Monday Motivator – September 19

When was the last time you were called to account by someone?

I remember my parents’ correcting me for wrongdoing. They would say they were doing it for my benefit, so I would not repeat that sort of behavior. What I had done was unacceptable and I needed to grow to maturity in the boundaries of my family’s values and norms.

I remember being disciplined in sixth grade for my behavior. A female student came to Mr. Byers classroom for some kick balls for recess. Since I sat in the rear of the class, he asked me to give her the balls. Instead of handing them to her politely, I threw them at her rather hard, and she was knocked over. Some of the boys in the class laughed, I smiled a bit, and it was off to the principal’s office for me. I later apologized to the girl and did feel bad about the incident. My friend Steve was the only one who said it was a mean thing to do and rebuked me for my action.

I remember a story about a moose in Maine when we lived in Boston. The owner of a ski resort called for help when a moose wandered up onto a deck, then continued up to the building roof. She was large and too heavy for the roof, which gave way and she crashed partway downward. Her body was on the roof, but her four legs had punched through and were hanging six feet off the ground of the lower floor until the Fish and Game warden and animal rescue team arrived. If animals could talk, the moose might have said it was sorry for walking out on the rook, and subsequently falling through. But since animals cannot speak, I’m guessing the moose was not ashamed or feeling guilty about the damage it had done.

That is one way we are different from animals. We do feel guilty when we do wrong. Well, we should anyway. We get embarrassed. We might blush and our faces turn red. We feel the need to own up to our misbehavior and apologize. If it’s really bad, we might even want to disappear for awhile…or try to. Like when I broke a window in a neighbor’s house during a snowball fight and we all ran for cover. Too late. Mrs. P saw what happened, called my mom, and I was in trouble.

Sometimes though, we just don’t care. We think the stupid thing we did was kind of funny and we laugh about it. We laugh until we get caught. Then the question is how bad do we feel when we do something wrong and own up to it? You know it’s something your parent’s would disagree with, and it is even something God says is wrong. Do you blush then? Or feel ashamed? What difference does it make if one of your friends calls you to account?

Read Jeremiah 8:4-12.

The Lord spoke to ancient Israel through the prophet Jeremiah because they had disobeyed God and wandered away from Him. They became hard-hearted and forgot how to blush, admit their mistake, and change, when confronted with their sin (v 12). Instead of being a wild, out of control horse, Jeremiah said they could learn from animals like birds who know when and where they are supposed to go in the changing seasons (verse 6-7).

God sees our lives in real time. How sensitive are we to our sinful tendencies? How many friends do you have who will challenge your words and actions? Live communally. Wise people listen when God uses a friend to point out behavior that needs to improve. You can’t hide from God. So don’t be a fool. Do not run from the rebuke of a good friend He sends to you.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 12

Do you enjoy entertainment or attempts to entertain yourself (or your friends) that involves depictions or dramatizations of violence? Why?

I can appreciate the real-life events that led to movies like Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and even The Lord of the Rings (LOTR). It’s gripping to witness the visual violence that movie-makers show on screen regarding historical events, even fiction brought to life from a book. It’s agonizing to see, hear, and even feel what is was like for the soldiers who landed on the beaches of Normandy, or gaze upon the evil of the Germans toward the Jewish people in World War Two. Anger wells up inside me as I contemplate what I am seeing. I recall not being able to talk for over an hour after I watched the story of Oskar Schindler and his life-saving efforts of Jews under the savage treatment of the Nazis.

Yet, I also tend to avoid movies that include graphic violence, language, and images that I do not need to see. I realized over time that it is not good for my eyes, heart, and soul to see such violence. I have seen how consistent exposure to violence, real or imagined, has deadened my ability to appreciate God’s more perfect way, which is peace. I also recognize that violence is not God’s perfect way.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians in the first century and said, “It is shameful to even mention what the disobedient do in secret.” Violence is to be generally avoided.

Yet in our sinful world, it is also necessary to confront and deal with evil and violence, sometimes with violence in return. The Allies invaded France to take on the Germans and the Pacific theater to take on the Japanese, with both nations intent on world domination. There are intended and unintended consequences to any action, and in war that often results in tremendous loss of life, destruction of property and national mourning. One result of necessary violence is that it does affect our relationship with God.

