek wisdom from above, we better understand what to do below. #prayerandaction

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with Nehemiah

  • Having Faith in a Marriage - Tony & Lauren Dungy

    Posted on January 30, 2014 by John van der Veen


    What is the key to an "uncommon" marriage? Tony and Lauren Dungy answer this question.

    Tony: Lauren and I have been married over 30 years now. I think our faith has been a big part of our marriage. To me, faith is so important in marriage because everything isn't going to to perfectly and you do have to come together as two people becoming one partnership. You have to trust in the Lord and you have to put the Lord first, in the center of a relationship, to make it work. That's easier said than done. When you tell other people about it or you counsel other people, it's easy to say, "Here's where you've got to have faith. Just believe and go forward." But when it is happening to you and things are coming up in your marriage, to really concentrate on the Lord and say, "I know he's in the middle of this." That becomes difficult at times, but it's what you have to do.

    Lauren: We've found that you have to really rely on your Christian principles and the biblical principles that you know and believe in, because you have to expect there will be conflict, there will be challenges in your life. That's going to happen in any marriage, but the world has a way of dealing with the challenges and problems, or you can follow God's ways, and God's ways are always going to keep you united. Even in your conflicts and challenges, there should be joy in the midst.

    Tony: We really do feel like that has been really the basis for how we have stayed together and grown, is that we have listened to the Lord and listened to the Bible, as opposed to listening to worldly wisdom or what our society says about marriage. We've tried to rely on those biblical principles and let them guide us and not what society says.

    Interested in hearing more from the Dungy's? Click here for their line of books.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Marriage, Tony Dungy, Lauren Dungy

  • Enemies of the Heart from Andy Stanley

    Posted on January 30, 2014 by Family Christian

     

    Andy Stanley

    It Came from Within

    It came from within. But at first I wasn’t sure.

    It was a Tuesday night. I was lying in bed, trying to go to sleep, when I felt a thump in my chest that actually shook my whole body.

    I sat up and looked over at Sandra to see if perhaps she’d felt it too. No pain. No pressure. Just a larger-than-normal thump in my chest. I lay back down and tried to pretend it hadn’t happened. And then it happened again.

    This time I said, “Did you feel that?”

    No answer.

    As I laid there staring at the clock, I put my hand over my heart and tried to listen as well as feel my pulse. About a half minute later I noticed that my heart skipped a beat and then, THUMP! This happened over and over. About a minute of normal heartbeat and then nothing. And then the big thump that literally coursed through my entire body.

    Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much that night.

    The next day I called my doctor. He sent me to the hospital with a prescription for this nifty device that records what’s happening to your heart while you go about your normal routine. I say normal. There are a few “normal” activities I would advise anyone against trying while wearing such a device.

    The following day I went back to the hospital and they plugged the device into a computer to see what they could find. An hour later the technician came out and informed me that I had an irregular heartbeat. I was shocked. “Really? An irregular heartbeat? You don’t say. You mean my heart isn’t supposed to miss a beat every minute and then make up for it with increased seismic intensity?”

    Of course, I didn’t say that. He was about to draw some blood, and I’ve always tried to stay on the good side of anyone who’s about to poke me with a needle.

    They ran some tests. A lot of tests. After a couple hours of blood work, an EKG, an ultrasound—I told them there was no way I was pregnant, but they insisted—and a chest X-ray, a doctor came in to see me. He sat down with his clipboard and started asking me all the usual questions. Eventually he came to the “What medications are you taking?” question.

    Ordinarily that’s an easy one: “Nothing.” But it just so happened that I was taking something for my annual case of poison ivy. I’m never certain how I got it, but I always manage to come down with it every spring. Truth is, I don’t even know what poison ivy looks like—which may be part of my problem.

    I tried to pronounce the name of the drug I was taking. After three or four failed attempts, the doctor deciphered what had been prescribed and wrote it down. Then he asked, “They didn’t prescribe a steroid as well?” No, they hadn’t. The reason being, I’d insisted that my family doctor give me the steroid in the form of a shot. Two shots, actually. When I shared this bit of seemingly insignificant news with the doctor, he put down his pen and smiled. “I think I know what your problem is.”

