Monthly Archives: March 2011

Monday Motivator – March 28

I was thinking about the condition of jails after watching a movie called “The Birdman from Alcatraz” starring Burt Lancaster, one of my favorite actors. The movie is about Robert Stroud, a convicted felon who becomes an expert on birds while imprisoned for life. From the outside, jail cells all look alike, don’t they? You seen one, you’ve seen them all. But from the inside, some prisons rate better than others. Of course, I am talking about real jails here, not the school library where you may have been cooped up lately working on a big assignment that is due soon.

I did a Google search and found articles that detailed inmates’ lists of America’s best jails. One survey showed people were asked to assess cell capacity, TV service, meal quality, and visitation rights. The results indicated that some jails offer a pretty good life, including a good library, workout facilities, smoke-free atmosphere, and continuing education opportunities. One correctional facility in Alaska even provided dormitory style bunk beds, cable TV, regular visits, and a varied meal plan. None of those amenities were available when Stroud was in Alcatraz, or several other prisons he stayed in.

Prison awareness and assessment go me to thinking about a believer’s relationship with Jesus. To someone on the outside, being a Christian can look like a form of imprisonment. Ten Commandments; obligation to hear, read, study, memorize, and meditate on Scripture; fasting and prayer; being a part of a Christian community regularly; denying yourself for Christ and His teaching; walking in purity, soundness in speech, life, and love; living missionally; giving generously; stewarding your time, talent, and treasure; serving the poor; being sober-minded. To someone who lives outside of God’s Kingdom and rule, all that church and morality may seem worse than going to prison.

But from the inside, obedience to God actually opens the door to a whole new world of freedom.

Read Romans 6:15-23. When a person is set free from the penalty of sin and the burden of guilt, they are now open and empowered by the Spirit to make choices that bring fulfillment, maturity of character, blessing, and alignment with God’s original design for them.

The apostle Paul, who wrote Romans, as well as a lot of the New Testament, was familiar with the inside of a prison cell. Paul knew that whether we become a slave to sin or a slave to God is not a matter of doing time. It’s a matter of the heart. He learned that with bondage to sin comes an ever-increasing hunger for the kind of thoughts and actions that demean our identity, damage our character, destroy our soul, and dishonor the Lord who made us for so much more.

But Paul argued that with slavery to God comes an ever-increasing desire to do good, to love, to do justly, and to be grateful for the freedoms that bring no regret. And not only the desire, but followers of Christ can access the power of the Holy Spirit to live the sort of life Jesus modeled and promised His followers would have. Paul contrasted two kinds of servitude in Romans 6:23 – one that brings death as its wages; the other results in eternal life…not as wages earned or merited, but as a gift. The contrast between sin and obedience suggests that sin is by nature disobedience to God – which is a way of saying “jail from the inside out.”

Think theologically. Paul states that a Christian has changed masters. Once he or she was a slave to sin, but now they have become a freed slave (willingly) to righteousness. Christian obedience is not forced or legalistic, but a willing decision. Slavery to God produces holiness and the end result is a life well-lived and eternal life. Obeying God is the key to true freedom.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – March 21

An elderly lady made an appointment to visit President Abraham Lincoln one day. As she entered his office, he arose, seated her, and asked, “How may I be of service to you, Madame?” The lady said, “Mr. President, I know you are a busy man. I have not come to ask you for anything. I simply came to bring you this box of cookies, for I heard you enjoyed them so much.” A silence followed in which tears overflowed the eyes of the President. Finally, he raised his hand and spoke to the little woman. “Madame, I thank you for your thoughtful gift. I am greatly moved by it. Since I have been President of this country, thousands have people have come into this office asking for favors and demanding things from me. You are the first person who has ever entered these premises asking no favor, and indeed, bringing a gift for me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

What kind of worshiper are you? When did you last ponder the character and awesome deeds of God? When did you take time just to love Him for who He is?

Read Psalm 145 – a hymn of praise to the Lord, the great King, for His mighty acts and benevolent virtues, which are the evidence of his kingly character and rule.

1-2                   An initial commitment to praise

3-7                   Praise of God’s mighty acts, which display his greatness (3) and goodness (7)

8-13a               Praise of God’s benevolent virtues, which moves all creatures to celebrate the glory of His Kingdom

13b-16             Praise God’s faithfulness

17-20               Praise of God’s righteousness

21                    Every creature must take up the praise of God – forever

Did you hear the topic of conversation in Psalm 145? God’s virtue; His Kingdom. Do you talk this way about the LORD to Him? To others? What method does the writer say will be used to spread the divine King’s fame? (v 4-7, 10, 21); List all the reasons given for praising God.

What is the divine King’s true greatness? (His character, v 8); How does God treat His subjects? (He is good to all, 9); How do His subjects treat Him? (All will praise Him, 10); Do all His subjects respond equally? (10-13); God is faithful to his word (13) and loving (13); His display of care and support (14), supply at the right time (15), and the way he satisfies the desires of every living thing (16) has made his name and promises more precious; Everything God does is RIGHT! He’s loving toward all He has made (17); He’s near to all who call on him (in truth…or w/ integrity, 18); He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him, and He hears their cry and saves them (19); He watches over all who love Him, but He will destroy the wicked (20).

This Psalm instructs us about worship that focuses on the living God – by remembering His essential goodness and love, and his wondrous deeds on the behalf of His people. It opens with ceaseless personal praise and by v 21 it is clear that nothing less than the praise of every creature will suffice for such a God. What stories about God can you tell from your own life?

