Monthly Archives: September 2011

Monday Motivator – September 26

I started to follow the teachings of Jesus while a student at Ohio University. When I relive those days in my mind, I see many old friends: Smitty, Mike X, Denny, Vino, KZ, and Bob C were some of those students who modeled to me what a Christ-like life looked like. Each of them urged me to consider the claims of Christ and decide on my response to who He said He was.

These friends supported one another physically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially, and included me in their friendship network. I was amazed at the depth and breadth of the community life they shared. They used their individual strengths to compensate for the weaknesses of the others. They cared for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. They had fun without getting drunk, having sex, or appearing cool at the expense of someone else.

They lived life authentically as they could, talking and walking in what they called “brutal honesty and accountability,” because they told me the Scriptures called them to “live like Jesus did.” They showed me many of the “one another” statements of the New Testament (i.e., love one another, bear with one another, pray for one another, serve another, etc), but more importantly, they practiced them in front of me. It may sound a bit corny, but I saw the Bible actually being lived right before my eyes. They called it “living life like Jesus on two legs.”

Perhaps the strongest element in their relationships was the spiritual support I witnessed among them. They talked about Scripture and wrestled with its implications for their lives, all the while encouraging and challenging one another to be more like Jesus. I had never seen anyone “walk the talk” in terms of religious expression. I learned pretty quickly that these guys were the real deal. Not holier than thou, but they knew who they were following as their model and relied on the Holy Spirit and one another to help them “live like Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).

Read 1 John 3:11 and 16-20. Verse 18 says to “Let us not love with words and tongues, but with actions and truth.” That summarizes my early exposure to Christianity at Ohio University due to the examples of fellow students and teammates.

I recall another student who also had a profound influence on me and helped me in the early days of figuring out how to be a Christian. His name is John Nunnally and he came to OU around the same time I was starting grad school. John had heard of my decision to become a Christ-follower and we soon met and connected at the local Assembly of God church. He took an active interest in me as a fellow athlete, as well as showing concern over helping get me grounded in the basics of Scripture and the needed daily practices of my newfound faith. He also taught about and helped me receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues.

All of the students mentioned illustrate what Christian friendship is all about. The concept of friendship they modeled was not what they could get out of a relationship, but what they could give to someone else. They demonstrated 1 John 3:18 in generosity and kindness. The fruit of these friends’ faith was seen in the deep friendships it produced. They saw real needs and responded to them. They showed the reality that in giving, you receive; in sacrificing, you are blessed; in serving others, your own needs are met. To make a friend, be a friend.

Live communally. If you have never experienced the kinds of friendships I experienced in college (and since), follow the examples of my friends from OU. They have shown you how.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 19

I enjoy the writing of C.S. Lewis because of his ability to convey truth in clear, creative, and innovative story telling. One of my favorites of his Chronicles of Narnia story line is Prince Caspian. In the narrative, a young girl named Lucy sees the great lion Aslan, but her older sister and two brothers do not, and she cannot convince them that she actually saw the King of Narnia. Try as she does, her siblings grow tired of Lucy’s ramblings.

Later one night, Lucy sees Aslan again and realizes that he wanted her to follow him alone, even if the others would not come with her. Aslan says, “If you go back and wake them up, and tell them you have seen me again…and that they must get up and come and follow me, what do you think will happen? There is only one way of finding out.”

Lucy then asks Aslan if her siblings will see him too. “Not at first, but later on…it depends.”

Later, the others go with Lucy as she leads them along a dangerous path, following the Lion only she can see. Even though they cannot see Aslan, they trust Lucy. But as they move on in their journey, the others begin to catch glimpses of Aslan here and there. Then they are startled to see the great lion clearly and discover that he is actually leading them.

Read John 14:15-21. What command of Jesus do you need to obey today? How can you be sure that Jesus will show himself to you along your journey through life?

The account of Lucy and Aslan comes to light powerfully when you consider what Jesus said to his disciples before his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and death. Verse 19 and 21 of John 14 record his words that, “Before long the world will not see me anymore, but you will. Because I live, you will also. Whoever has my commands and obeys them is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

How critical is obedience in seeing and following God?

The example of Noah – Genesis 6:22

The example of Abraham – Genesis 22:2-3

The example of Joshua – Joshua 11:15

The example of Hezekiah – 2 Kings 18:6

The example of Mary and Joseph – Luke 2:39

The example of Paul – Acts 26:19

The example of Jesus – Hebrews 5:8, [Even though he was a son, he learned obedience through suffering]. Christ is the perfect example of obedience and calls us to follow in His steps.

In our walk of faith, obedience is the key to seeing Jesus: Blessings are promised for obedience (James 1:25); Jesus says obedience is the base rock for character (Matthew 7:24); It is essential to membership in God’s family (Matthew 12:50); It is the key to knowledge (John 7:17); It secures divine relationship (John 14:23). Disobedience leads to trouble (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Think theologically. Jesus says that as we do what he commands, our view of Him will be clearer (John 14:21). It often means you will walk alone as the Lord calls you first to Himself. What will happen if you follow Jesus like Lucy followed Aslan? Obedience is the key to seeing.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 12

The movie “Catch Me If You Can,” stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a young man who becomes a world-class forger, and who is chased by Tom Hanks as a FBI agent specializing in bank fraud and forgery. You see, way before identity theft there was forgery. In the old days (before the creation of the World Wide Web), it was normal practice for crooks to forge someone’s name off of a stolen check out of a mailbox, for example, then sign and cash it.

