Monthly Archives: November 2010

Monday Motivator – November 29

I had the joy recently of re-watching Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? This movie follows the journey of three convicts, Ulysses, Pete, and Delmar, as they escape from prison in search of treasure. The first person they meet as they flee is a blind man who prophecies that they will find their treasure, though not the one they seek. He also tells them that they will see many wonders, not the least of which will be a cow atop a cotton mill. While their journey seems to keep circling the prison that they escaped from, it will transform all but one of the escapees.

The three convicts are not very bright. This is revealed as they try to catch a moving train. The three are chained together and Ulysses Everett McGill, played by George Clooney, scrambles aboard while the other two, played by John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson, continue to run along side. Instead of helping the other two aboard, Ulysses begins to practice his ever-present gift of gab with the people already in the freight car. One of his companions trips and pulls him out of the train by his leg chain. Ouch, that hurt. The three have escaped because Ulysses has a huge stash from a robbery hidden on a farm that is about to be flooded for a new hydroelectric dam. A sheriff who doubles for the deal making devil himself is hounding them.

This film is a spiritual journey at its heart. The filmmakers tell us just after the credits that the film is based on Homer’s Odyssey. The Ulysses of the epic poem insults the gods and is forced to journey in circles, trying to reach home before his wife remarries. This new Ulysses journeys in circles as he tries to evade God, trying to get home before his wife remarries. There are other parallels such as a one-eyed Cyclops, a blind prophet, and sirens. But it is easy to make too much of the Homer references and miss the point that this is the journey of a person who is going out of his way to deny the reality of God in the face of obvious miracles and answered prayer.

The central characters are well sculpted and captivating. Turturro and Nelson give amazing slack-jawed performances. These two are poorly educated and simple in their tastes. Nelson’s character, Delmar, shares that when he gets his large share of the money, enough to retire on, he wants to open a restaurant and wait on people. Though simple, they are deeply affected by passions, religious and otherwise. When his two companions are baptized, washing away their guilt and transgressions (and in their mind the robberies they’ve committed), Ulysses ridicules them. Later, when they’ve been caught and are about to be hung, Ulysses breaks out in a fervent prayer for forgiveness and deliverance. When the deliverance comes, he immediately returns to his skepticism. And yet, there are things he just can’t explain. Not unlike (I think) most people.

In the end of the movie, the prophecies from the first scene of the movie come to pass. The characters’ have made their journey, found God (although they may not yet fully understand what they have found), and found rest. All that is except Ulysses himself. He explains away the God that has rescued him from death. His journey has not brought rest, and we end the movie with him being sent back out on his quest. We can only hope he fairs better the second time.

Many become followers of Jesus because they learned that God has shaped a peculiar vacuum inside of them – a vacuum shaped liked God. Nothing satisfies that vacuum except God Himself. You can put money, fame, possessions, wealth, power, achievement, sex, and anything you want into the vacuum, but it doesn’t fit. Only God fills it, fits it, and satisfies it. Read John 4:13-14 and 1 John 5:11-12. The water Jesus gives offers the possibility for redemption, hope, the promise for something good to happen, and a life well lived. Jesus extends you an invitation. Walk wisely.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 22

No one can remember her name. It is odd that there is no official record of the first public evangelist of Christianity, don’t you think? We know and recognize the names of Andrew, Peter, John, James, Barnabus, Paul, Stephen, Philip, Timothy, etc., but we do not know her name.

John described her as the woman at the well in Sychar, a town in Samaria, 20 miles north of Jerusalem, and south of Galilee and Nazareth, where Jesus was born. One day she came to draw water at the town well at noon. It was unusual for a woman to visit the well alone, and at that time – she would be considered a social outcast, and in this case, it was probably due to her social behavior. It was the sixth hour, which was the hottest part of the day, and she ran into Jesus sitting by the well. He was alone and asked her for a drink. Unbelievable. Read John 4:1-42.

With one question, Jesus violated two Jewish prejudices – Jesus a Jew, spoke to a Samaritan, and Jesus a man, spoke to a woman. She said, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? Jews in our day wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.”

She knew she had three strikes against her. One, she was a Samaritan, a minority person in the majority Jewish culture. Two, she had five previous husbands and was currently living with a man she was not married to. Wrong morals. Three, she was a woman. Men who counted themselves wise did not talk to women in public. But did you hear her question in verse 9?