What kind of King and Ruler is God to you? Based on Psalm 145, how does your picture of God need adjusting? Why would spending time with the King one-to-one (or in groups) be the greatest reward for a citizen? Grow devotionally. Use this Psalm as a pattern for your worship.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – March 14

Do you have friends that inspire you to live well? Do they model characteristics that are worth emulating? Do you have friends who help you grow in Christ-likeness? Which ones?

I think back to my high school graduating class. It was full of students of potential who aspired to be notable citizens and leaders of a brave new world. Many of them went on to college and careers in the marketplace. Some got addicted to drugs, developed bad attitudes, and struggled. If you surveyed that class, you would have found a range of under and over-achievers, slackers, doers, optimists, realists, and pessimists. Many fulfilled their dreams of making a difference, while others had dreams snuffed out by disappointment, lost jobs, broken marriages, cancer, poor choices, lack of discipline, or wasted talent. No one ever talked to me about the teachings of Jesus as a basis for a worldview. Or challenged me to live a life of impeccable character.

I read a survey of graduating seniors in a high school last spring that revealed this composite:

  • 69% say they drink alcohol regularly
  • 26% have tried marijuana
  • 70% say they have cheated on an assignment or test
  • 60% have had pre-marital (and unprotected) sex

These results do tell us something about the profile of these young adults. Almost two thirds are into drinking. Seven out of ten say they have cheated. More than half are no longer virgins. Many of these seniors are in college right now, or learning a trade, or possibly drifting aimlessly.

Put away the survey for a moment and consider your class profile. Not necessarily your high school graduating class, or a current academic class you are taking. How about the people you spend time with consistently – the class of people who influence you? Your friends. Can you picture them? Can you name them? I hope so.

Read Numbers 16:1-35.

Consider the people who were trying to influence Moses in today’s reading in Numbers 16. They were religious and community leaders, parents, young and old alike. Moses could have caved in and listened to their opinion, their view, their wisdom. Instead, he decided to follow God’s direction and was spared the horrible divine punishment this misguided gang received.

How cautious are you in terms of who you listen to? How selective are you in your friendships? Are you determined to seek and find God’s wisdom in the circumstances you face? Will you show the courage Moses did to step away from the crowd (and some of his friends and their advice), even when it may bring you persecution, ridicule, rejection, or even separation?

It seems that some of us walk a dangerous path at times of not having enough friendships with strong Christ-followers. If your inner circle of friends is only populated with people of less than stellar convictions, who will back you up in a tough spot when those convictions are tested? Walk wisely. Proverbs 12:26 says, “The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” If you are hanging with a group who tends to pull you down, it may be time to find another class of friends. When friends pull you from Jesus and His ways, pull away from them. Find and associate with folks who will help you live your life well.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – March 7

One of my favorite experiences growing up was going to my uncle Jack’s cottage on a lake a few hours west of Detroit, MI, where I grew up. I remember lots of good food, hanging out with my cousins, fishing, swimming, boating, water skiing, and catching bullfrogs. I remember playing catch with a baseball, tossing a football, or kicking a soccer ball on the sparse grass and sandy back lot. I also remember going the whole weekend never wearing shoes. I stubbed my toe now and then, or suffered a cut on a sharp rock, but who cared? (besides my mom). It was spray on the disinfectant, slap on a band-aid, and play on! After all, why did I need shoes?

Once I woke up, ate breakfast, and cleaned up my sleeping area, it was off to a day of running, chasing, avoiding getting caught in a game of tag, exploring the lake, and having a blast – all barefooted in the dirt and out on the water. I actually only put my shoes on when it was time to say goodbye and head back to Detroit with my siblings and parents. Imagine, a whole weekend without wearing shoes. It was liberating for a kid. I did it because of choice, not necessity.

Another favorite experience of mine has been traveling to developing countries. Being exposed to different cultures in other parts of the world has been enriching in many ways. Yet I have seen things that have been troubling: poor water and food distribution systems, widespread poverty, and lots of children and adults without shoes. My first trip to Haiti in the 1980’s was stunning in the number of people I saw without shoes. I remember the students from our Chi Alpha chapter and I leaving behind an extra pair of shoes we had brought, as well as other supplies we could readily get in America. After all, even when I left a pair of my used Nike shoes to a villager I met (and the flip-flops I used at the beach), I still had a second pair of shoes on my feet.

In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie befriended children in a village in Argentina and found they had no shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. One for One. Blake returned to Argentina with a group of family, friends and staff later that year with 10,000 pairs of shoes made possible by TOMS customers.

Why Shoes? Many children in developing countries grow up barefoot. Whether at play, doing chores or going to school, these children are at risk. Blake writes on his web site that:

•A leading cause of disease in developing countries is soil-transmitted diseases, which can penetrate the skin through bare feet. Wearing shoes can help prevent these diseases, and the long-term physical and cognitive harm they cause.

•Wearing shoes also prevents feet from getting cuts and sores. Not only are these injuries painful, they also are dangerous when wounds become infected.

•Many times children can’t attend school barefoot because shoes are a required part of their uniform. If they don’t have shoes, they don’t go to school. If they don’t receive an education, they don’t have the opportunity to realize their potential.

Would you join the One for One movement? It is about people like you and me making choices that improve the lives of children. Get aware and involved at www.TOMSshoes.com. Consider mobilizing the students on your campus on April 5, 2011 for One Day Without Shoes – the day we can take off our shoes to raise awareness of the impact a pair of shoes can have on a child’s life. Serve globally. Would you and your pals walk campus barefoot one day to help a child?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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