Monday Motivator – August 22

What have you done lately (or in the recent past) that was foolish?

Working with college students elicits a number of stories about young people and other adults that I was privy to. For example:

  1. A student tried to rob a credit union to help pay for his tuition bill.
  2. A student took a roommates’ laptop and some cash in his dresser drawer because of an argument they had and tried to pin the blame on another guy down the hall in the dorm. He was discovered to be the culprit and faced disciplinary action.
  3. A couple of girls got their hands on the answers to an upcoming quiz and passed them around. Their plot to ace the quiz got nixed when they and six other students wrote down the exact same answers and their teaching assistant thought that was too convenient.
  4. A male faculty member tried to hit on a female graduate student, and to make matters worse, tried to take credit for her research. He was investigated and found guilty.
  5. An administrator did not like Christians and tried to get a Chi Alpha chapter thrown off campus. His actions contributed to a legal response, which he lost, and he was forced to apologize to the group. I can’t remember if he lost his job over such bullying actions.

I can say I never did anything close to the situations mentioned above (all true, by the way) but I have played the fool at times. I know it can be easy to make poor decisions if your mind and heart are focused on the wrong things.

Proverbs 14:7 says, “Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips.” A fool is someone who has mixed up morals, manners, and actions. The Book of Proverbs is full of warnings to avoid the foolish person because he or she will lead us to poor decisions, bad consequences, empty promises of fun, and run-ins with the law.

When you or I act foolishly, we are people that others should avoid. At that time, we are not worthy of respect, trust, or even friendship. To act foolishly is to diminish your witness for Jesus, compromise your integrity, and affect the lives of others negatively.

Read Deuteronomy 32:1-8.

Moses was inspired by God to address the people of Israel as he was preparing to turn over leadership of the Hebrews to Joshua. The people had a history of forgetting the Lord, becoming corrupt, crooked, and acting like fools towards the One True God.

Moses asked them in verse 6: “Is this the way you repay the Lord, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, your Creator, who made and formed you?” Moses was asking them, how in essence, could they live this way after having known the Lord, the One who rescued them from Egypt, made them a people, and sustained them for so long?

We learn from Israel the consequences of such foolish deeds. If you and I are being foolish, the same question Moses asked Israel in verse six should cause us consternation. Playing the fool is an empty, harmful pursuit. Walk wisely. Foolish ways lead down the wrong path. Read Proverbs for safeguards for not getting caught in foolish behavior.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 15

I went to the doctor’s office this morning to pay a late bill for a recent appointment. The receptionist opened the window to greet me and I started off by saying, “I want to apologize for being late in paying this bill that is a few days over due.” She replied, “Thanks, but there is no need to apologize. But I appreciate your saying you are sorry.”

When was the last time you honestly said, “I’m sorry” to God, a family member or friend? What is holding you back?

I am the oldest of four siblings. I remember our parents modeling and expecting each of us to own up to our responsibilities, take care of our own chores, keep short accounts with each other, and apologize when we messed up. I recall an incident where my mom and dad were discussing something and he raised his voice towards her. He quickly apologized to her, then came in the other room and apologized to us kids for his action. He said he was sorry he raised his voice at mom, and would be careful not to do it again. That example has stuck with me for over 50 years.

I am sure each of us has something we have done that we are not proud of. We are all guilty of the same human frailties and tendencies to avoid being seen for who we really are. We tend to be reluctant to acknowledge and repent of our misdeeds because it means taking ownership for our actions. It means a humble admission of being imperfect, even though we allowed selfishness to influence our actions. We abhor such confessions, probably because it makes us feel ashamed, and we prefer to avoid those sorts of feelings.

Read 2 Corinthians 7:5-11.

The apostle Paul wrote to fellow Christ-followers in 1st century Corinth to call them to own up to where they had “missed the mark.” They strayed from the teachings of Jesus and Paul called them to accountability, that they would be “truly sorry” for how they veered off. Paul’s aim was that the Corinthians would be sorrowful for their actions, and that sorrow would lead them to repentance (i.e., a change in heart, v 10).

Paul was glad to learn from Titus of the repentance of many in the church who previously rebelled against his apostolic authority. This account reveals the way others can contribute to our growth and maturity when they admonish us for the behavior they observe in us. It is never easy to be the person who questions something we said or did. Yet God uses others to help us develop godly character…if we are wise to listen.

