Monday Motivator – January 14

How would you expect to change if someone prayed Ephesians 1:15-23 for you?

Read Ephesians 1:15-23.

Faith in Jesus ultimately leads to love for other people who have been transformed by the grace of God. The apostle Paul heard of the Ephesians faith (v 15) and love (v 15) and prays they may know hope (v 18). That Paul does not stop praying for them (v 16) means he cares for them.

Q: What did Paul ask God to do for the Ephesians? (v 17).

A: Give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.That the Holy Spirit would continually reveal to the Ephesians more knowledge about God.

Q: Why did Paul ask for wisdom and revelation? (v 17).

A: So they would know who they are and what they have in Christ.

Q: How does Paul describe God?

A: The Glorious Father…the Father of Glory who shows his glory…the Father who reveals himself. God is viewed as a giver, who makes himself, as well as his character and plan, known.

Q: Why did he pray that the hearts of the Ephesians be enlightened? (v 18).

A: Paul prayed that the Holy Spirit would continually give his reader’s wisdom and understanding for life. That “lights” would go on inside people so they would know God and understand the benefit of the gospel.

Q: What three things did Paul want the Ephesians to know about God? (v 18-19)

A: The hope of their calling, the riches of their inheritance in the saints, and the incomparable greatness of His power for them.

Q: Describe the influence of God’s power (v 21).

A: The five categories of powers mentioned in v 21 are to emphasize Christ’s victory over them.

The way God has worked to accomplish salvation motivates Paul’s praise (1:3-14) and prayer (1:15-23). The goal of his prayer is that people will recognize the blessings mentioned in v 3-14.

Based on Ephesians 1:15-23, what kind of Christian community should we be today? First, a caring community that develops a depth of relationship with other believers who also belong to God. Second, a praying community that develops a practice of prayer because we all belong to God and must participate in a common God-given mission. Third, a thinking community that develops in wisdom and our understanding of life, God, and the importance of faith. Thinking is the basis for action. Use your mind to understand the implications of the gospel. The goal is to know God and understand His purposes for His people. Last, a powerful community that utilizes the power that comes from God, defined by the resurrection of Jesus and his exaltation as Lord over all. What we need is in Christ – relational power – that comes from being related to the One in whom power resides.

Think theologically. Paul says God blesses us to be a blessing to others. Pray it and live it.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – January 7

What do you pray for others? What informs and motivates your prayers?

Read Ephesians 1:15-23.

The apostle Paul founded the church in Ephesus in the first century. After being imprisoned, he wrote the letter of Ephesians to them. “For this reason” points back to v 3-14, which motivates everything else in the letter and should be read with these verses. V 15-23 contains the author’s (Paul) prayer for the continuing work of God in his readers, which grows out of his thanks for what God has already accomplished in them. Summary: A) Paul has received a report of their faith and love (v 15). B) Because of their actions, he gives thanks and prays for them (v 16). C) Paul prays for the gift of revelation to know God better (v 17-23).

Five Implications for Us

First, Paul’s prayer in 1:15-23 reveals a conviction of prayer and a commitment to other believers. It reveals a depth of relationship he felt with people who were important to him and his faith – his example encouraged the Ephesians to pray continually for all of God’s people (6:18).

Second, Paul’s understanding of God’s actions formed the basis of his prayer and was reflected in his prayer. It means he knows the kind of God to whom he was praying.

Third, Paul’s request that God give the Spirit of wisdom and understanding means Christian living requires a continual openness to the Holy Spirit so we can better know God. One of the tasks of the Spirit is to help Christians know what God has given us (1 Cor 2:12).

Fourth, Paul’s prayer offers a basis for hope. We know meaninglessness, and not hope. We have a sense that we cannot solve our problems – individually or as a culture. Hope is as rare today as it was in the first century. The truth is that all humans live oppressed by meaninglessness and evil. We are taught to insulate ourselves from despair with social media and other forms of entertainment. We believe that “all will live happily ever after.” While life and God’s creation are good and to be enjoyed, we must always remember the truth that there are no happy endings – at least not in this life. We must all deal with meaninglessness, evil, sickness, and death.

God’s work in Christ addresses our meaninglessness, the problem of evil, and even death. Christianity really helps those who are desperate because death is not the end. Paul’s prayer points to God’s power to bring life from death – a power available both now so we can deal with the death in which we live and for the future when the dead are raised. This hope is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus and in Pentecost. Christians need to live “from the future” God has established – a change from meaninglessness to an awareness that God’s new age has begun and hope is given to us.

