Monthly Archives: October 2011

Monday Motivator – October 31

To get from one point to another, it helps to watch where you are going. I am preparing for my first trip back to Boston after moving to Charlottesville, VA a little over a month ago. I know from past trips that is takes about twelve and half hours (weather and traffic permitting) to complete the drive. I could take I-95 all the way through D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City home. Or I could take I-81 through Pennsylvania and I-84 through New York and Connecticut to the Mass Pike back home to Beantown.

But imagine if I decided to drive either way backwards? I would never get far and would soon get pulled over by the police, hopefully before injuring myself or someone else.

Looking forward is critical to driving well and ultimately your safety. When you pay attention while operating your vehicle, you are able to notice changes in the legal driving speed, what other drivers are doing, bends or turns in the road, and you can make the necessary adjustments. You watch for signs that indicate gas and food options, which exit to take, and how many miles it is to your destination. Paying attention helps you avoid debris on the road, notice upcoming detours, and make changes related to weather – like slowing down in inclement weather.

Read Proverbs 4:20-27. Now read it again. Good words to heed, huh? Verse 25 says to “Let your eyes look straight ahead. Fix your gaze directly before you.”

I was talking to an alumnus of Chi Alpha recently and I asked him about the state of his spiritual journey. He started by saying it had been hard to keep his focus after some professional setbacks and dating relationships that didn’t go where he thought they might.

Unfortunately, my old student was a bit “stuck” while looking back too much at his past. He was focusing intently on mistakes he had made – big and small – and it had crippled him, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, even physically. He doubted himself and his overall value, and battled discouragement. He was spending a lot of time stewing over how much he had let others down (or so he thought). He even believed God had turned away from him, too. Such behavior is dangerous, spiritually speaking.

He had trained himself to gaze into his past and that kept him from being able to receive fresh direction from God. He forgot who he was IN CHRIST. He recently stopped going to church and small group, and felt his Christian friends did not want to hang out with him anymore – even though no one had said anything. He allowed his mind to race ahead and based on how he was feeling, assumed his friends were tired of him. He was unable to see God’s path out of such a malaise, and instead talked himself into snares and traps that were keeping him from becoming who he was created by God to be.

Since I was not close enough to throw a cup of cold water INTO his face (in the name of the Lord), I asked him what he wanted to do. Stay stuck or start fresh? To my elation, he said he would like to try, try again. He admitted he was tired of gazing at his past.

Walk wisely. Are you looking straight ahead at Jesus (Romans 12:2), leaving your past behind (Philippians 3:13)? You move ahead by keeping your eyes on Jesus.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 24

I have never drunk coffee in my life. Not even one taste. I am an orange juice guy. Many of my friends and colleagues however, like coffee a lot. They tell me it is critical to the start of their day, the afternoon, and the evening. They drink it while commuting, during appointments, and even before and after they go to the gym. They describe it as helpful, comforting, delicious, relaxing, restful, social, and energizing.

A few of my friends admit that coffee sometimes does not do what they need. Their brain never seems to kick in to gear, and the day seems a bit slower. Was their coffee diluted? Did the roasting process somehow get interrupted and cause a weaker product?

I am glad that God is never that way. Scripture says that He is consistent in character, word, and deed. He is able to meet each of us where we are and help us get what we need to function properly. Unlike a coffee that’s not full enough, strong enough, or good enough, God is described by one of the early followers of Jesus as One who made it possible for all of us to reach our full God-breathed potential.

Read 2 Peter 1:3-10. Read verses 3-4 out loud…inserting your name, ”His divine power has given ME everything I need for life and godliness…” The apostle Peter states that God has made His resources available in order for us to live like He intended. God has made it possible “through His precious promises” for each of us to become like Him and escape from worldly corruption.

God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness. God’s strength and power are accessible each day. How are you drawing on His resources? How is your faith developing? Which of the characteristics described in v 5-8 are in “increasing” evidence in your life? Scripture says that as you rely on Him and walk in obedience, His Spirit keeps you from sin and empowers you to live a Christ-centered and honoring life.

Just as your coffee does not make itself (someone has to grind the beans, fill the pot with water, and tend to it), God expects you and me to do some things for our selves.

