Monday Motivator – October 24

One of my favorite black and white movies is The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock. It is a 1963 American horror film that focuses on a series of sudden and unexplained violent bird attacks on the people of Bodega Bay, California over a few days.

Aggressive and eerily coordinated varieties of birds harass, intimidate, even kill people in this seaside town that distracts, debilitates, and destroy men, women, and property.

The birds have literally taken over the town. Birds are everywhere. Droppings would naturally dot the landscape, buildings, and cars. Flapping wings and screeching startle the townsfolk, and hundreds (even thousands) of birds congregating on wires, poles, clotheslines caused quite a scene. You could feel the chilling effect of raw fear as differing numbers of birds literally provoked and attacked people. It got to the point where men and women were afraid to go outside. With all the chirping and chattering, the activity of the town ground to a halt.

Hitchcock’s movie was a nail-biter the first time I saw it. But consider the reality of such an occurrence. We all have to deal with distractions, even fear at times. Like swooping sparrows, things in life can cause us to take our eyes off of the Lord Jesus and attempt to hinder and block our spiritual journey and health.

What are some possible distractions? How are they affecting your relationship with God?

Activities: If you are involved with too much stuff, you may get loaded down. One student told me he had to “fast” from Facebook and other social media each week, because it caused him too much frustration and sideways energy.

People: Besides classes and homework, too much engagement with people via email, text, phone, and “screen-time” may reduce the silence and solitude you need to re-charge.

Unfinished business: If you don’t keep up with homework and live out your daily/weekly priorities, it will come back to bite you in the backside (or flap in your face as an irritant).

Entertainment: I’ve seen students get mesmerized by their X-boxes, fantasy football leagues, binge-watching of a Netflix show, concert attendance, and TV shows, and they lost control of their lives and even health. They got addicted and it was hard to break it off to mere occasional enjoyment and a break from their normal stresses. They were trapped and some even in bondage.

Read Luke 10:38-42.

Jesus encountered two sisters one day, one of whom, Martha, was distracted by all of her hostess duties. Jesus looked at her and said to learn from her sister, Mary, who had chosen to take a few moments to sit and learn from Him. He said Martha was concerned about many things, but simply needed to learn from her sister Mary that only one thing was needed, to fix her eyes on Him (v 41-42). Likewise, all of us need to give time and attention to listen to Jesus.

Live communally. If you are distracted by flapping noise, ask another Christ follower to help you draw close to King Jesus. Don’t allow distractions to deter you from growing in Christ.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 17

How have you wrongly viewed God and His attributes?

I always struggled with using the word, “awesome” in day to day activities. It seemed to be a word that should be restricted to something bigger than a well-pitched baseball game, a concert performance, a feel-good movie, a new piece of clothing, or a tech gadget.

I have recognized that a lot of my actions are foolish at times, frivolous even, and often reckless. My intent is taking care of my needs, wants, and desires, and that is the epitome of being self-centered.

Days of my life flow by and I get lost in my own head, forgetting what, or more importantly, who my anchor really is. I try to regroup from leaning on my own understanding, and remember to put my hope in the One who is able to lead and guide me.

As I wrestle with day by day choices that war against my soul, I remain vigilant and violently committed to sowing to the Spirit as the writer of Romans 8 intends for followers of Jesus. I remember that I was bought with a price, even when I was dead in sin, and I decided to no longer refuse God’s hand of salvation, and daily promise of Spirit empowerment.

I was taught by my parents to “never get too big for my britches,” or think more highly of myself, and become big in my own eyes. Sadly, I have witnessed others who thought themselves great and they ultimately stumbled beneath the weight of excessive pride.

I try to live and choose to do what is meaningful, not meaningless. Since meeting Jesus, my desires have changed from doing what I want to listening to what He says is best, then doing it with His assistance. I learned from early faith struggles that without God’s will in view, I will falter and be off of His flourishing design for me.

Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17.

