Monthly Archives: February 2012

Monday Motivator – February 27

I have kept many birthday cards from my wife over the past thirty years. All of them have a personal note of love and affirmation and are valuable to me. In addition, I have maintained an encouragement box of notes and letters of thanks from students, staff, friends and colleagues. Friends and family contributed many expressions of congratulations and well wishes on the date we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. The cards we received were put in the box as well.

Words still matter to me. Kind words. Enriching words. Words that bring life…words that touch the mind, the heart, and the soul. I enjoy going to my encouragement box now and then to relive the memories of those who took a moment to express their concern and appreciation for me. It is a deeply satisfying and humbling experience to listen to what others have said.

I wonder how life would be if I did not have an encouragement file. I wonder how different I would be if after receiving all of those notes, I never opened them or read them. What if I packed them away and ignored them? Imagine a scene where I stumbled onto a box in the attic twenty-five years later and discovered a pile of notes, cards, and letters all addressed to me. I try and figure out why this box even exists, and how it came to be in my house.

Many of us can relate to unread email messages. Some of us remember finally getting our unclaimed mail after being gone on a trip. Some aspiring writers have a box of manuscripts started that never got to the publisher. You may still have a letter you wrote to a loved one, or someone you hurt and am trying to reconcile with…yet the letter was never sent. In each of these scenarios, life may have been different if the person had only read the message.

Read 2 Peter 1:1-15.

The Bible is in essence a love letter from God to the human race. Sixty-six books arranged into an older and newer Testament that describe the Creator, the world He created, and the story of creation-fall-redemption-and consummation. The Old Testament has thirty-nine books, while the New Testament has twenty-seven. Twenty-one of the twenty-seven though, are letters written to encourage and instruct Christians. They were penned from individual authors to specific people, individuals, or groups of Christians in the first century. They were written for a purpose, yet their meaning has benefited millions throughout history. All of us understand the need to forgive and be forgiven, the challenge of living life well, and the reality of good and evil.

Today, you and I can read and receive the letters of the New Testament as personal messages from the Savior of the world sent from those who knew Him when He walked on earth in the first century. The apostle Peter wrote, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). Letters written back then can still be a message from Christ to us.

Picture yourself putting a Post-It note on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator, or TV saying, “you have mail…check your Bible.” What if you opened your copy of the Scriptures every day to read a very personal message from the Lord? We do not have to wake up late in life to realize that our lives could have been different if we had only read the letters He sent us.

Grow devotionally. God’s letters in the New Testament help us to know Him better.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – February 20

Tonight 2,000 children will die from mosquito bites. And it’s entirely preventable.

A friend of mine (who shall remain nameless for his safety) has been working in a country closed to traditional missionaries as a health care worker. He has been serving the poor, caring for AIDS patients, bringing medicines to the sick, treating all sorts of sicknesses with kindness, patience, and perseverance. He argues with corrupt government officials about under the table payments for medicines that get sidetracked into the black market…medicines that my friend had prayed for and seen provided from a broad network of secular and sacred sources.

Tonight 2,000 children will die from mosquito bites because in many cases these bites lead to malaria. And left untreated means many will die. But, it’s entirely preventable.

My friend is now partnering with World Vision with a strategy to end Malaria deaths by 2015. Here are three steps for you to consider in joining my friend (and me) in partnership:

1. Ignite a Movement Through CREATIVE ACTIVISM

ACT:s to END MALARIA is a campaign to mobilize Christians, churches, campuses, and communities to use our voices and actions to end malaria deaths by 2015. Creative activism moves people from awareness to action. Experiential activities and events bring issues to life and change hearts and minds. There are tools available to equip you to create your own campaign in your area of influence.

  • A DVD explaining the disease, why we need to act, and the implications if we don’t;
  • A booklet to help you and your friends create your own campaign in your community;
  • Tools for grassroots stuff like T-shirts, art, posters and more;
  • Resources to help educate, raise funds, and mobilize advocacy around ending malaria.