I remember my parents saying to me, “You should be ashamed of yourself,” when I did something wrong. When I really did feel ashamed and truly repented of my bad behavior, I did remember how liberating it felt to be able to climb into mom or dad’s lap for a hug. Being ashamed means being genuinely sorry for the wrong you have done, and through the shame being made clean as a result of confession and repentance.

Are you too proud or insensitive to feel ashamed when you do something wrong? What will you do about it? Live communally. Jesus calls us to speak the truth in love to one another. Be willing to own up to your failings. Seek forgiveness, and be sorry as you do.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 8

My dad kidded me when we left home in Detroit, Michigan for college at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Once we got all my stuff in the station wagon, he wondered if we had room for me. Somehow I squeezed into the front passenger seat and we made it. Then we had the arduous task of many parents and their kids going to college for the first time: carrying all of the stuff up stairs and down hallways to the dorm room or apartment in humid end-of-the-summer weather.

From what I hear, packing for college is still a pressure packed event on the home front. New students tend to pack everything they think they need. Having participated in helping college students and their parents move in during fall orientation, I’ve seen the boxes of shoes women bring, and felt the weight of what guys bring too. By their second semester or year, most students have pared down what they actually need – a lot less.

I value, appreciate, and salute Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship groups across the country that prepare every August and September to assist students and their parents during move in. The hot, humid weather does not make it any easier on the Chi Alpha staff and students as they carry, lug, and tote box after box up flights of stairs.

Welcome move in efforts on campus is an exciting, yet, rewarding activity, for new students and Chi Alpha. First, it is a great service to families moving their son or daughter to campus. Second, it’s a wonderful opportunity to connect with freshmen early in their orientation. Third, it’s a chance to extend friendship and service with a smile. Last, we do not underestimate the help Chi Alpha chapters offer parents and their children, because we recognize how stressful the packing process actually is: not just in terms of the contents, but the emotions connected to dropping off and leaving their kid(s).

Read 2 Timothy 1:3-18.

When the apostle Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, his young leader-in-training, the older man was in prison facing eventual death for his faith. He challenged his young disciple to hold onto the faith he had learned from his mother and grandmother. And he reminded Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” and practice it (2 Timothy 1:5-6).

Think about it, your faith is like a legacy from your parents, a family member, and/or a significant church leader. All of us have someone who modeled, spoke about, taught, and encouraged us to know what we believe about Jesus and why we believe it.

Paul had several former disciples who abandoned their faith (Phygelus and Hermogenes, in 1:15), and many who were a blessing due to their character, perseverance, and service, like Timothy (Philippians 2:20-22), and Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 2:16).

Think theologically. When you prepare for college as a first semester freshman or soon-to-graduate-senior, I hope you do not forgot to bring your faith with you. Please do not leave it at home. Pack your copy of God’s Word, all the influence you have, and do not keep it to yourself. Share your faith with others. Do not leave home without it. Imitate who ever led you to Jesus. Feed your faith and live it out. You will be glad you did.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 1

Our pastor recently finished up a series on following Jesus. His last sermon came from Colossians 1:12-23, written by the apostle Paul in the first century. He used a passage in chapter one that covered part of Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving as well as his assertion of the sole supremacy of Christ as “the” God in a world of pretend gods. He highlighted words or phrases mentioned like kingdom of light, dominion of darkness, kingdom of His Son, forgiveness of sins, and supremacy.

Jesus was shown by Paul to be the one true King that alone can offer the forgiveness and wholeness each of us needs. He alone has the authority to offer us eternal life. He alone rose from the dead on the third day, authenticating His Lordship and claim to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecy that Isaiah described in chapter 52 and 53 of his writing. Jesus promised in Matthew 11:28-30 to be the One who anyone could come to if they were weary, beaten down, and needed rest.

Why would you not want to know and follow such a King?

Paul wrote to the Colossians to emphasize proper doctrine in chapters one and two, and appropriate application of said teachings in chapters three and four. Paul described Jesus’s character and glory by presenting Him as the image of the invisible God (chapter 1:15). Then he added Jesus is the fullness of deity in bodily form (2:9), the Creator of all things (1:16-17), the head of the church (1:18), and the source of our salvation (1:14, 20-22). Paul argued for men and women to be grounded in the complete sufficiency of Jesus as the only way to experience the wholeness and flourishing God intends for each of us.

