Format: Trade Paperback
Religion - Christian Life
Jeremiah 17:9 asks, "The heart it deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"
Answer: Andy Stanley.
The North Point pastor has produced another useful manuscript and shown that he understands the workings of the human heart as well as he understands the book publishing process. He navigates both with aplomb.
I read his latest work, Enemies of the Heart, the week after I happened to hear him speak at two conferences only days apart. Considering his guest speaking schedule, his Sunday teaching at North Point, his podcast, and his books, he's one of the most prolific evangelical teachers on the market. But quantity doesn't necessarily negate quality. At both of the conferences mentioned above, his was the talk that filled the most pages of my notebook.
I've never found Stanley's content especially moving. His latest book is not beautiful or terribly insightful. But wisdom isn't always flashy. Stanley's teaching on the heart is simple, accessible, memorable and just plain good advice. So though Enemies of the Heart won't make you weep or laugh, it might make you better.
Stanley writes in the style he speaks; you can almost hear his voice coming through the page. Enemies of the Heart is conversational and casual. The book is divided into four parts and 20 chapters. The paperback is 206 pages long and an easy read.
Of the four parts, only the middle two really carry the message of the book. Part One is a 45-page introduction wherein Stanley defines the heart: "that mysterious, wonderful, confusing part of you that enables you to love, laugh, fear, and experience life", and lays out the book's purpose: "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 pinpoint the blockage in our spiritual conditions."
Stanley uses the metaphor of physical hearts throughout the book. He identifies four emotions that create "blockage" in the arteries of our spiritual hearts: guilt, anger, greed and jealousy. He says that these are the most common and most harmful forms of spiritual heart decease because they create a debtor-to-creditor dynamic in our relationships.
Guilt says, "I owe you." Anger says, "You owe me." Greed says, "I owe me." Jealousy says, "God owes me."
Stanley does give consideration to lust as a fifth source of heart disease, but asserts that it doesn't create the same debtor-to-creditor relationship. In every case, though, Stanley says there are only two paths to deal with the debt: either someone has to pay up (which in relational debts such as these is often impossible) or someone has to cancel the debt.
Stanley spends four chapters describing the four types of relational debt. Then he spends two chapters each on how to deal with them. That makes the book drag a bit. Again, he writes the way he speaks and some of the jokes and transitions that are easy to sit through when listening to him, is harder to fight through when they appear as "filler" in a book that could have been 150 pages.
Each of these "heart issues" is an appetite, which Stanley defines as a craving that can never be fully and finally satisfied. But Stanley says that each of these heart conditions can be conquered by cultivating a new habit. "It takes a habit to break a habit," he writes, and identifies the one habit to negate each vice. "It's much easier to behave your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of behaving."
Here's a summary of his best points from each of the four topics.
Stanley includes an appeal to parents to model these four healthy habits for their children.
Enemies of the Heart is a worthwhile read, though not a stirring one. In this book, Andy Stanley shows himself again to be a steady source of wise counsel. He's not a storyteller, but a writer of proverbs; like Solomon, but with more speaking engagements and fewer wives.
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