Monday Motivator – July 16

I was called to jury duty and ended up serving on a one-day trial. I was on call for about five weeks and didn’t think I was going to get to get asked to serve with so many “not needed today” messages on the local court message system.

As one of about 80 potential jurors assembled that day for early instructions about the jury process in Virginia, the judge gave clear and compelling words about the privilege of serving as a potential juror, and his role to guide us. After an hour or so of all us of being asked questions by the prosecutor and defense attorneys, I was selected to serve.

It is a sobering to realize America is one of a few countries that has a “trial by a jury of your peers” system. It is inspiring that judges are in place to ensure that the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia is upheld and followed in judicial proceedings.

I can envision that a judge is in a tough spot at times, creating friends and enemies alike due to how he/she leads the court. They are positioned to facilitate the often slow-moving wheels of justice, according to critics on both sides of the process.

My experience that day was riveting, sobering, encouraging, and exhausting. It was riveting as the judge gave instructions on how the trial system was going to occur and our responsibilities as jurors to ultimately decide the fate of the person on trial. It was sobering because we had to listen to the evidence presented, weigh it, and decide if we as the jury could come to a consensus on innocent or guilty. After much deliberation we found the person guilty of the crime they were arrested for. We then were given instructions on how to select an appropriate punishment. It was encouraging as a citizen to be a part of the legal process in my community. I was amazed at how exhausted I was at the end of the day. I was grateful for the judge’s leadership in the whole endeavor.

Our legal system has its shortcomings at times, but my recent experience reminded me of the value of living in a country governed by law, and a Kingdom governed by the Judge.

Read Romans 2:1-11.

Paul reminded the Roman Christians that God will “give to each person according to what they have done” (verse 6). Do not make the mistake of examining the challenges our American legal system encounters at times and allow those moments to color your thinking about God’s final justice. He is the perfect, righteous, and holy Judge. God will not be distracted by the craftiness of lawyers. He will not move slowly when it comes to give us what we deserve. In fact, His justice will ultimately prevail.

It is not easy to see rich and powerful people get away with crimes they commit, while the poor and/or less elite among us are often denied justice. Paul argued that God will not be mocked – you will reap what you (Galatians 6:7). His justice will be satisfied.

God is not mean or impatient. He is perfect and impartial in His judgments (Romans 2:11). Think theologically. Lead a Spirit-empowered and blameless life so you will not be ashamed to face God one day. Be comforted: His judgments are always fair and right.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 9

What is something that causes you to be fearful? How do you address your tendency to be afraid?

Flying in stormy conditions is a dangerous situation that makes many nervous. After a bumpy landing and a rough flight, I asked the pilot how he got us to the ground safely. He told me that the instrument panel is set to magnetic north and can be trusted every time. He said letting your instruments guide you helps ensure safety in a storm. If however, you rely on your feelings and instincts, you can quickly become disoriented, thinking the plane is going steady when it actually may be going down.

We all face storms in life that threaten to confuse and disorient us. It may be a tough class in your academic major, a broken relationship, a shattered dream, or someone you want to see come back to Jesus who is very antagonistic and resistant to matters of faith.

I have learned that these are times to be careful and not allow my emotions to run wild. When I am blinded by or caught up in the disappointments, I try not to simply rely on my knowledge and mortal resources. Merely reacting to circumstances in panic can be your initial impulse. But if you resist that temptation, you can find an anchor to hold onto.

Read Psalm 32.

The author, King David, writes a grateful testimony of appreciation for those who recognize their need for God’s forgiveness. He writes how “blessed” are those who have been pardoned. He adds that those who experience a renewed relationship with their Creator are also receptive to God’s rule in their lives.

David says that God freely forgives those who trust Him. Why would someone not further consult and rely on God for guidance after He alone restored their broken relationship with Him?

David urges his listeners in verses 8-10 to not return to their old ways of distrusting the Lord. But to trust add obedience! Followers of God must be wiser and more open to God’s will and direction than horses or mules.

God wants each of us to rely on His guidance. His Word is packed with wisdom from front to back that can assist us with living life well. All 66 books have something to help us be “anchored in Christ,” just like the airline pilot uses his instruments to rely on.

