Monthly Archives: August 2010

Monday Motivator – August 30

I enjoy meeting with a friend of mine named Keith Doyle because we discuss the spiritual practices we are using and the fruit of the exercises. One example is quoting Bible verses we are memorizing to one another. Another is describing our intake of the Bible. Keith and I attended a leadership conference recently hosted by Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Church outside of Chicago. Bill talked about the importance of helping people to “become relentless readers of Scripture” so we can better understand God’s voice (John 10:27…”my sheep know my voice”) and obey Him.

Keith mentioned to me recently one thing he has been doing lately that has refreshed his reading of the Word of God and enhanced his conversation with God. He calls it a form of journaling, and it involves reading a passage of Scripture and then re-writing it in his own words. Here is an example of a re-write of 1 Corinthians 15:58 that he sent me recently:

In light of the point that as a seed is planted and it then dies and it then becomes some beautiful plant, so to our bodies are a seed that when they die and are resurrected they will become some glorious spiritual body – in light of all this let it motivate you to give 100% effort and focus to God’s work, to give your whole heart in whatever work you do for God, because as you do you know that it is worth it and that something far greater is ahead – and none of your effort and sacrifice is a waste of time. Hold on to this perspective tightly – don’t let anything distract you or change your mind on this.

Keith told me this exercise helps him internalize the meaning of a text of Scripture, pray it back and discuss it with God, and also pass it on to someone he meets in his daily routine. Of course, he also works to memorize the exact verse or verses to have at his disposal as well.

If your reading of Scripture needs a tune-up, or if you would like to try another “practice”, try reading Scripture and re-writing verses or passages of it in your words for a week or a month.

Another one of the most central and ancient practices of Christian practice is called ‘lectio divina’, or ‘spiritual reading’. In lectio divina, we begin by reading and savoring a short passage of Scripture. Our inner posture is one of a listening heart filled with an unhurried expectation that God has a message to convey especially suited to our condition and circumstance. We read and reflect with the ears of our heart open, alert to connections the Spirit may reveal between the passage and our life situation. We ask, “What are you saying to me today, Lord? What am I to hear in this story, parable, prophecy?” Listening in this way requires an attitude of patient receptivity in which we let go of our own agendas and open ourselves to God’s shaping purpose.

Once we have heard a word that we know is meant for our ears, we are naturally drawn to respond in prayer. From listening we move to speaking—perhaps in anguish, confession or sorrow; perhaps in joy, praise, thanksgiving or adoration; perhaps in anger, confusion or hurt; perhaps in quiet confidence, trust or surrender. Finally, after pouring out our heart to God, we come to rest simply and deeply in that wonderful, loving presence of God. Reading, reflecting, responding and resting—this is the basic rhythm of lectio divina.

Keith and I are fellow travelers on the journey to know God better. Grow devotionally. Find a partner in relentlessly reading Scripture. Try re-writing it. Read with a quiet, listening heart, depending on the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Reflect. Respond. Rest. Enjoy God’s company.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 23

It all started when I posted an ad a month ago on Craigslist selling a used U Lock for a bicycle. Two days later he called and asked if the lock was still available, and I told him it was. We met the next day a block from Fenway Park (home of the Boston Red Sox) and made the exchange.

He told he was a visiting scholar from China and would be returning home in a month after a year of research in electrical engineering at Boston University (BU). He asked what I did professionally and I said I was a friend of college students. I gave him examples of how I lived that out, including serving as a conversation partner for international students. He was surprised to learn of such assistance and asked if there were people like me near his lab. I said there probably were, but I would be glad to meet with him for the final few weeks he was in the United States. He said he would be very interested to meet with me to practice his English, and we have met several times over the past few weeks for conversation.

I learned he was one of twenty-one PhD students in his department at BU, but eighteen of the twenty-one were from China, and none were American. He said he had hoped to have had an American friend and visit an American home while he was here, but it had not happened until he met me. Barbara and I hosted him in our home for dinner and he enjoyed for the first time mashed potatoes and green beans (and chicken). He asked me to teach him about baseball, so we watched a Little League game on TV for one lesson. We attended a Red Sox game yesterday and he enjoyed a Fenway Frank (hot dog) and large pretzel with mustard (both also for the first time).

I have been privileged to care for a young man who wanted to experience more of America than just an engineering lab. I have gotten to know a scholar and bright young man. My friend Dong returns to China next week, and I watered his life with time, kindness, conversation, a meal in my home, and a lot of talk about the game of baseball (what a hard game to describe, too).