She was curious. Jesus had broken cultural norms and she wanted to find out why. This nameless woman had more questions. Jesus answered her and talked about the water of eternal life (v 10, 13-14). She wanted to know about God and asked another question. Jesus answered her and revealed himself as the sent one, the anointed one, the Messiah of God (v 25-26). Her response? John tells us that she became an evangelist! She left her water jar (v 28) and went back to tell the people of her village about the man “who told me everything I ever did” (v 29).

Did you notice the process? First, she left her jar – she had something else on her mind that took precedence – it was no longer business as usual after meeting Jesus. Second, she went back to her own village – it was the place she could have the most impact because her changed life would be most visible in the context of her reputation. Third, she gave an invitation to her entire communitycome and see a man who is different from any other, who knew me to the core, and broke through the stereotypes and misconceptions. Could this be the Christ?”

Jesus saw her for who she was and who she could become, and she became an obedient disciple of His. John gives us a glimpse of a changed life and a persuasive testimony. She gave a witness of what she had seen and heard. She issued an invitation. She left her audience with a question. If I am not mistaken, that is the kind of evangelism we all long to practice on campus.

A good evangelist is a person who introduces people to Jesus so they can get to know him directly and find out for themselves the truth of what he says. None of the disciples thought it necessary to write down her name, but I am eager to pattern my life after hers. How about you?

Live communally. Be sure to affirm the women around you who are Christ-followers for their example, leadership, and service in God’s Kingdom. Thank God for this Samaritan woman (and countless others like her) who had the courage to follow Jesus and become a fisher of men and women.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 15

Is integrity a big deal? In what areas of your life is your integrity tested?

A graduate student of mine told me about an incident when his thesis advisor attempted to take credit for his research. The student went to the department chair after repeated efforts to resolve the dispute went unheeded by the advisor. The advisor was chastised for his unethical behavior.

An alumnus of mine was hosting a male client on behalf of his company. Part of the situation was getting some company files to the man for review after a day-long presentation. At the end of the day, my former student was asked by the client to arrange female companionship for the night. As my friend considered what to do about this request, one of his female colleagues (and unknown to him), had finished collecting all the files and delivered them to the client in one of the offices. The client made inappropriate sexual advances on the young lady, which she refused.

She quickly contacted her supervisor, and a meeting ensued with the client and the company’s senior leaders. The client rebuffed the accusation of the young lady, even suggesting that my friend would corroborate his story, in effect, ruining the career of his colleague. Instead, my former student stood by his colleague and said the client had asked him to back up his false story. His refusal to lie, saved his colleague’s career, and ended up costing the client his job.

A student was having trouble with her grades and instead of studying more and even getting a tutor, she decided to cheat on an upcoming exam and project. She thought no one would notice, but her attempt to use the answers to the test that were stolen from the teacher’s office, and, plagiarizing another student’s material for the project were discovered. The investigation found several other incidents of academic dishonesty. Her penalty? She was expelled from school. That’s a major consequence for a lack of integrity.

Why is integrity a big deal? We see, hear, or read a person’s lack of trustworthiness being brushed aside because of the notion that no one is perfect, they had a rough upbringing, they didn’t really know it was wrong, or that no one was hurt. Read Proverbs 11:1-6.

God’s Word makes a big deal about integrity. Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” Destroyed? That is a big deal.

To have integrity means that we have a clear and clean conscience – free from an over the shoulder fear of discovery. The writer of Proverbs 10:9 said, “The person of integrity walks securely, but he or she who takes crooked paths will be found out.” Integrity gives us freedom of mind and a protection that dishonesty can never provide. There are no tracks to cover up.

Who do you know that has hit rock bottom because of integrity issues? What made them slip and choose a dishonest path? What does that teach you?  Think now about your choices and actions. Are you acting with integrity because you are convinced you will honor God by living that way? Or do you sometimes think the cost of integrity is higher than the payment for dishonesty?

Think theologically. What makes you liable to lean toward dishonesty? Why is your integrity important to your testimony for Christ? On the gravestone at the end of your life, what do you want to be known for? Why is integrity the way to live out your faith in Jesus? Choose well.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 8

One of my mentors of how to pray is the apostle Paul. It seems each time he wrote a letter to a person or a gathering of Christ followers, he mentioned he was praying for them. What an encouragement! He not only said he prayed, but apparently did it too. I read over his prayers for the Ephesians in 1:15-23 and 3:14-21 and noted some fundamental ideas about prayer.

