Steve Macchia Blog

Unattended Heartache

On Friday, November 11, 2011, LTi is hosting an event at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary entitled “Re-Ignited: Kindling Your Inner Fire for God” with special guest speaker Chris Webb (and yours truly). In anticipation of that event I am focusing my weekly blogs on the topic, “What are the winds that blow toward your soul and seek to extinguish your inner flame for God?”

Part Six: Our unattended heartache. In this overly zealous life of seeking continually to be in control of the people and circumstances of our lives, we think we know what’s best for ourselves and others. As a result, we presume upon the Master and numbly bury or ignore much of what’s been given for us to steward: the good, the bad, and particularly the ugly. All of life is to be handled in ways that honor the purposes and priorities of the Master, even if it’s the painful raw material of our lives. In the parable of the Talents (Matt. 25), those who multiplied their life allotment of treasure were greeted with “well done” and the one who presumed he knew better than the Master, was “thrown out to where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.” How harsh of Jesus, you might be thinking. But, his justice and judgment is firm and secure.

He wants us to receive ALL that is delivered to us in this life, even if it taxes our sensibilities and/or challenges our faith. But, what if you are entrusted with a disability you never chose to be born with or raised in a dysfunctional family system you didn’t create? What if cancer is added to the radar screen of your life? What if you find yourself succumbing to temptation and you’ve just made the worst judgment call of your life? What if someone steals a prized possession, or hurls insults or injury your way undeserved?

Jesus as our Redeemer promises us that no matter what we carry, create, dismay or regret, his delight is to convert and transform it all for the Father’s glory. To handle our disappointments on our own is sure to extinguish the flame of the soul.

Jesus healed the paralytic, even when it was impossible to get to him on his own and his friends went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the room (Luke 5). When the invalid of 38 years met Jesus lying by the pool at the Sheep Gate, Jesus told him to “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (John5) and at once he was cured. When the sinful woman enters the home of Simon the Pharisee and sits on her mat of confession at the feet of Jesus (Luke 7) she pours out her heart in the form of an alabaster jar of expensive perfume and tears of love streaming straight from the heart.

When hymn writer Fanny Crosby looked back on her life, she was thankful for the doctor who inadvertently created her blindness…”although it may have been a blunder on the physician’s part, it was no mistake of God’s. I could not have written thousands of hymns if I had been hindered by the distractions of seeing…”

Instead of burying, ignoring or refusing to receive the painful part(s) of your life, why not prayerfully invite the Savior to flip your heartache upside down and redeem it once and for all – in his time and way, all for the sake of His Name, no matter the outcome or our perceived understanding of what we think is best. Our pain can indeed become his gain…our heartache fully redeemed for the glory of Christ Jesus our Lord.



Abundant Accessibility

On Friday, November 11, 2011, LTi is hosting an event at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary entitled “Re-Ignited: Kindling Your Inner Fire for God” with special guest speaker Chris Webb (and yours truly). In anticipation of that event I am focusing my weekly blogs on the topic, “What are the winds that blow toward your soul and seek to extinguish your inner flame for God?”

Part five: technology – abundantly accessible today. The plethora of technological distractions available to 21st Century Christ followers is a far cry from the simple rebuke that Jesus once gave to Martha for being distracted by a handful of household chores, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things” (Luke 10:41).

What Jesus was concerned about with Martha was in sharp contrast to the one thing that mattered most to her sister Mary…to sit at the feet of Jesus and pursue a richer intimacy with the Savior, “listening carefully to what he said” (Luke 10:39).  Technology is by far one of the greatest hindrances to that “one thing” today.

Does technology have a grip on your soul? In an average day, how much do you depend on your iPhone or Blackberry, iPad or Tablet (and their respective apps), laptop, video games, cell phone, gps, texting, tweeting, Facebook (just to name a few)?  If you were to add up the numbers of hours you are spending in front of a screen or monitor, in what ways is that negatively impacting the quality time you are spending with God, loved ones, and those with whom you serve?

For all the good that technology offers (and there are plenty of positive impacts), we need to be cautious of the potential for excess. Monitoring and minimizing our use of technology, maintaining healthy moderation, is a discipline worth pursuing. It’s not that we must eliminate it completely, but instead insure that it’s not becoming an idol of our heart. Those who struggle with technology addictions of many kinds (i.e. excessive connections to Facebook,  unhealthy attachment to pornography, or continually feeding habitual workaholism) are often in bondage and earnestly desirous of being set free.  This is not an easy habit to break, to say the least.

Kindling your inner fire for God on a daily basis will include taking regular Sabbath rests from the constant stimulation offered by technology. Just because it’s easily accessible to you doesn’t mean you need to say yes every time. Choose instead the abundant life of Christ and the ‘one thing’ that matters most: listening carefully to the loving whispers of heaven into the deepest recesses of your soul.



Busyness

On Friday, November 11, 2011, LTi is hosting an event at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary entitled “Re-Ignited: Kindling Your Inner Fire for God” with special guest speaker Chris Webb (and yours truly). In anticipation of that event I am focusing my weekly blogs on the topic, “What are the winds that blow toward your soul and seek to extinguish your inner flame for God?”

Part four: busyness. Who among us can’t relate? To those entrapped and distracted by the things of this world, the Lord whispers gently to the ones he loves, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed…” (Luke 10: 38-42).