2. Provide Life-Saving BED NETS

For $6.00, you can donate an insecticide-treated bed net that can save two lives and help kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes. When eighty percent of a community is covered by these nets (say, in Africa), malaria deaths are dramatically reduced. If maintained, malaria could be eliminated.

View www.actstoendmalaria.org to make a donation.

For another perspective, Google an article from Rick Reilly [written 4.25.2006] in Sports Illustrated a few years back entitled Nothing But Nets. It will illuminate how necessary and practical it is for people to get engaged in simple steps that lead to healthier lives for others.

I have donated through the charitable effort set up by Reilly and believe you should consider it.

3. Engage Our GOVERNMENT

To combat malaria effectively, the United States must increase its funding to at least $1 billion a year. They passed a law promising to do so in 2010, but have not yet followed through.

Call or email your senators, representatives, and the President, and ask them to keep our promises to end malaria. Your voice is powerful – just 10 phone calls can persuade your elected officials to fund life-saving interventions. For info on contacting your elected leaders, see #2.

Serve globally. Millions of lives are depending on us to take action. Together, we can end malaria deaths by 2015. It is entirely preventable if we supply nothing but the right NETS.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – February 13

When was the last time you shared your faith in Christ with a friend? Do you have a tendency to avoid talking about spiritual matters because you fear being too confrontational?

I remember going back to the dorms after church one Sunday with a young Christian named Bill who had just enrolled at Ohio University. I invited him to lunch back in my dorm. As we entered the dorm lobby, several football players who were friends of mine were sitting there watching the NFL game on the TV. The smell of a couple of pizzas that had just been delivered caught my nose and I sat down to ask if I could grab a slice. Of course, they said, and offered me a beer. No thanks, I said, and I reached into the nearby cooler and grabbed an ice cold Pepsi.

One of the guys (named Joe) was sipping a beer and eating a slice of pepperoni when Bill asked him, “So, if you were going to die of alcohol poisoning tonight, where would you spend eternity?” I almost choked on my pizza! Joe was not drunk at 1:20 pm, but the blunt question thrown at him was not expected and startled him. He quickly said, “What?” Bill responded, “You heard the question!” Joe shot back, “What rock did you crawl out from under? Do you actually think I am going to drink myself to death with one Budweiser before halftime of the Browns and Bengals?” Not sure what to do, Bill looked at me for support, but sensing I was not going to back him up, he left the dorm in a angry huff. I looked at Joe and his pals and said, “I do not know where that came from,” and we went on watching the game.

That night I ran into Bill in the cafeteria. I asked him, “What was the idea of attacking Joe with your accusation of over-drinking, death, and eternity?” He replied, ”Wasn’t that the topic at church this morning? Didn’t the pastor say we should provoke people to think about their eternal destiny? I just thought that was a way to get a spiritual conversation going.”

Ironically, the message we heard at church was based on Colossians 4:2-6 [read it now]. In it, the apostle Paul was instructing the Christians at Colosse to make the most of every opportunity to share their faith with those outside of the church. “Let your conversation always be full of grace…seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (v 6).

Sadly, the guest speaker ruined Paul’s metaphor by pointing out that salt causes pain as it is rubbed into a wound. That is true enough. But Paul’s clear meaning is that we should use words, stories, circumstances, and even questions, to awaken the curiosity of others. Someone said it always easier to catch flies with honey rather than vinegar. We should not subject people to an inquisition in our attempts to generate a spiritual conversation.

There is no question that our eternal destination is one of the most significant matters each of us must face. But the tone and manner in which Bill approached Joe had nothing to do with the reality of meeting God someday. Nor did Joe hear a gracious and reasonable question and be asked to respond if he so chose. Joe received a self-righteous condemning disapproval of his beverage, which was like salt in an open wound. Bill is lucky Joe didn’t hit him for such a move.