Peter is right in declaring that God empowers us to lead godly lives.  He also gives us the responsibility to learn, apply what we know, and grow to be like Him. Peter wrote in v 5-8 that we add to our faitha list of impressive traits through action. But notice the list of qualities that emerge: goodness, spiritual knowledge (i.e., insight/understanding), self-control (i.e., discipline), perseverance, godliness, kindness, and love.

That list of virtues will produce a well-rounded, fruitful, Christian person. They all fit together, multiplying the effects of each other as you develop a lifestyle more resembling Jesus, your Savior and Lord. But note the warning of verse 9 about being blind…

Think theologically. How are you utilizing God’s resources to live out the faith He deposited in you? Where do you see God’s hand at work in your life conforming you to His image? God fills your cup with His power and love. Will you pursue this kind of growth? Care for a cup of coffee (or an orange juice) while you ponder your answer?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 17

One of my favorite DVD series is by Ken Burns, and it deals with America’s National Parks. The United States has some of the most incredible natural beauty on earth and the men and women who shared in the process of setting it aside for all Americans to enjoy often spoke of the hand of God creating masterpieces all over the country.

I was talking to a friend of mine about the series and he told me about a spot in Colorado called Garden of the Gods. Outside of Colorado Springs is a park with huge, red rocks that come up out of the soil. It appears as if someone pushed them down, re-arranged and stacked them, and set them in the ground at odd and interesting angles.

The most incredible area is called Balance Rock. Imagine a large, irregular shaped boulder twenty feet wide, resting on a thin rock base maybe two feet in width. Go ahead and Google it. You will say what I first did – there is NO WAY that can be sustained!

Yet it is real. Balance Rock has been stunning and inspiring people for a long time. My friend told me when he last visited the souvenir store that he found photographs of the Rock dating back to the 1800’s. The clothes and hairstyles were different in the photos, he said.  A lot has changed from then until now, yet one thing has remained constant. The rocks, trees, surroundings, and even Balance Rock itself have stayed the same.

In ancient times, stones were used to mark major events, boundaries, and milestones. Landowners knew their property by the placement of large stones that were never to be moved. Sacred moments of God’s revelation and provision were remembered by the establishment of a stony memorial – Abraham in Genesis 12: 7-8; Jacob meeting with God in Genesis 28:20-22; Moses in Exodus 28:21; and Joshua in Joshua 4:3 and 8:31-35.

There are “stones” in our lives that should not be moved either, because they are timeless truths that need to remind us of God’s involvement. When God reveals Himself through His Word, nature, or providence, we need to mark those occurrences. We are called to remember the good and faithful character and deeds, of Immanuel, God with us.

Read Proverbs 22:28 – Do not move an ancient boundary stone. Clear enough?

Hosea, one of the ancient prophets of Israel warned that, “Judah’s leaders are like those who move boundary stones” (Hosea 5:10). God said He would pour out His wrath on them like a flood of water. The priests and leaders were condemned for turning away from God, as well as causing others to forget the Lord. They were in trouble for worshipping other gods, and in the process, moving sacred and spiritual boundary stones.

We have to avoid forgetting the Lord by living life based on the solid foundation God has provided in Scripture. Here are some key passages to master: The Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3); The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17); Proverbs 8 (Wisdom’s call); Matthew 5-7 (The Sermon on the Mount). Ancient truth is still truth to be lived.

Grow devotionally. Read, study, memorize, and meditate on these passages. Are they truths your life is based on? Have you moved any boundary stones? Stay on the Rock.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 10

You are a reporter for your college newspaper. Through the use of a time machine that is similar to the DeLorean car from Back to The Future, you set the date for late 37 A.D. Jerusalem. In transit, you read Acts 9:1-22. You and your camerawoman end up on dusty road leading north from there, following leads for a guy named Saul of Tarsus.

Saul received official papers from the headquarters of Judaism to do whatever was necessary to eliminate a new growing religious effort called The Way. Word leaked that Saul was heading for Damascus, so you head there. Every place you stop for water brings stories of people being beaten, thrown into prison, and even some killed by Saul. The trail then grew cold. You hear no more reports of cruelty over the next 100 miles you walk. You finally get to a rest stop outside of Damascus where you learn that Saul experienced some sort of conversion from Judaism that left him blind. Several days have passed since the incident and the town is abuzz with chatter about Saul’s apparent transformation.

You make it to the Inn on Straight Street where Saul has been staying. The bartender tells you people are still afraid to get close to Saul for fear he may revert to his old ways. He points to a table in the back shadows and says, “Approach him at your own risk.” A guy at the bar says, “Bah! He’s no longer the murderer who came in here blind and broken. He used to be a fire-breathing executioner, but now he’s a humbled man.”

