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  • Enemies of the Heart from 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?


    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.

  • God Wants to Set You Free


    "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

  • Organized Service Project


    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

  • Crash the Chatterbox from Steven Furtick



    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.

  • The Sun Stand Still Devotional from 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.

  • God Alone Get's the Glory - New Album from Kutless

    Kutless kicks off 2014 with Glory, featuring the single "You Alone." Continuing their transformation from "new band" to established act that began with 2012's Believer, the album showcases the band's massive range, featuring a more mature tone and stunning performances.

    Kutless will kick off 2014 with their brand new album Glory on February 11, 2014. The album will feature “You Alone,” which is currently charting at AC Indicator and Hot AC/CHR.

    With over 1.7 million units in career sales, a RIAA Gold Certified album (Strong Tower), and a RIAA Gold Certified Longform Video (Live From Portland), Kutless continues their streak in making big impacts in the last several years. Their 2009 album It Is Well reached the top of the charts for weeks on end with their hit song “What Faith Can Do.” “What Faith Can Do” topped the 2010 MediaBase Christian AC Song of the Year and was the No. 2 Billboard Hot Christian Song of the Year. Kutless was also named the No. 7 Billboard Christian Artist of the Year, and It Is Well was the No. 10 Billboard Christian album of the Year. 2012’s Believer continued the success Kutless found with It Is Well; Believer saw the release of hit singles “Carry Me To The Cross,” “Even If,” and “Need.” The album has scanned over 100k units since its release.

    Here is their latest single, In the City.

    What do you think of the video and song?

    BONUS - lyric video for Rest.

  • What if the Trouble Is in Me?


    "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33b (NIV)

    When Barry and I were first married I came up with a nickname for him: "Velcro-Boy."

    He earned that title because every time I turned around, there he was. In the beginning, I thought I might suffocate from lack of oxygen!

    If I went out for an hour to buy groceries he would call me: "Hey honey, where are you?"

    "I'm at the grocery store ... remember, I told you right before I left."

    I might on a good day make it to the cereal aisle before the phone rang again: "I'm missing you. Are you almost done?"

    I'm sure some of you are thinking what a blessed woman I am. But while it's lovely to have someone enjoy your company, I subscribe to the old adage that, "absence makes the heart grow fonder." My heart was never going to have that opportunity!

    What I've learned over the years is Barry is an extrovert and I am an introvert. Being with people energizes him, but I need alone time to process life.

    We can joke about it now, but back then there was more to my need for personal space than I wanted to admit. God was at work in my life, and marriage was the perfect forum for the trouble brewing in my heart to surface.

    During the last significant conversation Christ had with His closest friends He spoke these words about trouble: "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33b NIV).

    While some might find this verse comforting, it echoed differently inside of me the first time I heard it. The question stuck in my head: What if the trouble is inside of me?

    Have you ever felt that way? Do you believe that if others knew the whole truth about you they would, at best, be disappointed?

    Here's the tricky thing though. I wouldn't have been able to answer if you had asked me, "So, what's the big secret you're hiding from everyone, Sheila?"

    Something was wrong back in those early days of marriage, but I couldn't identify it. That's the sneaky thing about shame. Guilt says you've done something wrong, but shame says you are something wrong. Shame was like a squatter in my heart that refused to leave.

    So how does this unwelcome guest gain access to our souls? It often starts with some kind of abuse that changes how we see ourselves. To others, it may look as if everything is as still and peaceful as the surface of a lake. Only you know the storm raging inside, pounding your heart and soul onto the rocks of who you believe you are.

    Does the promise Christ made to his friends during the most brutal 24 hours of his life speak to us? Yes! Yes, a million times over!

    Christ, the innocent Lamb of God became shame so that we who are weighed down by it could have a place to take it. And that place is not our marriage relationships.

    In the early years of my marriage, I allowed that shame to intrude in my marriage, and it created a chasm between Barry and me. I pulled away and he wondered what he had done. Truth was, he'd done nothing. I was listening to the old siren song of shame.

    Shame tells us to hide but Christ calls us to walk in the light with each other. In his first letter, John wrote, "But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness" (1 John 1:7-9, NLT).

