Just don’t understand…

Our girls, Kaytlin and Khloe, love to go to the park and play. The playground is filled with many obstacles — a ladder, stepping blocks, and a slide. They are always wanting to push the limits, they want to try new things, in different ways. For instance, the “stepping blocks” (not sure what else to call them) but they are individual posts that have platforms, requiring one to step from one to the other (each at different heights) to reach the platform so they can go to the slide. They always want to cross them but often are nervous (mostly Kaytlin, Khloe’s an animal) to take the steps required to reach the platform. They are so excited to do it, but when it comes to that first step they often want to give up and ask me to lift them up to the platform. I extend my hand to them and tell them to “trust” me, basically “have faith in me to help you and together we can reach the goal”. This is difficult on their own, but when they take my hand the steps are much easier for them to handle. In doing so, they reach the platform and jump up and down shouting, “We did it Daddy, We did it!”, which in turn immediately brings a smile to my face!

It is a cute story, but lately I have seen that this is an exact example of the “faith” that is required of me to tackle this life with Christ. It is so easy to display this faith in situations/scenarios when things are comfortable (i.e. church, around other Christians). Oh how the tides turn when it comes to the difficult. This is such a timeless truth for mankind. Think back to the Israelites, the only way they were getting into the Promised Land was by crossing the Jordan River. God promised them a miracle (stopping the flow of the river so they could cross on dry ground), but that miracle wouldn’t be displayed until they took the first steps into the water.

This is so tough for me…to take the first step. I tend to want God to just “take care of it”, “fix it”, “show up” instead of putting my own faith into action. My wife pointed this out to me today, I tend to look at the “problems”/”hindrances” versus just having faith and letting God work it out. I thank her for that because she is right. I find myself saying, “God, I can’t do it…you don’t understand ____________…but what about ________________…we only have one vehicle, how could I make it to the interview…” He’s saying the same things to me that I tell my girls, “Michael, don’t you understand? I’m right here, I see the obstacles, now take my hand and together we can do it.”

I no longer want to allow my insecurities and doubts to inhibit the power and provision of Christ from being displayed, but rather to have “faith”, to reach for His hand, and to take the first step…to “Get out of the boat” if you will. I find myself thanking Jesus for His courage, for His “faith”, despite the obstacle(s) that He faced, He was willing to take His Father’s hand, allowing the miracle of salvation to be available to me. Remember nothing is too big, too difficult, too complex for God; “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” but first I have to grab His hand and have a faith that is willing to take the first step. So in the end we can shout, “We did it Daddy, we did it!” and cause God to smile down at us.

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Lately…

Lately, I have been experiencing something that I never really give much thought to and to be honest when I would hear others talk about it, I wouldn’t give it much attention. Spiritual warfare… As I have been seeking God finally for the first time in my life, recently I have been experiencing this more and more. I really, for whatever reason, don’t like to attribute my issues to spiritual warfare. I tend to attribute it to “life”. I think that God has been showing me that, as important as it is for me to be continually reminded that He is alive, so is Satan. There’s a continual battle waging in my life/thoughts/actions that I need to attribute to spiritual warfare.

I am an expert at taking the simple and complicating it. Why? Mainly because I am stubborn and want to do it own my own without asking for help. Most of the time, if I would just give in and ask, it would offset so much frustration. But my wife would be correct when she attributes it to my being stubborn. I have this issue in life a lot, especially spiritually. I want to just figure it out on my own, without seeking/asking for help. This can easily be seen in my prayer life. Mark Batterson said it best in his book The Circle Maker, “When God doesn’t answer our prayer(s) right away, we try to answer it for Him.” I am guilt of this more than I would like to admit. I undermine God’s omniscience and omnipotence by my unfaithfulness. As Batterson goes on to say, “We try to microwave our answers instead of trusting God’s timing.”

This brings me to what God is definitely showing me lately, it’s found in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God…” First of all, I need to be “still”. I need to relax, stop trying to “microwave” answers into my timetable. “Still” defined means – to be calm, to become motionless or silent, quiet, to experience peacefulness. I need to initiate this act of slowing down, relaxing, realizing that God is bigger than my biggest problem. Secondly, I need to “know” that He is God. There’s a saying “God is God, I am not.” “Know” defined means – to be certain of, to grasp, to understand, to not miss. I need to reassure myself that God is God, He knows my needs, He knows me, and he needs me to “know” that He is God. A simple concept that I complicate. When I claim this verse, I believe that 2 Corinthians 3:18 and 12:9 will reign through in my life, 3:18, “…we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of God…”; 12:9, “…My gracious power is ALL you need. My power works best in your weakness…” Oh that I can emulate this simple truth and forever be changed, all the while, KNOWING that He is God and I am NOT! Be blessed.