    This was good news. Sandra has been wondering since we were married.

    “What?” I asked.

    “It’s the steroids. You’re going to be fine. Once it works its way through your system your heart will settle back down.”

    And you know what—he was right. The problem took care of itself.

    Wonderful…and Confusing

    As you’ve probably guessed from this story, I’m not a doctor. And this is not a book about your physical heart. It’s about your other heart. You know, that invisible part of you that philosophers, poets, and preachers refer to all the time. That thing that got broken in the ninth grade when what’s-her-name said she just wanted to be friends. I’m talking about that part of you that swells up with pride when you see your kids do something great.

    It’s that thing that gets all nostalgic when you hear an old Journey tune (or whatever music served as the soundtrack for your senior year). It’s that part of me that fills up when Sandra sits down next to me on the front row at church every Sunday morning. Amazing how that still happens after all these years… 

    And to be fair, the heart I’m talking about is also that part of me that wanted to wring the coach’s neck for keeping my son on the bench throughout an entire all-star game.

    The heart I’m speaking of is that mysterious, wonderful, confusing part of you that enables you to love, laugh, fear, and experience life. It’s the sphere in which relationship happens. And it’s the sphere in which relationships are broken.

    Damage Control

    Life can be hard on the heart. The world is full of outside influences that have the power to disrupt the rhythm of your heart. Most are subtle. Some may even appear to be necessary as protection from further disruptions. Over time you develop habits that slowly erode your heart’s sensitivity. The inevitable pain and disappointment of life have caused you to set up walls around your heart. Much of this is understandable. But at the end of the day, there’s no way around the truth:

    Your heart is out of sync with the rhythm it was created to maintain. These disrupters that throw your heart out of sync are not like the steroid that eventually worked its way out of my system without any effort on my part. Those things that disrupt the rhythms of the invisible heart linger. If left alone, some will linger for a lifetime. After a while we come to accept these disrupters as part of us, part of our personality. And so we catch ourselves saying, “That’s just the way I am.” But you weren’t always that way. And those closest to you know it. So let me ask you, how are things with your heart?

    Close the book and think for a moment. How are things with your heart? Not your career, your family, or your finances. Your heart. Chances are, you’ve never stopped to consider your heart. And why should you? There are meals to fix, calls to return, interviews to prepare for, and bills to pay. If at the end of the day you’re all caught up with these things and someone asks, “How are things?” you can smile and sigh and say, “Fine.”

    But this is a different question.

    It’s a more important question.

    And yes, it’s an awkward question.

    Another Me

    Perhaps the major reason we rarely stop to monitor our hearts is that it was never encouraged. As children, we were taught instead to monitor our behavior. In other words, we were taught to behave. If we behaved properly, good things happened, regardless of what was going on in our hearts. If we misbehaved, not-so-good things happened. My parents believed in spanking. So the not-so-good things got my attention early. I modified my behavior so as to avoid pain, and I’ve been doing that ever since. I bet you have too.

    Years ago a buddy and I decided to move a road sign. We thought it would be funny to route traffic up an entrance ramp that led to a highway that was under construction and not opened yet. As a result, I spent the good portion of a night in jail. So I modified my behavior. I never moved another road sign.

    Pain, embarrassment, fines, and spankings are generally considered effective ways to focus an individual’s attention on his or her behavior. Consequently, you and I have become much better at monitoring our behavior than our hearts.

    But it’s not just the avoidance of pain that drives us. Good behavior can be rewarding. As a professional Christian—a pastor, by trade—I’m paid to be good. So I’ve learned to modify my words and behavior so as not to damage my reputation and, thus, my career. You’ve no doubt done the same thing. Whatever your job, there are some things you just won’t do. Not because you don’t want to, but because of the professional ramifications.