I had not known Bill long, but recognized I had a chance to redeem the situation. Bill meant well, but his approach was clumsy at best. I asked him if we could discuss what it meant to be a witness for Christ and some ways to build rapport with people. I explained that I had invested time hanging out with Joe and his pals and earned the right to ask questions, even on subjects like faith and its implications. I suggested that Bill apologize to Joe for being so forthright (or wrong) and ask for a second chance. To his credit, Bill agreed to do so, and he and Joe ended up being friends. It took awhile to get back to a conversation about eternity with Joe, but Bill learned a valuable lesson. Learn from your mistakes, ask questions and listen, and rely on the Holy Spirit to find creative ways to talk to people about their spiritual journey and Jesus.

Walk wisely. I told Bill that we were to be “Wise as serpents, gentle as doves, but never a bull in a china shop.” Our seasoned speech should be thought provoking, but not merely provoking.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – February 6

It seems that regardless of the social setting you find yourself in, you can always find a clique and be affected by one. It does not happen just in high school, but private little groups are also painful in your family, college, the marketplace, and even church.

I have heard from alumni and friends that the workplace is just as hard as high school. One of my friends said eating alone is just as lonely now as it was when he was a junior, no matter what lunchroom you are in. I have noticed that even in gatherings of church leaders or parishioners, cliques are still in vogue.

We all need and want good friends, but it is often hard to break into a social setting. It appears to be a human tendency that people generally drift toward being exclusive. Many people, Christians included, have a hard time breaking out of their pattern to allow others in to their group. Yet the Scriptures present a God that reveals Himself to be inclusive. He wants His people to excel in expressing His heart of love for everyone.

Read Luke 19:1-10.

Jesus revealed God the Father as inclusive, welcoming any and all who would open their hearts to Him. Jesus encountered man named Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector who was one of the most wealthy (and despised) men in Jericho. The “chief” reference meant he oversaw a district with many tax collectors serving under him. The region was prosperous and no doubt aided in Zaccheaus growing his portfolio and 401K. Getting rich at the expense of others is never a way to gain friends and a good reputation.

One day Jesus came to his area and Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree to get a better look at the Jewish rabbi who was gaining popularity by performing miracles, feeding the multitudes, healing the sick, and speaking with truth and clarity. When Jesus saw him, he said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5). Jesus had urgent business to do with him, but it involved heart issues, not bank related concerns. While Jewish society excluded Zacchaeus due to his character and occupation, Jesus wanted another follower.

If you think the locals cheered the news of this meet-greet-and-eat, think again. Luke noted the people muttered, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner” (v 7). Those words, I think, were meant as a stinging criticism, even a rebuke of Jesus. But on second thought, they were actually a compliment to Jesus, reaffirming that His mission was right on target. Luke then writes that Zacchaeus said to Jesus that he would give half of his wealth to the poor and promised to pay back anyone he had cheated (v 8). He even said he would pay back four times the amount, the repayment required under the Law in case of theft (see Exodus 22:11 and 2 Samuel 12:6).

Jesus saw the admission of Zacchaeus as evidence of a changed heart and said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham.” In other words, Zacchaeus was a true Jew, because he was not only of the lineage of Abraham, but he was willing to walk in the footsteps of Abrahamic faith (see Romans 4:12). Jesus added, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (v 9-10). Never forget that description that summarizes the purpose of Jesus – he came to bring salvation, meaning eternal life and the kingdom of God.

Have you become part of a clique without realizing it? Are you and your friends acting as an exclusive group that others cannot get in to (especially for those outside the community of faith)? If you are private and exclusive in your friendships, it is time to clique out of that mindset so God can open His arms to others through you. Jesus expects you to look past the negative characteristics of others like He did with Zacchaeus…who had been lost, but now was found.

Live communally. Cultivate the habit of always making room for one more. Luke 19:10 should be our mantra. There are no cliques in Christ, just people bringing others to God.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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