    So is shame sin? No, but refusing to acknowledge its presence and allowing it to damage my marriage is.

    When shame raises its ugly voice, let's bring it into the light of Christ. Let's write down every shameful feeling and condemning word that echoes inside our hearts and hear Christ say to us, "I overcame that!"

    Father God, You sent Your beloved Son to take my shame away. Today I choose to receive the love and freedom You offer and lay down the chaos of who I have seen myself to be. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Which of your relationship issues might be caused by shame?

    Put on paper every shameful feeling and condemning word that echoes inside your heart. Imagine Jesus saying specifically to you, "I overcame that!"

    Power Verse: 2 Thessalonians 3:16, "Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Sheila Walsh. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Thomas Nelson Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • Mocked and Ridiculed


    They mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?” I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding. Nehemiah 2:19-20

    Sometimes servants of God are mocked and ridiculed for their sincere service. Jealous are those who feel like they may lose control and their influence ignored. The cynic does not sit still when their assumptions are challenged. They attack people’s motives and attempt to label their enemies as rebels. Hate demonizes good people and tries to discredit anyone who disagrees with them. Mockers rage when the righteous work without listening to their critic’s complaints.

    How should we handle intimidation from jealous schoolmates, co-workers or neighbors? One approach is to see critics as heavenly sandpaper meant to refine our intent into integrity. Like a master wood craftsman meticulously smooths away any rough edges with their tool of the trade, so God’s Spirit uses coarse words to purify our motives. If only 1% of a skeptic’s scorn is accurate, it can scrub our soul, so it shines for our Savior Jesus. Ridicule is proof God’s work is at hand.

    Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse. Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you.  Proverbs 9:7-8

    It is futile to attempt to reason with a mocker. Their mind is made up, unable to change unless Christ does a mental miracle. Their view of the world is set, so we waste the Lord’s precious time if we try to change their mind. We just invite additional abuse and insults if we argue with our agitators. The harsh reality is some human beings are beyond being convinced for now. Pray for them and avoid harboring anger against them. Forgive and stay focused on Christ’s calling.

    Furthermore, remain faithful where the Lord has you. Persevere in prayer at your work. Rebuild, by loving unconditionally, a relationship that once was robust with joy. Rebuild your reputation, by doing what you say. Start over in faith your business or ministry that was ravished by an economic storm. Rebuild where God is working. He will bring you success. Ignore the noise of loud mockers and persuasive ridiculers.Listen only to the Lord’s quiet voice and obey by faith.

    If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer. Proverbs 9:12

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me courage to ignore those who mean harm and the discernment to listen to those whose intentions are honorable.

    Related Readings: Proverbs 1:20-33, 10:23, 13:20; Psalm 123:4; Isaiah 30:15; Luke 23:11

    Post/Tweet today: See critics as heavenly sandpaper meant to refine your intent into integrity. #critics

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • Desiring God from John Piper


    Foundation for Christian Hedonism The ultimate ground of Christian Hedonism is the fact that God is uppermost in His own affections:

    The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever.

    The reason this may sound strange is that we are more accustomed to think about our duty than God’s design. And when we do ask about God’s design, we are too prone to describe it with ourselves at the center of God’s affections. We may say, for example, that His design is to redeem the world. Or to save sinners. Or to restore creation. Or the like.

    But God’s saving designs are penultimate, not ultimate. Redemption, salvation, and restoration are not God’s ultimate goal. These He performs for the sake of something greater: namely, the enjoyment He has in glorifying Himself. The bedrock foundation of Christian Hedonism is not God’s allegiance to us, but to Himself.

    If God were not infinitely devoted to the preservation, display, and enjoyment of His own glory, we could have no hope of finding happiness in Him. But if He does in fact employ all His sovereign power and infinite wisdom to maximize the enjoyment of His own glory, then we have a foundation on which to stand and rejoice. I know this is perplexing at first glance. So I will try to take it apart a piece at a time, and then put it back together at the end of the chapter.

