Monthly Archives: November 2011

Monday Motivator – November 28

I met Zhu at a weekly conversation and coffee time at Ohio University in the mid 1980’s. I asked him about his family, country of birth, and his experience at OU so far. He was far from home (China), and was lonely. I invited him to my home and he enjoyed meeting my wife (our kids were not born yet) and spending time with us. When it was time to return home a few years later, Zhu thanked me for helping him while in America. We talked about many things (including Christianity), shared a deeper friendship, and he said he was leaving America with gratitude for the kindness Barbara and I had shown him. He said he felt he was part of our family.

As you walk through a college campus today, it is normal to hear students speaking Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish, mixed in with English. Whether you peek into a computer lab, watch an intramural game, or even grab a sandwich in the student center, it is apparent that people from every corner of the planet are in evidence on campus. Indeed, the world has certainly come to us.

An incredible Biblical event has been talking place, and we would do well not to miss it. Starting back in the 1950’s, a little more than 34,000 foreign students studied on American campuses, but that number has now reached close to 700,000. America has been used by God as a staging place for one of the greatest evangelism opportunities in the history of the Church. It seems to me that one part of God’s strategic plan for His world mission effort has been to bring students from other countries to the United States for a few years of academic study – critical when you consider how more countries have closed their doors to traditional missionaries – even in a time of unprecedented global access, travel, economics, and nation resource sharing.

Ministries like Chi Alpha Campus Ministries have been working for decades to alert and mobilize the American Church to play a greater role in fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission through campus ministry. The message continues to be how each church and Christian can reach the world without even leaving campus – simply by reaching out in friendship to the international students here. Imagine the opportunity God has given us by bringing so many of the best and brightest to our shores, all of whom are young, teachable, well-mannered, proficient in English, interested to learn more about American culture, including experiencing life in an American home. Sadly, most internationals never get the chance to be in one of our homes.

We as the Church have an incredible privilege to demonstrate Christ’s love-in-action to these special visitors to our country. Through extending care and meeting their felt needs, we can provide friendship and a “home away from home” during a unique and often stressful period of their lives. Remember that they are far away from home, family, and friends. Even with social media and the access technology provides, international students will respond to almost any gesture of personal friendship on your part while they are studying here in our country.

When you see an international on campus, in class, or in your living area, simply go up and introduce yourself. Most will be pleased you took a moment to talk with them. For those off of campus, schools have conversation partner programs, international clubs, and cultural gatherings you can participate in. Be aware that the young man or woman does not need or want to be treated as a needy “foreigner,” but as an equal. They are one of their countries’ top intellectual, social, or political leaders in training. You will certainly be able to learn much from them.

Live communally. Represent Jesus by extending friendship to someone from another country.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 21

I remember my annual checkup last fall. My doctor prescribed one procedure he wanted me to undergo to help determine the actual condition of my heart. An electrocardiogram (EKG) is a test to measure the heart’s electrical activity, which helps a doctor assess your heart’s health.

Is there a test today to assess the spiritual condition of someone? Is there a spiritual EKG? If so, what would it say about our spiritual health? Check out one of my favorite stories in Scripture.

Read John 3:1-7.

One day a man named Nicodemus was given a spiritual EKG. If you examined him from head to toe, you would have thought he was very healthy spiritually. He looked solid, knew his Jewish beliefs, he had a strong spiritual heartbeat (he was known as a Pharisee, a respected Jewish religious leader), and many in the community trusted him due to his example

John also indicated Nicodemus was open to new spiritual ideas, which was evident from him pursuing Jesus one night. Apparently, the teachings of this new Jewish rabbi from Nazareth had aroused his interest. The chance that Jesus might actually be the Messiah brought Nicodemus to Jesus under the cover of darkness. Was he afraid to be seen with Jesus during the day? Or did he figure that a long talk would be more possible at night, far away from the crowds around Jesus?

Nicodemus questioned Jesus and was startled to learn he was speaking of a Kingdom not of this world. He offered a way of life, “born of water and the Spirit,” that intrigued Nicodemus. Jesus spoke with an authority that indicated what he said applied to everyone. In v 7, Jesus said, “Youmust…be born again” to enter this Kingdom. Two words with weight: You and must.

Jesus used a common rabbinic term for a Gentile who decided to undergo a formal conversion to Judaism. Gentiles who were “born again” as Jews were believed to be brand new beings. When Nicodemus objected and asked, “How can a man be born when he is old?” it was not because the language confused him. He was arguing with Jesus, saying, “I am already Jewish. How can I convert to Judaism?” Jesus answered, “A man must be born of water and Spirit.”

In other words, Jesus was telling Nicodemus that to be ethnically and religiously Jewish was not enough (or adequate) for entrance into God’s family. A spiritual conversion of the heart is what was really necessary. Being born again is not believing and/or following a bunch of rules and regulations simply about outward behavior: it involves getting an extreme makeover of the heart from God, through faith in Jesus alone. External activity (even conformity) without internal conversion is the path to empty living, and ultimately a Christ-less eternity.

