Outstretched Arms of Love: Day Nineteen, Wednesday

In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.

Read Matthew 7: 24-29

This parable comes after Jesus has so eloquently delivered the magnificent Sermon on the Mount, which included the Beatitudes, and teachings on subjects such as being salt and light, fulfilling the law by practicing the commandments against murder, adultery, divorce, as well as reminders about how to love our enemies, give to the needy, fasting, praying, and not storing up treasures, worrying, or judging others.  The parable of the house on the rock is the PS provided by Jesus, which wraps up his prior teachings with an admonition to remain firmly planted on the solid ground of faithfulness.

It’s a very straight forward parable: everyone who has heard Jesus’ teaching and puts these into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock solid foundation. When the inevitable rain comes down and the streams of water rise and the winds blow and beat mercilessly against the sides of the house, it withstands the bad weather without a problem. However, for those who have heard Jesus’ teaching and choose not to put them into practice, are like a foolish person, who builds his house on a flimsy, sandy foundation. When the rains come, streams rise, winds blow and beat against the house, the house falls with a great crash.  This story and all previous and subsequent teachings of Jesus amazed the crowds.

Did their amazement at the profundity of Jesus’ teaching lead them toward a faithful response? The crowds were drop-jawed with awe in his presence, especially the beauty of the Mount of Beatitudes, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. However, their mountain top experience would be short lived, even though many would subsequently be healed of their diseases and released of their captivities. They would follow him for many more miles, as Jesus continually opened his outstretched arms of love toward them. But, we also know the “rest of the story” – they would ultimately abandon to a tortuous death the very Teacher who introduced to them the abundance of life with God.

Wisdom or foolishness, that is their clear choice. Wisdom is the ability to judge a situation correctly by gathering information and understanding, and then to follow through with appropriate action. It’s more than simply following the rules; it’s instead the creation of a pathway that leads to the fullness of life. The way of wisdom directs one toward the teachings and corresponding lifestyle choices that honor and please God. For Jesus, he was able to summarize so much of God’s teachings in this powerful Sermon on the Mount.  This sermon was delivered with outstretched arms of love.

What is your response to the invitation of Jesus to walk the pathway of wisdom, as opposed to making foolish decisions that lead you off course? You may wish to ponder anew the Sermon on the Mount. Behold Jesus the Teacher; believe the Truth he wisely presents; belong to those who are amazed at his wisdom; and become wise in your Jesus foundation and in the pathway you are following him today.

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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 www.SteveMacchia.com.

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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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.