Monday Motivator – July 24

What decisions do you face this week? How about in the next few months? What about in the next year or so? How do you prepare to consider your options and come to the best route to follow in your decision-making?

How do you makes choices in your personal and professional life? How do you make decisions that not only affect you but family members, friends, colleagues, etc.? How do you make choices in these important areas that glorify the Lord?

I have made errors at times due to rush or rash judgments, not gathering enough information, improper motives, lack of prayer and godly counsel, and sometimes sheer stupidity. I have also not consulted Scripture and asked God for wisdom and discernment about a matter I was facing. I reacted with fear, little faith, and ended up not able to move ahead with clarity, confidence, and commitment to the course of action I chose.

I have known and worked with students who followed similar paths I have and learned the hard way that acts have consequences. Often the consequences are hard to deal with. Such as: 1) Cheating on an exam not once but three times, getting caught, and later expelled in your senior year; 2) You have been dating someone for a semester and feel pressured to have sex. You have sex before marriage, get a sexually transmitted disease, which almost kills the young man; 3) Nursing a bad attitude for weeks about a lower than expected grade on an assignment. Instead of listening to the professor’s admonition to study and work harder, the student stiffened his pride and argued that the professor was against him all along. The student became arrogant, stopped going to class, and no one wanted to be around him. Eventually, the student had to drop the class and start over.

How many times have we made choices and/or rushed into important decisions that looked pretty good, only to be sorry later on? I know it’s happened to all of us.

Read 1 Samuel 12:14-25.

One day the prophet Samuel gave out sage advice to the Israelites, all of which can help us today in making decisions about our attitudes and actions. Here are his words of wisdom from chapter 12. Fear the Lord (verse 14). Serve and obey Him with all your heart (v 14, 24). Reflect on what the Lord has done (v 24). Do not pursue idols (v 21).

If you are thinking about graduate school, getting married, or changing jobs, please consider what Samuel said. First, when making decisions, fear the Lord. Without the right view of God in your heart and mind, you will not make the right choice. Second, make sure your decision is about serving Him and His purposes, not just your own. Third, read His Word and see how others made wise decisions. Reflect on His ways and make sure your choices line up with His idea of flourishing. Last, make sure your decision is not based on idolatry, i.e., putting something or someone in the place of God.

Walk wisely. If you make choices without considering Samuel’s prudent advice, you will find yourself facing tougher circumstances that you expected. Wise people consider the implications of their decisions, intended ones as well as unintended.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 17

Picture me leaving for church one Sunday. After a quick breakfast, I was heading out the door when my wife noticed the grape jelly on my jaw that I missed when I brushed my teeth. She also noticed the jelly on my collar which I apparently moved from my cheek when I used my wrist/hand to clean the spot. I know, you’re asking, “where was the napkin?” Well, I wasn’t using one. For some of us guys, our hand/wrist still works.

What would I have done if my wife had not stopped me at the door? I guess I might have shown up at church looking a little jelly-ish, huh? I generally do not ignore a mess on me (or around me), and pretend no one will notice. Let’s be honest. Most of us would rather be late to church or work than be caught wearing their breakfast.

Picture me leaving for church one Sunday. I’m going to worship the Most Holy Being in the Universe. I’m going to hear my pastor deliver the Holy Scriptures to my head, my heart, and my hands. I’m going to give and receive ministry with other brothers and sisters in the faith community I participate in.

But I have a mess hanging over me. I may have had a fight with my wife and we had not reconciled yet. I allowed the conflict I caused to fester, I have not dealt with it, and we have not spoken in days. Or maybe I am carrying the burden of some work-related stress that I have not shared with anyone.

One Saturday evening, my wife comes to me and apologizes for the tension we have been experiencing. She says she is sorry for being impatient with me. Her words have a powerful impact on me, because I know that I am really the one at fault. But I am humbled and challenged because she took initiative before I did. She took a courageous step to face and clean off the mess before going to church the next day.

Read Matthew 5:21-24.

Picture Jesus stating the words that Matthew recorded in the first century. When we come before God in worship, we need to be aware of the stakes. It’s time to stop fooling around and to stop fooling ourselves. Hypocrites are not what God is looking for, even though He works with each of us as we work to align our words and actions in order to honor Him. It sure does take a while for the alignment, but He is patient with us.

