Monthly Archives: January 2011

Monday Motivator – January 31

This young man was an avid observer of people. He watched and listened and saw that a lot of people felt they had little or no control over their lives. They tend, he said, to live lives of quiet desperation. As a result, they often feel discouraged, depressed, or desperate.

This young man was determined not to live a life of meaningless existence. In a bold experiment (many years before reality TV shows like Survivor), he decided to leave civilization and live alone. For three years he got along in the woods, without roommates, modern conveniences, and any human contact. He kept a journal and published it a few years later.

He wrote that he went to live in nature to try and live deliberately, to confront the brutal and essential facts of life, and to see if he could learn what living in solitude had to teach him. He hoped to avoid what he saw among many of the people of his day, who seemed to be walking the typical path of life (i.e., family, career, comfort, and ease) that led eventually to death. This young man did not wish to live what was not life, because he recognized he had only one life to live. Living life well is critical, he believed, because living well is so dear.

This young man’s name was Henry David Thoreau. His journal writings of the years 1845-1847 were published in 1854. He called it Walden and it has been a classic of American literature for over 150 years. His three-year journey covered his time at Walden Pond, Massachusetts.

But Thoreau was right, wasn’t he? We can live and eventually die without really having lived. But what does “really living” look like? Is it the sort of life that is shown on TV and the movies that portrays casual sex, violence, ill manners, and crudeness in a positive light? Is it getting wrapped up in the party scene in school in order to run with the in-crowd? Is it demeaning others in order to feel powerful? Is it forgetting your dreams due to failure, criticism, or lack of effort?

Centuries before Thoreau came on the scene, one of the early Christian writers named Paul spoke of living lives that were intentional, meaningful, and centered. He had discovered that real life, eternal life, meant getting off to a good start. He wrote that we first need to turn from own deeds to rely on the work of Jesus Christ, and what he did for all mankind on a 1st century cross.

Read John 10:10 and Philippians 3:7-11. Paul said people tend to succumb to a self-centered and sinful lifestyle, which robs them of God-given potential, fulfillment, and life. He believed way too many people settle for second best. He argued that after finding his way back to the Creator and literally getting a second chance (Acts 9), he wanted to go on with his life and live like Jesus did. He wanted to experience as much of a Christ-like life as there was. He knew from experience that Jesus was the smartest person he ever met, he lived a life of purpose, love, and service, and that he was never out of sync, rushed, or off course. Jesus lived in the power of the Spirit and modeled a life of mission. Paul’s desire was to fulfill in every way the purpose for which God had saved him from himself. He knew Jesus came to provide a life worth living.

Walk wisely. Are you living a life of quiet desperation? Does your life have much real meaning beyond yourself? If your life is turning out to be sour, it is probably time to re-focus. Jesus came to help us re-orient our perspective from self-centered to God-centered. He also came to empower us to live well, participate with Him in His kingdom, and give others a chance to find their way back to God. If we follow the example of Jesus, we can live before we die.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – January 24

What are four or five adjectives that other people would use to describe the character and behavior of you and your friends? What distinguishes your lifestyle as a follower of Jesus?

Back in the 14th century, King Edward 1 of England announced that all gold, silver, and precious metals had to be tested and approved by his master craftsmen before being offered to the public for sale. He said that all artists and blacksmiths had to bring their metal goods to the palace to be checked. If the materials received a “thumbs up,” the wares were ready for the marketplace. They then received a special seal of approval from the master craftsman in the palace hall. The seal was called the hallmark.

A hallmark is an official mark or series of marks put on items made of precious metals such gold, silver, or platinum. In a general sense, the word hallmark can also be used to refer to any distinguishing characteristic or trait. Today hallmark is used more commonly to describe great talent, quality, innovation, or creativity. It is a word that infers excellence, great workmanship, and a superior rating.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to model a Christ-like quality of life and shared community. We are supposed to reflect an impression of our relationship with God, as well as our relationships with other Christ-followers. If we are growing in our knowledge of and love for God, the way we treat others will be one of our hallmarks. Similarly, our level of unity and maturity with other Christians will be a hallmark of our corporate witness. Jesus did say in John 13:35, that “others will know that we are His followers by our love for one another.”

Read Colossians 3:1-17. The apostle Paul’s statements indicate the believer’s position in Christ: raised with Christ (v 1); a new mind-set (v 2); dead to sin and hidden with Christ (v 3); he or she has taken off the old self (v 9), and put on the new self (v 10). Because of what God did, Christ followers should put to death (or refrain from) the old way of life (v 5-9). Paul says we are to take off dirty clothes and put on clean ones as we renounce our old evil ways and live as children of light in alignment with the rule of His Kingdom.

Paul’s list of Christian hallmarks included “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (v 12). These qualities will pour out of our lives like gold and silver when our relationship with the Lord is strong and healthy, and our mutually dependent relationships with Christians are supportive and nurturing.

We can be poor followers who tend to go off by ourselves, lose our bearings, and need help to stay on the course Jesus showed. That is why we can’t walk alone. He meant for us to stick close to one another. Jesus promised to get all of us to the finish line together. Ultimately we will bear the unmistakable marks of a people who have been transformed by Jesus Himself.

Take a moment and examine the quality of your life and friendships with other Christians? How do the two of them measure up to Paul’s description in Colossians 3? Do others see a clear sign and example of God’s work in you? Does the collective witness of you and your friends bear the mark of being “Jesus people?” How can you and your pals exhibit more Christ-like words and actions? Live communally. We are responsible to live like Jesus and help each other. What hallmark would your fellow students give to the members of your Chi Alpha chapter?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – January 17

I have sought the past few decades of following Jesus to utilize His fullest resources. The apostle Peter said in his second epistle (1:3-4) that, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” One promise of God to His people is the promise of spiritual language.