Prayer recognizes our need for God’s assistance. Prayer admits I can’t do it myself. Prayer acknowledges that God is in charge. Prayer recognizes that our life and service belongs to God. Prayer is the method Jesus, Paul, (and many others) used for communication with God. Prayer creates opportunities for the blessing of partnership with God. Prayer is the link to the reality of the Holy Spirit’s anointing and empowerment. Prayer helps you act as a conduit to unleash the power of God. Prayer cultivates provision and miracles. Prayer brings about change. Prayer is the path for personal, corporate, church, and societal renewal.

Scripture reveals many people that can inspire and equip us how to pray for others. Here are some that you could try praying for your friends, family, mentors, and leaders this week.

Pray for the faith of AbrahamAbraham trusted God to leave everything, even when he didn’t know where it would take him. “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”  Genesis 12:1-2

Pray for the leadership and intercession of Moses on the behalf of othersNote the relationship of a leader to his people. “The next day Moses said to the people, ‘You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ So Moses went back to the Lord and said, ‘Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin – but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.’”  Exodus 32:30-32

Pray for the courage and conviction of Danielin spite of living in a culture that denigrated his expression of faith. “Then they said to the king, ‘Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day’. So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!’”  Daniel 6:13, 16

Pray for the integrity of Estherwho stood for what was right at great personal risk. “But who knows that you came to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

Pray for the heart of Davidwhen you sin and break God’s law. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; blot out me transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin… “create in me a clean heart, O God.” Psalm 51:1-2, 10

Pray for the faithfulness of Timothyin your character, calling, and competence. “But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.”  Philippians 2:22

Grow devotionally. Pray for qualities of biblical leaders for yourself and others you care about. Pray for closeness to God. clarity of vision, and power for service. Go ahead: I ask God for…

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 1

The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization concluded last Monday in Cape Town, South Africa (www.capetown.2010.com). The theme of the gathering was “In Joyful Partnership, Bringing the Whole Gospel to the Whole World from the Whole Church,” based on 2 Corinthians 5:19, “God in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.”

Billy Graham convened the first congress on world evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974. The Lausanne Congress for World Evangelization was born in 1975 and The Lausanne Covenant was published the same year. The Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering met for the first time in Singapore in 1987, with participants from over 60 nations. The Second Lausanne Congress took place in Manila, Philippines in 1989. The Manila Manifesto is launched; over 300 new partnerships began. The Lausanne Forum for World Evangelization was held in Pattaya, Thailand in 2004; it addressed 31 key issues.

In 2005, it was agreed that a Third Lausanne Congress be held 16-25 October 2010, and that gathering just concluded. 4,000 evangelical church leaders and Kingdom-minded professionals from 200 nations met to ask God’s help to engage with what is happening in our ever-more changing world: A world of massive people movements; the advance of other faiths; political violence; techno-driven ethics and lifestyles; increasing preference for visual images and the spoken word; and a parallel virtual universe. Global issues need global conversations.

The Lausanne Covenant has been a great rallying call to the evangelical Church around the world. It defined what it means to be evangelical, that is, what it means to have Scripture as final authority in what we believe and in how we live. It is a covenant with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, and with God Himself. The covenant form was chosen deliberately, as a solemn and public declaration to the world of the relationship between our faith and our lives.

Covenants are serious matters, not to be entered into lightly. They are binding agreements, and we need to read the “small print” carefully, and ensure that we have understood all the implications before we prepare to sign. The Lausanne Covenant was drawn together with great care, balancing the right words and phrases and emphases, to reflect what the Lausanne participants believed to be the weight of Scripture. Will you join the global conversation?

Go to www.lausanne.org to read the Covenant for yourself. With the recent conclusion of the Lausanne Congress in South Africa, our hope is that The Church will press on to fulfill Christ’s last command on earth to “Make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19-20), directed and empowered by His Holy Spirit, engaging new realities, in partnership, with strategic intent.

The Lausanne Covenant is widely recognized as one of the most significant documents in modern church history. There is a study guide available, written with the sharp mind and pastoral insights of one of my mentors, John Stott, that can be used personally or in groups. Each of the fifteen sections is followed by stimulating and searching questions. I hope you will make an effort to get a study guide, read the Lausanne Covenant, and consider joining the movement.

Serve globally. In brief, we are working to obey Christ’s final command on earth, which has never been rescinded. So my question to you is this: Will you join us? For the Lord we Love.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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