    God's Sovereignty: The Foundations of His Happiness and Ours

    “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). The implication of this text is that God has the right and power to do whatever makes Him happy. That is what it means to say that God is sovereign. Think about it for a moment: If God is sovereign and can do anything He pleases, then none of His purposes can be frustrated.

    The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. (Psalm 33:10–11)

    And if none of His purposes can be frustrated, then He must be the happiest of all beings. This infinite, divine happiness is the fountain from which the Christian Hedonist drinks and longs to drink more deeply.

    Can you imagine what it would be like if the God who ruled the world were not happy? What if God were given to grumbling and pouting and depression, like some Jack-and-the-beanstalk giant in the sky? What if God were frustrated and despondent and gloomy and dismal and discontented and dejected? Could we join David and say, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1)?

    I don’t think so. We would all relate to God like little children who have a frustrated, gloomy, dismal, discontented father. They can’t enjoy him. They can only try not to bother him, or maybe try to work for him to earn some little favor.

    Therefore if God is not a happy God, Christian Hedonism has no foundation. For the aim of the Christian Hedonist is to be happy in God, to delight in God, to cherish and enjoy His fellowship and favor. But children cannot enjoy the fellowship of their Father if He is unhappy. Therefore the foundation of Christian Hedonism is the happiness of God.

    But the foundation of the happiness of God is the sovereignty of God: “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). If God were not sovereign, if the world He made were out of control, frustrating His design again and again, God would not be happy.

    Just as our joy is based on the promise that God is strong enough and wise enough to make all things work together for our good, so God’s joy is based on that same sovereign control: He makes all things work together for His glory. If so much hangs on God’s sovereignty, we should make sure the biblical basis for it is secure.

    The Biblical Basis for God's Sovereign Happiness

    The sheer fact that God is God implies that His purposes cannot be thwarted—so says the prophet Isaiah:

    “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Isaiah 46:9–10)

    The purposes of God cannot be frustrated; there is none like God. If a purpose of God came to naught, it would imply that there is a power greater than God’s. It would imply that someone could stay His hand when He designs to do a thing. But “none can stay his hand,” as the newly awakened Nebuchadnezzar says:

    His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34–35)

    His Sovereignty Covers Calamities This was also Job’s final confession after God had spoken to him out of the whirlwind: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

    This raises the question whether the evil and calamitous events in the world are also part of God’s sovereign design. Jeremiah looks over the carnage of Jerusalem after its destruction and cries:

    My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out to the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because infants and babies faint in the streets of the city. (Lamentations 2:11)

    But when he looked to God, he could not deny the truth:

    Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? (3:37–38)

    “Shall We Receive Good from God and Not Evil?”

    If God reigns as sovereign over the world, then the evil of the world is not outside His design: “Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6).

    This was the reverent saying of God’s servant Job when he was afflicted with boils: “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). He said this even though the text says plainly that “Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores” (Job 2:7). Was Job wrong to attribute to God what came from Satan? No, because the inspired writer tells us immediately after Job’s words: “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10).

    The evil Satan causes is only by the permission of God. Therefore, Job is not wrong to see it as ultimately from the hand of God. It would be unbiblical and irreverent to attribute to Satan (or to sinful man) the power to frustrate the designs of God.

    Who Planned the Murder of Christ?

    The clearest example that even moral evil fits into the designs of God is the crucifixion of Christ. Who would deny that the betrayal of Jesus by Judas was a morally evil act?

    Yet in Acts 2:23, Peter says, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” The betrayal was sin, but it was part of God’s ordained plan. Sin did not thwart His plan or stay His hand.

    Or who would say that Herod’s contempt (Luke 23:11) or Pilate’s spineless expediency (Luke 23:24) or the Jews’ “Crucify, crucify him!” (Luke 23:21) or the Gentile soldiers’ mockery (Luke 23:36)—who would say that these were not sin? Yet Luke, in Acts 4:27–28, records the prayer of the saints:

    Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

    People lift their hand to rebel against the Most High only to find that their rebellion is unwitting service in the wonderful designs of God. Even sin cannot frustrate the purposes of the Almighty. He Himself does not commit sin, but He has decreed that there be acts that are sin, for the acts of Pilate and Herod were predestined by God’s plan.

