Monday Motivator – November 20

Isn’t the cross of Jesus an enigma?

What Jesus received from us – guilt, shame, sin – brought him death. What we receive from him – freedom, salvation, and goodness – brings us life.

The Scriptures call us to remember who the Lord is and what He has done. Jesus was a real person who breathed, walked, ate, laughed, and wept. He was born of a virgin. He entered human history quietly in humble circumstances amidst common livestock. His parents were poor and his first visitors were shepherds, men in the lowest vocation in Israel’s culture.

He was no ordinary child as he was announced as the promised Messiah, the Redeemer of all, and the Savior of the world. Luke records that he grew in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and men. John the Baptist recognizes him as one whose sandals he is not worthy to untie. John identifies him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Yet he is divisive. And he does not yield to anyone’s agenda. Tensions grow with the Jewish and Roman authorities, Jesus is soon arrested, beaten, and crucified.

Do you remember Gethsemane?

Do you remember how Judas betrayed him?

Do you remember how Peter denied him?

Do you remember how the disciples (whom he chose) all deserted him?

Do you remember the beating Jesus suffered?

Do you remember the crown of thorns?

Do you remember the taunts and how he was spit on?

Do you remember his pierced hands and feet?

Do you remember his agony on the cross?

Do you remember his thirst?

Do you remember how he cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Do you remember the empty tomb?

Read Philippians 2:5-8.

The cross is the center of our faith. At the cross God’s love is clearly demonstrated for all of humankind. It is at the cross that Jesus reveals the heart of God for all men and women, broken and rebellious against their sovereign Creator. He died, he was buried, and he rose again.

The cross is the heart of our salvation. The great trade between the Father and the Son was enacted. Isaiah and Paul agree that the cross is the place where our wounds are healed by the death of Jesus. He did it willingly and purposefully, because it is the reason he came.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). For Christ died also for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). Do you realize the impact of 1 Corinthians 15:3-8?

Think theologically. Jesus is the only one who solved the problem of our sin and brokenness. Let us live in humble gratitude of the gift that Jesus provided by his death. Remember.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 13

I find myself learning over and over how to walk with God and simply enjoy His presence. Yes, I regularly use the prayer Jesus taught the disciples to pray that Dr. Luke recorded later in his Gospel. I have a daily practice of holy habits. But I realized my relationship with God often mirrors other relationships that need time, nurture, shared experience, and waiting.

I have found that written prayers often help me engage with the Father. For the past year or so I have used “Daily Readings from Spiritual Classics” (1990, Augsburg Fortress) to help me pause and reflect each day on the nature and character of God. The daily readings are contemporary devotions based on texts by people like Augustine, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, C.S. Lewis, & Flannery O’Conner. I have enjoyed the daily content from various writers who introduced a reading from an author like Augustine, then offered a prayer and reflection response for me to follow.

Here is a sample prayer that I picked up at the Global Leadership Summit a few years ago.

“God, this a new day. I freshly commit myself to the role you have invited me to play, as you are building your church in this world. I am awestruck again that you include me in this grand, life-giving, world-transforming endeavor. So today, I gladly offer you: My Love, My Heart, My Talents, My Energy, My Creativity, My Faithfulness, My Resources, and My Gratitude.

 I commit all of myself to the role you have assigned me in the building of your church so that it may thrive in this world. And I will “bring it” today. I will bring my best. You deserve it. Your church deserves it. It is the Hope of the World.”  This prayer is posted where I shave.

Read Psalm 42.

Part of my “soul thirsting for God, for the living God,” (v 2) are prayer and worship experiences that help me sit at His feet and feel His presence.

Another one of my spiritual practices is to engage in personal worship. I have found portions of Scripture that I read, reflect on, and even sing back to the Lord. I have also treasured a few songs now and then that seem to help me connect with the Father more readily. One of the songs I have been listening to for months, since I came across it on Pandora music, is called “Clean” by Natalie Grant. Here are the first three stanzas:

I see shattered, You see whole, I see broken, But You see beautiful, And You’re helping me to believe, You’re restoring me piece by piece.

There’s nothing too dirty, That You can’t make worthy, You wash me in mercy, I am clean, There’s nothing too dirty, That You can’t make worthy, You wash me in mercy, I am clean.

