Steve Macchia Blog

The Loving Heart

To speak of God, His Word, and the life He invites us to fulfill would be incomplete without the shear mention of the word love. Love is the heart of the gospel, and a loving heart is what the Lord wants of us more than anything else. His love toward us is almost indescribable and yet the Scriptures remind us that it’s unfailing, unconditional, and everlasting. It’s wrapped up in the personhood of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And, His love is made manifest in His creation, among His people, and through His life-changing transformation from darkness into light.

The most declarative statement of God’s desire for us to have a loving heart is found in the Great Commandments…to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Deut. 6; Matt. 22).  Upon these two commandments hang all other imperatives to love and serve in Jesus’ name. To miss this focus is to miss the very heart of God. And, to ignore this directive is to walk in disobedience. “Listen!” says the Lord…to the Beloved Son, Jesus, recalled both at His baptism and at the transfiguration (Matt. 3 and 17). The message of Jesus is summarized in one word: love. That’s the message we are to receive in our hearts and offer generously to others in Jesus’ name.

On the Mount of Beatitudes, we listen in on one of the most loving sermons to come from the voice of Jesus. It’s here where Jesus outlines the ways in which He longs for His disciples to live a life of love and to express a heart of love.  In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus gives a picture of the heart of the true people of God, those who are a part of His Kingdom and have the full blessings of the Kingdom.  A heart full of love embodies these attributes:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5: 3-12).

Elsewhere Jesus invites His followers to remain in His love and fulfill the mandate: “Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15: 9-13).  Jesus demonstrated this kind of love first and foremost to his closest disciples, but also to those who daily crossed His path. The Apostle Paul reiterates these truths by stating with clarity what a loving heart looks like: it is patient, kind, rejoices with the truth, always trusts, hopes and perseveres. It’s not envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking, easily angered, nor does it delight in evil (1 Cor. 13: 5-8).

None of these passages require much commentary. All are very self-explanatory.  Meditate on these few passages and a heart full of love will be revealed and offered to you today. One either has a heart of love based upon and motivated by the love of God, or one has a heart that’s directed selfishly toward interests contrary to God. What is your choice today? Will you receive the love of God into your heart and invite His Spirit to create within you a loving heart toward others? May it be so!

The Fearful Heart

As a child I was fearful of the dark. Leaving a light on in the hallway and bathroom helped me feel safe. As an adolescent I developed a fear of fire. This most likely came from two house fires, which were devastating for families we loved. Living with fears can be debilitating, and people with fears and/or phobias are not to be ignored or ridiculed. No matter how fearful a heart can become, God understands and stands ready to heal. He’s done so in many hearts and lives throughout the generations.

Having a fear-filled heart is different from the “fear of the Lord” that the Scriptures encourage. Developing a healthy fear of the Lord means that the believer is in worshipful awe at the magnificence and majesty of God, trusting wholeheartedly in the promises, protection, and peace of God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” we read in the Psalms (Psalm 111) and Proverbs (Prov. 9:10).  To fear God in this regard is good for the soul. A healthy, reverential fear of God leads one to a deeper trust in and a greater conviction about the Lord…it’s where wisdom begins.

Fears that aren’t led toward awe and reverence are those that hinder a vital relationship with God. When we hold onto our fears, either willfully or inadvertently, the fear itself can become at minimum a distraction, and can possibly become an idol in our soul (growing larger and more all consuming than God). The fear can cripple us from moving forward. It can damage relationships and diminish one’s effectiveness.

Fears come in multiple shapes and sizes. The list of phobias from A to Z numbers 100 or more. Some of the fears include the fears of flying, of crowds, of being touched, of thunder and lightening, of failure, of being alone, of clowns, of speaking in public, of needles/injections, and of strangers, just to name a few.  To grip onto our fears and not let them go is to allow them to reign captive in our hearts. Hope is the antidote to fear, and hope is what needs to be proclaimed to those captivated by their fears.  Disclosing one’s phobia to trusted family and friends is the beginning of the healing process. God uses His people as His hands and voice of hope of renewal.

For the less than incapacitating fears (those that don’t require psychological treatment or therapeutic attention), there is certainly hope for those who struggle with a fearful heart. To begin with, God isn’t the source of our fearful heart. Instead, He longs to give every believer a spirit of power and love and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7).  God’s great gift to all members of His family is love, and since God is love, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4: 18).  This is followed by one of the most significant truths of all…”We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). It’s because of God’s first love that our fears can be driven out of our hearts and replaced with loving and gentle peace.

Is there a fear in your heart that you’d like to have removed by God and replaced with His love…love that is filled with confidence and contentment? Invite those you trust into the story of your fearfulness.  Ask them to give you the courage to pursue grace and healing. Embrace the freedom to confess your fear and entrust it into the gentle hands of God to redeem and transform for His greater glory…first in your own heart and then in your daily witness to all who cross your path.  May your fearful heart be radically transformed into a trusting heart today.

The Trusting Heart

A trusting heart begins with saying yes to the invitation from the Lord to trust Him with all your heart…”and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.  Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Proverbs 3: 5-12). These proverbs are packed with wisdom, for trusting God allows us the joy of putting our life in His faithful hands so that we enjoy health and vitality in all aspects of our life, including our livelihood, avocations, and relationships.

