Monthly Archives: April 2012

Monday Motivator – April 30

Those of us who work in campus ministry hear these kinds of phrases a lot: “There are no absolutes in the world today. What’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for others. We all need to tolerate one another.” I have heard those sorts of statements from students, faculty, campus administrators, and other campus chaplains for decades. I even remember occasions where a student group opposed the message of Jesus we tried to disseminate on campus, and no one used those phrases to defend our right to free speech. A faculty member told me one time that we were lucky to even be on campus, and he said our message was narrow-minded and hurtful.

I learned long ago that regardless of how smart people are, there is a wide understanding (and even less agreement) of what is true, right, and appropriate. There is a legitimate moral confusion in society about what is morally binding on all of us. The motto many seem to live by today on campus is, ”Get what you want regardless of the cost – even if it means cheating.”

The old underpinnings of western society that honored God’s standards of personal integrity, honesty, and accountability have been eroding and forgotten.

Read 2 Chronicles 34:3-33.

In many ways our culture resembles the ancient kingdom of Judah. Their people had adopted a shifting view of morality, where they conducted idol worship in direct rebellion against God’s instructions to worship and serve Him alone. They clearly rejected God’s absolute standards set forth after Moses led them out of slavery in Egypt and they agreed to live according to the Ten Commandments. Years later they ignored God to the point where they even forgot where the Book of the Law (which included the Commandments, and other instructions for living in covenant unity with the One True God), was kept. Then the boy king Josiah arrived.

“While he was still young, Josiah began to seek the God of his father David” (v 3). Josiah set out to clean up Judah and Jerusalem (v 3-8). In the renewal process, the priests rediscovered the Book of the Law – the first five books of the Bible (v 15). Josiah’s response was to read the Book to his entire Kingdom and command the people to “obey all the words of the covenant written in this book” (v 31). The result was a moral re-awakening and period of spiritual renewal – temporary, though – for the nation. But the results were far-reaching.

Today, as always, there is only one source of true discernment. It is found in God’s Word, the Bible. We can’t read the Scriptures to an entire nation like Josiah did, but we need to consider how we can model its principles and call people to know the Author of Life. The mission of Chi Alpha’s is to “Reconcile Students to Christ: Transforming the University, the Marketplace, and the World.” We believe the Bible alone declares the way to be right with God, one another, and how to be involved in being good stewards of all of creation.

I am asking you to immerse yourself in God’s Word each day, to put your neighbor’s interest above your own (on campus and in the marketplace), to refuse to compromise God’s standards of holiness, and to serve as an effective ambassador and communicator of the message Jesus gave to His followers. Society will eventually take notice the difference Jesus makes in your life.

Serve globally. “There are no absolutes” is a contradiction in terms. Represent Jesus absolutely.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 23

I am not one who pays attention to the variety of diets available, but I am glad when I hear stories from folks like Jared, who lost weight while eating Subway subs, or Janet Jackson, and how she benefited from Weight Watchers. I know many folks have trouble with their weight, so eating well and developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is critical for all of us. I also know many followers of Jesus struggle with another issue – being “thin” Christians due to spiritual malnutrition. It’s hard if you try and live for Christ solely on the sermon you hear once a week.

After almost three and a half decades of following Jesus, I have discovered one diet that is a surefire way to get in shape spiritually and stay on track – I call it the Proverbs Diet. It consists of taking small portions of the Book of Proverbs each day for a month, chewing on it slowly (i.e., meditation), and allowing God’s Word to work into your life. It’s true that you are what you eat!

Consider the following Scripture Mc-Nuggets to whet your appetite:

  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom  (1:7)
  • Wisdom will protect you from being enticed by evil (2:12)
  • Don’t trust your own wisdom, but lean on God’s (3:5-6)
  • Pay attention to your Father’s instruction (4:1)
  • Don’t mess around with sexual temptation (5:3-10)
  • Hate evil behavior and perverse talk (8:13)…check out verses 34-35 as a bonus!
  • Wise people want to grow in wisdom and are teachable (9:9)
  • Laziness leads to poverty (10:4)
  • If you want to be respected, be kind to others (11:16)
  • You are stupid if you do not listen to instruction and correction, too (12:1)
  • Pride leads to nothing but arguments (13:10)
  • God is watching over all of us (15:3)
  • God alone is sovereign (16:4, 5, 9)
  • God’s name is a refuge (18:10)
  • Kindness to poor people honors God (19:17)
  • Being led astray by alcohol is foolish (20:1)
  • The discipline of children is a good idea (22:15)
  • Honey is good for you (24:13)
  • Too much honey is not good for you (25:16)
  • Deceit is no laughing matter (26:19)
  • Iron sharpens iron – be accountable to others to grow into Christ-likeness (27:17)
  • Don’t live in a fantasy world (28:19)
  • A wise person is self-controlled (29:11)
  • God’s Word is flawless, so know it well (30:5)
  • A noble wife is worth more than rubies (31:10)

