Steve Macchia Blog

First Place!

On the heels of Reign of Christ Sunday, the crossroad and in many ways the apex of the Church year, we are reminded of the eternal leadership of Jesus Christ as we are about to turn the page into the season of Advent.

We join our hearts in praise to God as we sing hymns such as “Crown Him With Many Crowns” and “Lord, Enthroned In Heavenly Splendor” and “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” We turn our attention to the rule and reign of Christ in our hearts and lives, breaking forth and coming to fruition due to his sacrificial work in our behalf on the cross. This is a unique time in the Christian year to prayerfully consider the love and lordship of Jesus, in stark contrast to the ways we’ve allowed the kingdom of this world to be prioritized over the Kingdom of heaven.

From A Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk With God, “We end the church year with our focus on Christ as the Sovereign Servant, who rules like no other…the rulers of this world often seek to govern through fear and intimidation. The Sovereign Servant governs with love, trust, and example. The rulers of this world seek to intimidate, dominate, and control. The Sovereign Servant seeks to encourage, inspire, strengthen, and set free.”

In Colossians 1, the apostle Paul reminds the Church then and now how central the reign of Christ is to be in our souls. We’ve been rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought instead into the Kingdom of the Son he loves. The Lord Jesus is the image of the Invisible God, firstborn over all creation, for by him all else is created. Because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we are reconciled to himself as the head of the Body, the Church.

His supremacy over all creation, even over our lives as his disciples, is what we receive when we acknowledge his position of first place in our world and in our hearts. But, when the kingdom of this world occupies more of our attention than the kingdom of lights, we find ourselves in the territory of foreign gods who lure us in their direction. Instead of Jesus in first place, our idols of money, sex, and power topple over the reign of Christ.

The week before Advent is a perfect time to audit your heart and amend your ways, especially as we also celebrate Thanksgiving. To what or whom do you need to be rescued from in this dominion of darkness, in order to live abundantly and redemptively in the Kingdom of the light of Christ? Prepare for Advent and Christmas by thanking God for rescuing you from this-world-priorities through Jesus, and let him reign supremely in your soul as heavenly-minded disciples today. May it be so!



Celebration!

This past weekend we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Leadership Transformations. It was a grand time for all…beginning with our team and extending outward to our inner circle and constituency. The celebrations included a brunch for our board and ministry team, a worship service of consecration and thanksgiving, and a banquet for 350 friends of our ministry. After the big party was over, our ministry team went on a two day retreat to deepen our affection for Christ and one another. All in all, it was a fabulous time of joy!

Celebrations are important for families, friends, and ministry colleagues. It’s important to punctuate accomplishment and relationship with celebrations, commemorations, and consecrations. Especially in our world of fast-paced lifestyles, to press the pause button and remember to give thanks in this way builds unity and provides for a creative way of relishing the myriad gifts of God.

Celebration can come in the form of parties…filled with fun, happy, jovial laughter and delight. They can be times of commemorating important highlights, hallmarks, and significant accomplishment. Or, they can serve as meaningful ways to rededicate oneself and others to the fulfillment of a shared mission. In whatever way you choose, celebration is an important aspect of ministry and life together.

In what ways are you promoting a spirit of celebration among those with whom you live and serve? Are there ways you can add celebration into the mix so as to be refreshed and renewed, rather than always exerting effort and pursuing goals?

Jesus found ways to engage in celebrations. His first miracle was at a wedding feast (John 2). He even taught in parables using an image of a great wedding feast (Matt. 22). He was accused of partying too much, even called a glutton and drunkard (Matt. 11) because He would associate with sinners and tax collectors. Jesus was found in homes, at meals, with friends, and among sinners and disciples in a myriad of celebratory ways. One of his greatest celebrations actually happened just before his life came to an end…at the Last Supper with his closest disciples (Luke 22), commemorating his very life in their midst by expressing “the fullest extent of his love” for them.

Some of Jesus’ celebrations were party-like, others were prayerfully and intentionally focused on meaning and intentionality. Both were a part of Jesus’ journey here on earth, both held significance for His followers and friends. We look at these texts as disciples today, and we rejoice and give thanks for the many ways Jesus was comfortable celebrating with prayerful serenity and joyful intentionality.

Take time to consider ways you can bring celebration into your relational and ministry contexts. It’s been life-giving and restorative for our team, that’s for sure…and I’m confident it will deepen your faith community as well.



Remember and Give Thanks

The spiritual discipline of reflection includes several alternatives: journaling, meditating, processing with a friend, even via creative alternatives like photography, hand crafts, and strolling outdoors. Depending on one’s personality and preference, reflection can take on various ways of being deeply present with God, others, and even oneself.

Reflection is best done in the context of one’s prayer closet, when time is taken to simply be present to the reality of one’s experiences, thoughts, relationships, responsibilities, and desires with and before God. When combined with the Scriptures and prayer, reflection is the place where ideas germinate, memories are enjoyed, relationships get refocused, and decisions are solidified in the intimacy of fellowship with the Lord.

