Monthly Archives: May 2010

Monday Motivator – May 31

What kind of church do you attend? Is it a place with people dressed in their “Sunday best?” Is it a place where people wear casual attire? Or is it some combination of the two?

I travel and speak in churches often and it seems more people dress “somewhere in between.” Yet I have witnessed places where a shirt and tie seems dressed down, and other places where they reach out to folks such as former addicts, prostitutes, and gang members, and you could feel overdressed in a sport shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes.   I recognize that each style has supporters and detractors: The formal folks stress dignity, reverence and respect; the more casual crowd believes in relaxed intimacy.

I believe both approaches work because the real key is not what you are wearing on the outside. You can be perfectly attired and go to church unprepared to meet God. You can be casually dressed and spend a lot of time getting ready too (i.e., clothes, makeup, hair, etc.). Either way, if you are not ready to connect with God when you show up, He is not impressed.  

Read Leviticus 10:1-7. In one instance, Nadab and Abihu (sonsof Aaron) were way too casual (and sloppy) as they burst into God’s presence to offer their own type of worship. They may have assumed they were wearing the right kinds of clothes and offered worship that was not received by the Lord. Death by fire was their punishment and it served as a warning to anyone who would carelessly approach the holy God’s presence.

Are you glad that God does not operate that way today? How many of us would be in real danger? Despite the clothes we wear to church, we often carry in baggage, unconfessed sin, and a carefree attitude that suggest we are not really there to honor the Lord and learn His ways. We sing worship songs that we really don’t believe that day because we are consumed and/or distracted by ourselves. I remember occasions where I was slumped in my seat, feeling sorry for myself, resenting the church’s (or is it God’s) intrusion into my time. I am lucky I did not have to dodge any heavenly fire on those Sundays.

Scripture declares that church is supposed to be a place where we gather with other “sick and hurting” people to worship God, learn about Him, and find strength and power to follow Him. Church is a place to meet with fellow travelers, all of whom recognize their need for divine help and human assistance to follow after Christ. We are called to come in as people on a journey and encourage one another on the path to healing and service.

Why do some of us come to church unprepared? My observation is that we come to church vandalized, neutralized or energized. Our responsibility then, is to come honestly to God and ask for help to overcome our natural tendencies, spiritual battles, and circumstances. We should come to church to worship God, be re-energized, cleansed, and sharpened for another week of building Christ’s kingdom. Church is a place to find help and help others on their journey too. I have recognized situations where I was distracted and unprepared, and asked God to forgive me for being focused on myself and not on Him. Then I turn my focus back onto Him and His purposes.

Whether you spend Sunday mornings choosing what you consider are the perfect clothes to wear, be sure to get ready on the inside. Walk wisely. People may notice how you look, but God notices what is inside. Look inside before you enter church.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – May 24

Are there some kinds of people that you would prefer not to associate with? Are there some sorts of Christians you would rather not have anything to do with? What criteria do you use in evaluating a follower of Jesus when you first meet them? Clothes? Spiritual language? Intelligence? Looks? Doctrinal views? Background? Have you ever been excluded from a group of believers? How did it make you feel?

I have noticed that the word “entitlement” has grown in significance across our culture in recent years. People believe they are entitled to a wide variety of “rights”, ranging from social, political, economic, health, education, and sexual. Many of us feel entitled to clear, concise answers to the many enigmas developed over the past six seasons of LOST.

I had seat 25-D on a plane. When I got to the row, someone was sitting in my seat. I expected (and received) assistance from a flight attendant and the matter was resolved quickly. Yet a friend of mine attended a U2 concert with tickets entitling him and his guest to enter the venue and sit in seats 44 and 45 of row J. They found people sitting in their seats and a fight almost broke out when the usher came to ask them to move on.

The dictionary defines “entitlement” as “being given a title or right.” American citizens have certain “unalienable rights”, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Opportunity for free speech, to bear arms, to assemble peacefully, and worship are some of the freedoms our government is responsible to provide every citizen equally.

Yet enemies to these rights…such as greed, envy, indifference, and prejudice grow and flourish in modern culture. Many are prevented from making social or financial gains.

Whether we want to admit it or not, it can be just as bad in the church – maybe worse at times. Scripture teaches that all men and women created in God’s image. Since followers of Jesus are equal in God’s sight because they are all one in Christ Jesus, they are all entitled to be accepted by God’s people. They are free to participate in Christian community, worship, communion, and service. But that doesn’t always happen.