God wants all of us in the Church to participate in caring ministry to the college students around us. One way each of us can do so is to serve as a conversation partner for an international student on a campus near where we live. My prayer and hope is that every Chi Alpha student and staff member will intentionally reach out to a foreign student. I also pray that every Christian in the U.S. would do the same in cooperation with a local Chi Alpha chapter, or another expression of the Body of Christ on campus (i.e., Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, The Navigators, Baptist Campus Ministry, or International Students Incorporated).

Read the narrative of the Ethiopian in Acts 8:26-40. Then think about this:

1) International students studying in the United States come here at no expense to the Christian Church; 2) Most international students speak English fluently; 3) Many international students come from countries closed to the influence of the message of Jesus, yet can be easily contacted as they study here; 4) International students have left behind all that makes life secure and are often lost and lonely; 5) International students are seeing and experiencing new things every day in this country and constantly have to adapt to change and culture shock; 6) International students will, in the future, be making the rules for missionary activity in their country.

All of us can participate in God’s global mission. Will you make yourself available? Take a look at www.onemorefriend.org (a Chi Alpha resource site) and join me in serving globally.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 16

He did not plan to leave for college after an argument with his dad and fighting with most of his brothers. Being the first of the family to go to college was a thrill for Joe, but some of his brothers hated him for bragging about the opportunity. Joe talked about taking care of the family someday, even though most of his brothers already had good jobs.

Once he got to campus, he found a job working for the dean of his department. Joe was a blessing in the wisdom of his words and excellence of his work. The dean recognized the office ran smoother when Joe was around and gave him increased responsibility. Joe was a naturally gifted leader even at a young age. In addition, Joe was an exemplary student and a good-looking young man.

During the spring, the dean asked Joe to take care of his house while he and his wife were gone. Things went so smoothly with Joe in charge that the dean had nothing to worry about. On one trip though, the dean’s wife returned home two days before her husband.

The dean’s wife had became infatuated with Joe and said, “Sleep with me.” Joe wouldn’t do it. He said to her, “Look, with me here, your husband doesn’t give a second thought to anything that goes on here—he’s put me in charge of everything he owns. You’re his wife, after all! How could I violate his trust and sin against God?” She pestered him, but he stood his ground. He refused to go to bed with her. She grabbed him by his shirt, but he ran out of the house. She ran outside yelling, “Rape—this student tried to rape me.”

Can you picture (and even relate to) this kind of testing? Joe was away from home and his normal support system. He encountered a married woman with power. The temptation was targeted at his natural sexual drive. He was alone…and on the job. The testing came frequently. The temptation even came after a promotion.

How did Joe do? First, he was avoiding places of temptations. Your parents probably told you that it is always easier to avoid temptation than it is to overcome it.  Second, Joe was not trying to provide for his fleshly appetites. Faced with temptation, Joe thought spiritually, not physically. He remembered the proverb that said everything that looks, feels, sounds, smells, and taste good may not be good for you. Third, as Joe encountered temptation, he understood that evil was there waiting there to tempt him. I remember my parents saying that if I hung around the garbage, I would start to smell like it. Goodness doesn’t hang around temptating spots, evil does. Fourth, he was not blinded to the consequences of temptation. He was more committed to honoring the Lord and his employer. Fifth, Joe ran away from the temptation even as tried to resist it. If you’re worried about where to run, don’t worry, God promised to make a way of escape for you (1 Corinthians 10:13). Read Genesis 39:1-23 for another Joe’s account.

What advice would Joe give about handling your hormones (and having great relationships with those of the opposite sex)? First, have your standards set ahead of time. Second, call sin by its proper name – sin – and avoid it. Third, avoid any possible trappings (too much alone time together, level of intimacy, physical contact below the neck). Fourth, stay busy and relate with those of similar convictions. Last, run away from temptation. Walk wisely and live purposely, like Joe did.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 9

One of the joys of traveling to visit my supporting churches is to meet all sorts of people from different backgrounds, and hear their stories. Recently I heard the tale of a hard living, gruff, workaholic contractor named Johnny, who was known to get on his workers when they made mistakes and yelled at subcontractors when they missed deadlines. He out muscled other contractors for the best jobs by the force of his personality, will, and often questionable shenanigans. If you crossed Johnny, watch out! Trouble would come and everyone knew it.

Then Johnny’s wife Rita became a follower of Jesus. Her changed life and witness bore a lot of fruit in the neighborhood, as well as among family and friends. Neither she nor Johnny came from religious backgrounds, so her story was the topic of conversation around town. Six months later Johnny followed Rita’s example and believed and received Christ (see John 1:12). The members of the church they attended accepted this couple for who they were and welcomed them into their community. Johnny joined a men’s group doing a study on the work of the Holy Spirit and people noticed a softening taking place in his language, tone, and personality.

