Monday Motivator – February 20

I used to hate God and love sin. Due to a college student and fellow Ohio University baseball player named Smitty, the trajectory of my life was intercepted by the gospel of Jesus. I learned from Smitty, KZ, Denny, X, and others how to love God and hate sin.

Imagine you and some friends are out sailing or rafting one weekend in the late fall. The day started out sunny and clear, but stormy weather arrived later on. Without regard for the changing environment, you ignore pleas from some in the group to head back to land. Yet the wind picked up quickly, waves rise and crash, everyone is screaming, and suddenly all of you are thrown out of the boat into the water. It has gotten darker, and the sound of your voices was being drowned out by the wind and waves.

Fear creeps in as you (as the group leader) consider the difficult situation you and your friends find yourselves in. You notice your friends are slowly moving away from one another by the pull of the water. No one had put life jackets on even though the boat rental coordinator said it was company policy and the boat was similarly marked. You are trying to stay afloat but as time goes by, you are losing confidence in your rescue. Your energy is draining, the water temperature is dropping, and bodies are slowly freezing.

Hope for survival seems bleak, yet suddenly the bright lights of a boat appear. Hands reach down and begin to haul you and your friends up into their boat from the cold water. Others have blankets and hot coffee and cocoa for your group. Imagine the thoughts you and your friends have now: safe, sound, warm, alive, and still friends.

Read Ephesians 2:1-10.

Imagine the similarity between being saved from a possible death in water and being saved from a final and eternal death? In a movie spoof, people could be shown refusing being saved from drowning by saying, “No thanks, I would prefer to drop to the bottom of the lake to my eventual demise.” Their refusal to be pulled from the water would be outrageous.

But think about it. Some followers of Jesus who are saved from the reality, pain, and consequences of sin often jump right back into their old patterns. Incredibly, they revert back to their old, God-dishonoring ways. Would anyone intentionally leave their friends to drown while in dangerous water, if they could save them with their effort? Sadly, some Christians who are rescued from sin do leave their friends to die without Jesus.

The early Christians believed the message Jesus taught and brought was good news. They articulated that men and women were saved from their separation from God caused by sin by putting their faith, hope, and trust in Jesus. They are saved from the power of sin now and the presence of sin later by Christ’s promises that the Holy Spirit will empower us to live Christ-honoring lives on earth and we will receive a rich welcome in heaven.

Live communally. Which friends of yours are drowning in sin and need to be rescued? How will you mount an effort to help them? Imagine the gratitude you might receive if you extend yourself to help your friends be safe, sound, and right with God?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – February 13

Learning to pray and actually doing it is a lifelong discipline. Dick Eastman has mentored me and many followers of Jesus in prayer. One of his helpful resources is called “How to Spend an Hour in Prayer.” One hour can be divided up into twelve five-minute points of focus. Some will only take one minute while some may take more than five minutes.

1. Praise. All prayer should begin with recognition of God’s nature. Praise is that aspect of prayer, which vocally esteems God for his virtues and accomplishments. Psalm 63:3; Matthew 6:9-13

2. Waiting. Time should be given to being quiet in God’s presence. This is not meditation or just a time for listening; it is simply taking time to let God love you. Psalm 37:7; Isaiah 40:31; Lamentations 3:25-26

3. Confession. Sin can be one of the biggest roadblocks to answered prayer. Early in prayer we need to make time for confession. This clears the way for powerful praying. Psalm 139:23-24; Psalm 51;

4. The Word. When we bring God’s word into our prayer we are opening our eyes to new possibilities in God. At this point in prayer, read God’s Word. 2 Timothy 3:16; Psalm 19:7-8

5. Intercession. Our prayers now center on intercession for a lost and dying world. This concerns praying for others who have desperate needs. 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Psalm 2:8; Matthew 9:37-38

6. Petition. This aspect of prayer concerns our personal needs. To petition God is to open our need to God through prayer. Matthew 7:7-8; Matthew 6:11; James 4:2

7. The Word. Earlier we suggested you read God’s word. Now, pray God’s word. Here we bring actual scripture into our prayers. We can never pray out of God’s will when we pray God’s word. Jeremiah 23:29; 2 Samuel 22:31; Numbers 23:19

8. Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving differs from praise in that praise recognizes God for who he is and thanksgiving recognizes God for what he has done. Philippians 4:26; Psalm 100:4

9. Singing. Melody in its truest sense is a gift from God for the purpose of singing praises to him. Let your songs come straight from the heart with the Holy Spirit creating the melody. To sing unto God is to worship him in melody. Psalm 100:2; Ephesians 5:19; Psalm 114:9

10. Meditation. In meditation, the mind is very active. It is to ponder spiritual themes in reference to God. Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-2; Psalm 77:12

11. Listening. Whether through his written word or the ‘still small voice’ of the spirit God speaks to praying Christians. But we must take the time to listen. Ecclesiastes 5:2; I Kings 19:11-12

12. Praise. We begin our prayer by recognizing God’s nature and we end in a similar fashion. “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Matthew 6:13; Psalm 100:4; Psalm 150

I have often re-framed Dick Eastman’s outline, “How to spend 12 minutes in prayer” by helping new believers in Christ start with a smaller time frame of one minute for each of the twelve components.  All of us need help in developing our spiritual muscles.