As I heard my pastor declare the truths about Jesus from Paul’s writing in Colossians, I started jotting down some prayers and declarations from the passage. Some examples:

  1. Help me, Father, to be thankful to you for qualifying me to be in your Kingdom (v 12).
  2. Thank you for rescuing me from the dominion of darkness and bringing me into the Kingdom of the Son you love (v 13).
  3. I am grateful that I have been redeemed in Christ, and been forgiven of my sins, by putting my faith, hope, and trust in King Jesus (v 14).
  4. I pray that you will have preeminence in my life as the supreme One (v 18).
  5. Thanks for reconciling me to yourself, Father; May you make my faith strong, stable, and centered on the truth and hope of the gospel (v 22-23).

If you read this and are currently in the dominion of darkness, I have good news. Jesus knows and is the way out. Put your faith, hope, and trust in the One who purchased your forgiveness by His death on a cross.

If you read this and are in the kingdom of light, be grateful for your life and identity “in Christ.” Give thanks to God, walk in a way that honors Him as your King, and lean on His strength to bear fruit each and every day. Grow devotionally. Use the 5 prayers I wrote down in church as a start to write down more prayers and action steps from your study of Colossians. Why would you not want to know and follow such a King?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 18

Do you believe in Jesus as the Savior and Lord of your life? Are you walking under His authority day by day, or do you tend to keep Jesus at the periphery of your life?

A friend of mine named Dave was updating me on his professional life and said that due to new management, he was quietly pushed from the center of the action. The new supervisor was apparently insecure because he was chosen over two more qualified applicants, one of whom was Dave.

He told me he felt marginalized, which generally has a negative meaning. As one of several senior leaders in the department (i.e., with more than ten years of service), it was not easy for Dave to be bumped or shoved away from the middle of the work and left to fend for himself in the margin. How hard it is to be basically ignored after so many years of dependable service to the company by being relegated to the fringes.

But I have heard of it and seen it happen in many industries. I remember one of my first work-study projects on campus as an undergraduate student. A few of us hit it off and enjoyed spending time together after work and between classes. But Joe was accused of cheating on a chemistry exam. Then one of the girls got pregnant and dropped out of school. Joe was soon nowhere to be found. Then he comes back and we were not sure how to react to him. Joe was aloof when asked about the exam consequences and claimed he and Sharon were not sleeping together. I am sad to say I showed Joe a cold shoulder for awhile, thinking he was avoiding his responsibilities as a man. The others in the group treated Joe similarly, so he stopped coming around.

Did something like this ever happen to you? It hurts, doesn’t it?

Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25.

I have noticed that our culture feigns interest in Jesus, but in reality, tends to marginalize Him. Pop culture influencers often use Jesus as an ornament, saying they respect and admire Him, but secretly wish He would stay out on the margins of their lives, where they are more comfortable with Him. Think about this: when is the last time someone “in the news” took to social media to ask people not to use Jesus’ name as a swear word?

Sadly, some churches, denominations, even Christians have sidelined Jesus, too. They do not want to accept Him for who He says He is. They want to undermine His authority by substituting their own view of Scripture and biblical behavior. They want to view Him simply as a good, or great man, but not the Savior of all. That would be intolerant to suggest one view (or His view) is THE way to truth. If they can force Jesus to the margin, they can be free of His influence. Then they can stay at the center of how they want to run their own lives.

Serve globally. Where is Jesus in your life right now? Have you pushed him to the edges where you don’t have to listen to Him anymore? Or is He the One you worship, give allegiance to (i.e., obey) and will follow – even to death? Do not accept the cultural tendency to marginalize our Lord. Jesus belongs in the middle, not the margin.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 11

A common site in college towns is a tip jar. You’ll see them near cash registers in bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and many places that has college students working. Over time I’ve asked college students I know to share their wisdom (i.e., tips) with fellow students at various times. It might happen as seniors spoke at Chi Alpha their last semester and included a practical idea in their mini-sermon of how to not just survive, but actually thrive in college.

Here are a bunch of tips that came up again and again (and they are listed in no particular order):

Most students will feel homesick at times, and not just during their first semester or two away from home. Remember that the Lord is with you. But also call home regularly (once a week?) because your parents like to hear your voice and know you are still alive.

Make sure you allow plenty of time for your academic work. You (and/or your parents) are paying a lot of money for this educational opportunity, so steward your time appropriately. Do not make the mistake of misaligning your priorities and doing homework after your recreational efforts. It’s not a matter of just scheduling your priorities, but prioritizing your schedule.