In some instances, a person in a wheelchair is made to feel out of place. Someone whose skin is a different color is ignored. A person wrestling with and trying to overcome a particular kind of sin is shunned. Someone from the wrong sort of background is pushed to the fringe of the group. Litmus tests concerning what people believe often are erected to keep some people out. If you struggle with belief and doubt, people whisper about you.

Read Galatians 3:26-4:7. Christian community on campus and/or in the church should be the ultimate melting pots. The doors (and our arms and hearts) should be open to all who are looking for faith, hope, and love. If no place else feels like home, the community of the adopted, forgiven, and redeemed should be – to everyone – without exception.

Live communally. Ask God to help you and your community ensure your faces, words, and body language reflect the openness that He wants in your hearts to all brothers and sisters in Christ. Work to make sure that there are no issues of entitlement. Remember that in Christ’s Kingdom, there are no second class citizens.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – May 17

Funny how big a $100 bill looks when you take it to church, but so small when you take it to the mall.

Funny how long it takes to serve God for an hour, but how quickly an hour of exercise goes by.

Funny how long time spent at church is, but how short it is when watching a movie.

Funny how you can’t think of anything to say when you pray, but you don’t have difficulty thinking of things (significant or otherwise) to talk about with a friend.

Funny how we get thrilled when a baseball game into extra innings, or an orchestra plays extra music, but we get fidgety and complain when the sermon is longer than usual.

Funny how hard it is to read a chapter of the Bible, but how easy it is to read 100 pages of a best selling book.

Funny how people want to get the best seat at a show, but grab a back seat at church.

Funny how we need 2-3 weeks advance notice to fit a church event into our schedule, but can adjust our schedule for other events at the last moment.

Funny how hard it is for people to learn a simple gospel well enough to tell their friends, but how easy it is for the same people to understand and repeat gossip.

Funny how we believe what the media says, but question what the Bible says.

Funny how everyone wants to go to heaven provided they do have to believe, think, say, obey, or do anything…it’s like they want it to be free, and not cost them anything.

Funny how you can send jokes and urban legends through email and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages about the Lord, people think twice.

Funny isn’t it? Or maybe not.

This is where many of us have been told to feel guilty, because faith is supposed to merely be a private matter, based on feeling, myth, and subjective reality, with no public expression or corroborative truth. If that was not so absurd, it would be funny.

I believe in God, His Son Jesus, and His cosmic action narrative described as creation-fall-redemption-consummation. Because I believe truth is a Person (and knowable), I want to pass on the message of Jesus to as many as possible, since we all have one life to live, death is coming, and heaven and hell await our choices. Think theologically.

It is sad how many on our lists may not be receiving anything with eternal significance from us because we are not sure they believe in anything. Feed your faith and share it.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

P.S. It is time to let me know what difference the MM’s make in your life. Please take a moment and send me a note explaining how the MM’s have benefitted you.

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Monday Motivator – May 10

I am often stung by the words of Jesus to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Could you not keep watch with me for an hour? Watch and pray so that you do not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak.” (read Matthew 26:40-41). I realize that prayer is one of the most difficult things for many of us to practice and make an important part of our life.

Why do we spend so little time each week communicating with the closest and most important Person in our life? We never purposefully allocate a few minutes to our closest friends (unless we are mad at them) – quality time and intentional communication are what builds intimate and mutually supportive relationships. Allow me to suggest some efforts that can deepen our communication with our Savior:

First, there are many different ways to pray, and many purposes for varied expressions of prayer. The aim of prayer could be confession, repentance, intercession, thanksgiving and adoration, listening, or even solitude. The key is to remember that God hears us and desires to chat with us. Do not get caught up in “categories” of prayer and miss the chance of a simple conversation with God.

Second, Martin Luther, who helped launch the Protestant Reformation, used to structure a time of prayer in what he called a “garland of prayer.” The garland is made up of four strands that you pray through using texts such as the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), the Beatitudes (Mathew 5:3-12), and a Psalm (like 103). Read through a verse of the Lord’s Prayer, one commandment, one beatitude, and a line of a Psalm and ask: 1) What does this text require of me? 2) What does it tell me to be thankful for? 3) What does it tell me to confess, or what temptations does it make me aware of? 4) What does it cause me to pray about? How should I pray for others? Then pray through the verses, one strand at a time. The four questions comprise four strands that when prayed in concert with Scripture, contribute to a beautiful garland, full of significance and beauty.