    Excerpted from Desiring God, 25th Anniversary Reference Edition by John Piper Copyright © 2011 by John Piper. 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.

  • New Releases for January 28

    Ahhh, the doldrums of mid-winter are over. At least that's what it seems like in our stores today. There are a slew of new releases available. Many people of all ages have been waiting for these. From Casting Crowns to Kirk Cameron. From a modern day parable of the story of Joseph to a Bible that points to Jesus throughout the whole book.

    Here are the new releases for today, January 28, 2014.

    Casting Crowns - Thrive

    So many of us today are simply surviving. But we were not made to survive, we were made to Thrive! We should be digging into God's word to know Him and know who He has made us to be. We should be reaching out to the world and showing others who He is through our lives and our stories - knowing Him and making Him known.

    Thrive, the seventh studio album from Casting Crowns, is packed with the band’s signature style of songs about real life that redefine our identity in Christ, pointing us to our purpose from Him so that we may carry it out through Him. Featuring 12 brand new songs, including the lead single "All You've Ever wanted," the album centers on the themes of "Reaching Out" and "Digging Deep."

    Jamie Grace - Ready to Fly

    In 2012, Jamie Grace received her first GMA Dove Award - for New Artist of the Year - and now she returns with her second album, Ready to Fly. The record's first single, "Beautiful Day," continues her message of staying strong and experiencing life to the fullest. Ready to Fly is about waiting, yet while you’re waiting being ready to move - ready to fly - when the timing is right.

    The Jesus Bible

    Jesus isn’t just found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. His presence can be felt throughout the whole Bible, even in Genesis. The Jesus Bible contains the complete New International Version (NIV) with daily study helps that point to Jesus and show how he fulfilled the prophecies for the Messiah found in the Old Testament.

    Kirk Cameron - Unstoppable

    Kirk Cameron presents the follow-up to his bestselling film, Monumental. In Unstoppable, Kirk takes you on a personal and inspiring journey to better understand the biggest doubt-raiser in faith: Why? He goes back to the beginning - literally - as he investigates the origins of good and evil and how they impact our lives and our eternities.

    Reminding us that there is great hope, Unstoppable creatively asks and answers the age-old question: Where is God in the midst of tragedy and suffering?

    Seasons of Gray - A Modern Day Joseph Story

    Seasons of Gray is a modern day retelling of the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. This uplifting feature film is quality family entertainment with strong morals and an enduring message of hope.

    What man intends for evil, God intends for good . This simple, yet powerful, message is all Brady Gray has left. His brothers, driven by jealousy, cast away their own flesh and blood in the same way that Joseph was sold into slavery by his siblings. Heartbroken and separated from his family, Brady holds tightly to his faith and begins to build a new life for himself - but there are more challenges in store for this servant of God.

    False accusations land Brady in prison, where his God-given gift of interpreting dreams helps him forge friendships that will play an important role in his ultimate salvation. Upon his miraculous release from prison, Brady discovers, as his dreams predicted, that his brothers direly need his help. Despite the pain and suffering caused by his betrayal, Brady must find the strength to embrace one of the Bible’s most important messages: We forgive because we are forgiven.

    Girls of Grace - Live. Love. Lead.

    Girls of Grace: Live Love Lead is an in-depth look at God’s grace and how it marks our daily lives. Simply put, a Girl of Grace is a girl who lives freely, loves fiercely and leads fearlessly. To live freely means to live in the light of the Gospel of Grace; to love fiercely is to actively demonstrate Christ’s love to the world around us; and to lead fearlessly is a charge to be brave and to take a stand.

    A soundtrack to the "Girls of Grace" conferences held nationwide, Girls of Grace: Live Love Lead is full of chart-topping hits that will inspire and encourage teenage girls everywhere. With popular songs from top Christian artists, this compilation is the perfect soundtrack for her life as she finds her way in the world through faith.

    Besides the new releases, there are plenty of prebuy opportunities as well. New CD from Francesca Battistelli. New DVD from VeggieTales and a new movie from Kirk Cameron. Click here to see them all.

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