Nowadays, a shady web site operator, store clerk, or even someone you know could get your credit card number, social security or other secure information and do all sorts of crazy things to mess up your finances, identity, and life. But old time forgery is still around. The United States Treasury states that every year more than a million fraudulent checks are passed. A few years ago U.S. banks lost almost three quarters of a billion dollars, and more than 4 billion in attempted check fraud.

If you ever became a victim of identity theft, how would you feel? Read John 16:22-28. Do you ever feel like you commit prayer fraud? Do any of your prayers resemble forgery?

Jesus taught his followers to pray in His name. That means we can approach God with confidence of better understanding and appropriating Jesus’ purpose, mission, and authority. It does not mean that we can sign Jesus’ name to any and all of our wishes, hopes, prayers, and cries…especially if we expect God to meet our selfish needs. That would be forgery.

The key to praying in Jesus’ name is to be sure our prayers confirm to His desires for us. The wrong way to proceed is to think we can simply cut and paste the name of God onto our prayers. We assume if we just say, “in Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer that His agenda is now ours. We also assume (mistakenly) that he agrees to provide for our needs and wants, sort of like the magic genie found in a bottle who grants three wishes. But the key is to discover what God’s agenda is and desire that for our selves (see Luke 11:1-4). When we get to that sort of posture, our prayers will not be about what we want. We will be ready to seek what He wants for us.

Keep in mind that prayer is not approaching God like He is a cosmic vending machine. When we are seeking God’s agenda in humility, it will affect the likelihood that our prayers will be answered. If we ask God for greater discipline to walk in integrity in our relationships, work, homework, and handling our time and finances, we will find more strength and blessing than if we pray for the newest Apple product coming on the market.

Seeking God’s will in prayer and Scripture reading will help you pray in Jesus’ name. For example, read through the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John this week. Take note of what Jesus said about prayer and how he modeled prayer. Then start to imitate Him. Do not be surprised when promises like Mark 11:24 become more potent in your experience: “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

I hope you would never even think about stealing the checkbook (or credit card) of your parents, best friend (or someone you have a grudge with), roommate, teammate, or classmate, and start paying (or charging) your way to affluence. Grow devotionally. The desire of God if that our prayers reflect His desires. Do not forge the Savior’s name either. It never pays off.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 5

Scripture pictures believers as proactive ministers. Why then, do some Christians appear to be passive recipients?

“In the course of history there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness.” These are some of the words of Wangari Maathai when she received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace. She went on to say that there comes a time “when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. And that time,” she concluded, “is now.”

Born in 1940 in Nyeri, Kenya, Wangari Maathai was able to pursue higher education, a rarity for girls in rural areas of Kenya. She earned her biology degree from Mount St. Scholastica College in Kansas and a master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh. When she returned to Kenya, Maathai worked in veterinary medicine research at the University of Nairobi, and eventually, despite the skepticism and even opposition of the male students and faculty, was able to earn a Ph.D. She worked her way up through the academic ranks, becoming head of the veterinary medicine faculty, a first for a woman at any department at that university.

When she heard rural women in her native Kenya worry about the lack of fresh water, and troubles with the land, she started planting trees. She introduced her tree-planting concept to ordinary citizens in 1976. Professor Maathai went on to develop it into the Green Belt Movement, a broad-based, grassroots organization whose main focus is helping women’s groups plant trees to conserve the environment and improve quality of life. Through the Green Belt Movement, she now has helped women plant more than 30 million trees on their farms, on schools, and on church compounds. It is the connection between the value of the land, and the dignity of people that best marks the work of Wangari Maathai.

The program had been carried out primarily by women in the villages of Kenya, who through protecting their environment and through the paid employment for planting the trees are able to better care for their children and their children’s future. In 1986 the Movement established a Pan African Green Belt Network, which has taught people from other African countries the Green Belt Movement’s approach to environmental conservation and community building. Some of these people have established similar tree-planting initiatives in their own countries throughout Africa. It sounds a lot like letting your light shine, doesn’t it? (read Matthew 5:16)

If you ever had an aquarium, you learn that the growth of most fish is limited by the size of the tank they are placed in. Similarly, all of us are affected by our environment. That is why it is critical to create an atmosphere of growth around you and those you care about.

Wangari Maathai is an influencer because she took responsibility for her own growth and then continued to create an environment of growth for others to follow. She created a place where it’s okay to fail, you are still challenged, the focus is forward, the atmosphere is affirming, the comfort zone needs to be broken, others are growing, those ahead will help those behind, there is willingness to change, and growth is modeled and expected.

Serve globally. Let’s make a dent in the universe regardless of the obstacles.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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