    Perhaps there are some words and phrases you won’t use, in spite of the fact that they would accurately convey what you’re feeling. I’ll bet there are some people you pretend to like because it’s beneficial to you. And all of that is fine. More than fine, it’s necessary. After all, like my buddy Charlie is fond of saying, everybody’s got to eat and live indoors. 

    But all this pretending can be problematic because pretending allows you to ignore the true condition of your heart. As long as you say the right thing and do the right thing, you’re tempted to believe that all is well. That’s what your childhood experience taught you. But when your public performance becomes too far removed from who you are in your heart, you’ve been set up for trouble. Eventually your heart—the real you—will outpace your attempts to monitor and modify everything you say and do.

    The unresolved issues stirring around undetected in your heart will eventually work their way to the surface. Specifically, they’ll seep into your actions, your character, and your relationships. If your heart continues to go unmonitored, whatever “thing” is growing in there will worsen to the point that you’re no longer able to contain it with carefully managed words and behaviors. 

    So let me ask you again: How’s your heart?

    Slippage

    Maybe you’ve already noticed things starting to slip a bit. Maybe you’ve always been able to contain your anger, but lately there’s an edge in your voice that scares even you. And what about those occasional outbursts that slip through your normally ironclad facade?

    You know you ought to be happy for Frank on his promotion, but for some reason you’re not. The truth is, Frank represents that person from your past who bought something or won something or was given something you wanted, and now you find yourself resenting Frank for it.

    Ladies, how about your sister-in-law who wears those jeans you know better than to try and fit into. She looks great, but you aren’t about to let her know that. But why? Why does it bother you? You know it shouldn’t. So you behave like everything’s okay. But it’s not. These are merely symptoms of a deeper struggle. Your heart is under assault, and it could be that you’re losing. Primarily through neglect. After all, nobody ever told us to keep a close check on our
    hearts.

    Evidence of an internal battle are statements like:

    “I can’t believe I just said that.”

    “I don’t know where that came from.”

    “I can’t believe I did that.”

    “That’s not like me.”

    Heart Exam

    Cardiologists use a procedure called an arteriogram to diagnose the health of a patient’s heart. An arteriogram is an X-ray of the arteries taken after a dye is injected into the bloodstream. The dye allows doctors to pinpoint blockage in the arteries that serve as conduits carrying blood from the heart.

    If blockage is discovered, a skilled cardiologist is able to insert a stent through an artery in the patient’s leg, navigate it up into the heart, and open up the blood vessels so that blood can again flow freely to blocked or damaged regions. It’s an amazing procedure to watch on video. You can actually see the dye making its way through the arteries and then stopping when it reaches an area that’s blocked. Even an untrained eye can spot the problem area once the dye has been injected—it’s that obvious.

    But apart from an arteriogram, a life-threatening heart problem can go undetected for years. An individual who has blockage will experience symptoms, but these symptoms may not seem to be directly associated with the heart. Arterial blockage can manifest itself through back pain, inability to sleep, anxiety, loss of appetite, indigestion, nausea, vision change, even loss of memory.

    What were we just talking about? Oh yes.

    All of these are symptoms that can be and often are treated as isolated issues unrelated to the health of the heart. And the right medication can take the edge off most of these symptoms. The problem, of course, is that treating the symptoms masks the real culprit. Worse, it delays treatment of the problem, thus leaving the problem to worsen.

    Heart of the Matter

    Likewise, we’re tempted to treat the ancillary, symptomatic challenges that stem from an unhealthy heart while ignoring the deeper issues. But as is the case with the physical heart, eventually the root problem will become a real problem. And just as a heart attack has the potential to destroy your body, so spiritual heart disease has the potential to destroy you and squeeze the life out of your most valuable relationships.

    So for the next couple hundred pages, we’re going to do some poking around. I’m going to do my best to expose your heart to the penetrating light of God’s truth. Like the dye used in an arteriogram, truth can help us to pinpoint the blockage in our spiritual condition. Once the problem area has been identified, the solutions are usually pretty obvious. Actually, the solutions are quite simple. But first we must familiarize ourselves with the most common blockages, their causes, and their symptoms.