King David was a man of valor, strength of character, great accomplishment, and was said to be “a man after God’s heart.” But God denied his wish to build a temple to honor the Lord because he was a man of violence. The Lord said to him in 1 Chronicles 22:8 that since he (David) shed so much blood on the earth, that he was not to take on building a house for the Lord.

It is ironic and true that David went into battle at the Lord’s command, and violence made him a man with blood on his hands. It seems God wanted to separate the violence he ordained from His greater and ultimate plan of peace. So the task of building and completing the temple of God fell to David’s son, Solomon. His name actually means “peaceful.” Further, the location of the temple was to be in Jerusalem, which means, “city or refuge of peace.”

Read Isaiah 9:6.

Jesus is described by the prophet Isaiah as the “Prince of Peace.” He will come one day to set up His kingdom of eternal peace, where violence will no longer exist. In the meantime, I think followers of Jesus should be uncomfortable with violence of any sort, except in self-defense, and should generally avoid dramatizations of violence in social media and popular culture.

Think theologically. God’s justice will lead to final and lasting peace.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 5

How desperately people need wisdom today. Our world needs men and women who are willing to honor God with their words, lives, and service. Problems and challenges have always existed, yet our generation faces issues that defy easy solutions. God’s way has been to raise up men and women who will point people back to God. That means we need Christ-honoring people of influence whose vison is clear and whose words and example are steadfast and trustworthy.

Scripture suggests that we who follow Jesus should aspire to be men and women who walk in wisdom as we offer an imitatable example and counsel to our family, friends, and colleagues on campus and in the marketplace.

I have learned that daily life is full of moments of small choices, habits if you will, and no habit is more important than daily devotion. It’s a chance to meet with the Creator of all, who makes Himself available to us through nature, holy Scripture, and prayer.

Read Proverbs 3:5-6.

The book of Proverbs, part of the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrews’ older testament, is a compilation of short statements with a very practical point of action. Though written by multiple authors who are named in the various sections, King Solomon actually wrote the majority of Proverbs captured in thirty-one chapters in the Bible.

Solomon was the third King of Israel (after Saul and David), and he reigned on the throne approximately 970-930 B.C. During his kingly rule, he wrote thousands of songs and proverbs (1 Kings 4:32). What is interesting to me about Solomon is how he became wise. Once he succeeded his father David to the kingship of Israel, God appeared to him in a dream and offered him the desire of his heart (1 Kings 3:1-28). To his credit (and partly due to the influence of his father, I believe), Solomon asked God for wisdom to lead the people of Israel.

The Book of Proverbs collects the God-given wisdom Solomon developed in poetical figures of speech, figurative language, and wise sayings that has a verbal and visual impact on its readers. The general idea is to provide moral wisdom and common (or uncommon) sense for living well.

Proverbs addresses topics like the purpose for wisdom, why wisdom is supreme, warnings against folly, the power and consequences of words and life choices, healthy relationships, advice worth listening to, and the attractiveness of virtuous women.

I have often told my children to read a chapter of Proverbs a day and practice it. My suggestion to others is the same. Read the Book of Proverbs as a regular part of your spiritual diet. Its thirty- one chapters fit nicely into many months of the annual calendar. I have seen how the “proverbs challenge or diet” is accessible to many who do not read that much, due to its content being short statements and ideas that are easy to learn and hard to forget.

Grow devotionally. Start a simple discipline of reading and practicing the wisdom of Proverbs that can change the course of your life, affect your choices and character, inspire your friends to follow your example of living life well, and know why they are doing so. Let’s be people who are growing in wisdom.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 29

Some of Jesus’ most quoted words are, “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

Those of us in Chi Alpha Campus Ministries are cognizant of the reality of the wide variety of neighbors we encounter in the colleges and universities of the United States.

Being kind to our neighbors is an important part of Jesus’ teaching. We endeavor to show hospitality to American and foreign students throughout the school year. We sponsor fun activities, weekend retreats, service and justice projects, and assist young people in their holistic development (i.e., spiritual, intellectual, physical, social, and financial). We teach Scripture with a high regard for its practical and transferable applications (see 1 John 2:6). Our focus is to help students become life-long followers and disciples of King Jesus.

But Jesus also took it a step further when he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (which is also found in Matthew 22:39). That is certainly a tall order and calls for a deeper commitment and investment of ourselves, doesn’t it? So how do we do it?

