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).


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Steve Macchia

Founder & President

Steve is a graduate of Northwestern College (IA) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div. and D.Min.). His prior ministry includes serving on the pastoral staff at Grace Chapel (Lexington, MA) and as president of Vision New England. Since July 1, 2003 Steve has served as founder and president of Leadership Transformations, director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building, and adjunct faculty in the Doctor of Ministry department at Gordon-Conwell. He is the author of sixteen books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective),  Baker bestseller Becoming a Healthy Church, and Crafting a Rule of Life (IVP). He lives in the Boston area with his wife Ruth and is the proud father of two grown children, Rebekah and Nathan, daughter in-love Ashley, and papa to his beloved granddaughter, Brenna Lynn and twin grandsons, Aiden Joseph and Carson Stephen. “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.

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