    In these pages I'll deal with four primary enemies of the heart—four life-blocking agents that can become lodged there for various reasons. Each has the potential to erode your relationships, your character, and even your faith. We’ll spend several chapters looking at each of these in detail. I’ll then challenge you to embrace four new habits. I often refer to these as “habits of the heart”—habits that exercise the heart and allow it to maintain the rhythm for which it was designed.

    Each of these habits specifically addresses one of four maladies that can infect your heart. Three of the four habits will probably sound familiar; the fourth one may be new to you. When applied consistently, these four disciplines will bring healing and wholeness to your heart, whatever your current condition. There’s some evidence to suggest that these habits can positively impact your physical health as well. Personally, I believe these habits have the potential to change everything.

    If this all sounds too good to be true, let me remind you of a declaration God made generations ago that’s still true and extraordinarily relevant today. He claimed that he could give a man or woman a new heart (see Ezekiel 36:26). The interesting thing is that he said this to a people who already had God’s List of Top Ten Behaviors to guide them. But clearly it wasn’t enough for them to know what to do; they needed to change from the inside out in order to follow through. Each of them needed, as we need, to drop the public persona and become one whole and healthy person.

    What we need is a heart that can keep pace with our outward obedience.

    Take Two

    If you grew up going to the kind of church I grew up in, the notion of God’s still needing to do some work in your heart may cause a bit of inner tension. Perhaps you prayed a prayer some time ago inviting Jesus to come into your heart. And like me, you may have assumed that once he was in, all was well. I mean, Jesus has made himself at home in my heart, so everything’s copasetic, right? But somewhere along the way each of us is forced to face the painful truth that all is not well. So we pray the prayer a second or third time for fear that the first one didn’t take. And yet we continue to see disturbing signs that our heart isn’t entirely new. So what’s up?

    What’s up is this: What God begins at the moment of our salvation is not completed in that same moment. I bet you already knew that about yourself, didn’t you? If you didn’t know it, I’d bet your best friend does. At the risk of oversimplifying, let me put it this way: Jesus may have moved into your heart, but he may not have been given full access. That’s why as happy as you are about being forgiven, you’re not always willing to extend forgiveness to others. That’s a heart thing. As excited as you are about the success you’re experiencing, you aren’t always excited about the success someone else is enjoying. That’s a heart thing too. Both are evidence that God has not completed in you what he has begun. You’re still a work in progress. There’s still some heart work to be done.

    One last thing before we move on. Your heart didn’t arrive at its present condition overnight. It won’t become healthy overnight either. You can’t overcome in an instant the effects of years of blockage caused by guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. Adopting new habits of the heart is a process, but it’s a process that will yield some immediate results. My hope is that these immediate dividends will encourage and motivate you to continue cultivating these new habits until you arrive at a place where your Creator desires and made you to be.


    Excerpted from Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley Copyright © 2011 by Andy Stanley. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Andy Stanley, Heart

  • God Wants to Set You Free

    Posted on January 30, 2014 by Suzie Eller

    Suzie Eller

    "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" Isaiah 43:19a (ESV)

    Last January I prayed about my one word for the year. I hoped for words like "discovery" or "new" or "intimacy." Something beautiful and fresh in my relationship with God.

    As I knelt I sensed the word "forgive."

    This wasn't logical. I teach on forgiveness. I write books and articles about forgiveness. It's the one word I thought had already defined my life.

    Yet, every time I prayed, that one word remained.

    So, in 2013 I began to let this word saturate my life, and discovered new lessons my Heavenly Father wanted to show me. One of those was a shift in the way I viewed forgiveness. We often hear these directives:

    You need to forgive.

    You should forgive.

    But as I let this word guide me in my conversations, in my responses to people and events, in my feelings, and in my faith, a powerful truth emerged:

    We get to forgive.