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Simple truth…

I realize that it has been a little while since my last post. I have taken a bit of a hiatus from the blog world. Here recently it has been amazing the promises and truths that God has shown me through my time spent with Him. It has been incredible to experience the greatness and glory of God, in the midst of hard times and difficult situations. Today I uncovered many truths from Psalm 91, I encourage you to take a few minutes and soak the promises that are found in it.

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Verse 1)

Here I see “live” as meaning, constantly following God’s direction, daily seeking His presence, gripping His hand tighter today than I did yesterday. If I can remain faithful in pursuing this, then I will find “rest” (freedom, life everlasting, security). It goes on in verses 3 and 4 to say that God will be my rescuer, my protection, my shield, and my shelter. There is great relief that I find in this. Verses 5 through 8 are pretty much telling us that no matter what situation(s) in life we find ourselves, no matter what pain or trials we are facing, we need not be afraid, we need not worry.

This is because we have hope in Christ, he is always there for me no matter what comes along, no matter how faithless I am. Then there’s an if, then statement:

“IF you make the Lord your refuge, IF you make the Most High your shelter, [then] no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your dwelling.” Notice that it says “no evil will conquer you”, so hard times and tough situations are going to come but they will not be the victor of Me if I am finding shelter in the “shadow of the Almighty.” In my family’s current situation, there are plenty of “evils” that we face constantly and it is so easy to lean towards doubt. If I put my hope in Christ in the midst of the trials look at verses 11 and 12, “For he orders his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you with their hands to keep you from striking your foot on a stone.” That’s an amazing reassurance that not only is God looking out for us, His legions of angelic hosts are also protecting us.

Finally, it ends with the greatest promise that I am claiming today and will strive to reflect for the remainder of them. The greatest source of hope, the greatest renewal of strength, the promise from God to always have my back…

“The Lord says, I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them. I will satisfy them with a long life and give them my salvation.” May I hold tightly to the promises from my Heavenly Father today, may in the midst of all the problems and insecurities that this life/world brings, may I claim the hope found in Christ, that he WILL RESCUE me, he WILL PROTECT me, he WILL SHIELD me, he WILL SHELTER me, he WILL SATISFY me, and he WILL GIVE me his salvation! There is nothing I cannot face and overcome with Christ holding my hand, leading me through, and shadowing me in his Almighty presence!!

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//Never Forget…

There are countless times that I can reflect on when I would be in a situation or place in my life and I would offer up the quick Hail Mary prayer — At times, these would be answered and when they were I quickly, without thinking or hesitation, attributed it to my own ability. I remember just a short while ago I would find myself praying for God to radically change my current situation and restore my family, not really thinking that it would happen. Well it did, and do I now attribute that to something I did? No, I was totally removed from the situation and God had full control and restored both myself and my family unto Himself. Was that a miracle? Maybe there was a situation in your life or a dark time, like mine, that you went through and your prayed for God’s deliverance and he answered and worked through situation like only He could. Do you consider that a miracle?

When I think “miracle”, I easily attribute it to some visible, outward sign like those seen throughout the Bible. Obvious examples would be — all of the people that were healed of physical ailments by Jesus, the parting of the Red Seas for the Israelites, or when people were raised from the dead. These were awesome displays of God working a miracle to save or help people. It is so easy for me to analyze my previous situation and my current standing with God and agree that it was an answer to my prayer(s) but it seems awkward to say that it was a “miracle”. I’m not sure why that is, because indeed it was a huge miracle, only one that God in His handiwork and majesty could perform. From all of this I learned a very important lesson, it is reaffirmed in Deuteronomy 8 — this is our need to remember those situations/times when God heard our call and answered our prayers.

When I read Deuteronomy 8, it was life changing, have you read it? It’s an amazing passage of Scripture…the constant theme that Moses is trying to ingrain in the Israelites head is their need to remember. He tells them to remember all that God has done for them — leading them out of the hands of the Egyptians, guiding them through the wilderness, feeding them when there was no food to eat, etc. He says that it is important to remember all of God’s provisions when times are rough, so that when everything gets better, we don’t attribute it to our doing. In verse 11 Moses says to them, “But that is the time [when things are good and your prayers are answered] to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God…”

Why would he say this so sternly I asked myself? I found the answer in Psalm 78, here David is referring to the Israelites after they had received countless blessings and miracles from God and their prayers had been answered time after time and they still failed to remember and trust in God and this is the result in verse 21-22, “When the Lord heard them, he was angry. The fire of his wrath burned against Jacob. Yes, his anger rose against Israel, for they did not believe God or trust him to care for them.” For me, if I personalize that, then that means that whenever I fail to remember all that God has done for me and resort back to not trusting in Him, then it makes him furious, angry. I never thought of it that way. The rest of the chapter goes back and forth with their denial and His faithfulness.

