Monday Motivator – April 22

How strong is your defense against sin and evil?

It is amazing to consider how prevalent sin and evil are in the world. TV, movie, and many book plots seem to have a tension between good and evil. The first few minutes of one of my favorite TV shows starts out with a crime against a seemingly innocent person and the detectives on “Law and Order” were tasked with solving the mystery.

The story of The Lord of The Rings is an account of evil rising up to destroy the world and all that is good in it. Sherlock Holmes fights off the consistent attempts of Professor Moriarty to push evil agendas across the British Empire and the European continent. Batman and Robin were endlessly battling evil characters such as the Penguin, the Joker, the Riddler, and many others bent on the pursuit of crime, power, and greed.

Another character I enjoyed was James Bond. The handsome, suave, charismatic British spy was always on the go in a rush around the planet to save the world from total destruction from a tyrant, despotic ruler, and/or fiend.

I was attracted to Bond’s investigative abilities, his state-of-the-art weapons and gadgets, the fast cars with the latest technology, as well as his ability to handle a series of breathtaking stunts.

The Bond movies always started with the threat of evil encompassing the world and 007 was available and eager to face it and stop it. Bond would sneak into the enemy’s camp (often in broad daylight) and discover the missing piece of a puzzle and ultimately prevent a diabolical plot for world devastation.

Read 1 Samuel 17.

A shepherd boy named David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, did not have high tech weaponry, jump from tall buildings to another, or use computers in the bat-cave to solve problems. But God used his availability and humble means to deliver the Israelites from danger and the oppressive hands of an enemy nation.

David’s defense mechanism on one occasion were five smooth stones, and the Spirit of the Living God. David stood alone and faced down the obstacle of an actual giant of a man. That giant stood and harassed the people of God for 40 days, taunting and ridiculing them. David finally stood up to the giant bully on the basis of his awareness of God’s definition of Himself.

Jesus sacrificed Himself by dying on the cross so that all humanity would be spared the judgment of God and eternal destruction. Jesus rose on the third day, victorious over sin, death, shame, guilt, and the grave. His act was the greatest defense mechanism of all time.

The Christian’s defense mechanism is Scripture. Read a brief description of God’s provision in Ephesians 6:10-18. God left us His Word so that we can defend ourselves, resist the enemy, and trust the Lord to deliver us from evil. Grow devotionally. The weapons God gave us to fight evil in the real world have divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4), and cause people to find true freedom in Christ. The best defense and offense is the Word of God.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 15

Where do you see darkness? How can you more fully hope in God’s work in our world?

Two sets of our neighbors recently were blessed with the birth of their fourth child. When their kids are outside and I open my garage door they often come in to see what I am up to. What snacks are available? Is it time for a popsicle? How about getting out the Magic Tracks cars on the driveway?

The questions they ask and the chatter they engage me in are fascinating. They often experience something new, like climbing the tree in my front yard, playing with the wind spinners in our garden, or using my box of chalk on the sidewalk. Any and all of these activities include a sense of wonder, as opposed to the commonplace view older people have of similar activities.

Last summer eight or ten kids sat on milk crates and enjoyed a movie in my driveway as it got dark. They enjoyed popcorn, water to drink, and an old Disney movie on videocassette in a portable TV-VCR unit. Then one of the kids noticed fireflies for the first time. Immediately the kids were jumping and trying to catch a firefly in their little hands. It was a brief yet fun tangent to movie time and a wonderful moment.

As we returned to finish the movie, several kids started saying, “Hey, it is dark out here.” Their world was forever altered by the reality and discovery of the nighttime. I’m sure the older kids were more familiar with the darkness since their parents helped them get to bed on time each evening. They were more used to the difference between daylight and darkness.

The movie ended and I asked the kids to lie in the grass and look up at the stars. They peered up at the dark sky and looked at black nothingness, dotted with stars on a clear summer night. With branches of the neighborhood trees swaying in the slight breeze, they paused to enjoy the dark.

Read Isaiah 5:18-21.

Later that night I went out on my back porch and peered up into the sky. The night felt different than it normally has. It was the same in most aspects – dark, quiet, stars, and so on. But it was also different in a way I cannot clearly describe. It was fascinating, eerie, dark, and it was something else, something I can’t remember seeing before as I sat in the dark.