Well, we start by acknowledging that our service to the academy involves the four main people groups: undergraduates, graduates, faculty, and foreign students. Then we further break it down into groups or sub-groups of the four main ones. While most Chi Alpha chapters start with a focused effort toward freshman and work up the “relational chain” to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, our groups encounter and deal with others all the time.

It means the guy or girl who lives across the hall in the dorm or the people living in the rented house next door. It means the students who traveled the farthest to come to school that semester (hint: they came from another country). It cannot forget those in graduate school with even less time on their hands than undergrads, and it cannot ignore the faculty, administrators, and service personnel who live and work nearby campus.

Our neighbor is anyone in need we happen to come in contact with, as Jesus taught in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus linked loving our neighbor to His greatest commandment in Mark 12:30. If we love God with our whole being, we’ll naturally treat people right, right? We’ll take time, even make time, for others, right?

Read Mark 12:28-34.

The Bible does not leave us hanging when it comes to who are neighbors are, whether they live in your dorm or sorority, are on your club sports team, or you bump into them in an elevator on the way to class. Loving others like ourselves (Jesus style) means to: rejoice when good things happen to others (Luke 15:6, 9; do nothing to hurt another (Romans 13:8-10); are honest with one another (Ephesians 4:25); encourage one another daily (Hebrews 3:13); and don’t favor one person over another (James 2:8-9).

Serve globally. Join us in your part of the world by living like Jesus. There is no guarantee we’ll get the same treatment in return, but loving others is something Jesus expects from us. Loving God means loving your neighbor, even if she is a professor who gives you a grade you earned and don’t agree with. Loving others is a command.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 22

What have you done lately (or in the recent past) that was foolish?

Working with college students elicits a number of stories about young people and other adults that I was privy to. For example:

  1. A student tried to rob a credit union to help pay for his tuition bill.
  2. A student took a roommates’ laptop and some cash in his dresser drawer because of an argument they had and tried to pin the blame on another guy down the hall in the dorm. He was discovered to be the culprit and faced disciplinary action.
  3. A couple of girls got their hands on the answers to an upcoming quiz and passed them around. Their plot to ace the quiz got nixed when they and six other students wrote down the exact same answers and their teaching assistant thought that was too convenient.
  4. A male faculty member tried to hit on a female graduate student, and to make matters worse, tried to take credit for her research. He was investigated and found guilty.
  5. An administrator did not like Christians and tried to get a Chi Alpha chapter thrown off campus. His actions contributed to a legal response, which he lost, and he was forced to apologize to the group. I can’t remember if he lost his job over such bullying actions.

I can say I never did anything close to the situations mentioned above (all true, by the way) but I have played the fool at times. I know it can be easy to make poor decisions if your mind and heart are focused on the wrong things.

Proverbs 14:7 says, “Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips.” A fool is someone who has mixed up morals, manners, and actions. The Book of Proverbs is full of warnings to avoid the foolish person because he or she will lead us to poor decisions, bad consequences, empty promises of fun, and run-ins with the law.

When you or I act foolishly, we are people that others should avoid. At that time, we are not worthy of respect, trust, or even friendship. To act foolishly is to diminish your witness for Jesus, compromise your integrity, and affect the lives of others negatively.

Read Deuteronomy 32:1-8.

Moses was inspired by God to address the people of Israel as he was preparing to turn over leadership of the Hebrews to Joshua. The people had a history of forgetting the Lord, becoming corrupt, crooked, and acting like fools towards the One True God.

Moses asked them in verse 6: “Is this the way you repay the Lord, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, your Creator, who made and formed you?” Moses was asking them, how in essence, could they live this way after having known the Lord, the One who rescued them from Egypt, made them a people, and sustained them for so long?

We learn from Israel the consequences of such foolish deeds. If you and I are being foolish, the same question Moses asked Israel in verse six should cause us consternation. Playing the fool is an empty, harmful pursuit. Walk wisely. Foolish ways lead down the wrong path. Read Proverbs for safeguards for not getting caught in foolish behavior.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 15

I went to the doctor’s office this morning to pay a late bill for a recent appointment. The receptionist opened the window to greet me and I started off by saying, “I want to apologize for being late in paying this bill that is a few days over due.” She replied, “Thanks, but there is no need to apologize. But I appreciate your saying you are sorry.”

When was the last time you honestly said, “I’m sorry” to God, a family member or friend? What is holding you back?

