Steve Macchia Blog

The Stubborn Heart

When the preacher on Sunday morning mentioned the sinfulness of stubbornness, my conscience was pricked and my attentiveness was raised. Where is there a latent or obvious form of stubbornness within my heart? What about for you; is there stubbornness within you that keeps you from living the abundant Christian life?

Stubbornness is a nasty attribute. Some variant of the word stubborn appears 28 times in the Bible, and it’s also referred an additional 19 times as “stiff-necked.” Regardless of the exact term, God is deeply distressed by stubborn hearts. He delights when we let go of our stubbornness and return to Him.

When God’s people follow “the stubbornness of their evil hearts” (Jeremiah 11:8), they show forth how “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9) without the Lord. When we follow the “stubborn inclinations of our evil hearts” it only leads us “backward and not forward” (Jeremiah 7:24). Left to our own self-absorbed choices, God at times gives us “over to our stubborn hearts to follow our own desires” (Psalm 81: 11,12).

Returning in submission to the Lord is the only antidote to stubbornness. Returning to God and choosing to obey Him is the only way to reverse a stubborn heart. Because of God’s gracious and merciful love for His children, He stands on the porch of heaven waiting for us to come to our senses and turn our hearts toward home. When we do so, His loving embrace leads us back into a life of strength that grows out of a renewed longing for sweet surrender.

What about our stubbornness toward one another? Those who have an overpowering need to be right all the time leave no room for another opinion and no room for joy. It’s hard to work with a stubborn person. It’s difficult to be married to a stubborn person. Stubborn people always have to get their way, often at the expense of their relationships. They have no clue about the values of flexibility, listening, and a teachable spirit.

Is it time to end your dogged determination of hanging on obstinately to a dead end proposition, attitude, right, or opinion? Instead, humble yourself and pray that God in his infinite love and mercy will lead you to a heart that’s renewed from the inside out. Then, seek out those you may have hurt by your stubborn heart and be reconciled. There’s freedom on the opposite side of stubbornness. What’s your choice today?



The Gentle Heart

This past weekend I had the unique opportunity to meet one of my living heroes for the very first time. His name is Rueben Job, an 84 year old retired Methodist Bishop. He’s the author and compiler of several books that have dramatically impacted my personal spiritual life, especially his Guide to Prayer series published by Upper Room. We use his materials extensively at Leadership Transformations, on our retreats, among our board/team/donor family, and with seminary students at Gordon-Conwell. I was deeply touched by this encounter with a man after God’s heart, who embodies one word: gentleness.

Having never met my colleague, Rick Anderson, or myself, Rueben and his wife Beverly welcomed us with open arms into their home in a lovely retirement community just outside Nashville, Tennessee. Rueben has been following with interest the development of LTi since our inception in July 2003, has offered words of encouragement to our ministry family, and recently wrote an endorsement for Crafting A Rule of Life (www.RuleOfLife.com/endorsements/) He sat with us in his living room, shared openly about his life story and his love for God’s Word, the Church, and his family. He opened several windows into his own soul, and paid close attention to the state of our souls as well. It was an encounter drenched with the sweet, gentle aroma of Christ.

Rueben reminded me of my own grandfather, another gentle man of God. These men remind me that the word gentleness is very close to the word gentleman…who do you know who truly embodies that word? Jesus was gentle and humble of heart (Matt. 11:29) and he encouraged gentleness among his disciples and followers. The Apostle Paul spoke often of gentleness too: be completely humble and gentle (Eph. 4:2); let your gentleness be evident to all (Phil. 4:5); clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col. 3:12); and includes gentleness as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23).

As I reflect on meeting Rueben Job, consider prayerfully the biblical definition of gentleness, and then turn on the television to listen to political pundits and candidates, I’m startled by which kind of life and message is most endearing. A gentle heart expresses gentle words, thoughts, attitudes, and actions. A gentle heart is what most comforts the downtrodden and heals brokenness. A gentle heart is sensitive to God and the needs of others. A gentle heart is not puffed up with pride, instead considers others more important than self. A gentle heart evokes a similar response.

