Steve Macchia Blog

STEVE’S EXTRAS: CHOOSE JOY

 Day 6 Habukkuk, Chose Joy

Joy, it’s often so elusive.

Mostly because we equate it with happiness or we somehow have defined it only as exuberance of heart and voice. We wonder, can we experience joy more mild-manneredly?

For many Christians, we devalue the word happy and elevate the word joy because we somehow believe that we are not supposed to be happy. Joy seems to be more “biblical” or “spiritual” and we therefore assume it’s what we should be experiencing.

And I get it, because being happy is usually combined with circumstances and for so many today, life is hard. So, imagine your life without many happy circumstances. Would you still be able to find and choose joy?

Well, that’s exactly what Habbakuk does in his Old Testament prayer. For this prophet-of-old, his circumstances ain’t too sweet (as noted in the prayer below). And yet he discovers joy. I suspect the joy Habakkuk references in his prayer in Habakkuk 3 is precisely the joy God invites us to hold precious in our souls too. That’s why I so appreciate Habakkuk’s prayer. And, believe it’s a prayer I could use too.

My version of Habakkuk’s prayer would look something like this,

Lord, even though life gets hard at times, my work and relationships can be strenuous, and even though I don’t have the resources I’d prefer or the results I set out to create, I still want to find my joy in you today. I choose to embrace your gift of joy in my heart, regardless of how I’m feeling about my life today. Help me by your grace to experience deep joy, and even happiness, yet today. I trust you for those gifts as I lean on your strength.
In Christ’s joy, amen.

When I pray that way, I find my heart’s true home: in the loving embrace of God.

At Leadership Transformations we are celebrating our 15th year of offering soul hospitality for leaders across the USA and around the world. My prayer is that you too will find joy in the Lord as you celebrate his infinite affection for you, his beloved child. When you pray, you return home. Come home, dear soul.

The Father waits with a loving embrace and a “Welcome home!”

Ahhh…such delightful joy!


DAY 6 – HABUKKUK

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Habakkuk knew the secret of contentment and joy. His role in the community of faithful prayer warriors is one of transparency and trust amidst undeniably difficult circumstances. His prayer today defines the word “joy” better than many other places. Here he freely articulates what’s missing in life – no fig buds, no grapes on the vine, no olives on the trees, no crops in the fields, no sheep in the pen or cattle in the stalls. And yet, he finds room in his heart to rejoice and give thanks – to be glad, content, and full of rejoicing. Habakkuk’s testimony is an inspiration to followers of God in every generation.

So often we look at what’s missing in our lives. We moan about what we lack. We complain about what’s absent from our lives rather than find contentment and peace within the constraints of our lives. We tend to look over the fence and want what belongs to another. We lust for the things of this world more than hunger for the things of God. Our humanity boasts of the material when all the while God is offering us a better way, even if it means suffering, loss, and deprivation of material “blessings” and “things” we have come to believe are formative of our identity.

But in this prayer, we remember with thanksgiving the myriad hidden and intangible gifts all around us, and the abundance offered to us by our generous and loving God. When we can offer our praise to God despite the apparent disheartening situations of our day, God fills our hearts with truly biblical joy.

Today…

Join Habakkuk and pray for God’s joy no matter what comes your way and in spite of what you feel is missing in your life with God (Habakkuk 3: 1-2; 17-19).
Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy…
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

As you reflect on the Word, how is God inviting you to pray?
What biblical words or phrases are you led to use in your own prayer?

Behold the splendor of the Lord – Believe the promises of his love – Belong to those who unreservedly trust him – Become prayerful in all you are and do.



Recent Revelations Lead Us Back to Trusted Pathways

 Recent Revelations Lead Us Back to Trusted Pathways

The recent news from our dear friends at Willow Creek is daunting to say the least. Who’d have thought we’d be dealing with the #MeToo movement in the church, never mind one of the country’s finest? But, we are facing this new reality and it shouldn’t really be too shocking…the church is filled with pastors and leaders who are broken and in need of wholeness. And, although we are discouraged by these recent revelations, there are indeed ancient pathways leaders and teams can follow to ward against a leader’s ethical or moral implosion.

Recently I was interviewed by a leader at ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) about what I would suggest to church leadership teams when it comes to appropriate accountability for pastors. Almost immediately the following suggestions came to mind:

  1. Ensure that the pastor has both a day off and a Sabbath each week. For whatever reason, pastors think they need to be available 24/7, but that leads to burn out. And, without both a day off (to do chores, errands, work around the house, pay bills, exercise, time with spouse and kids, etc.) and a Sabbath, these inevitably get combined…to the detriment of the soul. Sabbath is the “turn key” to the deeper life…without it, one grows stale, dry, and out of touch with the depth and joy of a walk with God. And, without Sabbath one gets lulled into forgetting there is only one God and it’s not them.
  2. Ensure that the pastor is HOME more nights in the week than OUT for church meetings, etc. This “rule of thumb” has been effective over and over again. Marriage and family life is central to the effectiveness of each and every pastor, married or single.
  3. Ensure that the pastor takes his/her full vacation time each year…uninterrupted. Personal time and rest, recreation and renewal are key to the pastor’s health.
  4. Ensure that the pastor has friends…both inside and outside the church…and takes time to cultivate healthy, honest, life-giving friendships.
  5. Ensure that the pastor has daily time in the Word, prayer and reflection…and, ideally, has a spiritual director or coach or mentor to meet with regularly and with whom s/he can entrust the deepest secrets of the soul.
  6. Ensure that the pastor has agreed to best practices for personal accountability (i.e. the Billy Graham rule of not riding in a car or meeting in a closed off room alone with a person of the opposite sex) and lives out appropriate power dynamics and respect for gender equality and mutuality.
  7. Ensure that the pastor takes time for his/her soul on retreat, away from the fray of busyness, and finds spacious, uncluttered, unhindered time to rest in God (ideally in a setting conducive to soul care).
  8. Ensure that the pastor has hobbies and interests outside of the work of the local church. There is “life” to be lived and it’s not all about the “work” of the church.
  9. Ensure that the pastor knows the difference between self-care (hobbies, recreation, etc.) and soul-care (prayer, reflection, etc.) and pursues both without apology and without replacing either with selfish care, which is destructive to the soul and each of their relationships.
  10. Ensure that the pastor has a team that pursues the same priorities so there is mutual accountability among staff and lay leaders.

But, even with such safeguards in place, the bottom line is: ensure that the pastor has freedom to tell the truth, regardless of how hard the truth is to voice. The truth will set us free, even when the truth is difficult to absorb. And then, to provide a safe place for forgiveness and reconciliation to occur…without which a pastor can be made to feel like a discarded member of society (and the church), and leaders can become authoritative and dogmatic to the neglect of wisdom, transparency, clarity, compassion, and hope.

Just because leaders claim the name of Christ and seek to honor and serve the Lord with heart, soul, mind and strength, doesn’t mean there aren’t dark and shadow sides of every leader that need to be attended to in a safe, loving, forgiving and prayerful environment. And, when a pastor is “found out” and a sin pattern emerges, it’s incumbent upon the pastor and the leaders who surround him/her to respond swiftly, appropriately, and in a manner befitting Christ, honoring all involved, and handling matters in accordance with biblical and theological, relational and practical intentionality. Even when discipline is required and hard decisions need to be made.

May God continue to be glorified in His Church, especially during these turbulent times for leaders and teams. The enemy of our souls would like nothing more than to destroy the heart of the Church by having us hide behind our sinfulness, shaming, blaming, and finger pointing others, and living with the resultant division that ultimately will occur.

Lord, have mercy on us all. Amen.