God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). Think about it – where God leads is always right! That’s why David ends Psalm 32 with a final word to let the praise of God emanate (or resound) from your lips and life. He added in verse 10 that the unfailing love of God surrounds the man or woman who trusts in Him.

Grow devotionally. Go to your Bible and trust God to guide you. He promised in verse eight, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.” My pastor told me long ago that, “the closer we walk with God, the clearer we will see His guidance.”

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 2

Gary Haugen leads International Justice Mission (IJM), a worldwide agency rescuing victims of violence, exploitation, slavery and oppression. He spoke at the Global Leadership Summit last summer and his talk helped me the past year.

Gary said Jesus had foresight on his last night with his disciples. For three years, he had been pouring into the lives of these 12 friends who would carry out his mission—and he knows there is one thing that stands between all that they have learned and what it is that they will actually do. Fear. All the finest leadership training in the world can be rendered completely useless by
fear. Jesus gave the one command that he offered them more than any other: Do not be afraid. Gary gave four keys to addressing and overcoming fear.

1) Fear is the silent destroyer of dreams. All great leadership flows first from great dreams and our most powerful dreams flow from love. But fear can replace love with a preoccupation with self. Consequently, many dreams are destroyed simply by a leader’s everyday anxieties and insecurities.

2) Why is courage difficult for us? We may not know what actually scares us most deeply. Gary said when he started IJM 20 years ago, he was really not afraid of the violence. When he got quiet in his own soul, he discovered he was afraid of looking like a failure to others. He asked himself: Was I going to let this fear kill the dream? And he said no—and the dream won. But being brave is going to be hard.

3) What must we do for a dream to survive? First, relentlessly inventory your own fears. In silence, worries and insecurities will bubble to the surface. But if you are practiced at it, God brings insight, self-awareness and a steadiness of soul. Second, switch from playing defense to playing offense. No great dream has ever been built on fear of what may go wrong. Great dreams are built on the hope of what might go right.

4) Courage, like fear is contagious. This truth can allow you to lead without fear as you pursue the dream in your heart. What glorious good might God do through your influence?

Read Joshua 1:1-9.

“Have I not commanded you?”The Lord poses a rhetorical question to Joshua in verse 9 that emphasizes the authority of the speaker. Then He adds: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord is with you wherever you go.”

Which command in verse 5-9 would be toughest for you to obey? Which of the Lord’s promises would be most helpful to you? Why? What challenge are you facing right now? What do you fear will hinder you? How will you rely on the Lord and His resources? Like Joshua earlier had Moses to lean on for support, who can rally to help you?

Serve globally. Take up the dream of loving God and others. Bill Hybels has said, “We have the unspeakable privilege of helping change the storyline of people’s lives.” Like Gary Haugen and the IJM staff, lead without fear to the glory of God and the transformation of this world.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 25

When was the last time you were in the right place at the right time?

I was driving recently when the rear brake lights of cars in front of me in three lanes came on suddenly. Vehicles slammed to a stop. Moments later I discovered the reason – a family of geese were crossing the road. As they exited our side of the road, cars began to accelerate and I continued my drive home.

A mile later I stopped at the red traffic light. I have learned to wait a moment when the light turns green, and look both ways before proceeding because other drivers are not as cautious.

As I started through the intersection, I saw a man trying to cross three lanes of traffic from the middle turn lane with bags of something (groceries, maybe?) in both arms. He was watching cars in the first two lanes coming his way as he navigated his way toward my third lane. But he didn’t see me and if I was not paying attention, he would have walked directly into the path of my car.

Thank God I had recognized the dangerous situation he was causing and stopped before he and I collided. I did not blow my horn, because I didn’t want to startle him. When he turned and saw how close my car was to him, his eyes widened with shock and recognition.

I peered through the windshield and mouthed the words I was thinking. “You don’t know how lucky you are, my friend, that I was driving and paying attention. Another driver might not have slowed down, seen what was happening, and run you over.” He appeared shaken and embarrassed, waved, and crossed my lane to the sidewalk. And I began to drive on, glad I had been paying attention and averted an accident.

Read Luke 10:25-37.

Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan who came along one day at the right time. A priest and Levite had ignored the bruised and broken person and kept on their way. But the Samaritan stopped and helped, which Jesus pointed out, is true compassion for a fellow human being.

How often have you been just the right person to come along? How many times have you happened to notice someone who needed assistance in the way no one else could? Maybe you noticed a student on the floor of your dorm appearing emotionally distraught. You stopped to ask if they were ok and if there was anything you could do? She paused and said she just did poorly on an exam and was so disappointed in herself. But listening to her helped her decompress.

Or you heard about your Chi Alpha chapter’s plans to start volunteering at the local homeless shelter and you volunteered that evening. Or you went out with fellow Chi Alpha students in your small group to do 2×2 contact evangelism on campus. During several encounters, you realized how far students actually were from God. It finally dawned on you that God could use you to get His message of forgiveness and freedom to others.

Are you praying that God will use you in His Kingdom expansion efforts? What changes do you need to make in order to be available that way all the time for God? Walk wisely. Maybe only you can be the right person to come along. God has deeds for only you to accomplish.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 18

On a recent Saturday I went out to do some yard work. Instead of walking out my front door, I went through the garage and was determining my weed-pulling strategy as I looked at my wife’s garden in front of our front porch.

I saw something move to the right in my peripheral vision. As I turned my head, I saw a four foot black snake lying at the base of the front step – the only step off of our porch. I realized then if I had walked out the front door as I normally did, I may not have seen the snake and have stepped right over it. I may even have spooked it and it could have lunged up at me. As I now moved a step toward it the snake crawled into the rear of the bushes and paused. I stepped forward to get a better look and it moved behind and underneath the largest bush in the garden.

Zookeepers who handle snakes will tell you that you should never attempt to grab one by the tail. Any snake can quickly turn around and sink its fangs into your hand. Even though I knew black snakes are not poisonous, I was not interested in getting bitten. The right way is to control a snake by its head. I put some thick gardening gloves on, moved closer to attempt to grab it by its head and carry it to the nearby woods, thereby reducing the chance of any kids in the neighborhood encountering it.

Read Exodus 4:1-5.

Picking up a snake by its tail is exactly what God told Moses to do. Moses, like others raised in the Midian desert, would have known that doing what God said was in this context, unwise. Yet Moses obeyed the Lord. Why?

What was God trying to teach Moses? It seems that God wanted him to realize God’s power was available to him, but Moses must be willing to be used by Him as His messenger. In this account, there was little difference between throwing a rod to the ground (v 3) and taking the snake by its tail (v 4). Both were acts of obedience to the Lord. The lesson is God was able to use whatever He wanted in order to help Moses learn to trust Him and deliver His message to the Hebrews.

Look at your hands. Have you considered that our lives are in our hands? We choose everyday whether to waste or use our time in our own pursuits of what we think will bring meaning and fulfillment. Or we decide how to invest our lives in an obedient life that pleases the Lord, brings glory to Him, and advances His Kingdom.

We will often be surprised at what the Lord will accomplish in and through us as we obediently do what He asks. Ehud, a left handed man was available for God’s purposes in chapter three of the Book of Judges when right handed folks were apparently not. God eventually was able to use Gideon, who we learn was a coward when we first meet him in Judges 6.

After a few attempts to grab the black snake in our garden behind its head failed, and it was hissing and jumping at me to protect itself, I grabbed a rake and drug it into the sewer drain across the street. Children were safe. I did what was needed.

Think theologically. What is in your hand? God’s call to serve Him includes His strength to complete the task. Remember, “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus.”

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 11

Have you ever watched people at a tourist site? Places like Disney World, Busch Gardens, the Grand Canyon, even the Mall of America? It is incredible how people strain their necks to get a better view. Some call this action, “rubbernecking,” which means to “observe with curiosity.”

I just got back from visiting two baseball stadiums in Florida and observed fans looking around the ballparks at their design and unique features. I heard lots of “oohs and aahs” and saw a lot of pictures being taken.

The Bible reveals that such sounds and actions also take place in heavenly places. The apostle Peter wrote in such a way as to pull back the curtain of heaven and give his readers a glimpse of the angels gazing at God’s plan of redemption.

Read 1 Peter 1:1-12.

