Monthly Archives: October 2010

Monday Motivator – October 25

I did an informal survey the other day and asked people what the cross they were wearing meant to them. The responses varied from, “I don’t know…it’s cool…it was a gift from a family member…who cares?…my favorite pop star wears one…it reminds me of what Jesus did.”

Do you wear a cross? What does it represent to you? Are you aware of it every day? Does your cross reflect who you are and how you live, or is it just nice jewelry or a tattoo?

Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me…” Isn’t the word anyone exhilarating? I think it is one of the best things about Jesus – He will take anyone. No need to prove yourself. No resume, application, SAT or skills test is needed. Family background, social status, age, gender, race, sexual orientation, political beliefs, level of brokenness, times you have failed, amount of money in the bank, disability, or any other kind of qualification does not matter to Jesus. He said anyone is a candidate. You just have to recognize your need of Him.

But once you decide you want to follow Him, He asks something of you. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, he or she must deny him or herself and take up their cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Read Luke 9:22-26 to finish off the passage.

Jesus did not say, “Take up the cross, or any cross.” He said we each have a personal cross. Each of us has his or her own history, genes, personality, family, and life experiences. All of us could describe a favorite memory from high school, a temptation we struggle with, one of our fears, as well as things we are not proud of. Decisions we regret, things we said, laws we broke, people we hurt, sins we committed, consequences we caused and suffered. The kinds of stuff we would not want anyone to know about. Each of us has broken God’s commands and deserve to be punished.

When you read about the 1st century culture out of which the New Testament was written, people were forced to carry literal crosses for various crimes. Once convicted, they were slain on them. Those who were dying on crosses could not hide. They were hung on them in plain view for all to see, and they were helpless to shield themselves from public view. There was no cover or camouflage for someone on a cross, a fragile human being nailed to a rough piece of wood. Crosses have a way of taking away any sense of pride. Pride keeps all of us away from Jesus.

As you carry your cross each day, remember that you are doing it because Jesus asked you to. Accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord demands not only believing the truth of His message, but committing ourselves to sacrificially follow Him in obedience. He carried a cross for you. It was not forced on Him. He endured suffering, shame, ridicule, and rejection. He carried it willingly. He identified with people who were broken, beaten, and sinful. He was crucified, died, and was buried. He gave His life on that cross for each of us so we could live, forgiven and free. He endured the cross, despising its shame (Hebrews 12:2). Then He rose again, in triumph.

Why does Jesus want you to deny yourself and take up your cross daily?  The choice between denying ourselves for His Honor or living for our own selfish desires must be made daily. As we do, He empowers us to live a victorious life even as we struggle with sin, suffering, and Satan.

Keep carrying your cross and do not be ashamed as long as it keeps you following the ways, values, and teachings of Jesus. Walk wisely. Your cross is a lifeline, not a death sentence.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 18

You are a seven-year old girl and your uncle offers to give your folks a weekend off by taking you to his place. A trusted family friend turns out to have unsavory motives and you are sold into the slavery industry in Asia, but it stretches all over the modern world. You are transported with forty-nine other girls in a steel cell, within a tanker sailing for Europe…malnourished, poor sanitation, lousy ventilation. Upon arrival, the cage opens and eleven of your traveling companions are found dead and thrown overboard to a watery grave. The rest of you are sold as slaves into a life of forced bondage and abuse, robbed of your innocence, identity, and purity, prey for adults who will use and exploit you for their enjoyment, with no one to rescue you.

Human trafficking is defined as the movement of individuals, with the primary purpose of forced servitude or sexual slavery. Today, there is an estimated 27 MILLION people held in slavery, and most of these victims are NEVER rescued. Trafficking in women is the second largest global organized crime, and in some cases girls are forced to service dozens of men a day.

A million of anything is only a number until you can bring it closer to home. I attended a leadership event called Catalyst in Atlanta recently where I heard from a young lady sold into slavery who later was rescued. Her story was jarring to me as I heard of her captivity, abuse, and pain. She appeared in Oprah a while back to bring the reality of human trafficking to mainstream America. A million is only a statistic until you meet one. Yet it happened on our watch. I was forced to hear the question: Are we simply doing church today, or can we be the church? Are we suffering from PDS [Passion Deficiency Syndrome] about the mission of the church in the world today? Can we find some darkness to shine in? Or is all about our comfort until Jesus returns?

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the issue of human trafficking and think we cannot make a difference. As Christians (and catalysts), we have a responsibility to resolve issues of injustice that make for a better tomorrow. That is part of our stewardship. We must lead on these issues and engage those inside and outside the church to respond. We must inspire hope by doing good. We need to be involved in the common good in an uncommon way. How will you respond?

The first opportunity each of us has at our disposal is the most powerful weapon all – the privilege of praying to God Almighty. Pray for the victims [strength, salvation, protection, freedom, hope, healing], for the traffickers [conviction, repentance, salvation, arrest and prosecution], for governments [corruption to cease, just legislation and crime fighting alliances], against root causes [poverty, greed, prejudice], and for global awareness inside and outside the church (reality check, strategies, action, advocates, unity].

