Monthly Archives: July 2012

Monday Motivator – July 30

As I watch the Olympics, I think about the time, energy, and sweat these men and women have spent the last few years training, qualifying, and now competing. I wonder how they will respond to winning or losing? I wonder how much of their identity is wrapped up in their performance?

I have been a part of championship teams and won honors for athletic achievement. I think I may still have the state record in the state of Michigan for throwing a softball for distance back in an AAU track and field event in middle school (338 feet). Yet I have also been on the end of tough losses. I participated in a great high school wrestling program in metro Detroit, but remember getting beat 5-3 by Steve Fraser in a tournament in the mid 1970’s. He went on to a great career at the University of Michigan and won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics. I trained hard, was in great shape, was aggressive on offensive and defense, but still got beat. I still remember one move that cost me the points that Steve earned to win. I know the ups and downs of high-level competition, training relentlessly for a goal, and seeing dreams squashed by a run, one takedown, a missed tackle, or a slap shot I thought I had stopped as a defenseman. It always hurts to lose.

Read Psalm 143:7-10.

For many athletes, finding God’s will is a great mystery because they are so focused on their mental and physical development, and often forget the THIRD, and necessary component – their spiritual development. This was the missing piece of my life that I discovered in college.

Consider what the Bible says about God’s will. If we strive to live according to what He has said, we’ll have a head start in working from a solid foundation for life, regardless of position, popularity, possessions (i.e., medals), or power. Look at four ideas c/o His will:

1. Romans 12:1-2 says to test God’s will, and change your thinking so that it does not conform to the world’s view of seeing things. Example: If you miss earning a medal, you are not a loser.

2. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 says to avoid sexual immorality, because you are set apart to God, and can be empowered to live a holy life. Example: If you are not active sexually, you are not weird.

3. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to give thanks to God, no matter what happens. Example: Olympic Champion Eric Liddell said when he ran, he felt God’s pleasure. He was a grateful person.

4. 1 Peter 2:15 says to do good [which reflects God’s character], which silences foolish people. FYI, Ephesians 5:17 says not to be foolish, but to know what the Lord’s will is.

God’s will is not missing. You don’t have to be a detective to discover a pattern for life that works. God has revealed His specific will (Romans 8:29 – being conformed to the image of Christ), and He will guide you into what He wants you to do. Your role is to partner with the Holy Spirit in becoming like Him, living for Him, and remaining sensitive to His leading.

Join my wife and me in praying for God’s will to be done at www.athletesinaction.org. Click on the Olympic Project Blog, and become an Olympic Prayer Partner with AIA during the London Games. Live communally. As you watch the athletes on TV, pray for them to want to be total athletes (mental-physical-spiritual). To do God’s will, we all need to obey God’s words.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 23

Most adults do not hang posters in their bedrooms like college students do in their dorm rooms. If I did, I would hang a poster of one of my heroes, Eric Liddell. He won a gold medal in the 400-meter race in the 1924 Paris Olympics (see the movie “Chariots of Fire”). For the next twenty years, the Flying Scotsman and Olympic champion continued the family heritage of serving as a missionary in China. He was one of thousands thrown into a Japanese prison camp in occupied China during World War 2, where he later died. For a great summer (and Olympic Games) read, consider Eric Liddell – Pure Gold, by author Dave McCasland.

There are four things that stand out to me about Eric: First, he was an avid student of God’s Word. Eric read, studied, meditated, and memorized Scripture. He inspired me to have a really good handle on the greatest book of all time.

Second, he was a “muscular Christian”. He was a devoted representative of Christ, as well as an outstanding athlete. Friends who witnessed to me about Jesus when I was a non-believing college student used Liddell as an example of someone to emulate. He was a total athlete, with a triad approach of spiritual, mental, and physical development. Eric would run and compete, and then speak to the crowd after the competition about the Christian worldview and the urgency to consider the claims of Christ. He used the platform of athletics to talk with folks about God.

Third, he modeled sportsmanship. He introduced himself to competitors and wished them luck. During one race he was knocked down and off the track, yet he ended up winning the race. He didn’t complain about unfairness or try to get revenge, but he competed as a sportsman. “Sport is wonderful,” Liddell said once. “The most wonderful part of it is not the almost superhuman achievements but the spirit in which it is done. Take away that spirit and it is dead.”

Last, while a gifted athlete, Eric Liddell depended on the Holy Spirit. He said, “The Holy Spirit is to the Christian life what sportsmanship is to sport and much more. Without Him in our lives, even at the best we are…dead perfection and no more.”

Read Romans 7:4-6. The apostle Paul, “We have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (7:6). When the Spirit rules our lives, we can do what is right toward God and others, even if it means losing an earthly prize.