What was dead now lives again, My heart’s beating, beating inside my chest, Oh I’m coming alive with joy and destiny, Cause You’re restoring me piece by piece.

I have played the song “Clean” over and over on several occasions. It has helped me “go and meet with God” (v 2), and helped me as “if His song were with me” (v 8). Grow devotionally. Each of can use Scripture, prayer, and worship as ways to taste and see that He is good.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 6

What does a pastor and their church need to be reminded of? College and university ministry is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) in reverse. The world is here, represented on a campus nearby your church. If your school has 10,000 students a year for ten years, what sorts of young men and women (not to mention adult faculty and administrators) are coming to and through your town? How can we gain influence?

Let’s start with language. When attempting to influence folks on campus, let’s avoid referring to them as, “lost, non-Christian, pre-Christian, heathen, pagan, etc.” I know the terms have theological meaning to us as insiders, but we need to make connections with men and women on campus, and calling them names is not a good way to start off.

Second, do not be intimidated by the secular university. Brilliant people may not know much about spirituality, or Christianity in particular. Read and study your campus culture to understand who makes up the student body, faculty, and leadership. Read and study cultural shifts to determine whom it is you are trying to get to know. As Christians, we believe truth is a Person. Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God and love your (campus) neighbor as yourself. It will take some effort to live out the latter.

Third, the church must employ the principle of strategic release. The four years of an undergraduate education are prime years to engage a lot of people in a relatively small footprint. Sharing meals, dialogue over homework, hanging out, recreation, and living life in tight quarters are profound opportunities for evangelism and God encounters.

Strategic release means the church should not recruit and mobilize college students for church ministry while they are in college. We don’t even want their money. They best can reach their friends and professors for Christ. Leave them alone to do it. Let them invest what money they have in campus ministries like Chi Alpha. Feed them and bless them. Inspire students to join Chi Alpha or other Christian ministries on campus. Seed their idealism for campus impact and cheer for them. Challenge church raised students to not join the youth group as “youth sponsors” but to get involved on campus. Their time on campus is too short and the Kingdom fruit prospects too large to ignore.

Few churches in college towns actually see much local gain, because students are so transitory. Your goals should be to have a welcoming and equipping service, answer questions they are asking, and contribute to healthy campus ministry staff if they and their families attend your church. You have a front row seat to watch God’s mission unfold on campus. Celebrate their victories as Kingdom advancements.

Healthy and normal church life is critical for them to see and experience as collegians, so they need to hang out with older people, families, and kids, and see real life and faith in action. A student’s positive church experience in college often leads to upgraded (and longer) parishioner participation after graduation and even another tither.

Serve globally. The measure of a local church’s success is not how many students attended, but how many leaders were sent out to reconcile students to Christ, and how they contribute to transforming the university, the marketplace, and the world.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 30

October 31, 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation unwittingly initiated by a Catholic monk named Martin Luther. My friend and colleague, Dr. Charles Spong and his wife Peg will attend the Wittenberg 2017 Congress in Germany October 30 to November 1.

To watch the Congress live from the States, you can register on www.luther.tv. The cost is only $9.95. You also will receive 3 powerful books free with your registration. To view a brief summary of the life of Luther and the Congress speakers, go to www.luther2017.tv. This is a once in a lifetime Congress. Don’t miss viewing this incredible event.

Chuck has supplied me with critical information about the Reformation for months. He helped me understand how the 16th Century Reformation and the 20th Century Pentecostal Movement compared (how alike) and contrasted (how different). For example:

How Alike:

  1. Both returned to the New Testament in doctrine and practice and were Christocentric.
  2. Both movements suffered persecution, but the 16th century endured more upheaval.
  3. Both resulted to division but impacted the whole church world.
  4. Both created new theologies that generated much discussion and debate.
  5. Both started new educational institutions: 16th century primary schools and colleges; 20th century Bible schools (mainly).
  6. Both were dissatisfied with conditions in the church and helped create renewal efforts.

How Different:

  1. 16th Century: No emphasis on the Spirit. 20th Century: Emphasis on the Spirit.
  2. 16th: Baptism, gifts, healing none. 20th: Emphasis on baptism in Holy Spirit, gifts, healing.
  3. 16th: Stress on water baptisms. 20th: Greater stress on salvation.
  4. 16th: Stress on sacraments. 20th: Less emphasis.
  5. 16th: No emphasis on missions. 20th: Emphasis on missions.
  6. 16th: Begun by leaders. 20th: Begun by college students.

