Monthly Archives: June 2011

Monday Motivator – June 13

What are you unwilling to give to God? What would it take for you to worship God generously?

I met Joseph when he came for graduate studies from Kenya. We spent a few months building friendship by sharing our background, and he told me about the impact of his father on his life. Joseph said his father influenced him deeply by how devoted he was to know the Living God, by knowing the Scriptures thoroughly. His dad modeled a love for the Bible and tirelessly read it, studied it, meditated on it, memorized it, and sought to live according to it. He taught the Word to his seven children and instilled in them the same love and holy habits he had developed.

Joseph told me one story that when his dad was a young man, he experienced the struggle and cost of living generously for God. His father’s family had endured yet another drought that made farming basically impossible in southern Kenya. The lack of water had killed many of the cattle, and the people of Kenya were in failing health due to water deprivation.

Desperate for work, Joseph’s dad left home, hoping to find a way to support himself and his family. After weeks of searching, he ended up in Nairobi with a church that helped provide a place to stay and food, while he looked for work.

The church was working to raise funds for a building expansion project and the pastor was challenging the people to give sacrificially and generously to the effort. Joseph’s dad wanted to give, but he had no money to contribute. Still without employment, he didn’t have spare change, bread, or anything to place before God on the altar.

As he wept in the church pew about his lack of an offering, he remembered that he actually did have a few possessions. He had his clothes, a mat to sleep on, and an old canteen for carrying water. Leaving his shirt and coat at the altar, he walked away with nothing but his T-shirt, pants, belt, and his one pair of shoes. Incidentally, the pastor’s sermon that day was about the woman in Bethany who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and perfume. Read Matthew 26:6-13.

Joseph’s dad’s story is very similar, isn’t it? Both he and the woman gave what they had – not under pressure, threat, or in an effort to curry favor from God. They both did it out of love for God. What they did was done simply, quietly, and yet extravagantly. They modeled something many of us often forget – that God is worth it – that He is the exalted Creator of the Universe. He is the Sovereign Ruler, all-powerful, wise, just, forgiving, and loving toward all He has made.

Joseph told me that his father initially did not tell anyone about his act of worship, even his parents or siblings at the time. He thought that asking God to replace his shirt and coat would undermine the gift. God however, thought differently, and His generosity would once again be expressed. Within days, Joseph’s dad found a job and he was provided new clothes.

Joseph and his siblings heard this story many years later and were profoundly affected. Such acts of generosity – whether shirts given or perfume poured out – reveal the deep love of a person’s heart. Joseph told me that he and his siblings are all ardent followers of Jesus today, because of the example set by their father.

Are you willing to literally give the shirt – or coat – off your back, to honor the Lord for who He is? Live communally. Generosity is a reflection of the heart. Your giving does affect others.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

P.S. This will be the last MM for June. I will resume writing in July.

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Monday Motivator – June 6

I want to introduce you to Mark and Sally, both of whom are atheists that I knew at M.I.T.

Mark was a third year undergraduate from California, studying Computer Science, and we met lifting weights. I was wearing a T-shirt that said, “Ask me about Him,” Mark asked and we started talking. He told me pretty quickly he was an atheist. When I asked him to describe what that meant to him, he said he denied the existence of God, he doesn’t pray, read the Bible, or go to church. The only thing he likes about Christianity is laughing at his friends who believe in that stuff, and arguing with them about the reliability of the Bible. He believes Christians are the weakest people alive because they use Christianity as a crutch to avoid the real world. And the more vocal they are about their religion, the more hypocritical they are. He also believes most Christians are insensitive, judgmental, anti-homosexual, and a negative influence in society.

Sally, a graduate student in Chemistry, reads the Bible regularly, but lives a lot like Mark. She has trouble balancing her checkbook, handling her divorced parents, and dealing with her live-in boyfriend – who is scared to death about marriage. Sally was raised in a Christian family that went to church and said they believed in the Bible. She used phrases like, “God told me” and “God is good” and would tell you she started following Jesus when she was ten at a church revival. After praying and crying a lot at the meeting, she tried to go back to school and live a life of purity and integrity. She held on to her belief in God for a few months, but soon slipped into her old way of life…a bad attitude, and habits she wasn’t proud of. She later told her mom and dad that she was pregnant by a boy in the youth group and they threw her out of the house. At 26, she was doing things she knew she shouldn’t. She said she was too busy to go to church or connect with Christians on campus. She prayed most nights – mostly that her boyfriend would become a Christian like she is. “If only he believed in Jesus, then he might want to marry me.”

If you asked her, Sally would say that “I know that my life doesn’t look like a Christian’s life should, but I do believe in God.” Isn’t that great? She believes in God but doesn’t live like He exists. Mark doesn’t believe in God and Sally does. Is there really any difference between them?

I have known Christian students who lived as if God did not exist. Many of them said they believed in God, BUT did not really know Him; they read the Bible but did not live according to it; they were still ashamed of their past; they were not sure God loved them; they did not believe in prayer answered by God; they did not think He is fair because many of their why questions were never answered; they would not forgive themselves or others; they still worried all the time; they still pursued happiness at any cost; they trusted more in their intellect; they would not share their faith (i.e., pray, give, and go); and they attended, but did not really serve His Church.

There is nothing wrong with having doubts, wrestling with hard questions, wondering if what we believe really matters, and facing the reality that it is a struggle to see our words and actions match our beliefs. Craig Groeschel wrote a book called The Christian Atheist, in which he argues many struggle with real Christianity. Craig stated in the intro that he is a recovering Christian Atheist, and that at age 25, he was a full time pastor and part-time follower of Jesus.

Think theologically. It is possible to overcome the inconsistencies between what we believe and how we live. Consider the costs. Be willing to read Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount and do what it takes to live that way (His Spirit will help you). Following Jesus is not about getting your needs met, or even feeling like a comfortable spectator. Jesus calls us to a life of surrender where His Spirit will empower us to lead Kingdom honoring lives. Read Matthew 16:25-26, Galatians 2:20, Acts 20:24, and Philippians 3:8. Is that the kind of follower you want to be?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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