    We aren't prisoners of bitterness, locked behind the walls of our anger. We have free will, and can choose to step out of unforgiveness, into a place of beauty at any time.

    However, if we choose to hold on to our hurt, it can feel like a dry wasteland has taken up residence in our hearts. It roots its way into our thought process, and in the way we view life or people. It may make us feel strong as we hold on to a grudge or build a wall to protect ourselves, when in actuality we have only hemmed ourselves in from all that God wants us to experience.

    In Isaiah 43, the Israelites had a choice as well. They were in a hard place, and had been for a long time. They had heard about the miracles performed in the past, but God was offering to "cut a path through the wilderness, and create rivers in a dry wasteland" (verse 19b). He was prepared, if they followed His leading, to show them something they wouldn't see or experience otherwise. God makes the same offer to us.

    We are meant to live free. Totally free. This is what we discover when we start to live a forgiving lifestyle. Not hindered or encumbered in any way.

    As I lived out my word in 2013, I was reminded that although I had forgiven big things, I needed to address little offenses. God showed me the power of little things that irked or flared in resentment, robbing me as I nurtured a hurtful word or action ... long after the person who caused the pain had left the scene.

    If there's unforgiveness lurking, festering, hurting you, will you consider allowing God to move into those broken and wounded places in 2014?

    Will it be easy? Not for most of us. Living life as a forgiver is one of those acts of faith that may seem impossible, especially when another has caused you pain. But forgiving leads you from a place of hurting to healing, it clears away past baggage that weighs you down, and offers a new identity based on who you are to God, rather than what someone did.

    "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"

    Forgiving offers a fresh slate.

    Forgiving allows us to discover new depths and facets of our faith.

    Forgiving leads to deeper relationship with God as we live out this word daily, even when it is difficult. For we aren't alone in this journey, and God has more for us as we follow where He leads.

    Dear Lord, may this be the year I forgive and live free. Show me day by day what forgiving looks like, and give me wisdom and strength to live it out. Thank You that I get to forgive so I can discover what You have for me! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    You never know where your one word might lead. Mine led me to the words I first hoped I would hear: new, discovery, intimacy!

    Prayerfully ask God for a word. It may not be forgive, for God knows what you need. As you begin each day, ask God to show you the opportunities to live out your word. How will it affect your choices? The way you respond to others? The way you live out your day?

    Power Verses:
    2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (NIV)

    Matthew 6:12, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Isaiah

  • Organized Service Project

    Posted on January 29, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place. Nehemiah 3:1

    More than any time in the history of the church, contemporary Christians are blessed with time and money to resource other believers. Homes can be built or rebuilt after a natural disaster. Aggressive forms of agriculture can be taught, orphans can be educated and adopted. Christian schools can be funded and churches can be planted. Modern technology provides for creative ways to share Christ with non-believers and disciple believers. Organized service projects work!

    Where is Christ calling you to organize a service project? Perhaps like Nehemiah, the Lord may lead you back to the roots of your ancestry whose place of worship needs repair. Moreover, their faith may be almost extinguished from a generation apathetic toward Almighty God. When you show up with an organized team to serve at their point of need, you may be just what they need to get going for God. A simple service project can propel people toward faith in Jesus Christ.

    Because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 1 Thessalonians 1:5

    Start in prayer. Ask God who He wants you to bless and how He wants you to organize a mission work. Maybe you challenge an already existing small group or Sunday School class to come alongside you to serve for this brief season. Just ask the Lord to give you six or eight committed souls, even as many as ten or twelve to dedicate their skills and gifts to serve. Recruit a co-leader who supports you administratively. Schedule prayer times, trainings and an overnight retreat to bond with one another and to prepare for the mission work. Each one can do their unique part.

    Set a date for the needs are great. Procrastination will never produce a perfect time to organize a service project. Don’t be preoccupied by what others more qualified should do, instead ask the Holy Spirit to fill you for what you can do. Better to be available with less experience, than be over qualified and uninvolved. Look for groups like 410 Bridge, who can help you if your church is not engaged in mission projects. Yes, God blesses organized work!

