Monthly Archives: April 2011

Monday Motivator – April 25

A colleague of mine who serves in an overseas country has told me many stories of Christians being persecuted in the 21st century. According to www.persecution.com, Christians around the globe are suffering for being followers of Jesus and practicing their faith. Following are brief excerpts from two stories currently posted:

1. Chinese authorities arrested more than 100 members of an unapproved Beijing church on Sunday, April 10, after they gathered for an outdoor worship service.

2. Zahra’s life was bleak. Her grandson had a terminal illness, and the secret police had killed her two daughters on the same night. Zahra’s daughters were university students. To cover up the crime, the secret police forced Zahra to claim it was an accident.

These cases are not isolated. Some African and Middle Eastern governments continue their campaigns against Christians, selling them into slavery or killing them. In many countries like India and Indonesia, Christians face violence from other religious groups. Even in the United States, followers of Christ can face adverse circumstances. Teenagers, college students, marketplace and military people I know describe isolation and ridicule from unbelieving friends or co-workers as ongoing hardships.

Read 2 Timothy 3:10-17. While persecution is motivated by evil, it is often allowed by God. The apostle Paul reminded Timothy that Christians who live a godly life should expect persecution from those who feel threatened by their Christ-like behavior. How we handle such push back is another way we can testify to our faith and trust in Jesus. Paul even instructed the Philippians (1:29) that they had been granted on behalf of Christ the gift or privilege of believing in Him and suffering for Him. Faith and suffering apparently are a blessing. The apostle Peter affirms this same idea in 1 Peter 4:12-19.

You and I may not face the same degree of suffering as many of our brothers and sisters around the world. Yet we often go to great lengths to avoid mistreatment or opposition by hiding our faith or by keeping silent when the topic is discussed.

The worst response to the fear of persecution is compromise. Are you afraid to talk about why you love Jesus because it might provoke a hostile response? Did you ever think that in many cases that might be a good idea? Or that it is supposed to happen? We are living in a hostile world that does not acknowledge God in positive terms and often hates those who do. When you refuse to compromise, the results may surprise you. Christians must expect troubles (1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5), but recognize that even in difficult times, God’s Kingdom is advancing. In his second letter to the Corinthians, (4:17), Paul reminds them that, “experiencing the light and momentary troubles that achieve eternal glory far outweighs them all.” Our difficulties diminish in importance in the light of eternity.

When you face persecution, ask God for strength not to yield or compromise. Think about how you will respond differently the next time you confront such a situation in a class, a conversation, or back in your dorm. Grow devotionally. Use the web site mentioned above to pray for persecuted believers as a part of your weekly prayer time. How can you respond to the plight of persecuted churches and followers of Jesus?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 18

I heard Chase and a few of his friends talking about an urban renewal project they were a part of and it got me thinking about a book I had been reading by Timothy Keller.

My wife and I recently completed Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes us Just, by Keller. The author presents the example of Jesus and the Bible as the fundamental sources for promoting justice and compassion. Keller argues that a life empowered by an experience of grace leads to a generous, gracious, justice. Central to Scripture’s message, as well as Jesus’, is the realization that justice for the poor and marginalized is part of being a disciple of the Master. Keller presents the Bible not as a repressive text as many believe today, but the basis for a clear understanding of human rights. Each chapter in his book starts with a call to justice taken directly from the Bible and Keller shows how those words can become the foundation of a just, generous, human community. The Church should be a good neighbor because to be a disciple of Jesus is to live justly.

Chase and his college buddies were an example of the generous justice Keller talked about. They went to their pastor a while ago with an idea for a door-to-door campaign around their church. They wanted to ask the residents what their concerns were and if they thought the church (where Chase and the students attended) could make any difference. The students mobilized church members to start a house-to-house listening campaign. After weeks of surveys, the overwhelming concern was for the education of the children in the community. In particular, a local elementary school was in disrepair, the library was understocked, the grounds were shoddy, and the general outlook bleak.

The students went to the school board and asked if their church could partner with them to make some improvements, with no strings attached. They said their church just wanted to be a good neighbor. The principal and parent advisory team said they would welcome any help they could get. The students and their church took up collections of money for a few months, canvassed local merchants for donations of paint, brushes, mulch, garbage bags, and school supplies. The Boston Public Library and a few other bookstores donated large quantities of books. Money, supplies, equipment, and volunteers were ready.

Soon the school had an extreme makeover, with a fresh paint job, clean grounds, a well stocked library, school supplies, church people volunteering as crossing guards, and parents and teachers overwhelmed by the generosity of a neighborhood church. It all started with a few Christian college students rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty. They mobilized their church for a neighborhood project because love means nothing if it doesn’t affect lives. Read the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-39).

The Bible is a compelling story of God’s great rescue operation. Jesus calls us to follow Him as disciples that He can empower to live like He did (1 John 2:6). A few college students knew Jesus expected them to be dispensers of generous justice, so they put their faith into action on behalf of a school in their community. Serve globally. Jesus offers a vision of how everyone can become more healthy, healed, and whole, by being Great Commandment and Great Commission disciples of His. What are you waiting for?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 11

If you Google the word “temptation” and read the Wikipedia entry, you will find the following definition: “A temptation is an act that looks appealing to an individual. It is usually used to describe acts with negative connotations and as such, tends to lead a person to regret such actions, for various reasons: legal, social, psychological (including feeling guilt), health, economic, etc. Temptation is also described as coaxing or inducing a person into committing such an act, by manipulation or otherwise of curiosity, desire or fear of loss.” Temptation in itself is not sin, but yielding to it is.