What is the status of your daily busyness? Are you consumed by the wanting, having, and doing of this world? Are you so entangled by the need to be active, productive, and effective that you’ve lost your zeal for the quieter more spacious place of listening prayer and living more attentively in partnership with God?

Unfortunately, most of us today are choosing the life of a “human doing” rather than a “human being” and we’ve been sold out to the look and feel of a materialistic society that keeps prodding us toward the muchness and manyness of this world. We’re driven almost to distraction by our constant flow of activity, noise, and chaotic confusion. From the time we awaken in the morning until the moment we lay our head on the pillow at night we are compulsively busy. We simply don’t know any other way, and we keep running on the treadmill of constant movement as long as we can sustain it.

Until we hit our wall of exhaustion and cry out “enough!” from the core of our innermost being. Eventually you (and I) will hit that wall; it’s inevitable, like a freight train moving ever so steadily downhill in exponentially frenetic speed. The sudden crash may be tragic for our soul, with the swift breeze extinguishing our inner passion for the Lord. Is it time to acknowledge your perpetual motion, drop to your knees, and cry out for God’s mercy? Is this the day you choose to follow the example of Martha’s sister Mary who “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” (Luke 10: 39)?

When we lack a quiet center, without any ability or opportunity to listen for the still, small, beautiful, and inviting voice of God, we are living life consumed by the cares and concerns of this world. “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? Or, What shall we wear?” (Matthew 6: 31). To such anxiety, Jesus is very clear, “The pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6: 32,33).

Today, say no to unending busyness and yes to the true kingdom business of an abundant life in Christ: righteousness, joy, simplicity, and peace.



On Retreat

I find myself frequently and joyfully “on retreat” these days…facilitating them for leaders and teams, guiding them for our own ministry teams, planning them for others on Sabbatical, and engaging in them for myself. No matter what the context or the group, the purpose of a soul care retreat is pretty straight forward: deepening intimacy with Christ.

On retreat we intentionally leave behind the needs and concerns of our relationships and responsibilities, recognizing that the only place where it’s ok to be selfish is in the care of our soul (where we learn how to self-lessly serve others). On retreat we quiet our heart, mind, and body in order for God to enter our soul – the place where he alone is to reside. On retreat we release the false self (and all the idiosyncratic tendencies thereof) and embrace the true self (the me I long to be). On retreat we get reacquainted with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit through his Word, prayer, and in reflection on our life in Christ. On retreat we slow down our pace of life (literally and figuratively) in order to attend to the voice of the Master. On retreat we learn how to exegete the verb “to be” in lieu of our daily “to do” list. On retreat we’re forgiven, redeemed, sustained, and renewed for the path of life ahead of us.

On retreat we are reminded what matters most: our walk with God. On retreat we need to leave as much clutter behind so that the focus of our heart and mind remains intentionally devoted toward God. When we lean fully in his direction, we can with confidence believe that he indeed will whisper words of loving affirmation into the receptive ears of our heart. When we are still we can know God.

On retreat we are children of the Most High God. We are treasured in his sight. We are beloved.

When ever you are invited to go “on retreat” be sure to say an enthusiastic yes—and then watch how your soul comes alive once more. As an avid fan of retreats, if led properly, I believe they will undoubtedly lead you into the transformational longings of your soul. Trust the Lord and he’ll bless you mightily on retreat.

Join the Conversation

How would you finish the sentence that begins, “On retreat, I…”?

When was the last time you were invited to go on retreat?

This entry also appears in Conversations Journal Blog.



Idols of the Heart

On Friday, November 11, 2011, LTi is hosting an event at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary entitled “Re-Ignited: Kindling Your Inner Fire for God” with special guest speaker Chris Webb (and yours truly). In anticipation of that event I am focusing my weekly blogs on the topic, “What are the winds that blow toward your soul and seek to extinguish your inner flame for God?”

Part three: the idols of our heart. Not just our “American Idols” (as in the hit television show), but anything we cling to more intimately than God. To those people, places, experiences, ideas, and things that captivate the love (and lust) of our hearts (anything you believe you “must” have), God states clearly in his first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”(Exodus 20: 3-6)
Idols, or attachments, are those attitudes, possessions, people, and/or activities that we cling to and find more pleasurable than the worship, generosity, relationships, and service that God calls us to embrace. Our idols are manifested in our disoriented hearts that long more for created things than for the Creator. We crave money, sex, and power, being right, in control of outcomes, living securely, and comfortably entertained. We want to have all that this world affords, often for the cheapest and quickest cost. Our drivenness is often skewed toward personal strength (i.e. obsessing over body image via compulsive exercise or grooming, or becoming overly greedy for material gain) and rarely toward humble weakness and sacrificial service to others (as expressed in devotion to God’s Word, prayer, worship, righteous living, and sacrificial generosity).
When we pursue daily longings that lead us away from God we are feeding our propensity to idolatry. As a result, the idols and attachments of our lives need to be open-handedly surrendered to God. We need to genuinely confess that we indeed have idols that need to be relinquished – identifying them one by one. We need to seek the forgiveness of Christ, release the grip of our attachments, and find freedom in submission to the work of God’s Spirit deep within us.
Is it time to address your idols by name, purge yourself of all unwholesome attachments, purify your heart and return prayerfully to the Lord in worship once more? The love and joy that awaits you is worth every ounce of sweet release.