Greetings blog followers and friends. I am happy to share a GUEST POST and a GIVEAWAY today from an Author, Pastor friend of mine Scott Savage. Enjoy!!
Have you ever used this phrase?
We often use the phrase “it’s complicated” to describe a relationship which is somewhere between friendship and romance. We use these words to explain our anxiety regarding an upcoming family reunion. And we fall back on them when we are looking to excuse indecision when facing a difficult choice.
“It’s complicated” is also great description of my relationship with Proverbs 4:23.
In the NIV, this verse reads, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
I first heard this verse in a youth group lesson on dating. The teacher was encouraging us to not “give too much of ourselves away” when romantic feelings emerged for someone of the opposite sex. While good-intentioned, the rest of the lesson and the discussion it created didn’t help me understand this passage in the slightest!
I’ve since filed that teaching away with other lessons from those days. Like “Make sure you balance out the number of Christian and non-Christian friends you have, so you minimize the world’s influence on you.” Or “Don’t ever go too far with someone you’re not married to. You’ll give away a part of yourself you cannot ever get back. You are like this rose for instance. If you keep giving petals away to people you date, what will be left for the person you marry?”
As you might understand, it took me years to revisit this passage and learn its true meaning. The writer of this proverb articulates a Hebrew understanding of the heart’s primary role in our identity and essence. In describing this view, Dr. Charles Ryrie defined the heart as “the very core of life.” What’s going on in our hearts is a pretty big deal.
The writer of this proverb notes that from our heart flows all we do. Our actions are a reflection of our identity. What we do flows out of who we are. We also see this principle played out in the format of many of the Apostle Paul’s letters. He starts with the Gospel (who we are in our sin and who we are in Christ) and then moves to the implications for our actions (morality and ethics).
If only I had known this verse’s true meaning, it might have saved me from a lot of (pardon the pun) heartache.
I graduated from college and began working for a large church. I had been volunteering at this church throughout college but had been mostly insulated from the internal politics. Coming on staff, I encountered a passive-aggressive leadership culture, regular toxic exchanges between the membership and staff, and an over twenty-year attendance decline.
My idealism about my faith and church leadership quickly devolved into a sense of cynicism. I’ve been on a journey to reclaiming a hopeful perspective ever since. I’ve made a ton of progress, but you might say I’m a voice of hope and a recovering cynic.
During that journey, one of the most important shifts for me has been identifying the actions and habits which reframe my perspective and renew my hope.
We all have habits which reframe and renew.
-a daily phone call with a friend
-a weekly coffee chat with a mentor
-a daily gratitude practice
-a consistent time of prayer
-an in-depth Bible Study
-a time of silence and meditation each morning
-a run, hike or ride on our bike
-listening to podcasts
-a weekly Sabbath
-a yearly pilgrimage to the beach or the mountains
When we engage in these habits, they move us through difficult seasons without being overwhelmed.
These actions become the conduit for God to deliver us hope on a regular basis. We’ve all had moments where we were almost overwhelmed and ready to throw in the towel. And right on time, God delivered a dose of hope ,which kept us moving forward as He was working in ways we couldn’t understand or see just yet.
I started turning the corner in my journey from cynicism to hope when two things happened.
First, I realized the influence my cynicism and fear had on others. As a pastor and writer, I discovered the way these elements were seeping into what I wrote, said, and did. And I didn’t want others to end up where I was.
Second, I went back and rediscovered a few habits and practices which refreshed and renewed me. They had the power to reset my perspective, yet I had abandoned them. As I renewed those habits, I moved from being defeated to surviving and even thriving in a difficult season.
Samuel Johnson once wrote, “People need to reminded more than they need to be instructed.” I think he was right. We often know what to do, but we’ve just stopped doing those things.
“People need to reminded more than they need to be instructed.”
What habits and practices have you gotten away from which help guard your heart? What can you do to ensure that the very core of who you are, from which flows everything you do, is flourishing?
In Hebrews 3:13, the writer tells his readers, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” I encourage you to carve aside some time today and for the rest of this week, in order to renew a habit or practice which God can use to give you a dose of hope.
I’d like to help one of you with some resources to this end.
I’ve launched The #HopeDose Giveaway to give one lucky person a collection of tools which help me reset my perspective and renew my hope.
This giveaway includes a Baron Fig Notebook, a John Maxwell Leadership Study Bible, a Starbucks gift card, and Jeff Goins’ new book Real Artists Don’t Starve (one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in 2017).
The seven items in the giveaway total $140 in retail value. You can enter the giveaway at scottsavagelive.com/giveaway and multiple entries are accepted. Entries must be received by 3 AM EDT on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.
May we all get back to once we once did, so that we can get back what we once had.
Scott Savage is a writer and a pastor. He lives near Prescott, Arizona with his wife and three “little savages.” You can read more of his writing at scottsavagelive.com or follow him on social media (@scottsavagelive on most platforms).