What moral or ethical shortcut are you tempted to take this week? How is God using an obstacle in your life to deepen your trust in Him, and sharpen your witness for Him? Are you aware that a large part of the Spirit’s work is to help you face difficult circumstances in order to grow?

Paul continues in Romans 8 that the Spirit is guaranteed as an indwelling presence to help us live like Christ. The Spirit also brings life and peace, sustains the believer in suffering, and helps us in prayer. You may want to emulate Tim Tebow here by dropping to one knee, raise your hand(s) to heaven, and thank God for the provision of the Holy Spirit.

For more on Eric Liddell, go to www.athletesinaction.org, click on the Olympic Project Blog, and read about his life and legacy. Please consider joining Barbara and me as an Olympic Prayer Partner with AIA during the London Olympics. Ask a few of your friends to join you as well.

Think Theologically. The Holy Spirit helps us choose to do what is right. Be a muscular Christian.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 16

When I started attending church as a student at Ohio University, I noticed that New Life Assembly of God in Athens, Ohio had some major league pray-ers. I heard men and women who could stand up in front of the church and pray “paragraphs or pages of Biblical pronouncements” that seemed to go straight to heaven. I used to wonder how they could say so much, or use so many Bible verses so well. Wow, I thought, they were praying! But then I was exposed to others who knew how to pray, but would be very uncomfortable if they had to get up in front of people and pray out loud. Even giving a testimony in front of a large crowd was a bit intimidating.

When you step back and think about the types of prayer and the kinds of pray-ers you have heard at home, in your campus group, or in church, it is easy to draw conclusions about what is good and not-so-good praying. How would you evaluate the impact of loud prayers from a Type A person, to the quieter prayers of a contemplative, to the prayer of grace over a meal by your dad, or your little brother praying for bad weather to close school tomorrow?

When you read Scripture, there seem to be a wide variety of examples of prayer, including place, time, occasion, words, tone, individual and/or group led, and even how loud or soft a person prays (think of Jonah in the whale’s belly). But we often feel the pressure that there is only one way that God REALLY hears us. I was reflecting on a conversation with a mentor of mine and he said something that has stuck with me about prayer. He said, “Prayer is being with Jesus.”

When you sit, stand, walk, or lie down today to talk with God – to tell Him how tough your day is going, how much money you need for the next semester, or to deal with a relational conflict, consider what it would mean to be able to simply enjoy being with Jesus.

Read Hebrews 4:14-16.

Think about how refreshing it would be to realize that as you pray, you are inviting Jesus to spend time with you (or is He inviting you?). Imagine the two of you – the Savior of the world, and you, one of His redeemed people – are spending a few minutes together. That’s why the writer to the Hebrews says to “approach the throne of grace with confidence…” because Jesus has made it possible for that sort of access to Him. How does that matter as you talk with Him?

Is it possible that you can stop worrying about what you sound like or what you actually say to Jesus? Try concentrating on what He is interested in, and what He wants from you: time, trust, and honor. Many of us fall into the trap of assuming we need to pray like we have heard others pray – but it is not about performance. It is just you and Jesus talking and listening.

One way to get into prayer is to have some focus. I’d like to suggest you talk with Jesus about the upcoming Olympic Games in London. Every four years the best athletes in the world gather for incredible competition and I believe Jesus is interested in the potential of impacting this event and the people who attend with His gospel. Friends of mine with Athletes in Action are once again going to be there as representatives of Jesus. Go to www.athletesinaction.org, click on the Olympic Project Blog, and read about the Gospel Over Breakfast. Then talk with Jesus. But also consider joining Barbara and me as an Olympic Prayer Partner with AIA. Pass the word too.

Grow devotionally. Prayer is conversation with the King of Kings. Enjoy the ongoing chat.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 9

A hockey player friend of mine in Boston enjoys climbing mountains as a hobby. One of his bucket-list challenges is to do a “14er, or Fourteener.” He loves to go to Colorado on vacation and tackle one of the many 14,000 foot mountains, realizing that any of them are a dangerous endeavor. But he loves the thrill of a serious obstacle and finding a way to overcome it.

At lower levels, he told me the stress is not too bad. The air has enough oxygen, the trails are clearly marked, and the climb is not too difficult. But the story changes when you get near the top. The air is much thinner, the climb is steeper and potentially treacherous, and the trail is harder to follow. At any moment a fog, wind, or snowstorm can materialize, reducing visibility to near zero. Seasoned climbers know if you get lost up there, you are in big trouble.