    While Peter was still thinking about the vision,the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” Acts 10:19-20

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, use me to organize a service project that moves men and women toward You.

    Related Readings: Isaiah 49:6; Psalm 67:2; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 16:9

    Post/Tweet today: Set a date for the needs are great. Procrastination will never produce a perfect time. #organizedmissionwork

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with Nehemiah

  • Crash the Chatterbox from Steven Furtick

    Posted on January 29, 2014 by Family Christian

    Steven Furtick

    Chatterboxing

    I wish I had a little devil on my left shoulder. I could flick him off and tell him to go to hell. Then I could fist-bump the angel sitting on my right shoulder and get on with doing all the things God has called me to do. That would change everything.

    I’d discover an unshakable confidence. It wouldn’t be borrowed from the ever-changing assessments of others. I would instinctively offer my weaknesses as a platform for God’s power instead of typecasting myself as someone God
    couldn’t use due to my endless character flaws.

    I’d be unstoppable because the devil wouldn’t be able to dominate my mind with the kinds of fears that control me a lot of the time. Then I would be able to move forward in faith without being scared of failure or rejection or the sacrifice required to obey God.

    I’d never again be paralyzed by condemnation or bullied by feelings of unworthiness. And at the end of each day I’d go to sleep in perfect peace because I’d be finishing the day with no shame, no regrets, no need to sew any fig leaves to conceal anything.

    I’d be nearly immune from discouragement, because I would stop wondering if the sky was falling every time I faced a new challenge. I’d see my biggest obstacles as my greatest opportunities…and all the other stuff you read on Starbucks cups.

    Unfortunately, there’s no devil on my shoulder.

    What’s worse, there’s no angel either.

    Instead, I’ve got this ceaseless war going on inside my heart and my head. I’m waging it every millisecond of every minute of every hour of every day—nights, holidays, and weekends too.

    The Chatterbox on Insecurity from Elevation Media on Vimeo.

    ####

    I wake up every day to the crow of the chatterbox.

    Here’s a transcript of my internal dialogue from a recent morning. It’s a real-time example of the kind of chatter that can derail my day before it even gets started. Sometimes over the most ridiculous things you can imagine.

    The thoughts are flying so fast now that I can’t keep track, much less sort them out and put them where they belong. Thinking about these thoughts at all only seems to feed them. That’s why they keep overpowering me, because I keep feeding them. I know this, but it never stops me from doing it. Not this time, not ten years ago, and it won’t be any different ten years from now, I’m beginning to believe.

    This is so stupid. I’m being so stupid.

    It’s only a light bulb.

    A burned-out light bulb has turned into a mini-midmorning meltdown in my mind, and I can’t find the switch to shut it off. The meltdown, I mean, not the light bulb.

    So I’m standing in the shower, and the light bulb is out, and it’s like the sky is falling.

    As soon as I stepped into the shower, I noticed, for the third time, that the middle bulb was out over the sink on the other side of the bathroom. Now that I’m in the shower, stranded, phoneless, how am I going to put in Evernote that the light bulb is out? With my pathetic attention span, what are the chances I’ll remember to replace the light bulb after I get out?

    I definitely don’t have time to change the light bulb—I’m already going to be ten minutes late for this meeting. If there’s no traffic. I’m always running late for meetings. I’m a late person. It’s because I hit the snooze button three times every morning, because I’m spiritually apathetic. Pastor Mickey used to get up at 5 a.m. and spend two hours with God, and he said, “He who runs from God in the morning will scarce find Him throughout the day.” They should put that on a Starbucks cup too.

    Either way, God is gone for the day, and it’s not even 9 a.m. And now I’m running twelve minutes late, and the light bulb is still out.

    I’m screwed.

    And who am I kidding? Even if I had time to change the light bulb, yeah, right, like I have a clue where Holly keeps them. Now that’s really pathetic. What would people think if they found out about that one: the woman changes all the light bulbs around that house! What kind of example am I setting for my kids?