God is not deceived by nice sounding words or a holy-looking exterior when we show up at His house. He knows our hearts. Ouch. That is startling, isn’t it? But it is true. That is why Jesus told His followers to make things right with others, to reconcile with others we have hurt, and clean up the damage before coming to the Lord in worship.

What mess (i.e., conflicts) in your life is the Holy Spirit bringing to your mind? What are you willing to do about them? Who is the Lord using to help you address them?

Live communally. Before we approach God, let’s be sure that we’re not covered with the mess of past or present hurts that we have caused or been subject to. With His help, and that of others, we can come clean with God before we come to worship Him.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 10

I recently re-watched “Amazing Grace,” a 2006 film and moving account of William Wilberforce and his colleagues who maneuver their way through the British Parliament, endeavoring to end the British transatlantic slave trade in the 19th century.

The title is a reference to the hymn, “Amazing Grace.” The film highlights the experiences of John Newton on a slave ship and his subsequent conversion to become a follower of Jesus, which inspired his writing of the poem later used in the hymn. Newton is portrayed as a major influence on Wilberforce and the abolition movement. I took notes as I watched because I was inspired by the events portrayed.

First, nothing is as relevant as the eternal. Seeing Wilberforce become aware of the One, True, Eternal God in nature, Scripture, and even people was riveting.

Second, the poorest of all are those who do not recognize the greatness and goodness of God. Seeing Wilberforce thank God for sunshine, animals, and friends is a powerful reminder that those who don’t know God (or even acknowledge Him) are poor indeed.

Read Ephesians 2:8-9.

Third, we are saved by God’s mercy, not our accomplishments, social standing, professional status, or merits. John Newton wrote that it is because of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, not our doing; by our trusting and not our trying.

Fourth, what God thinks of us is more critical than what others think of us. Wilberforce initially worried more about what family and government leaders thought about himself (and the eventual cause he took up), rather than the Sovereign Creator and Lord of all. William learned to take the opinions of others with a grain of salt, especially those who did not recognize or yield to the authority and majesty of God Himself.

Fifth, to change, one must want something else more than what we have now. William contemplates leaving politics to study theology, but is persuaded by his friends William Pitt, Thomas Clarkson, Hannah More, and Olaudah Equiano that he will be more effective doing the work of God by taking on the unpopular and dangerous issue of the abolition of the British slave trade. His conviction in the cause deepens following a meeting with his former mentor John Newton (introduced sweeping a church floor dressed in sackcloth) who is said to live “in the company of 20,000 ghosts… slaves.” As a former slave ship captain turned Christian, he deeply regrets his past life and the effects on his fellow man. Newton urges William to take up the cause.

Sixth, we should use things and love people, rather than use people and love things. The story of Wilberforce’s conversion, entrance into politics, and eventual influence with the aid of many Christ-honoring colleagues is a lesson from history. This is how the gospel actually works in personal and corporate life. It is why it is called amazing grace.

Live communally. Work with others to practice and pass on God’s ideas. It leads us to the One who offers us the forgiveness, patience, grace, and wisdom we need.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 3

What has God gifted and graced you to be and do?

I remember sitting in a freshman philosophy class and could not stop daydreaming. It did not matter a close friend was next to me, and the professor was talking about Thomas Aquinas and moral relativism. I was tired and my mind shifted to future job prospects. I wondered what would I do if professional baseball did not work out as I hoped. What was I going to do with my life?

I knew becoming a philosopher of any sort was out of the question. I knew baseball had future pro possibilities, but what if it didn’t work? How would I use my abilities to serve others and contribute to their betterment?

I took a taxi later that week and found myself contemplating, if only for the ride…how about being a cab driver. It was not on my list of top 5-10-or-anything I might do with my life. I certainly had not thought of being a cabbie as I previously sorted out colleges to play football and baseball at, and waited and hoped for scholarship offers. I did imagine my parents being a bit miffed if after college and an earned degree I announced I was going to fulfill my dream of driving a hack for a living.

Yet the cabbie that drove me that day was a friendly conversationalist who took an interest in me. It later struck me that I had never thought of how being a cab driver could be an opening for someone to affect his or her world for Jesus. But it can and did happen. This guy, Dave, was using his job as a taxi driver to make a difference in people’s lives.