In what ways are you most drawn to gentleness? In what ways might God be calling you to abide in a spirit of gentleness toward all who cross your path today, even toward those who are the most difficult for you to love? Pursue faith, love, endurance and gentleness, and then invite God to blossom from within you a gentle heart.



The Adulterous Heart

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to the crowds, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5: 27, 28) Here Jesus is quoting from Exodus 20: 14, the 7th of The 10 Commandments, with an emphasis on looking lustfully with the eyes as he defines the essence of an adulterous heart.

Then, Jesus continues with the harsh analogy of gouging out your right eye if it causes you to sin, for it would be better to lose one part of the body than to have your whole person thrown into hell. In other words, He challenges His hearers to consider the ramifications of one bad choice (looking lustfully) which can lead to much larger consequences (an adulterous heart).

Today the heart is greatly tempted by viewing pornography, the place where lust is most dramatically exploited, encouraged, and embodied for this generation. The pornography industry in America today is estimated to exceed $10 Billion/year, and is larger than the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball combined. With an estimated 420 million pages of pornography available online, 13,000 new porn videos released annually, and 900 million videos available for sale or rent, one can’t help but be concerned about how this is shaping our gender and sexual identities, as well as our relationships.

Amazingly, the pornography industry is legal and oft-promoted as socially acceptable, as it has become a part of today’s cultural and economic mainstream. But, it is destroying hearts, homes, and relationships 24/7 all around the globe. Now considered one of the fastest growing addictions among young, impressionable adolescent males, as well as a large percentage of men (especially those under the age of 30 who grew up with ease of accessibility to the internet), looking lustfully has become a way of life. Jesus’ words ring true today, and it should break our hearts and realign our prayers for all who struggle with and ultimately succumb to this temptation.

But, the lustful look and the adulterous heart isn’t simply a man’s issue. Women also struggle with their own lustful temptations (and many accompany their male counterparts in the world of pornography). Adultery has no distinct gender or age boundaries, or other lines of demarcation. The need for purity of heart exists for all. So, how will you pray for those who wrestle with sexual temptation? How will you come alongside them with compassionate empathy and support? And, most importantly, how will you maintain your own purity of heart?

Previous to His statements about the adulterous heart, Jesus also said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5: 8). May the eyes of our hearts search earnestly for God and focus our attention on all that honors and pleases Him.



The Undivided Heart

The psalmist David writes such magnificent prayers! In Psalm 86, notice how the heart of David cries out for more of the Lord…

“Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy…Guard my life, for I am devoted to you…Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul…You are kind and forgiving, abounding in love to all who call to you…You are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (Psalm 86: 1-6; 10,11)

David acknowledges that the Lord is great in love, the one who delivered his soul, he’s compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. In return, the psalmist longs for a heart that’s undivided. An undivided heart is so filled up with God that there’s no room for any evil intent, arrogance, malice, vice or pride. An undivided heart instead seeks purity of thought, intimacy of fellowship, loving worship, and unity of life purpose with God.

When the Lord gave the land back to the Israelites, as he had promised, the prophet Ezekiel records for us that the Lord “Will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 11: 18-21). From a heart like impenetrable stone to one likened to malleable flesh – what a gift of transforming mercy and grace.

The competition for the heart of a believer is likened to warfare. An undivided heart knows how real the battle is within, as the enemy prowls around the heart seeking full control. The enemy tempts us with alluring pleasures, earthly pursuits, and worldly possessions. An undivided heart leans fully on the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to confront the enemy’s schemes.  That which divides the heart today keeps one from experiencing the fulness of the God-abundant life of Christlikeness.  We cannot serve two masters.

So, what is it that’s dividing your heart today and pulling you away from living fully for the Lord? Acknowledge the reality of your heart today and put your hope, confidence, and trust in God’s lovingly faithful and forgiving hands.