Fifth, Paul’s prayer reveals a need to emphasize the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus to the highest place. He is Lord and all is and must be submitted to him.

Grow devotionally. Would you be willing to pray Ephesians 1:15-23 for your friends each day for a week? Using Paul’s prayer, what could your answered prayers look like? Imitate Paul’s example and pray a prayer that Christians may realize God’s purpose and power.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – December 24

When Jesus was born, many people desired lower taxes and less government intrusion in their lives. Where have we heard that before? In Jerusalem, King Herod heard about the birth of a new king and he was troubled. What did it mean?

In his fear and panic, Herod proceeded to commit one of the worst crimes in history by ordering the killing of every Jewish baby boy under two years of age, in order to get Jesus. Herod was desperate to do away with this threat to his power, position, and rule.

Today people are still reacting with fear and panic when faced with Jesus. It is one reason they continue to work to remove Him from classrooms, courtrooms, communities, even Congress. The forces of darkness are devilishly inspired and committed to remove His influence, His name, and His authority from all public life.

Why? When you do away with God, there is now no higher power than yourself, so you get to play God.

Consider how much retail business is done over the Christmas holidays while many complain about Christmas music played in stores. Consider the immense number of parties held between Christmas and New Year’s, yet many object to the phrase, “Merry Christmas.” Consider all the alcohol sold in the Christmas season, clearly indicating Jesus is good for business. The problem is people want a Santa, not a Savior. They want the fairy tale, days off of work, but not the fact.

What fact? That Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

Read 1 Timothy 1:15.

The play has been performed over and over, where the child chosen to play the innkeeper in the Christmas play had to tell the children playing Mary and Joseph that there was no room in the inn. But as he stood on stage that afternoon or evening, he looked into the audience and froze up, forgetting his lines momentarily, then smiled, overcame his fear, and announced, “I’m not supposed to do this, but come on in anyway.”

Isn’t it interesting that you can make room in your life for pleasure, for business, and or leisure, but if you make room for the crucified Christ, you are looked at as odd, weird, even radical?

Instead of ending this Christmas season exhausted, discouraged, and in debt, renew your commitment to love Jesus and serve others. If you are not yet a follower of Jesus, invite Him into your life. You may be looking back with regret on some bad decisions you’ve made this year, but making room for Jesus as your Lord and Savior is the best move you can now make.

Why would someone extremely intelligent leave the comfort of their home, travel thousands of miles by camel, brave desert roads of danger, and follow a star to an unfamiliar destination? It is because wise men and women have always hungered for God.

Serve globally. Knowing God addresses our need to be forgiven, to experience peace and joy, and understand our purpose on earth. Wise men and women seek Him and make Him known.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – December 17

What does it take to grow? What does it take to grow well?

I saw a TV special about the Methuselah Tree in a National Forest in California. Scientists estimate the tree to be almost 5,000 years old. The tree is one of the most incredible creations on earth because it has aged under very challenging conditions.

First, it exists at 10,000 feet of elevation, where there is very little moisture. Second is the soil, which is a limestone substance that has very few nutrients. A third challenge are the high winds that tear at the bark of the ancient tree. In spite of those adversities, the Methuselah Tree continues to survive and grow while surrounded by other species that have not been as fortunate.

Read Hebrews 10:19-25.

The first Christians experienced tremendous opposition and outright persecution for identifying as followers of Jesus and daring to speak His Name in public. They were chased, hunted, falsely accused, arrested, and killed for their faith and hope in their Messiah and King. The lifespan of someone in the first century was not long by modern standards, yet the lifespan of believers was shortened even more due to the suffering they were recipients of. The intimidation, beatings, and extermination of followers of Jesus has only intensified in the past two centuries. Scholars have noted that more Christians have been martyred for their obedience to Jesus in the 20thcentury than in the previous nineteen combined. The situation of suffering has not improved in the 21st.

How have Christians dealt with such opposition, maltreatment, and suffering?

Part of the answer is found in the Book of Hebrews. Followers of Jesus found Him to be a Rock, Fortress, and Anchor (Hebrews 6:19) for their souls, who comforted them in their suffering and provided hope for an eternal reward. Their heavenly perspective rooted them in a “now, but not yet” mindset that helped them stay sane as they trusted their Savior in the present, but lived and leaned forward towards an eventual home He had purchased and provided for them.