Dave told me once he was waiting for his next fare at the bus station and got a call from the dispatcher that a senior citizen had been injured nearby. Dave drove him to the emergency room and shared godly comfort as he transported his injured passenger.

Another occasion had Dave picking up a person for an early morning trip to the airport. He arrived to find a number of people in front of the house. The person to be picked up was shouting to Dave that their pregnant neighbor had gone into labor while her husband had left for work. It fell upon Dave to drive her to meet her husband at the hospital while another neighbor drove the original passenger to the airport. Along the way, Dave comforted the soon-to-be mother with stories of his own children being born and the grace of God that helped he and his wife through several child births.

Read 1 Peter 4:1-11.

All of us can serve our Savior at work through our kindness, competence, generosity, and words. We are to use whatever gift(s) we have received from God by “faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (v 10).

Decide to use your current or future career, even the one you daydream about, to make a difference for Jesus. Depend on Him for strength to overcome obstacles to do so.

Think theologically. Just like Dave discovered, it’s not a job, but an adventure with God.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 26

I benefitted from a grade school art teacher who helped my classmates and I gain a better appreciation for the arts. I was used to goofing around with Play-Doh, a little coloring now and then, and some paint by the numbers pictures.

I did enjoy the paper where a pre-determined color would be placed in a lot of different spots, all varied in size. My fond recollection was of sitting in a chair for hours, working meticulously with my crayons or paint box-strip of colors and a glass of water.

I was fascinated with the idea of how the image would develop over time as the many boxes or shapes were filled in. I was under no illusion that doing a paint-by-the-numbers piece made me a “real” artist. I simply enjoyed the chance to color or paint a scene of animals in a yard, an astronaut, or a superhero like Batman.

It required a lot of patience to work on each piece. My brothers and I worked alongside each other at the kitchen table while our mom made cookies that filled the room with their special aroma. Finally, we sat back and were amazed at the hundreds of slivers of color added up to become an image that we considered well worth our effort.

One day our teacher brought in a friend who painted without any numbers on a large canvas. It was a continuous effort of arms moving, paint being applied in what I considered a non-organized manner, until images and context began to appear. It was the outside playground, with kids all over the place, laughing, playing, and being just kids. It was impressive, colorful, instructive, and inspiring all at once.

Read 2 Corinthians 5:12-21.

As I think about that artist’s efforts that morning and the patience and precision it took to create that painting, I am still moved to look to my heavenly Father.

The Scriptures declare that the Savior and Shepherd of our souls looks upon all of us and sees the imperfections in our lives. Yet He lovingly and patiently does His work of reaching out to start and continue our renewed journey of friendship with Him. His goal now and then is to make a masterpiece of us – a shaping and molding that conforms us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).

2 Corinthians 5:17 says through the command of God those who accept by faith what Jesus did on the cross as payment for the rebellion and put their faith, hope, and trust in Him are made a new creation. That person becomes a new believer, belonging to God’s family, in a world which the Spirit rules, renewed after God’s image, with a renewed understanding and knowledge, and able to live a life of holiness that pleases the Father.

What a joy it is to have access to such a God, who makes us new and never tires of investing His energy and effort into our lives so we might flourish as His works of art.

Grow devotionally. Only God can transform a sin-stained soul like mine into a masterpiece of grace. Only the clay can pause to recognize and honor the One True Artist.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 19

There are four main people groups on campus: undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and foreign students. We break down those groups into segments for service and outreach, one example being students who live in dorms. Another are ethnic students. Where do we start? We need to decode the campus, which is simply taking the time to learn the campus you serve in terms of its ethnic student demographics.

Read Nehemiah 1:3-4 and Numbers 13:1, 17-20.