Think theologically. As Dick Eastman has taught for decades, developing a consistent prayer habit will lead us into a ministry that changes each of us and the world around us.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – February 6

Fasting from food is one of the classical disciplines followers of Jesus have practiced for centuries. It is an act of devotion to the Lord. Be careful how you talk about your fast, how long you have fasted, or even the “feel” or “experience” you may have enjoyed or wrestled with during the fast. Jesus said fasting is best done “in secret” where the Father can connect with us.

Read Matthew 6:16-18.

The “why” of fasting can be summed up by Jesus: “When you fast…” Jesus seems to imply it is an expectation of those in His Kingdom.

The purpose of fasting in Scripture is encouraging: For personal holiness (Psalm 69:10); To be heard on high (Ezra 8:23); To change God’s mind (Jonah 3:5, 10); To free the captives (Isaiah 58:6); For revelation (Daniel 9:2, 3, 21, 22), and to buffet the body (1 Corinthians 9:27).

There are several types of fasting for you to consider: The normal fast is done by drinking water only; The absolute fast is done without food or water, and is done for no more than three days; The partial fast has many variations – liquids only, certain types of foods, or certain meals; another type of fast concerns the length of it. Scripture reveals some who fasted 40 days.

When you fast, it is important to start off slow, maybe with a partial fast by skipping a meal and using the time for reading and reflecting on Scripture, worship, and prayer. Next time you might skip two meals in a day, then three on another day, drinking only water. A variation could be to fast breakfast and lunch, drinking water and or juice, and then a light dinner. When you are able to do this without feeling faint or famished (because you will feel hungry), you will be ready to ask the Lord about moving towards a longer fast of three, five, or even seven days.

To prepare for a longer fast, be sure not to indulge yourself with heavy meals like you are storing up food for a period of hibernation. You can slowly taper off your food intake the week prior to beginning your fast, even transitioning to fresh fruit the last day or so before the fast begins. It is also wise to recognize the need to slow down and cease your coffee intake a few days before your fast begins to help your body acclimate to the caffeine withdrawal (and possible headache).

During your normal fast, plan to drink a lot of water (4-8 glasses per day, but not ice cold water). Shower or bathe daily. Practice deep breathing, exhaling as fully as possible. Avoid strenuous exercise, but walking is fine. Of course, monitor your body as it adjusts to the lower food intake, so you are aware of but not caught off guard by the potential for bodily weakness.

A few ideas for breaking the fast: Watch your quantity of food intake and slowly resume your regular eating habits. Avoid sweets like candy and cakes the first week. Eat slowly. Stop at the sign of fullness. Slowly resume your workout routine. Do not try and do too much too soon. If there is any concern about your reaction to fasting, please consult your doctor beforehand.

Grow devotionally. Read Scripture for fasting examples, i.e., Nehemiah 1:4, 8, Esther 4:16, Isaiah 58: 6-9, Matthew 4:2 and 9:15, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. Ask someone who has fasted to walk you through the first steps of preparing to fast, executing the fast, and breaking the fast. “When you fast,” remember you are learning to love God through this ancient spiritual discipline.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – January 30

Our reason for being is tied to holy Scripture. Our name, Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, was derived from the second letter of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians, chapter five, verse 20. In it, Paul stated that followers of Jesus were Christ’s sent ones, or His ambassadors. “Chi Alpha” has its origin in those ideas. We are, as the original Greek language of the New Testament attests, His ambassadors, or sent ones…as though God were making His appeal through us.

Read 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2.

Therefore, our mission statement declares that we exist to, “reconcile students to Jesus Christ, transforming the university, the marketplace, and the world.” Chi Alpha staff work to help students become Christ-honoring followers and pass on the life and teachings of Jesus to others. Our efforts are focused not only while they are on campus, but aimed at preparing them for post-college life and service in the marketplace as well as in their relationships.

One of my tasks as a campus missionary has been to highlight Scriptural and historical figures to illustrate and demonstrate being “sent ones” in real time. I have used the stories of Biblical people like Joseph, Esther, Daniel, Mary, Barnabus, and the little boy who allowed Jesus to use his lunch to feed thousands, as well as figures like George Washington Carver, William Borden, Amy Carmichael, and Martin Luther King, Jr., to show lives lived well. My hope is every student has someone to follow that is worth following in their quest to become more like Jesus. I purposefully chose Christians from different eras worthy of our examination and consideration of why and how they loved and served Jesus and sought to extend His kingdom.