The last part of verse 12 says, “things which angels longed (or desired) to look into.” The Greek explanation of the word “look” means to “stoop and examine carefully with curiosity.”

Why would angels be so fascinated by the salvation of men and women? I think the answer is they are continually amazed by the way God solves the problem and consequences of sin and evil. The cross was the means by which He provided His Son as the only righteous substitute to pay the penalty of sin while upholding His holy standards. God now provides forgiveness and redemption to any human being who will repent, believe, and receive it.

Note the impact of verse 2 of chapter 1, where Peter explains the Father’s role in initiating salvation of humans. “All of us were chosen according to His foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ…”

Peter writes in verse 3 of the Father’s great mercy through which He provides new birth into a living hope. Verses 4 and 5 reveals God’s plans for a Christian’s future – an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for us, while we are shielded by God’s power. Incredible.

Peter then reveals some helpful perspective on suffering in verses 6-7, reminding us that even grief and trials of many kinds have a purpose in God’s Kingdom. He adds that despite suffering, our spiritual relationship with God and outlook on life in general, can be positive, meaningful, and redemptive. Suffering does not have to make you bitter, but you can become better.

Are you thankful for your salvation? Peter is as he writes his letter to first century followers of Jesus in the Roman Empire. The angels are! They rejoice each time a sinner repents and turns to put his or her faith, hope, and trust in God.

As you read, study, and reflect on the first twelve verses of 1 Peter chapter 1, can you pause to “look” or “examine with curiosity” what God has done to bring you back to Himself? Grow devotionally. The cross of Christ is the bridge between God and man. That’s a heart turner!

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 4

I just finished reading “Highest Duty,” the story of US Airways pilot Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III. On January 15, 2009, the world witnessed a remarkable emergency landing when “Sully” skillfully glided US Airways Flight 1549 onto the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew aboard. His story was made into a movie entitled, “Sully,” a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Todd Komarnicki, based on the autobiography “Highest Duty,” and starring Tom Hanks as Captain Sullenberger.

Captain Sullenberger wrote that on January 14, 2009, his life had been a series of thoughtful opportunities to be the best pilot, leader, and teammate he could be. He said he was an anonymous, regular guy, a husband, father, and US Airways pilot. On January 15, circumstances changed everything, a reminder that none of us ever knows what tomorrow will bring.

As his parents raised him, Chesley told his daughters over and over that each of us has the responsibility to prepare ourselves well. He wanted them to invest in themselves, to never stop learning, either personally or professionally. Regardless if they are ever noticed, Chesley urged his girls to ask themselves a simple question: Am I ready to make a difference?

The story of Captain Sullenberger was a riveting account of a man trained to do his job, one he did well for decades, outside of any recognition. He says he went to work every, like many in other professions, quietly, ready, and prepared to do his best, his part, and to serve others.

It got me thinking of people in Scripture that operated in a similar manner. The Bible records stories of men and women who took their gifts, calling, and sense of responsibility to do Kingdom work. Sometimes they are named, and sometimes they did their part in obscurity. But God recognizes and appreciates them.

Read 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Hebrews 11:13-16.

Consider Bezalel in Exodus 35:30-35: Then Moses said to the Israelites, “…the Lord has chosen Bezalel…and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, and with all kinds of skills to make artistic designs…in gold, silver and bronze…and the ability to teach others. The Lord called this artist and gave him great skill, understanding, and the ability to teach. Bezalel used his gifts faithfully for God’s purposes.

Consider the unnamed widow in 1 Kings 17: 8-24: Then…the Lord came to Elijah, saying…”See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” In providing hospitality for the man of God, the widow received miraculous blessing – food for many days and her son brought back to life.

Consider the unnamed 288 skilled musicians in 1 Chronicles 25:1-7: David and the captains of the army separated for service some…who should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals. Music is not merely for our enjoyment, but for the honor of God and His battle.

Most of us will never get our 15 minutes of fame, even if we wanted to. But God gifted and designed us to live meaningful lives and make a difference. Serve globally. Be inspired to join the ranks of the not-particularly-famous-and-maybe-never-noticed-but-much-needed Kingdom volunteers.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2018 by Mike Olejarz

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