It was not like I had never experienced the dark before, because I had. I even had some unique experiences being deep under water, in a cave, and of course, experiencing it every day of my life. It was as if the darkness did not seem as dark as before.

I was able to understand the people Isaiah wrote about, the ones who confused God’s light with the darkness of sin. I was gaining insight into those who allow themselves to mingle in such a way as if there is no distinction between light and darkness. I was able to see the difference between the light and truth of God’s Kingdom and the dark more clearly than ever.

The painful reality (and truth) of our world (including our campuses) is that the fallen world is dark. Serve globally. Seeing what is dark will help us to hope in the light. See the light. Hope in the Light of the World. Walk in the Light. Allow God’s Spirit to shine His Light through you.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 8

Have you had trouble making decisions at times?

I have dealt with college students who were learning to make all sorts of decisions about life, morality, marriage, career, and even their attitude. Some were required to be made daily, such as how best to tackle and manage their homework. Others included longer lasting decisions such as a career pathway that required classes and a choice of major.

Many young people express frustration with decision making demands. Some expressed the desire to discover a literal twelve-step program to assist them. One said to me that even if one existed, they would struggle to decide if they should go. Or if they went, they would spend a lot of time and energy wondering if they made a good decision to go.

Some students have told me they wrestle with basic decisions on a regular basis – where to go for lunch, what clothes to wear on a particular day, when to go to sleep at night, should they get a dog or cat for their dorm room (even when the school prohibits pets of any kind).

Some wondered if their difficulties with decision making are a reflection of their personality. They assume they are merely a person who gets stymied by the stress of making decisions. Some are perfectionistic and wonder if they are making the right decision, even as they cannot accept making a wrong one. I’ve responded by asking them what determines whether they are happy or unhappy about a decision? I am not sure it leads back to their personality.

Read Proverbs 3:5-6.

I have learned the secret of contentment from many writers of Scripture. I have been reminded that I could feel happy or unhappy in many situations. The key was never based on the circumstances, but on my mind and heart. If my identity was rooted in Christ, if my trust was in the Lord, and if my heart and mind were focused on the Father, I generally felt safe and at peace. If and when I felt out of sorts, entangled in my own personal thoughts, complaints, and emotional needs, I often felt reckless, restless, and divided.

I remember the words of Jesus from John 15 that if I “Remain in Him, He will remain with me.” Jesus said that no branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain connected to the vine. Similarly, I cannot bear fruit unless I stay close to Jesus. He said He is the Vine, and I am a branch. If a man or woman remains in Christ, he will enable them to bear much fruit.

I would suggest to students that they consider a few things about decision making. First is the reality of the sovereign will of God, which we cannot affect. He makes everything run (sun, moon, stars, gravity, seasons of the year), and they run well. Second, His moral will is clear and provides great guardrails for us. The 10 commandments give us clear guidance on making decisions regarding loving God and others that lead to human flourishing.

The third and final area of decision making is our free will choices. We will do well here if we stay connected to the Vine. I can’t make clear and good decisions if I am unhooked from the source of all true wisdom. Walk wisely. Whatever decision I am facing is no great decision. Turning fully and yielding totally to the fear of the Lord is the perfect decision I can make.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 1

Have you noticed that it’s still cool to thank God?

I saw it numerous times in the first few weeks of the March Madness basketball tournament. The winning team was always interviewed after the game and the coach and top performing player often said something like, “I’d like to start by giving glory to God.”

I saw a news clip about an award-winning songwriter who said, “God has always been good to me. He helps me with his grace and strength and propels me onward with persistence and prayer. That’s what helps me perform night after night.” The interviewer asked him about the irony and/or conflict between his stated devotion and the lyrics he used to sing about cheating and wanting to break up on a recent album. No further comment was made by the artist about the disconnect between a life of faith and his songs being sold to the public. But he did add, “God has been very good to me. I’m blessed, you know?”