New York Times best-selling author, Eric Metaxas, has written two books I like to recommend. He wrote “7 Men and The Secret of Their Greatness” in 2013, and “7 Women and The Secret of Their Greatness” in 2015. Both books answer the question, “what makes a man or woman great?” Both explore the question by telling the captivating stories of seven men and seven women who changed the course of history.

The 7 men are: George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles Colson. The 7 women are: Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Saint Maria of Paris, Hannah More, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks, and Mother Teresa.

As the book jackets explain, writing in his trademark conversational and engaging style, Eric Metaxas reveals how these extraordinary men and women profiled here achieved their greatness, captivated his imagination that led to these books, and inspire readers to lives guided by a call beyond themselves.

I grew up with heroes and role models and believe they are extremely valuable for society. I also recognize the last few decades have dampened, even deadened the idea of the heroic, with very troubling results. Eric Metaxas says it’s time to reverse the trend.

Serve globally. We need to read Scripture and emulate the kinds of men and women we encounter there in our journey to become like King Jesus. But we also need to realize certain lives are also worth our consideration because they too are Christ’s ambassadors, His sent ones. Get to know these seven men and women, and your life will be immeasurably richer.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – January 23

One of my favorite books is Failing Forward by John Maxwell, one of my mentors. John is a New York Times bestselling author who, as the book cover attests, addresses everyone’s greatest need in this volume. The book’s subtitle is “turning mistakes into stepping stones for success.”

Over and over again, John makes the case that the difference between average people and achieving people is their perspective of and response to failure. The sixteen chapters are grouped in four segments covering topics concerning 1) redefining success and failure, 2) do you mind changing your mind? 3) embracing failure as a friend, and 4) increasing your odds for success.

The reality is that we all make mistakes. I learned that the mistakes I make are not really what counts. The key is what we learn from them. Here are five mistakes that I have benefitted from.

First is believing good looks and popularity equates with happiness. Joni Eareckson had everything seemingly in perfect order: she was attractive, made good grades, had a good job, and a boyfriend. She was then hurt in a swimming accident that resulted in a broken neck and being confined to a wheelchair. She grew bitter against God for allowing it to happen. Many of her friends abandoned her when she needed them most. Yet in time she was able to find joy and contentment in knowing and serving God through painting and drawing. The truth of Proverbs 3:5-6 emerged as the bitterness withered and the love of God flowed in as she dealt with the tragedy with the help of God and others.

Second is thinking your future is light years away. James 4:14 says our lives are like a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow. I’ve talked to a lot of college students who told me they would get right with God after they graduated, got older, settled down, and they have job and financial security. We often talk about the future while the present slips away.

Third is falling into the sex trap. Many say God is number one in their lives, that they go to church, pray, read their Bible, give of their resources, and even have s stand on sex. Yet it is so easy to compromise our stand for a little self-indulgence now and then. How ironic it is to assume we can fool God while we satisfy our own fleshly desires. We say it is “our” body, we know what is best, and we can do whatever we want with it. Learn from Joseph in Genesis 39 how to flee from temptation and from Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 how to honor God with your body. God’s forgiveness is always accessible and addresses our guilt and shame, but it doesn’t always erase the consequences of our choices (see King David in 2nd Samuel 11 and 12).

Fourth is letting peer pressure control you. I remember a college friend who wanted to be a “regular guy.” He succumbed to smoking, drinking, and partying. His grades floundered, he got bounced out of school, and he died at an early age due to his lifestyle choices. Sadly, he never came to his senses, listened to his parents cries to get “cleaned up” and ignored the truth of Romans 12:2. When I think of peer pressure and its’ effects, this story angers me.

Fifth is neglecting God. I believe that his resurrection from the dead gives Jesus the most authority and credibility to speak into and shape my life. Colossians 2:6-7 takes on meaning for me as I seek to know God, honor Him in my life and marriage, and make Him known.

Walk wisely. What you feed grows. Learn to lead yourself well and profit from your mistakes.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – January 16

I have benefitted from loving parents who created a safe and affirming family for me to grow up in. I never felt pressure to perform to gain their love and favor. I always felt accepted, affirmed, and appreciated by my parents. I have also enjoyed positive mentoring from sports coaches who helped me set and attain goals (in a team environment), and gave me helpful feedback for my encouragement and enrichment, not to mention, personal and team accomplishment.

How are you doing in accepting, affirming, and appreciating others?

In the musical story of The Man From LaMancha, we encounter an aging man named Don Quixote (pronounced “key-ho-tay”). Those around him think him to be quite odd. He has decided to go on a grand expedition. He views himself as a royal knight out to do right and justice in the world. Despite the fact that the age of knights has long since passed.

