Steve Macchia Blog

Lenten Choices: Despair or Hope?

One of the greatest gifts we can offer one another is hope. Hope is the seed planted in the heart that springs forth from the soul and blossoms into radiant beauty in the voice, attitude, and lifestyle of the believer. Hope springs eternal when it comes from the depth of our being in Christ.

Hope is often linked to joy and strength, as well as a future which includes eternity. Faith, hope and love are the triangle of the heart, with hope intertwined and integral to the whole experience for the believer. Having our hope in God, rooted in Christ, is anticipatory of the eternal life we are offered to share in forever. Yes, hope is central to the Christian message and is what emanates from the character and more specifically the heart of the Christian.

When the world around us despairs, we are to offer hope. Despair is discouraging and disheartening. Despair is a dead end street, the tip of a cul-de-sac without an address. Despair resides in a troubled, anxious, frustrated heart. When despair hits, it’s accompanied by despondency and ultimately death. However, despair is to be afforded no real estate in the heart of the believer.

When we put our hope in God’s unfailing love, we rejoice and give thanks for the unspeakable riches of the Christian life. As Peter so aptly put it, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for us.” Hope is for the here and now, but it’s more fully experienced in the life everlasting.

Lent is to be a season filled with hope. As we go through the gospels and experience with Jesus the possibility of despair in his pending arrest, crucifixion and death, we know that’s not the end of the story. We know that what follows is the miraculous rolling away of the stone from in front of his grave, and with the empty tomb comes the risen Christ. His resurrection from the despair of death leads to hope for all eternity.

What will be your attitude this Lenten season? Will you join the world in despairing about your lot in life, or will you stand apart from the world and rejoice in the hope that resides deep within your soul? May you and I be known more for how we press hope and joy into life situations rather than participating in the downcast doom and gloom despair of a world without hope.

Put your hope in God. Be filled to overflowing with hope for today and for eternity. For now, believe with hope in the God who knows your need before you ask, is ahead of you on the trail of life, and is willing to stretch out his hand to offer you a heart attitude of hope no matter what may come your way.

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).

Lenten Choices: Trust or Mistrust?

At a recent meeting with one of my spiritual mentors, he off-handedly said, “All of life is about trust.” I have been captivated by this statement and have prayed and written extensively in my journal about it. There is so much truth about these six golden words…all of life is about trust.

Consider it for yourself. Trust is adjacent to and expressive of love. We love God because he first loved us. We live for God in an attitude and posture of trust, because he first loved us. To trust God means to surrender our will into his loving hands. To speak of God’s love, we can’t help but to entrust our lives into his love and lordship. No matter what. To pray to the God of love, we listen attentively to his whispers of love, and we respond to those initiatives with a longing and desire to trust him with all matters great and small. Yes, trust is an essential element of our faith in the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

To trust another person is an outcome of love. As we grow in affection for others, we learn to trust them over time. And, in order for us to be loved and trusted, we too need to show by word, heart, and example that we are trustworthy. But, as we all can attest, at some point in our lives we experience a breach of trust in relationships. So, to dig our way out of such conflicts, we rebuild trust and we lean on love as guideposts along the redemptive journey. Love and trust go hand in glove for human relationships as well as in our faith in God.

To trust one’s self is another facet of love. In our walk of faith, we are connecting with the true God and we are called to embrace our true self as a gift from God. He invites us to receive our identity from our beloved status as a child of God, which comes mercifully from Christ, the One who himself knew true love sent from heaven when at his baptismal, the words from the Father in heaven were very simply, “This is my son, who I love, in whom I am well pleased.” Those same words belong to us as well, for you and I are God’s beloved children, in whom God delights. Recalling that true identity is what keeps us from receiving all the wrong messages of shame and guilt that our world seeks to enhance.

So, during this Lenten season, will you choose to build up trust, first with God, then within yourself, and also with others? Without love there is no trust. Would it also be true that without trust there is no love? If all of life is about trust, then what better time to focus on trust than in the season of Lent? In what ways have you been about the purpose of building up trust and in what ways have you been a part of hurting trust or mistrusting God, others or yourself? Repent of whatever sin you have committed that is marring trust, and renew your heart of trusting love for the days ahead.

Into your hands, O Lord, we place our whole selves, trusting that your vision for our lives and the life of the world is far richer than we could ever ask or imagine. Renew in us daily the choice to love and serve you without reservation. Amen. (From Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk with God, p. 124).

Lenten Choices: Culture or Counter-Culture?

“In a culture of self-realization, the Christian’s call is to renounce self; in the face of noise, silence is the preference; in a world of competition, the Christian’s declaration is that the winners will be the losers and the losers winners; in a culture whose economy is intent on consumption, the Christian insists on simplicity; in a culture structured by possessions, the insistence is upon detachment; in a culture intent on a high standard of living, the Christian insists upon a high standard of life; and at every point, the Christian exposes the emptiness of fullness for the sake of the gospel’s fullness of emptiness.” (From W. Paul Jones, The Art of Spiritual Direction, quoted in A Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk with God, p. 127).

What’s your choice this Lenten season:
Self-realization or self-renouncing humility?
Noise or silence?
Competition or cooperation?
Consumption or simplicity?
Possessions or detachment?
High standard of living or of life?
Emptiness of fullness or fullness of emptiness?

Lent is a great time for deep self-reflection. Be vulnerable before God and those who know you best and love you most. Come to grips with your sinfulness and cry out for God’s gift of forgiveness, mercy and grace. The truth will set you free. Freedom will allow you to worship, pray and serve with gladness and singleness of heart. May it be so.

New Social Mores – Part Three

As I conclude this mini-series on the new social mores of our age, I continue to have growing concern about how we’re communicating with one another. I’m additionally and profoundly challenged by the ways we are handling relationships through our use of social media.

Regarding Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…just to name a few…are you asking yourself the question “Why?” about each of these before creating your next post? Do you log every minute, every ounce of minutia, every moment of the day? If so, for what purpose? Unless you are a professional blogger, I see little reason for such incessant activity. As I peruse FB and even contribute to it regularly, I get a check in my spirit when I’m bordering on or entering into the realm of self-promotion, show-boating, and the all-about-me mentality. I recognize the value of keeping appropriate people in life informed about our whereabouts, happenings, updates, etc. but have we subtly crossed the line into creating a culture of narcissism that has no apparent limits? Do all of our “friends” need to be informed or would a piece of the story be better preserved if kept a bit more personal, truly private, and shared with fewer people?

And, what about the bullying going on via emails, texts, tweets, and Facebook? Has kindness simply been thrown out the window and instead we can now relate without any restraint? Or, when there’s “nothing new under the sun,” why are we seeing so many TM (trademarks) next to our “friends” use of the English language in particular ways to market their own products, programs, or promotional campaigns? Is the fundamental value of trust being lost? These are just a few questions to ask about social media…with a strong suggestion to ask “Why?” about your involvements in the various social media settings where you reside. This might simply be the best place to begin.

A few reflection questions to prayerfully consider:
How much are you involved in social media? Are you maintaining an appropriate level of engagement and is it manageable and relationally wholesome? Is your engagement in social media edifying to the Lord and offered as a gift to others? This might be a great topic of conversation for you and your closest friends…who knows but you might just lead a revolution from within the system!

May the Lord continue to deepen your love for Him and may your God-honoring affection be what you contagiously share with others within your reach both personally and electronically. May these new social mores create from within us a conviction for social moorings with strong biblical values that can withstand the social morons who are now surrounding us on every side! Being salt and light in our social media world may in fact call us to a distinctly Christlike way of being with one another…you agree? May it be so!