People who worked with Johnny were stunned at what happened to him. When a subcontractor ran into a job delay and did not get a plumbing assignment done on time, Johnny treated him with understanding and respect. A member of Johnny’s crew made an honest and costly mistake at a job site and expected to receive Johnny’s wrath. Instead of screaming and insulting him in front of everyone, Johnny acted calm and discussed ways to overcome the problem. Rival companies and contractors even began to see the marked difference in him. Of course, Rita saw the changed behavior at home in how Johnny treated her and their kids. So did Harry, his foreman of twenty years. Harry decided that whatever had changed Johnny was what he needed too, so he trusted in Christ as Savior and Lord. A chain reaction started and went through Johnny’s family, friends, and company.

What had happened? Johnny had been converted into a follower of Jesus and was a new man. He was now following the leading and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The evidence was clear and compelling – a changed life in terms of manners, vocabulary, and treatment of others. He was not living according to the old patterns of his life, but his character, marriage, parenting, and work were now being influenced and shaped by the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, and self-control.

Others were influenced by the change in Johnny’s life and several (like Harry) decided to find their way back to God. Certainly there was a ripple effect as a result of what happened in Rita and Johnny’s life. Rita (and the church) impacted Johnny. Johnny impacted Harry and others.

Read Acts 4:8-22…especially v 21 –They spoke about what they had seen and heard.”

Have you experienced any remarkable change in your influence for Christ lately? Are you walking in the daily sense of the Spirit’s power? Are you asking the Holy Spirit to fill you and use you to impact others for Christ? Think of the scientists, engineers, artists, educators, lawyers, athletes, writers, actors, politicians, laborers and neighbors in your circle of influence. Are you available for the work of God? Are you hungry for the leading of the Spirit? What are you asking the Spirit to empower you to do this week? Whom are you teaming up with in Spirit-led service? Live communally. Fill your life with spiritual fruit and power, and then give it away.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 2

Since ancient times, parents have sent their children to academies to mature physically, mentally, and spiritually. As universities developed in medieval Europe, parents assumed that religious training was an essential element of their children’s education. Today, while many secular universities still offer courses about religion, authentic spiritual formation is rarely addressed.

On college campuses across this nation, non-Christian students and faculty are searching for significance – a sort of spiritual anchoring or orientation, for their lives. These seekers long for some witness to a lasting truth, a definite hope. Christian students also yearn for authentic Christian communities where spiritual transformation leads to social change.

This month millions of American and International students begin the trek to college – to take classes, drink coffee, and make choices that will affect them for a lifetime. Best estimates say all U.S. based campus ministries touch only 20 percent of them. What about the other 80 percent? Will students fall into the trap of cultural relativism, materialism, drugs, and sex, or will they encounter Jesus Christ and His path for their lives?

We can never know for sure, but with more than 50 years in the “student” business, we do know that which direction a student chooses depends in large part on who is there to help them make the choice. A “witness” is someone who has seen something, as portrayed in most detective stories or TV crime shows. Our Chi Alpha student communities work tirelessly in their witnessing efforts to share with all people, through both words and deeds, what they have seen and experienced – God’s transformative work in their lives.

Why does Chi Alpha Campus Ministries establish missional communities of worship, fellowship, discipleship, witness, and prayer (see Acts 2:42-47) on campuses in the U.S. and around the world? So that every student and faculty member will know, love, and become transformed by God, and in turn become agents of God’s transformation on their campuses and in this world. This witness is both our heritage and our vision for future ministry. For more than 50 years, Chi Alpha staff have prepared students and faculty to transform their campuses and the world.

Today’s university is an ideological marketplace where tomorrow’s world leaders adopt ideas that affect their personal lives and influence local and global culture. We believe the gospel of Jesus Christ transforms people. We affirm that a dynamic relationship with God is essential for a productive, fulfilling human life. That is why we invest ourselves in the lives of students and faculty in these critical years – reaching and introducing them to Jesus Christ, rooting and equipping to live as his followers, and challenging and sending them to advance the kingdom of God on campus, in the marketplace, and around the world.

Across the nation this month, Chi Alpha staff and students are finishing up and launching preparations to welcome students to their campus. They have two audiences: first, those who have not found their way back to God; second, those who know Christ and need to become more effective reproducing representatives of Him every day. What is your contribution going to be?

Genesis 12:1-3 to Revelation 7:9-10 is clear: We are servants of the Most High God, that His name may become more famous in the student world (and beyond). Think theologically. Then together, let’s reach, root, equip, and send tomorrow’s leaders on today’s campuses.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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