To live without much room for reflection, one can easily miss the true meaning and significance of so much that life affords. As a Christian, it’s important to reflect…and in so doing, to remember and give thanks to the Lord, the author and giver of life. To remember is to recall the gifts that come generously from the hand of Almighty God. Since all of life is under God’s tutelage, if we ignore that reality we begin to consider much of life as being fulfilled in our own strength, wisdom, and commitment. However, God delights when we acknowledge – with thanksgiving – His presence, power, and guidance at work in, through, and around us moment by moment, day by day.

In the Bible, we see many places where the people of God chose to remember and give thanks. Read 1 Samuel 7:7-13…when God thundered against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that the Israelites were able to conquer them in battle. On the heels of that victory, the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel’s territory. To remember and give thanks for God’s strong hand of protection, Samuel placed a stone between Mizpah and Shen…he called it Ebenezer.

Earlier in the Bible, Genesis 28, we read about how Jacob took the stone he had used to sleep upon and turned it into a “memorial stone” of encouragement. God was encouraging Jacob by reminding him of the promise He Himself had made to Jacob, “I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you!” His dream about a stairway to heaven was God’s way of reminding Jacob of His love and faithfulness…the stone was for Jacob a way to remember and give thanks.

For many years, the Israelites had seen God do some amazing things: delivering them from Egyptian captivity, splitting the Red Sea, providing manna in the desert, and giving them the ten commandments. Now they were finally crossing the Jordan River into the promised land. After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, they were finally arriving in the land of Canaan. God did not want them to forget this moment, so He commanded them to make a “memorial” out of twelve stones taken from the midst of the Jordan River. (Joshua 4:5-7)

These are just a few examples of how God’s people remembered and gave thanks for the ways God’s faithfulness was manifest in their midst. By far the most supreme act of sacrifice in behalf of His people is Jesus’ death for us on the cross. The Lord’s Supper is therefore the premier place where we gather regularly to remember and give thanks, “This do in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22; 1 Cor. 11).

The discipline of reflection continually takes us back to the many places where God’s love and faithfulness is remembered…and held with an open heart of gratitude and praise. Will you reconsider the importance of this practice for yourself?

This coming weekend we celebrate the first decade of ministry for Leadership Transformations. More than 320 friends of LTI will gather to remember and give thanks…for the myriad ways God has blessed the work of our hands and the prayers of our hearts. To God alone belongs all the glory, honor, thanks and praise!



Painting on a Treadmill?

In a recent conversation with a young leader, he was curious about our “rule” at Soul Sabbaths (which are day-long retreats of silence and solitude) when we discourage doing homework, or other reading outside the Bible, while they are alone, quiet and prayerful. His defense was something like this, “I don’t see how reading a Eugene Peterson book would interfere with my day of prayer. Isn’t it better not to dichotomize our life with God and include even a good Christian book into our day set apart for prayer and reflection?”

While I agree to him to a certain extent, and of course I love all of the Eugene Peterson books I’ve ever read, I mentioned to him that each time we read something other than the Bible we begin to attend to that author’s voice…and potentially miss the Real Author’s voice. While reading a Peterson book can indeed be prayerful, as are many other similar books, it shouldn’t become a replacement for attending to God’s voice in prayer. And, although in another setting…like a study day…when it’s our express purpose to read our assigned texts or ones of our choosing, we may indeed have a “strangely warm” experience with God tapping us on our shoulder and inviting us to notice Him in the midst of our reading.

But, when we’re purposing to focus our fullest and most complete attention on the God of the universe, and we have this one day set apart for that intention alone, why potentially clog up the pipeline of communication with something other than the singular and loving voice of God? Why not simply read God’s Word, and enjoy Him in our solitary place of prayer? Do we need Eugene Peterson to open that door for us? Sometimes, yes…but most times not.

I responded to him, “It would be like taking your paint brush, canvas, and small vials of paint into the gym, and while you’re on the treadmill also trying to paint a picture. Although that may be possible, and might actually produce some kind of interesting art, is that the best way to exercise? Or, to paint?” The point I was trying to make is…yes, indeed, painting on a treadmill is possible, but is it best? The “dichotomy” is then the best choice…when I’m in the gym, I’m going to concentrate on my exercises on the treadmill. And, when I’m in the studio or standing outside in creation, I’m going to focus my attention on the canvas, brush, and colors used to create a beautiful picture.

We far too often come up with excuses for not having solitary time with God. This is just one of a thousand others. Aren’t we trying to “paint on a treadmill” in many other ways in our lives too? Texting while driving. Television during family time. Cell phones next to our dinner plates and under our bed pillows. Not focusing on a conversation with a loved one. Believing that we can actually multitask. Saying yes too many times. Not saying no enough. Constant motion, noise, and activity. The result? Never being alone and focused exclusively on God, His Word, His voice, His creation.

At Leadership Transformations we are advocates of painting in a studio, treadmilling in a gym, and praying – yes, primarily praying – in a solitary place. If God has many more important things to say to us than we to Him, shouldn’t we press the pause button on the treadmills of our lives and actually stop the machine long enough to notice, attend and truly listen to God? No more excuses please…just listen. And pray. And notice. Your painting will look awesome!