Verse 17 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture that I committed to memory and song. “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever, Amen.”

I have tried to reserve the word, “awesome” for God alone. Because:

I am not eternal, only God is.

I am not immortal, only God is.

I am not sovereign, only God is.

I am not omniscient, only God is.

I am not omnipotent, only God is.

I am not immutable, only God is.

I am not worthy of praise, only God is.

I am not the center of the universe, only God is.

Think theologically. Only God is God. What is one characteristic of God you will reflect on?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 10

Jesus called us to be his disciples (or informed learners). This is an action word that speaks of the practice of learning from Jesus’ teachings and example and then applying them to our life. As Lord of our lives, Jesus expects us to take his guidance seriously. In order to do that, we must read, study, and understand what He taught that was later captured in the Bible.

I learned a helpful tool (called the Hand) for approaching scripture from the Navigator’s, a national campus ministry with a similar mission and vision like Chi Alpha Campus Ministries.

The Hand illustrates five ways that we can get a grasp of the Word of God. Each one of them is important and vital to our growth in Christ. How is your Bible intake? What is your strategy to develop a healthy and balanced input and usage of Scripture? How can we assist students to create and strengthen holy habits for handling Scripture in a responsible manner?

Here are five ways using the five fingers of a hand, moving from the pinky finger to the thumb.

Hearing (Romans 10:17). God has called leaders to preach and teach the Bible to us. Each of us needs the instruction and encouragement of hearing the Word of God taught on a regular basis.

Reading (Revelation 1:3). In order to gain an understanding of God’s work and plan from beginning to end we must read the Bible. The whole Bible can be read in as little as 80 hours by the average reader. Reading the Bible gives us breadth.

Studying (Acts 17:11). Studying the Word gives us insight into the meaning of God’s message to us. Studying the Word gives us depth.

Memorizing (Psalm 119:9,11). Choosing select passages and memorizing the Word is valuable both for our own personal growth but also for ministry to others. We can share the gospel message with those who don’t know Christ and share the Word with fellow believers.

Meditation (Psalm 1:2-3). Meditation on God’s Word is the thumb of the Hand. The thumb is able to touch each of the fingers. Likewise we can meditate on the Word as we hear it taught, read through it, study it and memorize it. Meditation is considering the implications of God’s Word for our own lives. It is reflection on the Word for the purpose of personal application.

Application – Healthy and consistent habits lead to an obedient lifestyle. This step corresponds to the wrist in the Hand illustration.

I have found the hand illustration a helpful tool for visualizing some basic approaches to spiritual practices necessary for growth. Each of the five components of the hand illustration are practices you grow into through practice and guidance.

After explaining the hand illustration, I expect that students will put these principles into practice in their daily life. A central concept of discipleship is being able to pass off what you have learned to someone else as a transferable concept. The hand illustration is a valuable tool to handle Scripture and help you to learn how to teach someone else how to do the same. Grow devotionally. As you utilize the five fingers, you will get a better grasp of Scripture.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 3

When have you had a chance to stand up for Jesus? What did you do?

I have watched college students for decades determine that they would live according to the teachings of Jesus. Despite the incessant messages of popular culture that you should do “whatever feels good” or “what makes you happy,” many decide that the ways of Jesus are safer, wiser, and ultimately healthier. Even though friends shrink back when told you won’t violate your values anymore, and they roll their eyebrows when you tell them it’s because Jesus has a better way for you, you stand your ground.

Want some examples of college students in Chi Alpha standing up for Jesus?