It is so easy to thank God for His goodness when things are going well. But the question we must face hangs in the balance to be considered: How are we being good to God? How is our behavior a reflection of our appreciation for His goodness? Don’t get me wrong. I am glad people want to thank and praise God. He certainly deserves it. But He deserves more than mere lip service.

Read Jeremiah 2:1-6.

The prophet Jeremiah received a message about what true relationship with God was all about. God told him to tell His people – “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved Me and followed Me through the desert” (2:2). The word “devotion” is from the Hebrew word “hesed,” meaning a loyal love relationship that is intimate and very close.

God was declaring through His prophet that the devotion of the Israelites had once professed had grown cold and distant. In an ironic choice of words, God said the people “followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves” (2:5).

If we take this assessment to heart, we should consider our relationships with one another and God. Most of us can remember how thin some of our “good” friendships really are because we did not nurture them to grow beyond surface-level communication and infrequent time spent together. Is the status of our friendships a reflection of our lack of devotion to others?

Yet we often treat God the same way. We may often profess, “O God, You are so good!” We may do it when we get a good grade on a project, receive a care package from our parents, are the recipient of good news and achievement, and even an option for a summer internship we were hoping and praying for. But we must realize that it is not about telling God He’s good only when good things are happening. The reality is He is good all the time.

What God wants is our complete devotion to Him and others – good words and godly actions that reveal our close love relationship with Him and those closest to us. Let’s keep thanking Him with our lips and our lives. Then we can love others in word and deed as well. Both are needed.

Live communally. True devotion requires more than just words. What will it require of you?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – March 25

Do you realize that God sees and knows everything? How does that affect your behavior?

I saw an old episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” where Andy’s son Opie found a wallet with $50 and no identification card. He turned it into his dad, hoping Andy would give the money to him as a reward. Instead, Andy said they would wait seven days to see if anyone would come to the sheriff’s office to inquire about the wallet. Sure enough, a man did and he thanked Opie by giving him a few bucks for his thoughtfulness. Opie passed a big test.

Imagine you are walking on campus and you find a credit card on the ground with the school president’s name on it. What is your first instinct? Do you look around and see if someone is looking for it? Do you try and use it for personal gain? Or do you take it to the office of the president and return it? If you take it back, you will pass a test that was as big as any you would take in one of your courses. It is the sort of test you and I take every day. It is the test of whether or not we will do what is right even though we are convinced no one is watching.

It is the test of what entertainment you take in the privacy of your dorm room. What web sites do you view that have questionable content? How do you handle the situation when someone offers you the answers to an upcoming test that were obtained illegally? What kinds of thoughts do you allow to go unchecked when you see someone who is attractive? What do you do when the cashier gives you too much money back after a purchase?

We face tests like this all the time. Some we will pass and others we may fail. Some, like the one King David of Israel faced dealing with sexual purity can have catastrophic results.

Read 2 Samuel 11:1-5 and 12:1-14.

King David walked around on the roof of his palace one spring evening. He observed a woman bathing, noted she was beautiful, and sent someone to inquire about her. Ignoring his servant’s report that the woman was the wife of one of his top soldiers, David sent for her. Ignoring the command of God’s law, David slept with her.

David became guilty of breaking the sixth, seventh, ninth, and tenth commandments. Bathsheba appears to be an un-protesting partner in this adulterous encounter. When she later became pregnant with David’s child, the two of them knew the law prescribed the death penalty for both of them.

Prophets were messengers of God and the Great King sent Nathan to rebuke David and announce judgment on the king. Nathan asks David, “Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes?” To his credit, David recognized his guilt and confesses his sin in response (see David’s additional reflection in Psalm 51).

Even though David experienced the forgiveness of God, and was released from the customary death penalty for adultery and murder, he and Bathsheba still suffered great consequences.

Let’s learn from David. One way to prepare for such tests is to remind ourselves that Someone is always watching us. Even in the dark. Even when no one is around. Even when no one knows what we are thinking or considering. God knows. He sees. He more than anyone else, wants us to pass the test. And He gives us the strength to do the right thing. 