I am the oldest of four siblings. I remember our parents modeling and expecting each of us to own up to our responsibilities, take care of our own chores, keep short accounts with each other, and apologize when we messed up. I recall an incident where my mom and dad were discussing something and he raised his voice towards her. He quickly apologized to her, then came in the other room and apologized to us kids for his action. He said he was sorry he raised his voice at mom, and would be careful not to do it again. That example has stuck with me for over 50 years.

I am sure each of us has something we have done that we are not proud of. We are all guilty of the same human frailties and tendencies to avoid being seen for who we really are. We tend to be reluctant to acknowledge and repent of our misdeeds because it means taking ownership for our actions. It means a humble admission of being imperfect, even though we allowed selfishness to influence our actions. We abhor such confessions, probably because it makes us feel ashamed, and we prefer to avoid those sorts of feelings.

Read 2 Corinthians 7:5-11.

The apostle Paul wrote to fellow Christ-followers in 1st century Corinth to call them to own up to where they had “missed the mark.” They strayed from the teachings of Jesus and Paul called them to accountability, that they would be “truly sorry” for how they veered off. Paul’s aim was that the Corinthians would be sorrowful for their actions, and that sorrow would lead them to repentance (i.e., a change in heart, v 10).

Paul was glad to learn from Titus of the repentance of many in the church who previously rebelled against his apostolic authority. This account reveals the way others can contribute to our growth and maturity when they admonish us for the behavior they observe in us. It is never easy to be the person who questions something we said or did. Yet God uses others to help us develop godly character…if we are wise to listen.

I remember my parents saying to me, “You should be ashamed of yourself,” when I did something wrong. When I really did feel ashamed and truly repented of my bad behavior, I did remember how liberating it felt to be able to climb into mom or dad’s lap for a hug. Being ashamed means being genuinely sorry for the wrong you have done, and through the shame being made clean as a result of confession and repentance.

Are you too proud or insensitive to feel ashamed when you do something wrong? What will you do about it? Live communally. Jesus calls us to speak the truth in love to one another. Be willing to own up to your failings. Seek forgiveness, and be sorry as you do.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 8

My dad kidded me when we left home in Detroit, Michigan for college at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Once we got all my stuff in the station wagon, he wondered if we had room for me. Somehow I squeezed into the front passenger seat and we made it. Then we had the arduous task of many parents and their kids going to college for the first time: carrying all of the stuff up stairs and down hallways to the dorm room or apartment in humid end-of-the-summer weather.

From what I hear, packing for college is still a pressure packed event on the home front. New students tend to pack everything they think they need. Having participated in helping college students and their parents move in during fall orientation, I’ve seen the boxes of shoes women bring, and felt the weight of what guys bring too. By their second semester or year, most students have pared down what they actually need – a lot less.

I value, appreciate, and salute Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship groups across the country that prepare every August and September to assist students and their parents during move in. The hot, humid weather does not make it any easier on the Chi Alpha staff and students as they carry, lug, and tote box after box up flights of stairs.

Welcome move in efforts on campus is an exciting, yet, rewarding activity, for new students and Chi Alpha. First, it is a great service to families moving their son or daughter to campus. Second, it’s a wonderful opportunity to connect with freshmen early in their orientation. Third, it’s a chance to extend friendship and service with a smile. Last, we do not underestimate the help Chi Alpha chapters offer parents and their children, because we recognize how stressful the packing process actually is: not just in terms of the contents, but the emotions connected to dropping off and leaving their kid(s).

Read 2 Timothy 1:3-18.

When the apostle Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, his young leader-in-training, the older man was in prison facing eventual death for his faith. He challenged his young disciple to hold onto the faith he had learned from his mother and grandmother. And he reminded Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” and practice it (2 Timothy 1:5-6).

Think about it, your faith is like a legacy from your parents, a family member, and/or a significant church leader. All of us have someone who modeled, spoke about, taught, and encouraged us to know what we believe about Jesus and why we believe it.

Paul had several former disciples who abandoned their faith (Phygelus and Hermogenes, in 1:15), and many who were a blessing due to their character, perseverance, and service, like Timothy (Philippians 2:20-22), and Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 2:16).

Think theologically. When you prepare for college as a first semester freshman or soon-to-graduate-senior, I hope you do not forgot to bring your faith with you. Please do not leave it at home. Pack your copy of God’s Word, all the influence you have, and do not keep it to yourself. Share your faith with others. Do not leave home without it. Imitate who ever led you to Jesus. Feed your faith and live it out. You will be glad you did.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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