Just one chapter a day for a month will get rid of the tentacles of sin that so easily entangles and prevents you from running your race well (Romans 12:1-2), and tighten up your spiritual muscles. While you are at it, work to memorize a verse from each chapter over the month, too.

When will you start this diet? Consider keeping a journal of valuable truths you learn (and are willing to apply) from reading a Proverb a day. How will you keep yourself accountable for what you read during this diet? Walk wisely. A Proverb a day keeps the devil away and you in shape.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 16

Who are some of the “outcasts” you see around you? Who doesn’t seem to fit in? How does Jesus see them? Do you believe Jesus can make a difference in their lives? Why or why not?

I was a senior at Ohio University when I met Reed while I was witnessing to students in a line outside a bar in Athens, Ohio (I called it line evangelism). Reed told me he had been in and out of emergency rooms for injuries or alcohol poisoning a few times, and often slept in an alleyway or out by the river. Reed was the first “homeless” person I actually had talked to.

I knew I should offer Reed hospitality, a shower, and a good meal. So I did. My mistake was not conferring with my three roommates first, but there were no cell phones in 1981. The smell that hung like a cloud over our place the next morning almost made me gag. It all emanated from the couch where Reed was sleeping. A spray bottle of air freshener was not removing the odor, and my roommates were upset. They were not mad so much about Reed, since all of us often had friends sleep over. But the smell Reed brought with him was not what they expected. We came up with a fresh set of clothes, put Reed’s old ones in a garbage bag, and hustled that bag out to the dumpster (along with the couch, which was a real loss). Two showers and a shave later, Reed gobbled down some Big O pancakes and said he had to take off. I never saw him again.

Read Luke 8:26-39.

Jesus was confronted once by a man we would label “homeless.” For awhile this man had not worn clothes, lived in a house, or appeared to fit into society, but he survived by living among the tombs (i.e., the local cemetery). The people who lived in the town were afraid of him, and they apparently chained him up. But the demon-possessed man had grown too strong (verse 29). He spent his days and nights crying out and physically hurting himself (see Mark 5:5).

You can imagine how a story like this would circulate around town – a scary story to keep the children (and even some adults) in line. “Be good, or the crazy guy will get you.” In time, the man became a fixture, part of the scenery, albeit on the outskirts of the city. Anyone who passed through town and stopped for a meal or a business transaction probably heard about him.

But the day this man ran into Jesus, his story changed. His regular and unending cycle of demonic torment ceased. Jesus ordered the demons out and they entered a herd of pigs nearby. The animals ran into a lake and drowned (Luke 8:32-33).

What Luke records in the narrative next tells us a lot about the people of the town. The pig farmers ran to tell everyone what had happened, while Jesus got the man some clothes and talked with him (v 34-35). Were the townspeople happy for the man? No. The economic loss was more important to them than regaining a fellow human being. The farmers were out 2,000 pigs and the town lost their favorite “freak show” to gossip about. They even told Jesus to get out of town!

The formerly crazy man who was healed now had a story of his own to tell – the story of how Jesus saved him. What about us? Are we too wrapped up in the culture of our group to notice people living on the fringe because they may not fit in? We can’t cure them or take their pain away. But Jesus can. They can run to Him with their personal demons and He can save them. Live communally. Bring in the outcast. Do you care enough to bring them to Jesus?

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 9

My wife and I watched The Help, a 2011 film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s novel. The film is about a young white woman, Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, and her relationship with two black maids during the burgeoning Civil Rights era in America (the early 1960s). Skeeter is a journalist who decides to write a controversial book from the point of view of the maids (referred to as “the help”), exposing the racism they are faced with as they work for white families.

One of my favorite scenes is when Skeeter’s mom says to her daughter, “Courage sometimes jumps over a generation, but I am so proud of you for what you have done in writing this story.” I lifted my hands and shouted, “Yes,” as the idea of victory resonated in me. Amidst a racist environment in her hometown of Jackson, MS, Skeeter’s determination to earn the trust of the women and help them tell their story was very inspiring to me. Her courage exemplifies the willingness to face difficult circumstances and find solutions to better people’s lives.