The use of this gift has conjured up all sorts of pictures in people’s minds: Images of ecstatic babbling, uncontrolled or incoherent speech, a trance-like utterance of undecipherable mumbo-jumbo, and weird sounds from the body and mouth of a person in a hypnotic state. Speaking in tongues has often been viewed by some as an escape into unreality. Some Christian leaders describe tongues as an experience and practice only for the gullible. Yet Scripture reveals that the gift of tongues is a biblical expression of God’s goodness to us.

A former university graduate, scholar, one of history’s most respected thinkers, and a seasoned missionary, believed in and practiced speaking with other tongues a lot as a worthy exercise. Read about the apostle Paul’s view of tongues in 1 Corinthians 12-14 to understand how he valued the practice and forbid anyone’s disuse (and misuse) of speaking in tongues.

My experience of starting to follow Christ as a college student was aided by students from the Chi Alpha chapter at Ohio University, as well as New Life Assembly of God in Athens, Ohio. The leadership and people in both ministries modeled and taught that the spiritual life Jesus called us to involved the fruit and gifts of the Spirit. Both were necessary to the empowered life the Holy Spirit provided and would enable all of us to participate in. I was taught and rooted in the spiritual disciplines that would help me grow to maturity in Christ. Speaking in tongues and being available for the Spirit to use me in the kinds of spiritual gifts listed in Ephesians, Romans, and 1 Corinthians was also framed in a healthy manner. I learned four things in particular about tongues that set a biblically healthy foundation for my life and service.

First, speaking “in” or “with” tongues is biblical and not outdated. Nothing in Scripture restricts the use of tongues to the 1st century; Second, speaking in tongues is not a substitute for spiritual growth. As beautiful as praying in tongues is, it is meant to be part of our growth arc, along with feeding on God’s Word, prayer, building healthy relationships with other Christ-followers, and being a witness of Jesus to those who have not yet found their way to God; Third, speaking in tongues is not a weird and out-of-mind-and-body experience. To speak in tongues does not mean a person resigns the control of their mind or mouth, and indulge their emotions uncontrollably. The exercise of the spiritual language the Holy Spirit provides does involve a conscious choice to allow God’s assistance to transcend our linguistic limits; Fourth, speaking in tongues is not a status symbol or qualifier of spiritual acceptance or maturity. If devoted followers of Jesus have not, or ever do not, speak in tongues, they are not second class citizens in the Body of Christ.

My experience in the use of tongues has deepened my intimacy with God. My involvement with this biblical practice has continued because of the journey I set out on decades ago to grow in the life of Christ and to know the Father’s ways. I discovered that God provided this beautiful gift as a resource of his tender and loving assistance in walking with Him. Think theologically. God has provided tongues to help us know and serve Him better. Let us use what He has promised.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – January 10

I saw a documentary about biographers of the wealthy and famous and concluded I was glad not to be a subject at this time. Imagine that people want to know everything they can about you. Writers haggle over the chance to write your story. After a lengthy screening (and budgetary process), you select someone to write your biography, and a contract is signed. That day could be looked upon as one of the worst days of your life.

The writer would shadow you for months, dogging your every step, digging into your time, patience, and life to get your story uncovered. He (or she) would ask a thousand or two questions to discover all there is to know about you, from your perspective. But the questions would not stop there. Your biographer would then ask your family to disclose who you are, what makes you tick, and key life-shaping moments they remember. You would then be asked to turn over your phone/PDA so everyone on your contact list could be called to add whatever they wished or thought necessary or controversial. Then you would be asked to turn over anything (school yearbooks, resumes, photo albums, etc) that would tell what you have been doing with your life.

Biographers are looking for three basic ingredients for a life story: what you say about yourself, what others say about you, and what you have accomplished. That is the framework they use to get to know you in order to write and tell your story (at least part of it – hopefully authorized).

How well do you know God? If someone asked you to fill out a blank sheet of paper by writing down all you knew about God, how long would you be able write before running out of things to say? Where do you start to find out about Him? What does His biography say about Him? Where do you start? What He says. What others say. What He has done.

If you want to know God in an intimate manner, you have to utilize each of those three methods. First, you need to read the two Books God has authored (Scripture and nature) to understand what God has said about Himself. He told Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I am who I am,” to convey the name that expressed His character as the faithful God. Jesus used “I Am” eight times in John’s Gospel to claim His Divinity. Ken Burns’ series on America’s National Parks has many references to the sacredness of Creation that brought me to my knees in awe of the Creator.

Second, you have to read the Bible from front to back to find out what over 40 writers (some were eyewitnesses) said about Him and His incredible attributes – His majesty, love, mercy, and power. One of my favorite annual exercises is to read “Living and Praying in Jesus’ Name” by Dick Eastman and Jack Hayford. They include 31 names and titles assigned to Christ in Scripture, one for each day of the month, which helps me develop a greater awareness of the nature and character of God. The Bible is God’s biography and we need to master it. One way is to use a read through the Bible (a few chapters a day) this year to cover Genesis to Revelation.

Third, take a look at what God has done. What can you learn about Him from creation, the flood, the Exodus, the covenants, the Passover, the crucifixion and resurrection, and the sending of His Spirit? What can you learn about God from nature, art, music, dance, poetry, illustration, science, medicine, and history? Read and meditate on Psalm 103 every day this week.

Grow devotionally. Get to know God. Do the research. Continue in your journey to learn about the Father and His ways. What you gain will encourage and inspire you to be more Christ-like.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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