Here are ten ideas to consider starting ministry to ethnic students:

  1. Prayer walk the campus. Ask the Holy Spirit to allow you to see the campus in a new way, for His vision for the people there, and a burden to reach outside of your comfort zone to others He is interested in.
  2. What is the general breakdown of the ethnic student population?
  3. Look for ethnic churches around campus, including Christian organizations, like a gospel choir. Who are the ethnic communities’ gatekeepers and key leaders?
  4. Visit the multi-cultural center/office. Ask for a list of ethnic student groups and their leaders (it might be available on the campus web site). Then go meet them and say hello.
  5. Find out where ethnic students hang out on or near campus.
  6. Do some campus surveying by asking ethnic students about the organizations best serving them? Are they involved in any of these groups? Why or why not? What organizations or churches are seeking to meet the spiritual needs of students?
  7. Go out and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into a divine appointment where you can share your faith with someone of a different ethnicity.
  8. Pray for and look for key connectors into people groups (Luke calls them “people of peace” in Luke 10:1-12). Remember when the apostle Paul bumped into Lydia in Acts 16? She was an example of a person receptive to Paul and his message, and who was used by God to reach into her community. The idea is it needs to be someone who has influence in their campus community and desires to lead a contextualized movement for Jesus.
  9. Create and distribute ethnic specific freshmen survival kits at your student activities fair (or others times through the year, at ethnic events on campus, etc.). Hand them out where ethnic students hang out. This may be another way to surface a “person of peace.”
  10. Visit www.drivingdiversity.org and connect with other Chi Alpha folks.

Serve globally. We in Chi Alpha Campus Ministries believe every student deserves a chance to study at the feet of the world’s greatest teacher. More importantly, they deserve a chance to be reconciled to Jesus. Join us to serve ethnic students on campus.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 12

How will you become a healthier influencer? One way I respond is to attend the Global Leadership Summit (GLS), annually sponsored by the Willow Creek Association. One of the sessions offered in 2016 was entitled “Leadership Illusions,” co-led by Bill Hybels, Dr. Henry Cloud, and Shauna Niequist (Bill’s daughter). I’ll comment later on Shauna’s presentation, but examine some of what Bill and Henry had to say.

Bill Hybels ­said the first illusion is you can carry ever increasing amounts of speed in your life and simultaneously keep your soul care line heading in the same direction without drop-off.

At some place along this increasing line of speed, we start losing touch with our soul. The connection with God becomes me asking God to keep my speed up. “God, keep up with me today” is our default prayer. Coupled with that is a tendency in leaders to wait to stop this cycle of activity with self-reflection. We know it’s time to get before God and ask “How am I doing? What’s happening to my heart? What’s happening to my relationships?” But we are afraid.

We recognize that if we don’t punctuate our activity with time for self-­reflection, we will ultimately pay a price, and, everyone else around me will pay too. My experience is that when leaders start the process of slowing down, it’s awkward. If you don’t get into some system of rest and recreating, you’ll wind up in the looney bin.

Spend two minutes reflecting on this. What do you need to do or not do? It must include flattening out the speed for a while, with new practices and boundaries. Speed kills for a reason.

Dr. Henry Cloud, recently wrote “The Power of the Other.” He says that part of what it takes to be healthy is the power of the other. He reminded us that we’ve all heard great stuff about vision, strategy, and execution. The second illusion is that we go and do that, but we tend to ignore the need for mutually supportive relationships. i.e., who are you connected to?

Grab a 3×5 index card or a napkin. Henry said there are only four possibilities on the map of connectedness. The upper left corner (#1) is no connection. God put a chip in every human being searching for connection. When you connect, it increases your capacity. Leadership and life can force you into isolation. In corner 1, I’m alone. The upper right corner (#2) is bad connection. The worst place is to be in relationship with someone but not connected. In this corner, it leaves us feel like I’m bad, inferior, and a loser.  The lower right corner (#3) is fake good connection. It’s pseudo connection. It relieves the pain. It might be a substance. It might be an addiction. It might be an illicit relationship. It might be driving your team to greater and greater numbers. But it’s like eating sugar. You eat sugar but you need more. I heard a Christian speaker saying she was having an affair with two men: Ben and Jerry. The left lower corner (#4) is real connection. You have someone in a mutually supportive relationship, i.e., who can meet my needs in real way. You have to come home to corner 4. God says to come home to corner 4. We just need to admit our need. By the way, that’s where God lives.

Spend two minutes reflecting on which corner do you find yourself in most often? Why? What inhibits or prohibits you from going to corner 4 where you would be connected to Christ, and by being better connected to family, friends, and co-­workers? Walk wisely. Be healthy by caring for yourself first, so you will run your race (life) better able to serve others along the way.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2017 by Mike Olejarz

 

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