    Did I even pray with the kids last night? the night before that?

    Dunno. But I did Instagram that sunset shot with the kids at the creek last Friday. So there’s that.

    “Cock-a-doodle-do.” The chatterbox informs me that I’m fourteen minutes late…and I suck as a person.

    I’m feeding the machine, and it’s eating me alive.

    And the chatter will continue to race through my mind until I decide to downshift and put things back in perspective: Calm down, Furtick. It’s. Just. A. Light bulb.

    Just like that, if only for a split second, the chatterbox gives way. And I get on with my day.

    Unfortunately, it won’t be long until the chatterbox sounds off again. Probably next time about something much more serious than a light bulb. So much doubt, panic, raw impulse, and bogus conjecture stream through my mind. My
    soul sometimes feels like a Twitter feed where I’m following a million of the most annoying people ever, and I can’t find the Unfollow button.

    The Chatterbox on Fear from Elevation Media on Vimeo.

    ####

    But God is faithful to speak too. His voice rises from the pages of His Word, which is the exact expression of His will. He speaks, not only on Sunday mornings in the sanctuary where the congregation is gathered, but also in the stillness
    of His works scattered across the night skies. His Spirit speaks with promptings that are not audible—often they are much louder than that—always in perfect harmony with the Scriptures and always resounding with perfect wisdom.

    And in every season of my life, God has sent reminders to confirm that He has perfectly designed me and totally enabled me for everything He’s called me to do. Sometimes He’ll do that through a simple picture, song, text, or conversation that rings with affirmation for days.

    Other times, at critical junctures, God has spoken dramatic words of encouragement over my life.

    A few years ago I was on a plane headed home, and I looked out the window during the descent. The sunset seemed to be painting the skyline in neon orange, illuminating the city where I had just moved to start a church. It was a glowing visual that set the scene for God to speak to my heart: This is your city. I’ve called you here to pour out your life for My cause. Be confident, because everywhere you set your foot belongs to Me, and you belong to Me, and together we’re going to take this city for My glory.

    I’m sure my translation of this conversation isn’t word perfect, because you know how tricky cross-cultural communication with God can be. Plus, I can’t find the notebook where I frantically scribbled every word of those impressions. The part I’m sure of is that I heard God encouraging me at a time when I really needed it. We were only a couple of months into getting our new church off the ground. I needed some reassurance, and God delivered.

    And it was His voice piercing through the roar of my doubts that lifted my perspective. It was just enough to keep me moving forward in faith.

    ####

    Now I’d like to ask you a few questions.

    Is it possible to be the kind of person who can be distracted to the point of utter despair by a blown light bulb and still hear God calling you to do great things as you stare down at your city through a sunset?

    Can God’s voice coexist with maniacal chatter—within the same person?

    And how can I silence the voice of the enemy when the enemy is in me? Can you relate to this contradiction?

    I used to think that someone who struggled with the kinds of weaknesses I deal with daily was useless to God. I felt so often like I was drowning in internal dialogue I couldn’t control. It had been the soundtrack of my life for as long as I could remember. I had hoped these problems would finally be fixed when I became a committed Christian. And I hoped for it again each time I experienced spiritual highs along the way in my journey of faith.

    But the beat went on.

    Yet everything changed when I began to realize God has given us the ability to choose the dialogue we believe and respond to. And once we learn how, we can switch from lies to truth as deliberately as we can choose the Beatles over Miley Cyrus on satellite radio.

    Choosing to believe this, moment by moment, and acting on it is the most important habit you will ever develop. It is the key to pressing ahead and doing God’s will anyway, even as you are bombarded with thoughts, feelings, and even facts about why you can’t do it. Why you shouldn’t do it. And why you’ll never be able to do it. Why you’re too dysfunctional, too petty, too immature, too melancholy, too impulsive…

    I’m now awakening to the reality that we can access the power of God’s promises to constantly crash the system of our broken beliefs. I’m learning how to overpower the shouts of the Enemy by bending my ear to the whisper of God’s supernatural truths about my identity in Him and His strength in me. This isn’t something I did once and now it’s over or something I can afford to do occasionally when it’s convenient. It requires constancy. It’s the only way I know to be the father, husband, leader, friend, and believer that God says I already am, the kind of person I am straining to believe I can become. Winning the war of words inside your soul means learning to defy your inner critic. But that’s easier said than done. And I think many times, as believers, we sense we are losing this war. But we don’t know what to do about it because we don’t know where to find the weapons, and we wouldn’t know where to aim them if we did.