This past weekend the Boston College men’s hockey team won the NCAA Division 1 championship in Tampa, FL. It was the fifth national title in their history and reflected the excellence, skill, and character of the program Coach Jerry York has built over several decades of coaching. As the final minutes of the game against Ferris State College ticked away, the stadium was rocking. BC led 2-1 late into the third period when they scored their third goal that essentially locked up the victory. A fourth goal moments later had most of the crowd standing and cheering, and by the final horn the place was going wild (at least the sections with the BC fans). BC had won 19 games in a row to finish the season, earn a spot in the Frozen Four tournament, and win its third national title in the last five years. I was cheering and clapping for the BC Eagles from my couch, joining with thousands of BC fans in Tampa and back in Boston.

Read Psalm 118:14-24.

The psalmist talks about the shouts of victory that erupt from the mouths of the people of God because of who He is and what He has done. The writer could be referring to the actions of a Hebrew king or anticipating the victory of Christ’s return, but one thing is sure – the people of God are on the side of a victory. They also learn to live above their circumstances with God’s grace and strength.

Victory is not reserved just for the armies of God, but it can happen individually as well. Words of victory should come welling up from our souls. Sadly, we often bottle them up. Or we don’t talk about them anymore, because we may be experiencing more failure than victory.

The “Lost Boys of the Sudan” are young men who did not let oppressive forces defeat them. Many of them now live in the United States after suffering for their faith – many disfigured and scarred. They were told to renounce their faith and they would be free from the despicable conditions they were in. But they refused. If you have been privileged to meet any of these boys in your town, you would report a look of triumph on their faces. They were winning the battle.

Some of us lose a parking spot, get a less than flattering review at work, or miss out on a scholarship and we’re plunged into sadness. Come on! We can live above those things. By the power of the risen Christ, we can overcome minor setbacks and major attacks and let out a shout of victory. When have you shouted your praise to God or fully expressed your feelings over a major win? Think theologically. Problems melt in the light of Christ. Shout and live in victory.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 2

Tonight is the championship game of the NCAA men’s basketball season. Tomorrow night, the women will play for their title. The month of March is called March Madness (MM), because the journey to end the regular season, get selected for the tournament, and actually play the games that determine the champion all take place in March.

A couple of years ago at M.I.T., while some students and I sat at an information table giving away Christian literature and Bibles, we had a March Madness of our own. During a lull in the action (i.e., not many students stopping by), we created a tournament bracket of 64 and brainstormed a candy bar for each entry. We then went through a played each candy bar against one another. Three Musketeers v.s. Snickers; Twix bar v.s. Zagnut; You get the idea.

In one tournament, my favorite – M&M’s – won! Remember their tag line? They melt in your mouth, not in your hands.

I happened to be reading through the Psalms at the time and got a little inspiration after that tournament of candies. You may recognize some key Bible verses from the Psalms like 1:1-2 – “Blessed is the man…whose delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.” Or 119:11 – “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” All of a sudden I had a new use and application for M&M. Meditation and Memorization.

Read Joshua 1:1-9.

God told Joshua to meditate on His Word. Some of us may have hundreds (or thousands) of M&M’s in our bodies, but how many verses and passages of Scripture have you ingested, or invested, in your spiritual diet? You may have untold calories in your physical system from candy M&M’s, but if you do not meditate on the truth of God’s Word, memorize them for quick retrieval, and apply them to your thoughts and actions – you are in poor shape.

Meditating on God’s Word is critical to your spiritual health. God said to Joshua, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (1:8).

Meditating without the second “M” will leave you a bit under-nourished. Scripture memorization should also be a priority as you strive to grow in Christ. Psalm 119 is a devotional on the Word of God. Devotion to God’s Word marks the servant of the Lord because he or she recognizes it as the word of life. Verse 9 captures the intent of the author – “how can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.” Connect it now to Psalm 119:11 listed above.

Why does God emphasize meditating on the Bible? What verses have you memorized over the past month? How often do you meditate on those passages? Can you see M&M as a mandate?

Grow devotionally. Consider the five fingers of your hand as an illustration of how we should handle the Scriptures: hearing, reading, studying, meditating, and memorizing. Take time to “mull over” (or chew on) the words you read, to feel the weight of various words and phrases, as you meditate on Scripture. Then start a regimen of memorizing some of them – one or two a week at the beginning. Let the new M&M transform your mind as you continue to love God.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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