I have struggled with various temptations like the rest of humanity has for a long time. Fortunately, I have found some answers to dealing with it, de-fanging it, and defeating it, thanks to the wisdom of Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit. Here are four lessons to remind you of the dangers of temptation and some solutions.

1. After we have yielded to temptation, we become blinded to its consequences. We all know that you can see a bigger picture of something when you’re standing a good distance from it. Likewise, we can’t see something as clear when we’re standing too close to it. This is true of temptation. We can only see the consequences of temptation before we yield to it because we’re standing on the outside of it. But after we have entered into temptation, we become blinded to the consequences. This is definitely true when it comes to matters dealing with the opposite sex. Remember wisdom’s instructions in Proverbs 2.

2. The pull of the temptation increases the closer we get to the forbidden fruit. Sadly, many of us want to play with temptation as long as we can, thinking we can walk away from it at any time. But the closer we get to the temptation, the more pull it has on us. Temptation is not a game to be played with. Cutting off the temptation by killing the thought at the beginning is the key to breaking free from temptation’s allure.

3. Forbidden fruit is never as sweet as you have been told it will be. Without getting explicit, for those who have given in to sexual temptation, almost every one I have talked to admit that they felt regret after. It’s a terrible lesson to have to learn, but if you’ve been there and done that, you know what I’m talking about. Hindsight is always clearer. The worst thing about giving in to the forbidden fruit is even though it doesn’t truly satisfy you, if you keep giving in to it, you can become addicted to it. Trust me, it isn’t worth it.

4. When we are full of God’s fruit, we won’t be hungry for forbidden fruit. The reality is that temptation is a need to fulfill a legitimate God-given drive in an illegitimate way. Did your mom ever say, “It’s never a good idea to inspect forbidden fruit, especially on an empty stomach?” You can apply that idea to any temptation you’re facing. If we don’t fulfill our desires in the right ways, we will constantly look to fulfill them in the wrong ways. And if you’re wondering what God’s fruit is, check out Galatians 5:22-23: …love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control…fruit God wants to grow in you.

I know you will face temptation as a college student. I hope you will consult the smartest person of all time for His answers. Read and memorize Psalm 119:9, 11, 1 Corinthians 10:13, and 1 John 1:9. Through God’s Word, it is possible to resist temptation. Walk wisely. Jesus wants to empower you to stand up under it and have victory.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 4

How good are you at being relational? How much time and energy do you invest in building solid friendships that are mutually beneficial?

Imagine a group of six college students who make a napkin covenant one day in the cafeteria. They agree to meet one Saturday a month to work on projects that none of them can tackle alone. The idea is to serve one another, care for one another, and bear one another’s burdens. Their motto could be – “caring, bearing, sharing for friends.”

One Saturday could be given to working through the adjustment from high school to college life, or college to the marketplace, with honest discussion about making choices. Another Saturday could be dealing with the grief over a dying parent after a lengthy illness. One Saturday may be set aside for those struggling to keep up academically. The list of ideas and opportunities would only limited by the willingness of the students to share openly and authentically with the rest of the group. Think of the power of a group of people focused on the needs and interests of others. Imagine using all the brain power you have, plus all that you can tap into with your friends. And not only their brains – but their hands and hearts, too.

The effort put forth and the concerns for one another in this imaginary scenario could easily resemble the early church.

Read Acts 4:32-37. During the first century, the first Christians were persecuted in the Roman Empire and especially needed the support and care of other followers of Jesus. Remember that unlike Judaism, Christianity was an illegal sect trying to survive. Outsiders called anyone following Jesus a “Christian,” (or little Christ), which was a term of contempt aimed at humiliating anyone who believed in and followed the man from Nazareth.

Some Christians voluntarily sold their possessions, lands, or houses and brought the funds to the apostles, and they distributed them to “anyone who had need” (v 35). The early Christians were characterized as being of “one heart” and “had all things in common” (v 32). They had no trouble leaning on one another and asking for help.

As followers of Christ today, we too need the support and encouragement of one another. You may be struggling with temptation, trying to determine how to deal with a difficult roommate, working to resolve conflict with a family member, concerned with a class project that is hard, or unsure how to best manage your resources. These are good opportunities to enlist the advice and prayer of other Christians you know and trust.

Regardless of your propensity for building friendships, all of us can improve the quality of our relationships by remembering and practicing the 5 A’s – authenticity, attention, attitude, appreciation, and affirmation. 1) Be authentic by being the best you, you can be; 2) When you meet someone, give them your undivided attention in the first minute: 3) No one likes being around an Eeyore-type personality (see Winnie the Pooh), so have a positive attitude; 4) Show appreciation for who your friends are by being interested in them; and 5) Affirm your friends in meaningful ways by word or deed.

Live communally. Christians stand strong when they stand together. Be an A-list friend.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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