Third, another approach to prayer is using the acronym ACTS: A = adoration; C = confession; T = thanksgiving; and S = supplication. Begin with praise to God for who he is, move to confession, then to thanksgiving, and finally pray for others and needs outside of yourself. A good source for local/global intercession could be the campus newspaper.

One final idea is to pray using the names of God. Take one day and simply honor the Lord for who He is, not asking for anything. Reflect on a name of God throughout the day, week, or month. Here are some names of God from the Old Testament: Jehovah Tsidkenu = the Lord our righteousness; Jehovah Shalom = the Lord our peace; Jehovah Rophe = the Lord who heals; Jehovah Shammah = the Lord who is present; Jehovah Nissi = the Lord our banner; Jehovah Jireh = the Lord our provider; Jehovah Rohi = the Lord our shepherd; and Jehovah Mekaddishkem = the Lord who sanctifies. Meditating on each of these can aid our understanding of who God is and deepen our appreciation of His character and actions.

Grow devotionally. Each of us can improve our two-way communication with God.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – May 3

James the brother of Jesus and James the son of Zebedee preach and are killed by mobs in Jerusalem; Matthew is slain on a sword in Ethiopia; Philip is hanged in Phrygia; Bartholomew flayed alive in Armenia; Andrew is crucified in Achaia; Thomas run through with a lance in East Asia; Thaddeus is shot to death with arrows, a cross goes up in Persia for Simon the zealot, and another in Rome for Peter; Matthias is beheaded; only John escapes a martyr’s grave. Paul also was died a grisly death. What made them follow Jesus to their deaths? Was their faith and trust in Jesus a psychological crutch? Was their belief in the resurrection of Jesus misplaced, mistaken, or misguided?

Why have so many people from so many tribes, languages, socio-economic backgrounds, political persuasions, professions, people groups, continents, and periods of history put their faith in Jesus to save them from the penalty of breaking God’s commandments and gain assurance of life after death? What made these men and women swear allegiance to Jesus and pattern their lives after him? They met the crucified, resurrected, and ascended Lord Jesus, and they were convinced that He was who He said He was…people such as:

Johann Gutenberg, produced the first printed Bible in 1456; Martin Luther, posts 95 theses on the wall of the Church in Germany to bring reform in 1517; John Bunyan, published The Pilgrim’s Progress in 1678; Jonathan Edwards, led the Great Awakening in New England in 1735; George Fredric Handel, composed His Messiah in London in 1741; William Carey, sailed from England to India in 1793 to extend the gospel there and bring broad cultural improvement; The British Parliament, voted to abolish the slave trade in 1807 due to effort of William Wilberforce and a few colleagues; William and Catherine Booth, founded the Salvation Army in 1865; Billy Graham, held his first Crusade in Los Angeles in 1949; Mother Teresa, pioneered a Mission of Charity in Calcutta, India in 1950; Martin Luther King Jr., led the march for civil rights on Washington in 1965; The Chinese Church, grows despite cultural revolution and government pressure in 1966-1976.

Do you realize how much Jesus has affected world history? The value of human life? Caring for the poor? Education? Civil liberties? Science? Economics? Sexuality and the family? Health and medicine? Morality? The Arts and Music? Are you convinced Jesus is who he says he is?

Imagine the millions of lives that have been improved by Jesus while they were on earth, and yet were prepared for eternity: A first century prostitute named Mary Magdalene; A 4th century skeptic who lived according to the flesh named Augustine; A slave trader named John Newton in 1747; A 20th century atheist named C.S. Lewis; A ruthless politician who used dirty tricks to advance his career named Chuck Colson in 1970; Scientists, engineers, artists, educators, lawyers, athletes, actors,  & you, if you let him.

That’s why we have a Never Ending Passion that the passion of the Christ on that day (resurrection) should fuel our compassion for people who do not know Jesus yet every day. Once we know Jesus, our thank you to Him for his gift of salvation should be to serve him in every area of our lives.  Will you make the never-ending passion “your passion?” Serve globally. Tell someone about Jesus today with your words and actions.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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