    In other words, we feel powerless to crash the chatterbox. And now would probably be a good time to explain exactly what I mean by that.


    Excerpted from Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick Copyright © 2014 by Steven Furtick. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Steven Furtick

  • The Sun Stand Still Devotional from Steven Furtick

    Posted on January 29, 2014 by Family Christian

    Steven Furtick

    The Prayer That Stopped the Sun

    Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

    “O sun, stand still over Gibeon,
    O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
    So the sun stood still,
    and the moon stopped,
    till the nation avenged itself on its enemies.
    —Joshua 10:12–13

    Today’s Bible reading: Joshua 10:1–14

    Right here on Day 1, I’m going to throw out a challenge to you: If you’re not daring to believe God for the impossible, you’re sleeping through some of the best parts of your Christian life. And further still, if the size of your vision for your life isn’t intimidating to you, there’s a good chance it’s insulting to God. You should be living by audacious faith every day. Audacity is not just for “elite Christians.” It’s intended for every believer. So today we’re beginning a spiritual  journey toward trusting God for what seems impossible. I’m thrilled to think about what it’s going to do for our lives and our world.

    A story from the life of Joshua serves as our template for audacious faith.

    The Israelites unleash a surprise attack on the Amorites, and right from the beginning the battle goes well. But as the sun sinks toward the horizon, General Joshua faces a decision. The victory isn’t complete, and once it gets dark, the rest of the Amorites will slip away. Joshua sizes up the situation and delivers one of the most gloriously unorthodox prayers in the Bible. He has the audacity to ask God to make the sun stop in the sky. To freeze time on behalf of His people.

    And God gives Joshua exactly what he asked for.

    With everything in me, I believe God still desires to make the sun stand still over the life of every believer. Obviously, not in the unique way He did for Joshua, but in ways that are equally spectacular (although not always quite as dramatic), God is perfectly willing to perform the impossible in our everyday lives. If we have the audacity to ask.

    RT God is ready to act if we will be bold enough to ask, not just for a good day or a better life, but for the impossible.
    #sunstandstill

    I tried this one time.

    My wife and I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, with seven other families. We set a goal of reaching over one thousand people in our first year of ministry. Since the average church size in America is fewer than ninety, I guess we were overshooting a bit. But we wanted to see God accomplish something so exponentially amazing that it would leave no doubt who deserved the credit.

    So we shamelessly asked God to exceed our wildest dreams. The story of our church is still being written. But here’s what I can tell you now. After seven years of ministry, our church has grown to more than twelve thousand people in regular attendance. Since our opening day, thousands of people have publicly professed faith in Christ.

    Sometimes when we consider the rate at which God has multiplied this ministry, we feel like we’re living in a warp-speed dream world. But the story is real. We are living in the middle of a move of God.

    Is there something that is seemingly impossible that you’d like to see God do through you? Maybe God has already been working in your spirit, planting a desire, sparking ideas about the much bigger things He wants to accomplish.

    There’s nothing our world needs more desperately today—in individuals, families, businesses, churches, and communities—than God’s saving, supernatural acts. And God is ready to act if we will be bold enough to ask, not just for a good day or a better life, but for the impossible and then will step forward to act in audacious faith.

    Prayer Focus: Over the next forty days, pray for God to build audacious faith within you and to show you where He wants you to apply it.


    Excerpted from Sun Stand Still Devotional by Steven Furtick Copyright © 2013 by Steven Furtick. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Joshua, Steven Furtick

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