The key here is that despite all of the times that I fail to remember all of God’s blessings and miracles in my life, at times causing God to be angry with me, in verse 18, “Yet he [God] was merciful and forgave them their sins and didn’t destroy them all…” Constantly God is merciful and faithful to me, forgiving me when I stray or forget, and never giving me up to the fate that I deserve.

What is God challenging you to remember and not forget? This is just what God has been showing me recently, hopefully it helps you like it has me. Always remember, never forget all the blessings and miracles that God, in His faithfulness and mercy, has done for you and let it reminds us daily that He loves us and provides for us. Just a thought…

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Serve? What? Me?

As I have been spending my time building on my relationship with God, it has really been an amazing journey. However, I feel that lately he has been putting on my heart the desire for me to serve. For the better part of the my life, let’s be honest, all of my life, I have always avoided the whole “serving” thing. I always viewed as others “calling” or “duty” or “responsibility” to serve God. It has been really easy for me to get comfortable in my own little world, and not experience the uncomfortable (serving). Now, when I was younger I did go on the youth missions trips and did other various things, but if I’m honest, it was never about how I would be or could be serving others but more about me (where we would be…the beach, what else we’d be doing). I know this sounds awful but it’s honest. It’s so much easier to be served than to serve. It’s more convenient, takes less effort, and I don’t have to sacrifice anything…nothing is expected of me.

Lately I have had a real passion for the injustice that’s going on in the world of human trafficking and slavery. Like most, I was totally unaware of the tragedy going on and not that I didn’t care (that would be heartless) but it wasn’t affecting me or my family. As God has been laying this on my heart, it is really sickening the things that are happening and being forced upon boys and girls. My immediate, selfish, close-minded response to God concerning this is, “why this God?”, “I’m only one person, what difference can I make, really?”. A lady named Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

You know there are approximately 27 million (just an estimation, the real figure is unknown, most likely is more) that are currently imprisoned by this tragedy. Human trafficking is the second largest global organized crime today, this detestable act generates approximately $31.6 billion per year, with trafficking for sexual exploitation generating $27.8 billion per year; only 1-2% of the victims are rescued; only 1 in 100,000 involved in the trafficking are prosecuted. I could go on, but I won’t…

These statistics are sickening, they’re not just statistics on paper, they are lives…living, breathing people that experience this day in day out. I’m no longer standing on the sidelines, sitting on the couch, letting someone else do the work. I have supported the A21 campaign whose goal is to see this injustice abolished by the 21st century (http://www.thea21campaign.org) and I’m partnering with an organization this weekend that is about fighting the same cause. I say this not to boast my own self or make me look good, but to say that no longer do I have the all-to-often, closed minded mentality that I can’t do anything, I won’t make any difference, someone else can do the work.

My brother-in-law posted about this earlier this week and I had heard it before, but now I finally “get” it. The thought was…What if God’s stewardship (in money, giving of time for me, serving me and my needs) was based or directly reflected my own. Now that hits real close to home, a place that I don’t like to go to, because that makes me feel like I’m not doing my part. Am I?

1 Peter 4:10-11 says, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” For me this says it really clearly, God has given you a gift(s) Michael, USE them well to SERVE OTHERS. Michael, if you do this, then EVERYTHING you do will…not bring glory/praise/recognition to you…but will glorify God! What an amazing thought, why then do we (I) default to nothing. I will no longer have this simple, sinful mentality.

Casting Crowns said it good in their song Courageous,
We were made to be courageous
We were made to lead the way
We could be the generation
That finally breaks the chains

Not everyone is called to be pastors, not everyone is called to be missionaries, but I believe, as followers of Christ, we are all called to serve. Whatever that capacity is for you or wherever that is, be courageous today. Why? “…Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.”

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Missing the Point

How many times have I missed the point?

How many times do I allow my selfish ambition to interfere with what I’m being told?