He comes upon a stubby and chubby man named Sancho. He asks Sancho to travel with him and become his royal attendant, his squire. Sancho, realizing himself to be just a common servant, is intrigued by Quixote and figures he has nothing to lose, so he joins him on his travels.

They come to a rustic inn. The innkeeper goes out to meet this comical looking pair and Quixote asks permission to come and lodge with him in his “great manor.” The innkeeper is willing to take payment from anyone, even from odd people like these two.

In the Inn is a servant girl. But she does more than just serve the meals…she also provides late night entertainment for many of the male guests. In the musical, Don Quixote sings a song to her changing her name from “Aldonza”, the kitchen wench, to “Dulcinea,” the pure chaste woman of any good man’s dreams. She calls him crazy, for surely he doesn’t know who she is, and what she does. Google the songs from The Man from Lamancha entitled, Aldonza, and Dulcinea.

At the end of the story, Don Quixote has been hit on the head and is on his death bed. He is also coming back to his senses. Probably one of the most moving moments occurs around his bed. Sancho, the innkeeper, and Aldonza come to mourn his worsening condition, and as they do they beg him not to change.

For Don Quixote had touched their lives with the power of affirmation, and in doing so had released them from their meager lives and called them higher to what they wished they could become. Somehow this odd old man had touched the deepest aspirations of everyone he met, and they loved him for it.

Scripture has a lot to day about how God sees each of us. For example, Psalm 145:8 says He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. Verse 13b says He is faithful to all of His promises and loving toward all he has made. Scripture also gives direction for each of us as to how we are supposed to treat one another. For example: Hebrews 3:13 says we should encourage one another daily, so the deceitfulness of sin does not harden our hearts.

When we see a person as Jesus sees them, and we accept, affirm, and appreciate them, truthfully, a new being can begin to emerge by the transforming power of Jesus. Live communally. Everyone does better when you give them the triple “A” treatment. Be a Don Quixote.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – January 9

We all make mistakes. They are a part of everyone’s life. Even the best of us fail more than we would like to admit, and we cringe at making the same mistakes over and over. Yet the mistakes are not really what counts, but what we learn from them. Here are some common ones I have had to face and deal with, and a suggested step forward.

First is being content with surface relationships. A pool playing friend once showed me how many friendships are like billiard balls. We never really connect in any substantive manner, but continue to bounce off of one another. “How is it going?” (Bump). “Fine.” (Bump). “What’s new?” (Bump). “Not much.” (Bump). Romans 12:9 says, “Do not pretend to love others. Really do it.” Go beyond surface conversation and practice being authentic and transparent with someone.

Second is believing one failure means you are a total failure. I was a top baseball hitter in college, averaging .344 over four seasons. But in reality, I still failed to get a hit 7 out of 10 times. Learning anything takes time, so do not get discouraged if you do not do something well the first or second time around. If you do fail, it may mean you do not have the talent needed in the specific area, or you just need more repetition. Keep in mind that if you had not tried and risked failure, you would not have known your limitations or capabilities. Romans 12:3-6 says to “Be honest in your estimate of yourselves…for we each have different work to do…God has given each of us the ability to do something or certain things well.”

Third is letting loneliness overwhelm you. I remember a few times in college when I thought I had the disease of loneliness. I was not ugly, but convinced myself no one wanted to spend time with me. No one seemed to invite me to hang out on Friday night after classes, and that made me feel more lonely. I eventually got tired of staying in my dorm room, and strayed down to one of the activity rooms in the lobby. I took interest in students playing ping-pong and my initiative was rewarded. I got so busy being interested in someone else and serving them that I forgot about being lonely. Strange, huh? Luke 6:31, 38 says to “Treat others as you want them to treat you. For if you give, you will get.”

Fourth is loving for the wrong reasons. It was easy to fall in love with Diane. She was attractive, fun to be around, made me laugh, and took an interest in me. But our friendship got too physical too fast, and I was uncomfortable with the attention and feelings of guilt.

When Scripture speaks of committed love, it is hard and conditional. Expressions of physical love are to be expressed solely in a marriage commitment. Was I going to live to please God? 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 gave me perspective and courage to put a stop to an improper practice.

Fifth is blaming others for our mistakes. It is hard to accept responsibility for ourselves, whether it be our unhappiness, mistakes, sins, or general failures. Grow up and be an adult. Part of that process is refusing to blame stuff on others and own up to the situation, address it, and move on. Proverbs 28:13 says a “man (or woman) who refuses to admit their mistakes can never be successful. But if he (she) confesses and forsakes them, they get another chance.”

Think theologically. We are all fallible human beings. Let’s profit from our mistakes (common or not), and learn to fail forward. Get some godly perspective and continue to grow to maturity.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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