My EKG showed my physical heart was strong and functioning well. How would Jesus’ assessment of your heart turn out? Have you experienced new life as Jesus described? The old saying is still accurate…sinners sin because that is their natural tendency. Saints live a different lifestyle in daily experience because of their position in Christ (see Romans 6:1-13).

Do not repeat the mistake Nicodemus was making. Do not allow your knowledge of God to distance you from the very God you need to know and serve. Think theologically. If you are a new creature in Christ, how will you live differently this week? Heart change = behavior change.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 14

I remember a sermon preached at the church we attended shortly after Barbara and I were married. I recognized that I had hurt a professor at Ohio University a few years back by my harsh words. It had been several years since the incident, but I knew I had to make it right. I wrote a letter to the man recounting what had happened, owned up to my poor behavior, and asked for his forgiveness. I said I had recently become a follower of Jesus and was trying to right some wrongs of my past. He said it took courage to contact him after many years and take responsibility for my actions. He then forgave me.

If we really listen to the Word of God in the Bible, we will live the Word of God.

Read 2 Chronicles 34:14-31.

During King Josiah’s eighteenth year as King, he ordered several men to lead a reconstruction project of the Jewish Temple. These men were given the resources that had been collected from the people for the project. They then gave the funds to Hilkiah, the high priest, who mobilized the work force, bought materials, and started the effort.

When they were paying out some of the money, Hilkiah discovered a copy of the Law of Moses. Then Shaphan the secretary took the scroll to King Josiah and gave him an update on the rebuilding project. Shaphan started reading some of the text to the King and he was stunned by what he heard. He tore his robes (an expression of grief and humility) as he realized what he was hearing. Josiah issued an order to Hilkiah and his team that the entire scroll be studied so the commands of the Lord were understood and obeyed.

Josiah recognized that they had stumbled onto a record of the commandments God had given to Moses. The Book of the Law described the covenant God had made with Israel, His faithful character and the deeds done on their behalf. Josiah knew from the stories he had heard that his responsibility was to lead the people back to God. They were called to renew their commitment to follow the Lord and live as an obedient people once again.

Like Josiah, all of us who are Christ followers need to discover the significance of God’s Word to us. We need to hear, read, study, memorize, and meditate (the five fingers of the Hand illustration) on Scripture, so we know God. We need to absorb Scripture as a regular discipline of becoming more like Jesus. We need to obey God, since the apostle John said, “Anyone who claims to live in Christ must walk as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6)

But we may stray from God. When we break His commands and are not faithful to Him, we should desire to rediscover His words, let them penetrate our mind and will, and move us to reconnect with God. When we fail to live according to Scripture, it should grieve our hearts to the point to godly sorrow that leads us to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). When you read the Bible and are confronted with sinful behavior, how do you respond?

What commitment are you making to hear, read, study, memorize, and meditate on Scripture this week? What actions (beyond the Hand), does the Bible require of you? Grow devotionally. Cultivate a lifestyle of following God’s commands as you regularly renew your commitment to obey Him. We need to read the Word and follow the Word.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 7

A real famine. A real opportunity – for you and other students to make a difference.

The worst drought in 60 years is ravaging an area called the Horn of Africa. The lack of rain is devastating communities, withering vast croplands, and killing livestock. As a result, food prices are skyrocketing and people – especially vulnerable children – are suffering. That is the bad news.

The good news is that you and other students can help people struggling to survive in Africa. Sign up now at www.30hourfamine.org/signup.

Students long to do something that matters. When you and your friends participate in the 30 Hour Famine, they will. They will learn the truth about hunger and experience the power of love. Not the love you see in movies, but sincere love found only in Christ. That love will drive them to give up food for 30 hours in order that hungry kids can eat.

Read Matthew 5:6God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.

Eastern Africa is facing the most severe food emergency in the world. This famine will not be over in 30 hours, but we need to make an effort to alleviate the misery of children and adults – because WE CAN.

Nearly 2.7 million people of the 11 million affected in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia live in areas where World Vision operates. They are working extensively in those countries to provide food, seed for planting, livestock, and medical care. Feeding centers are set up in areas where child malnutrition is most severe.

A recent alert sent out by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network describes this famine as, “the most severe food security emergency in the world today, and the current humanitarian response is inadequate to prevent further deterioration.”

When you sign up to do the Famine, you will receive a toolkit full of resources and games like Phonic Frenzy, a $50 value, for free. Here are the steps to register:

  1. Mark one of the national Famine dates on your calendar: February 24-25, or April 27-28, 2012. Or pick any date that fits your schedule.
  2. Sign up to participate or request more info: Call 1-800-FAMINE, or 1-800-732-6463, or visit the web site at the top of this post.

Teach students the truth about global hunger and give them a chance to feed kids around the world. Give them a taste of hunger and a thirst for God by signing up for the Famine today. They will join a nation wide movement of young people who refuse to accept the status quo. Starvation, disease, and poverty are not acceptable. Lead students to put their faith into action by raising funds to feed and care for kids.

Serve globally. Act boldly. Overcome hunger with sincere love. Do the Famine.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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