  1. Students put their faith, hope, and trust in Jesus for life’s greatest adventure.
  2. Students wait until marriage to have sex. Many told me they did not regret waiting.
  3. Students live out their faith on campus by doing their best in their academic area of study. They even take their professors out for coffee to learn of their spiritual journey.
  4. Students see living in the dorms (or a Greek house) as a chance to be a witness for Christ. They are intentional in living close to those far from God.
  5. Students address their sexual brokenness and find new hope, life, and strength in Jesus to move toward wholeness.
  6. Students reach out to their friends with news about the greatest book, story, and person of all time. They do not cower in fear of what others think of them.
  7. Students challenge the loose ethics and practices they witness at college and challenge the process by speaking up.
  8. Students live out Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship’s values of “every student prays, gives, goes, and welcomes.”
  9. Students volunteer to “give a year” of charitable and/or missional service after graduation for the extension of God’s Kingdom.
  10. Students practice biblical stewardship by tithing 10% of their gross earnings each month, saving 10%, and giving away 10%, all the while trusting the Lord for their provision and cultivating gratefulness for the daily blessings of our heavenly Father.

Read Titus 3:1-11.

We all recognize how hard it can be at times to “be ready to do whatever is good” (Titus 3:1). We see someone doing something that is dishonoring to the Lord, even harmful to them. We think, “I should say something to him or her,” but we rationalize away the opportunity, chicken out, and back away. We worry too much about what the person (or his or her friends) may think, and not so much about what the Lord thinks.

Students in Chi Alpha are not perfect, but they are trying to live out the teachings of Jesus. Even when they blow it, they remember God still loves them and offers forgiveness (1 John 1:9). They recognize God is patient and works to help them become more Christ-like even as they encourage other students to follow Jesus too.

Serve globally. When it is time to stand up for Jesus, Chi Alpha students don’t just sit there, but they are Spirit empowered to make a difference in their area of influence.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 26

Nobody likes to think about dying, but the reality is we will all die someday. We even die a little bit each day.

I saw an old western recently where an old prospector came into town after a gold find and bought drinks for everyone in the bar. Someone asked him if he was afraid of dying with so many men out looking for gold and willing to do just about anything to get their hands on some.

He replied that he was not worried about the time he would die because he had made peace with his Maker. He joked when he said that if he ever found out where he would die, he would avoid that place at all costs. He added that he generally stayed away from “young fellers who were out for no good” as well as rattlesnakes and dangerous mines where gold was once found.

My doctor recently asked me during a checkup about my diet and exercise habits, vices (if any, like drinking too much, smoking, etc.) as well as checking my cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight. Not too bad overall, but he added that my breathing was a concern. How so, I asked? He said my breathing was gradually killing me, but there was nothing he or I could do about it. With every breath we take, we are shortening our lives a bit.

I said I never heard of such a thing. He said most of us recognize that we need oxygen to survive. But most of us do not realize that in the process of our bodies converting food to energy that the oxygen we breathe produces a byproduct that contributes to our aging. So the more you breathe, the more you age, and the closer you come to death. Obviously the alternative is worse! Stop breathing (like you could stop the aging process) and you stop living.

Read Acts 17:28.

In many ways, God is like oxygen. We cannot live without Him. We try very hard to, but ultimately come back to the reality of our dependence on His presence and place in our day to day existence. We could not wake up, get out of bed, feed ourselves, lift our mobile device to check our status, schedule, and apps, or even walk to class if God did not keep our hearts beating and moving the blood throughout our body’s systems.

I saw another reality of life when my mom and aunt died last fall of cancer. Physical death is a certainty we all will face, regardless of our family heritage, personal accomplishments, bank balance, etc. God has declared that physical death is a consequence of the sin of all humans. No one has ever avoided, beaten, or emerged valiant over death, except for King Jesus…and those who have put their faith, hope, and trust in Him. Scripture says we will all die and face God.

Trying to get away from Him is as futile as trying to stop breathing to slow down your aging. You and I have to face up to the fact that unless Jesus returns before we actually die, we will die nonetheless. For those of you in college it may be 50 years away or it could be sooner. The time to get ready is now.

Walk wisely. The one certainty about life is death. After you die, will you go to heaven? Get on good terms with God by putting your faith, hope, and trust into Jesus as your Savior. You’ll breathe easier knowing your future is secure by virtue of your relationship with God Himself.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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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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