The Boston Globe reported on 10-10-10 that a child prostitution ring was broken up in Boston recently. Human trafficking is taking place even in the USA…on our watch. Check out http://www.streetgrace.org for how churches and people in Atlanta are responding to this injustice in their area. Visit http://stopthecandyshop.com to learn about a motion picture about the issue.

Here are four organizations working on the issue of modern day slavery: Not For Sale – http://www.notforsalecampaign.org; International Justice Mission – http://www.ijm.org; The A21 Campaign – http://www.thea21campaign.org; and the Tronic Foundation – http://www.tronicfoundation.org. Read Luke 10 and be the Good Samaritan. Live communally. Partner up. Choose one project. Get involved. Lobby politicians. Work the web. Stay alert. Let’s abolish injustice in the 21st century.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

 

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Monday Motivator – October 11

How do you make resolutions (i.e., develop convictions) about your life to live with integrity in a culture that wants to squeeze you into its mold?

Nebuchadnezzar’s University of Babylon (UofB) was not a nice place for a young Jewish boy to live and go to school. But Babylon was where Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found themselves as a result of Babylon’s defeat of Judah sometime around 600 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar not only destroyed cities in triumph, but he took the best people he could find in each culture to enhance the status of Babylon. He was building a sort of super-culture by absorbing the best of the best, bringing them to live in the capital city, giving them an education, expecting them to immerse themselves in the culture, and serve the king responsibly during their captivity. To get an overview of these four young men’s lives, read Daniel 1-6.

Daniel 1:8-16 describes how Daniel and his three pals responded in a situation that called for compromising their convictions. Verse 8 says Daniel determined not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, but asked for permission for the four of them to only eat vegetables and drink water. God caused the supervisor to show favor to them and they were healthier and better nourished than the other students. God also blessed their academic studies and prospered them.

Daniel 3:1-30 described how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to honor and obey God when faced with an ultimate test. King Nebuchadnezzar had built a 90 foot statue of himself in pure gold, demanding that when the music started, everyone must fall down and worship the image of the King. The penalty for not complying was being thrown into a blazing furnace.

Many who are familiar with this story often focus on the miraculous deliverance. But the three colleagues of Daniel had no idea what would happen when they refused to bow down to the golden image created by Nebuchadnezzar.  They said to Nebuchadnezzar, “If we are thrown into blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O King. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O King, that we will not serve your gods, or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

Did they believe that God could deliver them? Yes. Were they assured that He would save them from death in the furnace? No. They had decided to obey Him regardless of the outcome.

Do you have that kind of conviction/obedience? Or do you expect God to guarantee your safety and prosperity if you stand true to Him? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego placed themselves in God’s hands and left the outcome to Him. Daniel did the same in chapter six when he told to stop praying to His God three times a day or risk being thrown into the den of lions. Those are the kinds of examples of spiritual courage that inspire us to remain true to God – rescue or not. They also ironically, resulted in job promotions for Daniel and his three college buddies.

Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not resolve to change the world. They decided to walk faithfully with their God, away from home, their families and friends, and in a strange land. Yet their faithfulness resulted in a transformed culture. Think theologically. Are you willing to obey the invisible God you serve who is able, or capitulate to a visible professor or supervisor who claims to have power over you? What furnace will you face if you remain true to your convictions? Are you willing to trust and obey Him…even is He does not rescue or deliver you?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

 

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Monday Motivator – October 4

How have you experienced God’s love lately?

What do you find the most amazing about His love?

This past Saturday was a sparkling day in Boston. The blue skies, clouds, and warm weather were a delight to enjoy. As I went on a long bike ride after lunch, the words of Psalm 36 came to mind, especially verse 5-9, and I started singing the melody that the band Third Day composed from that Psalm years ago.

Read Psalm 36.

[The verses below are the ones from the song that I sang on my bike.]

5 Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness stretches to the skies.

6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice rolls like the oceans tide. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.

7 How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

8 They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.

9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

Why do I love to sing Psalm 36? It reminds me of the awe and majesty of the God who is the Creator, King, Savior, and Shepherd, and who is loving, kind, wise, powerful, forgiving, and sovereign. Take another look at verses 5-9 and consider a few of my thoughts…

5 Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.

His love saturates the world I live in and is all around me. He is faithful and will not leave me.

6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.

He is holy and will continue His work of making me holy and pure like Him. He cares about the wrongs done by me, and to me, and He will fix both.

7 How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

He has deep affection for me. We can find peace, shelter, and refuge under His care.

8 They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.

He feeds me because He is the bread and water of life. His resource is good and overflowing.

9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

He is light and in Him we find the light and wisdom that guides us to live our lives well.

I realized anew that Psalm 36:7 is something I needed to take to heart – “How priceless is the unfailing love of God!” Grow devotionally. The love of God that reaches to the heavens is available and He desires that it reach deep inside of you and me. What a joy to experience the divine love that flows from His heart into mine. Go ahead and sing Psalm 36 today.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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