I ask myself these questions because at times I am told things or shown things and I just don’t get it, many times it becomes a repetitious cycle. My parents probably can attest to this, “How many times are we going to have to tell Michael _____________, before he gets it?” I relate this to my daughter Khloe, for those of you that know her or have spent any amount of time with her, you know that “No” becomes a fluent word in your conversations with her. “No Khloe, we don’t stick our head in the toilet!” “No Khloe, we don’t draw murals on the wall with crayons.” “No Khloe, we don’t jump head first off the ottoman!” How many times am I going to have to tell her before she gets it? I think we’re up to about a million right now and she’s only 2 (maybe a slight exaggeration)!

How many times does God ask himself that question about me? How many times has God shown me things or done things for me, yet I still don’t get it? I normally get defensive when I’m told “No” (this might come as a shock to some of you, others, like my wife, are raising their hands shouting, “Thank you Jesus, he finally gets it!!”). But if I’m honest with myself, how many times to I allow my shallow, selfish thinking interfere with what I’m being shown or told.

This was really shown to me today when I was reading in Mark 8. The disciples of Jesus struggled with this same issue as I do. I tend to think that the disciples and people in the Bible are so much different that I am, and that they had it so much better than I do because they were able to walk with Him and talk to Him face-to-face (this is a common misconception). At this point in the story, Jesus had already healed countless people, He had fed the 5000 and 4000, yet the disciples still had a selfish and shallow train of thought. They didn’t get it, they didn’t see the point, despite all they had been witness to. Jesus said to them, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear? Don’t you remember anything at all?”

Many times I think Jesus is saying the same thing to me. Don’t you know, can’t you see, don’t you remember… For me this comes from the “If, then” mentality. I often say to God, If you only do _____, then God, I will ______. What a selfish and shallow way to live? God has done SO much for me and proven Himself faithful to me in an infinity of ways, yet I still respond selfishly. If fact, what I’m saying to God is, “I really know what’s best.” But He says, “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you…” If I personalize this, man does it hit home. Before I was able to think, talk, see, and walk, God knew all about me and had a plan for me.

My prayer today for my life is that I will remember all that God has done for me, that I will not easily/conveniently forget, in order to justify my current situation. Because, how much have I missed out on, how many blessings or miracles have I missed because I have been acting/responding out of a selfish heart? The Almighty God, formed me and knew me before I took my first breath; the point may be that God be saying is not your will Michael, but Mine. Can’t you see? Can’t you understand?

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//Freedom…

When I think of Freedom, the first thought that comes to mind is the famous Mel Gibson scene in the movie Braveheart. He’s on his horse, riding around, motivating his countrymen to fight for freedom…

“Fight and you may die. Run and you will live at least awhile. And dying in your bed many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our freedom!”

Sends chills down my spine just recounting the moment…Remember?

It leaves me wondering what freedom looks like in life…is it possible?…maybe you think, like I thought, that this is definitely not attainable for me. Websters defines “freedom” as the “state of being free, exemption from the power and control of another.” For me, I would say that I never thought true freedom was something that I could experience, mainly because of the bondage and guilt that I felt for things that I had done. I, maybe like you, have always felt “freedom” when I was doing the things I wanted. These things brought a glimpse of relief, temporarily, but not freedom. What I thought was “freeing” me was really just increasing my guilt.

As I look back over the past few weeks, God has taken me out of that “lie”. He gave me what is now my life verse and I want to share it with you…

“And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.” (2 Cor. 3:18, NLT)

Here, for me, the “veil” is my past. Things that I once held dear. This has been removed…taken away…forgiven, because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. I no longer have to be in bondage to my past, no more guilt, no more regrets. Galatians 5:24, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires [my bondage/guilt] of their sinful nature to HIS cross and crucified them there.” I need to be continually reminded that it’s not about me or anything that I have done or could’ve done to bring this freedom. I have to take those things that hold me back and give them to God. Why?? “…so that we can be mirrors that BRIGHTLY reflect the glory of the Lord…” The Message translation puts it like this, “…our faces shining with the brightness of his face…”

“…Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28) There are two things that we have to do, then there’s a promise. Did you catch it? First, I/We must “Come…” We must accept him. Second, though it’s not directly stated, I/We need to give him our “burdens”, guilt, bondage… Now the promise, “…and I will give you rest.” Aka. Freedom. He will take it all off our back(s) and place it on His, in turn, giving us rest/FREEDOM from it!