Out of that relationship of trust in God, we become a trustworthy person.  Jesus makes it clear that it’s important to be known by others as reliable, dependable, and true to our word.  “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” (Luke 16: 10-12). Living a life of integrity and trustworthiness is by far one of the best legacies any one could leave behind for future generations. May it be so for you and me as Christ followers today.

Those who trust in the Lord and have grown as a trustworthy friend, also take the risk in trusting others. When we know that all healthy relationships are based on the foundation of trust, we incline our hearts toward others hoping for trusting responses. “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Cor. 13: 6,7). If trust is the bedrock of our relationship with God and others, then love is what holds us all together. Let love be your guide in reaching out to another and inviting them into your life. Listen intently to others, encourage one another, pursue health among others, and learn the secret of contentment in all of your earthly relationships.  It’s worth the risk!

Eventually, since we don’t live in a bubble, trust between others will be breached. Our expectations may be shattered by a disappointment that ensues between spouses, friends, colleagues, and/or associates. A trusting heart desires more than anything to restore a broken trust. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Col. 3: 12-14). Reaching out with an earnest desire to restore a broken relationship is the evidence of a trusting heart. It takes concerted effort and prayer to bring about restitution, but it’s worth the time it takes to do so.

However, there are times in life when it seems impossible to reconcile, and even for a time it might be best to release those you simply cannot trust.  The Apostle Paul wrestled with that as he sought to reconcile who would be most responsive to the gospel. Would it be the Jew or the Gentile, the slave or the freeman? Would all come to a living faith in Jesus, or would there be rejection of the truth even among people of faith? “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame” (Romans 9:33). In real life today, it may not simply be those who reject the gospel, but within the faith community those who reject one another. This happens all too often, so we need to learn how to hold all relationships with open-handed trust and not force the necessary change(s) that lead to full reconciliation.

No matter what may come of our relationships with others, we can indeed depend fully on God and put our trust in the Lord. He cares deeply about all of the circumstances and relationships of our lives. He is there and He concerns himself with all the details of our complex lives.  Jesus reminds His followers, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).  So may we take seriously our trust in the Lord all the days of our lives…in the good times, hard times, and everything in between. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Will you continue to develop a trusting heart, no matter what may come your way today?

The Bitter Heart

Broken. Hurt. Angry. Bitter. An emotional regression and a downward spiral toward division…all too often evidenced in the wider world, even in the church, and sadly in the home. Bitterness is poison to the heart and the fruit of bitterness is destructive to all who lie in her pathway.  Many who are bitter direct their rage toward God, blaming and casting responsibility purposefully or inadvertently in God’s direction. Some blame others, deflecting their bitterness toward those who supposedly created the bitterness in their heart.  No matter the source, the fruits growing out from the root of bitterness  are many. One pastor describes them as “defilement, division, deadness, deception, depression, delirium, damage, and distraction.” Not the kind of fruit any person of faith would want attached to their life!

And, as long as Satan can convince, confuse, and condemn you to believe your bitterness is justified, you will be enticed to remain in the prison of your bitter heart. Yes, the bitter heart is in jail, locked behind the bars of disillusionment and destruction. Job, who has many reasons to remain in such a locked up state of heart and mind, speaks openly of his bitterness:  “I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul (Job 7:11); “My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint on myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul” (Job 10:1). But in the end, even Job is delivered from such emotional prison and “the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before; the Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first,” Job 42: 10, 12.

Choosing to stay in a state of bitterness is foolishness. For in a state of bitterness one is kept away from the landscape of joy. A bitter heart is thorny, prickly, and likened to a porcupine, keeping every living object at a distance or harshly struck by the piercing arrows of bitter hatred. To know one with a bitter heart is to see a life wither away into a sorely troubled, emaciated life without much beyond the skeleton of basic existence. Like seeing a starving child or sickly adult, the bitter hearted one is left to struggle simply to breathe and exist. Alone, desperate, troubled, and defiled…the bitter heart is headed to self destruction and spiritual death.

“Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy,” Proverbs 14: 10. Bitterness is what one keeps in one’s heart, no matter if it’s ever shared by the company of others. I know too many bitter people who refuse to admit their brokenness, inner turmoil, emotional abuse, neglect, and collusion. Instead of seeking reconciliation and forgiveness, they hold fast to their angry deception and they are dying a slow, painful relational death…as are those who surround them.  The Apostle Paul speaks directly to such bitter hearts, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,” Ephesians 4: 31,32.

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many,” Hebrews 12: 15.  For, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness,” 1 John 2:9.  “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth…for where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice…but the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere,” James 3: 14, 16, 17. These biblical truths speak directly to the one who harbors bitterness in the heart. One does not have to live in such a prison; the love of Jesus can indeed set one free to live a life of grace, mercy, peace, and joy.

Are you harboring bitterness in your heart today? To whom or what do you attribute your bitterness? Is it time to be set free from the bondage of your bitter heart? If so, then say yes to the invitation to freedom, grace, and joy in the Lord. Confess your bitterness. Own your brokenness and the hurt you’ve caused and received from another. Release your anger and don’t let it keep a hold on your heart any longer. Pray that God’s Spirit will cast away the enemy’s desire for self and relational destruction. Choose to walk in a renewed and transformed way of being. Don’t turn back; let go and let God heal, strengthen, and restore. Instead of a bitter heart, trust God for a better heart. Allow the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to reign supreme in your heart…with God fully resident in your heart, there will no longer be room for bitterness.