Their confidence sprang the reality of what Jesus did on the cross at Calvary. His death, burial, and resurrection purchased our reconciliation with the Father. Hebrews 4:14-16 emphasizes the work of Jesus as the Great High Priest who ultimately provided atonement for the sins of all. Readers were reminded to “hold firmly to the faith they profess” (verse 14), even as they “boldly approached Jesus to receive immediate and sympathetic help when they are tempted” (verse 16).

Readers were also given five exhortations in 10:22-25 that emanate from what Jesus did in winning us back to God: First, “Let us draw near to God…;” Second, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess…;” Third, “Let us consider how we may spur one another toward love and good deeds…;” Fourth, “Let us not give up meeting together…;” and Fifth, “Let us encourage one another.” The Hebrew readers paid attention and grew slowly and steadily.

As you face the harsh winds and difficult events of life, be like the early Christians and the Methuselah Tree – learn to thrive. As you persevere through the tough times by trusting in God, your faith will deepen and your life will be enriched. It is possible to grow in the midst of life’s most demanding conditions. Walk wisely. It takes rain and struggle to help us grow.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – December 10

How often do you go to church? Why? How much time in prayer, worship, and reflection do you engage in before you leave campus or home for the local congregation you are a part of? Why do you need to meet with fellow Christians to maintain a healthy God-honoring life?

Having been on mission trips outside of America, I have met fellow believers who did not attend church merely because of what they “got out of it.” Church was critical to their spiritual health and maturity. I met a few who got up early to walk long distances to get to church. When the service is over, and the additional fellowship time concludes, they make the long walk home. They told me they could not survive without a chance to meet God with others regularly.

There are many reasons why people attend church, including habit, family practice, devotion, participation, service, relationships, and connection to people and God. I read a university study a while ago that found a relationship between the frequency of church attendance and the economy. When the economy is doing well, attendance will be down. After the terrorist attacks of September 2011, a rise in attendance was noted as people were desperate for answers in a world that suddenly seemed out of control. But did the trend continue? No, sadly it did not.

Some believers find it difficult to make the time to meet regularly with other Christians for worship, study, fellowship, and encouragement. Some college age followers of Jesus find participation with a student organization like Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship at their school too challenging. They would much rather use their time differently during the week and find Sunday mornings a good chance to sleep in. Their bodies may be more invigorated, but their interest in a robust spiritual life may be nodding off, or even non-existent.

Some people may have been hurt by someone in the church. Others may feel skeptical, cynical, or even dismayed by the lack of authenticity, poor modeling of an ancient faith, inadequate preaching to convey Biblical truths, or just plain inhospitable environments. Some feel guilty about going to church on Sunday, or Chi Alpha during the week, but living like an unbeliever the rest of the week. It is easy to avoid the “Jiminy Cricket” conscience thing (see Pinocchio).

Allow me to pose a question to consider of the people mentioned above. Which one(s) are really followers of Jesus? Is every person who attends church or Chi Alpha a “growing disciple” of the King, who died on a cross to purchase our salvation? Or are there actual Christians, seekers of the faith, and a lot of folks who are culturally religious, like a spectator at a sporting event?

Read Hebrews 10:19-25.

We can use a lot of excuses about not being more active in developing our faith journey, especially when it comes to the role of the church. But when we desire to follow Jesus, we must obey the early church’s instructions in Hebrews 10:25. The Greek word “give up” meeting in verse 25 means desertion or abandonment. We should not go to church out of guilt or mere obligation, but out of reverence and obedience to God. Did you notice the five “let us(not me)” exhortations in verses 22-25 that underscore how necessary the church is to followers of Jesus?

Live communally. Jesus promised in Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three gather in My Name, there I am with them.” If you are a Christian, church is a great place to go and grow.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – December 3

Who are your heroes? What makes them so special to you? Do you look at others and wish you could be like them? Are you selling yourself short? Undervaluing yourself and your potential?

Imagine your most unfortunate moment. It was an embarrassing incident that was witnessed by a lot of people. The next day’s headline blared out, “So and so (your name) chokes.” Or he/she stumbles, or made a grammatical and/or pronunciation error in a speech, or made a major mistake on a project, or in a competition, or in an interview.