What a challenge that is for me in my own life…through the grace, and as David put it all throughout Psalms, the unfailing love of God, the power, the strength that only He gives can I have the slightest ability to emulate the words of Paul. Though I may not know fully what it looks like or the challenges that it will bring, my life’s desire is to now, no longer be held back by my past, in turn limiting God, but to allow Him to work through me so that I can be “…a mirror that brightly reflects the glory of the Lord…”

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//Out of the Box…

As I look back on my life while sitting here in my living room…I’m left wondering WHAT will be the legacy that I leave when I am no longer apart of this world. For the better part of my life (the past 31 years…) I have filled my life with the things that I love most.

I was raised in a Christian, church-going home, from an early age spiritual principles and morals were instilled in me…I was constantly surrounded by them. As I grew older, I chose to put those things in my pocket and experience “life” for myself, while at the same time pulling out those nuggets of my upbringing when convenient. I began living behind a mask that I created (not knowing it). The funny thing is that over time I acquired many different masks that I could put on at any time, depending on the circumstance or situation that I was in at the time.

I acquired friendships over this time. People that saw me for whatever “mask” I was wearing at the time, they began to know me by that and associate me with it accordingly…all-the-while during this time I had God in a box. Sure, I would pull Him out whenever it was convenient or I needed something. Like when I would find myself in a time of emotional pain/physical pain, or when I really wanted “X” (a new car, the latest piece of cool electronics, etc). I limited Him and His involvement in my life, most of the time not even acknowledging him except when I needed something. I used God merely as a source to accomplish MY goal(s) and fulfill MY needs.

This was a long, winding, dark road that I was embarked on. I filled my life with all of MY wants and desires, while thinking, this is the life! All of the choices that I made were selfish and eventually led to pain and times of weakness. Alcohol led me to jump off a balcony (luckily I just broke my foot) — pain, a lifetime of never being able to forget it (b/c it still gives me trouble). Drugs caused me to ruin some really dear friendships/relationships. I almost lost my family. All because these things were what I wanted, look where it led me.

I think that the most amazing part of it all is that when I reached my end, I reached down and pulled God out of my pocket and asked him (not believing fully) if He would change my desires and my current situation. I really didn’t think that He would, not because He didn’t have the ability…let’s face it, He spoke the world into existence, placed the stars in the sky with his hands…but I thought that He wouldn’t want to help me because of all that I had done. Man, was I wrong! He was faithful to His promise to never leave me or let me down (Hebrews 13:5). Looking back, I think that He allowed all of this to happen because for my whole life I had tried to do it on my own…now there is no denying that none of this wouldn’t have happened apart from God, His forgiveness, and His mercy. He takes all the praise and glory from my restoration, I can’t claim squat!

I find myself now wanting to live out the lyrics of “Let Me Feel You Shine” by David Crowder Band…It’s definitely a journey, I’ve spent the last 31yrs messing up my life, but by God’s grace, His plan will be manifested through my “new” life in Him.

“Let Me Feel You Shine”

This place is trying to break my belief
But my faith is bigger than all I can see
What I need is redemption
What I need is for You for to put me back on my feet

I swear I’m trying to give everything
But I feel I’m falling, oh make me believe
What I need is resurrection
What I need is for You to put me back on my feet

If I could feel You shine Your perpetual light
Then maybe I could crawl out of this tonight
If I could feel You feel You shine
Oh let me feel You shine
So beautiful and warm
So beautiful and bright
Like a sun comin’ out of a rainy sky
Oh let me feel You shine Oh,
Let me feel You shine

I lift the knife to the thing I love most
Praying You’ll come so I can have both
What I need is for You to touch me
What I need is for You to be the thing that I need

If I could feel You shine your perpetual light
Then maybe I could crawl out of this tonight
If I could feel You feel You shine
Oh let me feel You shine
So beautiful and warm
So beautiful and bright
Like a sun comin’ out of a rainy sky
Oh let me feel You shine
God I need a Savior
O come Generous King
O God I need a Savior
To come rescue me

Oh let me feel You shine Your magnificent light
Then maybe I could crawl out of this tonight
If You let me feel You feel You shine
Oh let me feel You shine
So beautiful and warm
So beautiful and bright
Like a sun comin’ out of a rainy sky
Oh let me feel You shine

Let me feel You shine
Let me feel You shine

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//Gifted Guys…DCB (David Crowder Band)

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Hello world!

Welcome…

Well this is definitely a new beginning for me.  I was challenged by my wife to create a blog (because she wants one…soo…I’m the scapegoat!)  and with the help of my brother-in-law, Jeff (www.jeffkapusta.com), here it is.  I have a lot to learn and figure out…we will see where this goes.

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