Build fide (faith) by reading about movements and leaders that have moved the Church forward the past 500 years. Here are some; without the first three, we would not be reading about the rest: Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Knox, Reformed, Anabaptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Tyndale, George Fox, Puritans, Jansenism, Quietism, Pietism, Zinzendorf, John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Finney, the Moravians, William Wilberforce, Menno Simons, Mennonites, Henry Ward Beecher, Albert Switzer, Francis Asbury, The Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards, D.L. Moody, William Carey, Student Volunteer Movement, Billy Sunday, Pentecostals, Aimee Semple McPherson, A.B. Simpson, Oral Roberts, and Billy Graham.

Read the Luther biography, “Here I Stand” by Roland Bainton (1950). Another is “Martin Luther” by Eric Metaxas (2017). Check out Chuck Norris’ 10/30/17 article on Luther at wnd.com.

Walk wisely. The Reformation of the Church begun in 1517 is more than about one person or an era (1517-1648). It is really about a continuing movement to progress the Church forward to what God wants it to be worldwide (Ephesians 4:11-16), a challenge yet to be fully met. 500 years (1517-2017) of church and contemporary life are reminders of the work still to be done.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 23

What cultural gods are demanding your attention right now?

The world ends for a lot of people each and every day due to the absolute truth of death. Life will never be the same for the deceased and those that loved or even worshiped them. Particularly for those in the public eye whose 15 minutes of fame (or longer) captured someone’s interest, it appears that many often get caught up in a version of celebrity or hero worship.

You have probably observed people lighting candles, playing their music (or tweets) nonstop, dressing like them, leaving flowers or some memento near the site of their passing, even lamenting their loss on social media (when in most cases they never met the cultural icon).

But I wonder if our celebrity culture breeds a sort of weirdness. The legend of a famous (or infamous) person may seem captivating, and for some it can become a phenomenon that is real, or at least symbolic, but may be nothing to laugh at. I’ve read where therapists have counseled people to get in touch with their inner (fill in the blank). The celebrity’s picture may have been on a video game, a postage stamp, or a weekly magazine that is collected or revered. I heard of a football coach that still left a ticket for musician Elvis Presley on game days.

Celebrity worship can be a religion. Consider the annual trek to the dead person’s home, binge weekends, video gaming marathons, the conducting of elaborate rituals, the creation of new memorials, and even talking to their dead celebrity. It seems that people who don’t have the One True God in their lives often make a god out of all sorts of stuff and desire to stay connected.

Read 2 Kings 17:29-41.

In ancient times in the Middle East, exiles from several nations were shipped off to live among Jews in Samaria. Israelite priests taught them how to worship God, but it didn’t quite work out the way they thought. “They worshiped the Lord but also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought” (2 Kings 17:33).

Think about the customs of your school, community, and nation and what you are being taught to worship. Who are the cultural gods you are feeling pressured to identify with and acknowledge, even publicly honor? It may start with wearing their basketball shoe. Or supporting (with words and actions) the prevailing campus protest theme. What is trending on social media?

How is your loyalty being tested? Is your worship of God being threatened by campus intolerance and/or political correctness and pushed to the back burner of your worldview? How can you keep “pretenders to your allegiance” from overpowering your love and service of God?

The One True God transcends all cultures, customs, time, and geography. He alone deserves to be called “amazing” or “awesome.” He ought to be the object and subject of your worship and devotion, no matter who seems to be in the cultural spotlight on late night TV. Regardless of what popular culture is telling you, God demands your heart, soul, mind, and strength, because only when you are in alignment with Him, can you flourish as a person.

Think theologically. Beware. The transient gods of culture are and always will be idols of sand.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 16

I have had the benefit of a background in competitive athletics where I was taught why and how to prepare for a long season as well as the need for consistent performance. There are reasons why some teams outperform others, one of which is their preparation before the actual game.

When I encountered the person and teachings of Jesus and decided to put my faith, hope, and trust in Him, I learned there were spiritual practices that would help me live a life of faith. Due to a number of coaches who helped me understand the realities and necessities of proper practice leading to consistent performance, my approach to spiritual growth took a similar trajectory.