You walk to the rear slowly and ask if you can sit down. Saul motions with his hand and slides the chair away from the table for you. Your associate pulls up a chair from the next table and hits the record button on the camera. You start to introduce yourself, but are quickly cut off as Saul asks, “So are you interested in why my demeanor changed?”

Before you can answer, he continues: “I was knocked off my horse by a blinding light. A voice from heaven asked me why I was persecuting him. I knew then it was Jesus. As he talked, I realized I could no longer keep fighting his words and his will. One day I was hauling his followers off to prison, and the next I was confronted by the One I knew to be Lord of heaven and earth…then my eyesight vanished…boy, did he ever have my attention. I now believe in the One I had been trying to stop.

He told me to go to this Inn and in a few days a man named Ananias would visit me and give me my sight back. Jesus said he had a new mission for me – I was now to work as hard for Him as I did against Him and take His message to the Gentiles (non-Jews). My perspective and the arc of my life changed after that encounter.”

You ask a few more questions, take photos, and then leave with your story. But you are not the same. You are thinking, “If Jesus could change Saul, He could change anyone.” Laura, your photographer says, “I hope God doesn’t ever have to do anything like that to get my attention.” The trip home will give you time to determine how you will answer THE question: What will it take for God to get your full attention? Or are you so wrapped up in your life that He would have to knock you off a horse to get through to you?

Serve globally. God demands your full attention and participation. He wants you to partner with Him in His-Story. How will you respond to His invitation to work for Him?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 3

Have you ever built a house of cards and tried to blow air at it at varying intensities in order to see what it would take to knock it over? Or played Jenga, which is a game of trying to pull wooden blocks from a tall, horizontal structure, without it tipping over and crashing to the table? Both the house of cards and Jenga are like trying to hold a sinful situation together. It takes a lot of effort to sustain the situation, and in the end it is not enough – all three eventually succumb to the crash.

I have seen and heard of students (and staff) get into dangerous situations that take many forms – cheating on a test (or a spouse), alcohol or drug use, lying to cover up an addictive habit, a premarital sexual relationship, or not controlling their financial matters. They stuck with their shadowy behavior, believing they could avoid the consequences of their actions. But the law of sowing and reaping always kicks in. Ultimately, the situation overheats like a boiling pot with a lid on, and the pressure has to go somewhere.

Read Isaiah 30:12-18.  History records that the nation of Israel was facing real pressure. The prophet Isaiah warned the nation that they would crumble like a cracked jar because of their sinful attitudes and actions. God would not be mocked – Israel would eventually erode from the inside and their collapse would be instant, painful, and complete.

Sadly, Israel did not listen to Isaiah and they suffered the consequences he described. Rather than turn to God in repentance (which He desired), they avoided Him and missed the opportunity to benefit from the compassion He longed to show (v 18).  They decided to ignore the prophet and walk in their own ways – and they paid the price for it.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27 that people have a choice about the kind of foundation they choose to build their lives on. Wise builders choose to build their lives on His Word, and foolish builders do not. Jesus said that everyone will feel the winds blow and beat against their house, but the house not built on His words will fall with a great crash.

We all know that life is full of temptations that entice us to sin and miss God’s best for us. If we are not diligent, we will succumb to the old nature. If and when we sin, we need to act like 1 John 1:9 tell us to. Otherwise, our energies will be sucked into trying to hold together a situation that we know is wrong. The more you wait, the longer and deeper you are drawn in, the crummier you feel, and finally the whole thing falls apart.

Have you been testing forbidden fruit? Be warned. You will reap what you sow. It could result in an unplanned pregnancy, academic trouble, a loss of reputation, and even being arrested – all consequences you may have to face when you cross a line you cannot cross back over. Every action has consequences – some will be permanent – but God’s healing and forgiveness is still available. Allow the Word of God to convict you of the danger signs and consequences of sin, as well as the fruit of staying on track in your journey.

If you are in a sinful situation – get out! Owning up to your sin will be humbling. But it is not as bad as when the circumstances force you to own up to your actions. It doesn’t take much breath to blow over a house of cards – a metaphor for a sinful lifestyle that can fall at any time. Walk wisely. Deal with sin now or it may ruin your present and future.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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