Watch how you spend your money. Draw up a budget for the month and if need be, put cash in different envelopes for how you plan to tithe, spend, and save your money. Have a safe to lock up your valuables and your envelopes of cash. Avoid the temptation to put a late night pizza on your credit card when you know you won’t have the money to pay for it at the end of the month.

Remember what your parents taught you and hopefully modeled. Proverbs 6:20 says to “keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Try not to end up on the front page of the school or town newspaper unless you are receiving an award or being highlighted for your character. Carry your family name with dignity. Proverbs 27:11 says to, “Be wise, my son (or daughter) and bring joy to your parent’s hearts” (slight Olejarz paraphrase).

Stay away from and steer clear of sexual immorality. It can be a quick trip down a road of regret with short and long term consequences that are painful and life threatening.

If the people you hang around with try to entice you to give up your values, dump them quickly and find new friends. There are plenty of people who are making good choices and want the same for you. Proverbs 1:10 says, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.”

Stay close to God and His people. Set a daily time in the morning and evening to read Scripture and pray. What you feed grows. Join a Christian group like Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship. Be with others who love to know God and serve others. Learn how to express your faith to others. Know what you believe and why. Pray for divine appointments to share the gospel with others.

Make your bed each morning. Cultivate a good attitude and work ethic. Use your manners. Listen to your mom (or dad) about doing your laundry. Your jeans and T-shirts do not magically appear in your dresser drawer or closet washed, dried, folded or hung on a hanger.

Walk wisely. Last tip: read and practice a chapter of the book of Proverbs every day for the rest of your lives. Do not worry about pleasing people. Please God. He is the only One that matters.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 4

I remember an occasion when I was training prospective student leaders in an aspect of follow-up. Students had come to one of our events and filled out an “interest card,” indicating some further conversation. So for a few nights, I took 2-3 students with me and we went to visit the interested students where they lived. In as many cases as possible, I called or emailed ahead and tried to set up an appointment, so as to increase our chances of meeting with someone.

One night we had several great conversations with students, each of whom shared some of their spiritual journey and said they wanted to increase their knowledge and experience of Jesus and His people. Yet we had two “divine appointments” over a few nights, situations where God seemingly arranged circumstances for us to walk into.

One was when we walked into a dorm, took the stairs to the 3rd floor and as we exited into the hallway, we were trying to determine which way to go. A female student sitting a few feet away asked, “Can I help you?” I answered, “If you became a Christian tonight, that would really help you and me.” She replied, “That’s a curious response. I was thinking of taking my life, but said out loud last night that if there was a god, he/she/it better send someone my way tonight!” Needless to say, we sat down and talked for 2 hours about her questions and pain, and who Jesus was. She started attending a Bible study and weeks later decided to start following Jesus as Lord.

The second occurred when a few guys and I were exiting a dorm two days later. We heard crying from the rear of stairwell and asked who was there and if they needed assistance. A large man appeared and I recognized him as a varsity football player. Ted recognized me and as I reached out my hand to shake his, he grabbed me and start holding me as his sobs increased. Moments later he started unpacking a story of a close friend who recently took his life. In his shock, he prayed, “God, please come from heaven and put your arms around me and help me.” Hours later, he was crying in the stairwell when I asked who was there and if they needed help.

He wanted God, but got me. I put my arms around him and said, “Everything was going to be all right.” God knew Ted needed a man with real arms of love and a real voice giving true, wise, and encouraging words. It took months of care, prayer, and support from family, friends, and a Christian counselor to help Ted get through this crisis. And with God’s help (and ours), he did.

Read Romans 12:4-21.

All of us who surrounded Ted became the arms, legs, hands, and voice of God. It was a lesson in real time about the truth of Paul’s words to the Roman Christians to “be the body of Christ” (see 1 Corinthians 12:27).

Think hard. Many students and professors plead for God to come help, comfort, and be with them. While Jesus is the risen Lord, He has chosen to work in and through us, His followers, empowered by the Holy Spirit to “be Jesus” to anyone our lives come into contact with. Our words and actions are to be the words and actions of our Lord. Remember WWJD?

Live communally. People want proof that God is real, accessible, and willing to hear and respond to their needs and pain. As a member of God’s body, how have you responded to their needs? What gift(s) will you share? You and I may be the only Jesus they will ever see.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2016 by Mike Olejarz

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