The Discerning Heart

I’m composing this entry in the midst of helping our daughter Rebekah move to Denver, Colorado. She’s been in a process of transition for the past ten months, beginning with a desire to join her best friend who’s here as a seminary student studying spiritual formation and soul care. The final decision to move came several months ago, and included lots of thoughtful discussions, personal deliberations, and financial considerations. Now her dream has become a reality and we’re delighted with the prayerful discernment process she has undertaken in the context of her community of family and friends.

Discernment is a matter of the heart. It begins and ends with a sense of God’s Spirit moving in, through, and among those engaged in the process. Discernment involves an awareness of God’s presence and power, and often includes decision-making both great and small. Some have the gift of discernment (a subject for another time), but all Christ followers are invited to engage in discernment throughout their faith journey.

One of the clearest biblical stories of discernment is found in Luke 24, and the scene is the Road to Emmaus (verses 13-35). During this encounter with the risen Christ, two of his disciples were forlorn and confused about the death of their beloved Jesus. When Jesus shows up and walks along with them, he answers their questions and speaks into their experience. The whole encounter is drenched with Scriptural wisdom, compassionate insight and empathetic love. “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him…they asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?'”

Discernment occurs along the journey of life when our hearts are burning within us, due to the empowering awareness of the Spirit. Sometimes God’s presence and power is obvious to His disciples and movement toward Jesus and His will is smooth and seamless. At other times there seems to be no sense of His guiding hand and we need to simply pray and wait for direction. Still other decisions require a process that leads toward clarity and consolation prior to moving forward. All of these incidences are faith producing and guide us into a deeper more intimate walk with the Savior.

Where in your faith walk is God inviting you into a time of prayerful discernment? Check out and see how others are leaning into this experience with joyful anticipation. I echo with gladness for you the prayer of the Apostle Paul for his friends in Philippi, “That your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1: 9-11).


Can't find what you're looking for?

Steve Macchia

Founder & President

The Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Macchia is founder and president of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (LTI), a ministry serving the spiritual formation, discernment, and renewal of leaders and learners since 2003. For more than 20 years he has been the Director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Doctor of Ministry Program. From 1989-2003 he was the president of Vision New England, the largest regional church renewal association in the country. Earlier in his ministry life, Steve was a member of the pastoral staff of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts for 11 years. He is the author or co-author of 17 books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective), and Crafting a Rule of Life, Becoming A Healthy Church (LTI), and Broken and Whole (IVP).  He and his wife Ruth live in the Boston (MA) area and are the proud parents of two married children and grandparents to three adorable grandchildren. Steve’s personal website is

My soul comes alive singing the great hymns of the church and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. I’m in awe of God for fulfilling the dream for LTI that he birthed in my heart, for the team he has assembled, and the transformational impact experienced in the leaders and teams we serve.

Detailed Biography
Articles by Stephen Macchia
Author Website
Schedule a one-on-one with Steve

Fill out my online form.

Mitzi Mak

Selah-West Faculty

Mitzi started her professional life as a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband Jerry then served cross-culturally for ten+ years, living abroad first in India and then Kurdistan, N. Iraq. In addition to being a Spiritual Director, she now serves as a Formation and Care pastor in her local church in Houston, TX. She has graduated from LTI’s Selah Spiritual Direction training as well as LTI’s Emmaus Formational Leadership Program.

Mitzi enjoys engaging conversation, reading fiction, doing jigsaw/crossword puzzles, ocean gazing and exploring the world with Jerry through food and travel.

God has two main callings in Mitzi’s life: to care for those who care for others and to be a guide in helping others have a healthy relationship with the Trinity – recognizing God’s loving presence and activity in their lives and how to faithfully respond.

Selah was a transformative experience for me – allowing the contemplative within to emerge and to beautifully co-exist with my extraverted personality.