You are an accomplished person in your field. You have excelled in your profession for years after college and been awarded numerous awards for achievement, character, and team work. You have made advances possible in your field that have positively affected other industries. Your work improved the safety and working environments for workers across your company and its many plants, factories, and offices.

At the same time, you have aided your company to create safe places for men and women to work collaboratively, find meaning and purpose, and earn a livable wage while contributing to a better community. Your supervisors, colleagues, neighbors, and friends respect your character, competence, courage, and leadership.

But on a weekday afternoon at a regular team meeting, you choke on a pretzel, slip as you are falling, and scrape your face and bruise your mouth from the impact. In the process, you remind everyone that you are only human. As did someone else when they stumbled a few times in giving a valedictorian address at their commencement. Or an athlete who slipped and fell down several stairs as they strode up to accept an award as the top athlete in their school.

We often hear about or see the embarrassing gaffes from politicians, actors, athletes, and musicians that are repeated over and over on social media platforms. The people often seem bigger than life to most of us and not subject to ordinary imperfections and failures. But truth be told, they are just like the rest of us, and the honest ones can laugh at themselves as they admit it. Like anyone else, they choke on things. They speak with poor grammar, try and communicate poorly thought through ideas, trip over rugs, spill their coffee on themselves, lose their keys, and forget a doctor’s appointment.

Read Psalm 139:13-17.

We are all created equal. No single human being of any time in history can claim to have more worth in God’s eye than any of us. We all entered into this world due to God blessing our parents, and we had no control of where we were born, when we were born, and why. Without the steadfast love and care of our mother and father, none of us would have made it out of childhood and so far in life. We also cannot save ourselves and have the same need for a Savior. We are equal in our sin nature, equal in our tendency to run from God, and unless we receive the forgiveness of God, none of us will make it to heaven.

If you are the type of person who idolizes the so-called glamorous people on campus, or those trending in the news, and see yourself as inferior – think again. When it gets right down to it, everyone chokes. Think theologically. God values you for who you are. We matter to Him.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 19

Imagine you are traveling to a country you have never visited before for a two-year study abroad experience. It is a place where English is not spoken as the primary language, and you had to show a strong aptitude to speak and work in another language, that of the host country and university, before being accepted.

You will not be able to find (at least not in the short term), a grocery store where you can buy food and drink that you are used to back home. Instead, you will have to taste, eat, and learn to enjoy food that is unfamiliar to you.

Imagine being in another country for two years, where you will not see, hear, or experience any of the American holidays you are used to, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or even the 4thof July. You may have access to NFL Gameday on your mobile device, but most major sports events are not that important in your host country. The Internet is free and available where you are going and will be a saving grace in many ways. You are leaving family and friends behind and will not be able to travel home during the next year or so, primarily due to cost and distance.

The good news for most Americans is that we don’t have to leave America for a fine education. Yet close to a million international students do travel to the United States for some or much of their educational development. These men and women are well-mannered, highly motivated, and eager to travel to our country, yet still have to face and overcome language, customs, and food barriers, including separation of family for the time they are guests in America.

How should we as followers of King Jesus reach out to these guests from almost every nation on Earth? How can we aid them in their transition (brief as it is) to life in our country and the college or university they come to study in? Do we have room in our life for one more friend?

Read Acts 8:26-40.

The Lord re-assigned Philip from leading a spiritual awakening to going out to meet a visiting government official from Ethiopia who was traveling to Jerusalem on business. Philip obeyed the Holy Spirit and went out of this way to find and welcome him to his country. Philip made time in his life to get close to this African man and learn of his felt needs. Philip earned his trust by treating him with dignity and asking how he could serve him. His initial efforts to meet and greet the visitor gained traction when the government man invited Philip to sit with him in his chariot.

The Ethiopian was reading a familiar passage known to Philip, and Philip asked him about his chosen topic. When the man admitted he had questions about the person in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, Philip supplied needed answers he learned from his own study. The Ethiopian was grateful for Philip’s spiritual insight’s and hospitality, and shortly after, asked about becoming a follower of the King Isaiah described.

Philip models the kind of hospitality and friendship we offer to international students today in Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship. Had you been Philip, would you know the Scriptures well enough to answer a seeking person’s questions? How will you grow in your understanding of Jesus’ teachings to be prepared for divine appointments? Serve globally. Join us in following Philip’s example and make room in your life for an international friend.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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