I have not struggled to think God wanted me to grow just because I was lacking something, or that He was disappointed in me. I did not wrestle with the idea that I was never good enough for a holy God, or that He needed me to be better so He could squeeze more out of me in ministry.

I have come to understand why spiritual disciplines and growth are important. One of the reasons is that I can experience a deeper understanding of God’s love by putting myself in His presence through the use of ancient traditional spiritual practices. I invest my time and energy in my spiritual growth so I can be with God, plain and simple. In sports, the better we practice and are prepared for our opponent, the more relaxed and confident we will perform in the game.

Read Ephesians 3:16-19.

The apostle Paul wrote a great overview of what God has done for all of us in this first century letter to the Christians at Ephesus. He sought to raise the understanding of God’s goodness and grace to men and women. Paul wrote to describe the “what” as well as the “how” of God’s redemptive actions. The first half of the book addresses the doctrinal foundation of what He did and why, and the second half addresses what that could and should look like in the lives of Christ-followers.

I look back at a championship season and remember the mental, physical and emotional exertion it took to practice and perform at a high level. If I desire to experience the goodness of God, I need certain practices to be in play just to be with Him. Here are a few of mine:

First, practice slowing down with Scripture. My parents helped me learn not to stuff myself with food and run from the table to my homework. Eating slowly is healthy for my body and for conversation around the table. Therefore, I like to read large chunks of Scripture and let it saturate my mind. Learn to linger in the Word, meditating on its riches, listening to the Spirit.

Second, practice praying without ceasing. While we should set aside regular time for focused prayer, invite Jesus to walk with you throughout the day as you navigate the realities of life.

Third, practice solitude on a regular basis. How can you build in pockets of time each week or month where you have no agenda? How can you block out time in your calendar to be unavailable to anyone else but God? How can you silence your phone usage each week?

Grow devotionally. Your spiritual growth is worth the investment in yourself. If you are on God’s team, you do not have to earn God’s love but can merely enjoy it. So practice well.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 9

We live in a time of growing dividedness at many levels of society and our own personal interactions with others. It seems that conversations on or off of social media and subsequent actions are contributing to an alarming divisiveness and disrespect.

I attended the Global Leadership Summit in August of this year. Bill Hybels, the founder of the GLS, gave the keynote address and called for all of us to take the initiative to model civility in our families, neighborhoods, organizations, and communities.

Read 1 Peter 2:17.

Bill Hybels, like the apostle Peter in the first century, echoed the call to “respect everyone always.” He suggested that, “Who I am as a senior leader is the place I need to start. If I’m going to be on the solution side, I need to make sure I’m acting in the appropriate way.” He then outlined ten rules we should consider applying in our relational contexts to practice respect to those in and outside of our sphere of influence.

1: Leaders must set the example on how to differ with others without demonizing them.

2: Leaders must set the example of how to have spirited conversations without drawing blood.

3: Leaders must not interrupt others who are talking and must not dominate the conversation.

4: Leaders must set the example of limiting their volume levels and refusing to use incendiary or belittling words that guarantee to derail a discussion.

5: Leaders must set the example of being courteous in word and deed to everyone at every level.

6: Leaders must never stereotype.

7: Leaders must apologize when they are wrong, instead of denying or doubling down.

8: Leaders must form opinions carefully and stay open minded if better information comes along.

9: Leaders must set the example of showing up when they say they are going to show up and doing what they say they are going to do.

10: Leaders must set “Rules of Respect” for everyone in the organization and enforce them relentlessly.

Bill mentioned another leader who developed a civility code for their company: 1) We will greet and acknowledge each other, even with a smile. 2) We will say please and thank you. 3) We will treat each other equally and with respect. 4) We will be direct, sensitive and honest. 5) We will address incivility whenever it occurs.

AT&T President Randall Stephenson wrote to his company: “I am not asking you to merely tolerate each other. Tolerance is for cowards. Being tolerant requires nothing of you. But to be quiet and not make waves, holding tightly to your views and judgments without being challenged. Do not merely tolerate each other. Work hard! Move into uncomfortable territory and seek to understand each other.”

How can staff and students in Chi Alpha chapters show some “grit” in their peacemaking efforts? It can start with civility. Don’t settle for anything less than treating others with respect, since everyone is made in the image of God. May Jesus help us to be practitioners of civility.

Serve globally. The university, the marketplace, and the world needs people of civility.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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