Years ago thoughtful mountain climbers decided to establish a way to mark the trail up through the high terrain. Every ten yards, they built a pile of stones that would be recognizable even in the worst storm conditions. The hope was that even in fog or dense snow, hikers could find the trail and stay on course. These trail markers are called “cairns,” and they have saved the lives of many adventurers over the years, including my friend, who can vouch for their helpfulness.

It reminds me of my friend Mike Durning. He and his wife Marie recently transitioned from serving with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries in New Jersey the past 29 years to a new assignment at Zion Bible College in Haverhill, MA. I believe Mike and Marie are called by God to be cairns – trail markers – to point people to Himself. By the consistency of their words and actions, they have been able to show students, parents, faculty, and neighbors the way to God’s forgiveness.

Read 1 Timothy 4:9-16.

Many of our family, friends, and colleagues are stumbling along through life’s foggy, ominous shadows. They need someone to show them the way. What can we do to point them to God? Here are three examples I have observed in the Durning’s that can serve as “cairns” for you to emulate, or leave as trail markers:

1. Be a L.A.F. Deliverer. Mike and Marie treated people as if they were made in God’s image (because they are). They modeled and extended love, acceptance, and forgiveness to everyone they dealt with, with no questions asked. On campus or in their home, people mattered to them.

2. Be a Truth Teller. Mike and Marie let people know that Jesus is the Son of God and the only way to a right relationship with God (Acts 4:12). They were honest about sin and its consequences (Romans 3:23) and that Jesus is the only Savior able to overcome sin (1 Timothy 2:5). They found creative ways to tell people that God loved them that made sense individually.

3. Be a Hope Giver. Mike and Marie let people know that the Christian worldview makes sense and is reasonable and sustainable. They showed students how the Lord gives meaning and hope to life and provides a pattern and contentment for a life well lived.

The Durning’s “set an example in everything they did by doing what is good” (Titus 2:7). Will you follow their example? If so, others will remember how you live, and in time, you could become one of their “cairns,” pointing them to God. Serve globally. Point people to Christ!

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 2

I was listening to a sports talk radio show while driving and the host thought he was so clever. A caller had said something about athletes who raise their hand to the sky when they do something well in their sport, like hit a home run or score a touchdown. The talk show host began to rant about hypocrites, “I cannot stand these religious hypocrites,” he yelled into the microphone as he clearly opposed any whiff of religion in sports. “These people talk about religion and they are no better than you or me. That’s why I don’t like all this religious stuff.” But the caller responded, “Would you still be opposed if a salesman did a similar thing at work, or a firefighter raised her hand to the sky after putting out a fire?”

The radio host replied, “As long as we clean out the hypocrites, it’s okay with me.” I said to my car radio, “Thank you, Mr. Talk Show host, for agreeing with God on this topic. He hates hypocrisy too.” Yet don’t you think it is ironic that something God is so opposed to is used by people as an excuse to ignore the reality of the supernatural and not seek the Creator?

The prophet Isaiah warned the Jews about this in Isaiah 29:13. Jesus said it this way: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13, Matthew 15:8). It is evident from Isaiah and Jesus that God is expressing how much he dislikes hypocrisy. How about you and I?

The world we live in is looking for hypocrisy from those who claim to be followers of Jesus. They often say, “See, those people are no better than any of us. They say all this religious stuff and go to meetings where the Bible is talked about, but when the pressure is on, they act just like we do.”

I often ask where they see hypocrisy in the church to ascertain if they are merely grouchy about the Church, or if they have a legitimate gripe. Obviously, people in the Church are like everyone else (human, for instance, and trying to move ahead amidst life’s trials). There certainly are people who claim to be Christian whose words and lifestyles do not match up well yet. Yet most of the Christians I know are not attempting to live a Christ-DIS-honoring life on purpose. And most of the Christians I know would argue that they have no intention of being a hypocrite.

Read Matthew 23:13-32.

You can tell Jesus hates hypocrisy because of what he said to the biggest hypocrites of the first century – the Pharisees. In Matthew 23, he called them hypocrites not once, not twice, not three-four-or-five times, but on six occasions. Jesus said those religious leaders thought they were putting on a big show for the people who were supposed to trust and follow their example. Jesus reminded them that He (i.e., God) knew their hearts. Jesus knew they were “far from Him.”

What have you done recently that was hypocritical? Who do you need to apologize to for your words and/or actions? When someone on campus or in your community throws out a blanket condemnation of religious hypocrites, how should you respond reasonably, if at all?

People of little faith (and fellow Christ-followers) are right to point out hypocrisy in us as they see it. Our task is not to get upset with them, but to make sure it does not reflect our lives. Walk wisely. Let’s keep our words and actions close to God and live the life we say we are going to.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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