Think theologically. Your true character shows when you think no one is watching.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – March 18

It is remarkable that we have access to the Creator of the Universe. It is stunning that we can spend time with the heavenly Father, the Shepherd of our soul. It is amazing that we can sit and listen to the Bread of Life impart wisdom to us when we need it. It is comforting to know the Holy Spirit is our Advocate. It is strengthening to know He, the Faithful One, is just and will forgive us if we confess our sin to Him.

Do you feel ill at ease or unwelcome when you approach God? Or do you feel comfortable and welcome anytime?

My wife and I benefitted from some neighborly hospitality recently. Friends invited us over for a meal and we entered their home to soft music, a warm atmosphere, great food, and wonderful conversation. Our friends made us feel welcome, wanted, needed, and important.

Think about it.

The same principle applies when we come into the presence of our Holy God. This was made clear in the Old Testament Tabernacle, which was a symbolic representation of how people interact with the Living and True God. The “house of symbols” that is described in Exodus 25-27 was built and shaped and arranged to teach us about how to enter the presence of the Mighty God. God sets the conditions by which we have access and permission to enter His presence. That way is entirely through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son.

Consider the example of the bronze altar of sacrifice (Exodus 27:1-8). The altar stands for judgment on sin. The killing of the goats and sheep on this altar symbolized the results of sin, which is death. Therefore, the unmerciful death of an innocent animal, in place of a person who committed the sin, pointed them ultimately toward the One who would come to die as our Substitute, in other words, Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world.

When He died on the cross at Calvary, the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus was sufficient to atone for the sin of everyone, just as John declared in John 1:29.

Read Hebrews 9:15-22.

We can approach God only on His terms. The only way to receive God’s forgiveness is by putting your faith, hope, and trust in the action God offers through the death of His Son. When He shed His blood, he paid the necessary price to set each of us free from the sins committed under the first covenant. God offers you a gift you cannot purchase.

Since the death of Christ, the promised eternal inheritance (verse 15) is available to the beneficiaries of His action. That’s why Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant (verse 16). His atoning death means the inheritance is real and available for those who accept what Christ did on the cross. Jesus died as a ransom to buy back our reconciliation to God.

What qualities in God led Him to provide for us a way of salvation and entrance into His presence? Have you received Jesus Christ by faith as your Savior? If so, keep on loving Him and serving others. If not, do so today. The door to salvation is open and He is inviting you in to relationship with Him. There is nothing you can do to earn your salvation. Accept His gift.

Grow devotionally. Faith in Jesus is the key that opens the door to God.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – March 11

His was a common name in his day. Ananias had the privilege of being mentioned not once, but twice in a New Testament letter. The meaning of his name is, “The Lord is gracious, or shows grace.”

Imagine the scene he found himself thrust into: He had heard that Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. Saul went to the Jewish Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus (150 miles north) so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them south to Jerusalem.

When Saul got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?” He said, “Who are you, Master?” “I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”

His companions stood there dumbstruck—they could hear the sound, but couldn’t see anyone—while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days.

There was a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. The Master spoke to him in a vision: “Ananias.” “Yes, Master?” he answered. “Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul. He’s there praying. He has just had a dream in which he saw a man named Ananias enter the house and lay hands on him so he could see again.”

Ananias protested, “Master, you can’t be serious. Everybody’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us.” But the Master said, “Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews.”

So Ananias went and found the house, placed his hands on blind Saul, and said, “Brother Saul, the Master sent me, the same Jesus you saw on your way here. He sent me so you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes—he could see again! He got to his feet, was baptized, and sat down with them to a hearty meal. Saul spent a few days getting acquainted with the Damascus disciples, but then went right to work, wasting no time, preaching in the meeting places that this Jesus was the Son of God.

Read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21.

Staff and students in Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship believe we are called, like Ananias, to help men and women find a relationship with God. Will you surrender yourself today to live like Ananias, a gracious one? Will you embrace a lifestyle of obedience and availability to the Master? To whom might the Lord want you play the part of Ananias and show grace?

Serve globally. Like Ananias, let’s live a risky witness to help another person find freedom and be set free to a clear and reconciled identity in Christ. Do not, like Ananias, assume some people are beyond God’s reach. God is calling us to partner with Him in the greatest rescue operation of all time and no one is too tough for God.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2019 by Mike Olejarz

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