Monthly Archives: August 2012

Monday Motivator – August 27

Do you every wonder if you should be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus because it is so ancient? And if something is old, it has to be bad, right?

That’s the way many people used to think. But then people started to notice that baseball stadiums like Camden Yards (built in the early 1990’s by the Baltimore Orioles Baseball Club to replace old Municipal Stadium), looked better when they were built like the old ones. It was the first of the “retro” ballparks constructed during the last two decades.

TVLand is a favorite place to see older shows that marked the growth of TV with hits like The Andy Griffith Show. Many people have stated they learned a lot about life from the lessons covered in episode plots and the way Andy Taylor raised his boy Opie.

It seems that we are comfortable with the idea that the past is not bad, and that not all good ideas in this world were thought up in the time between recent Twitter feeds and ESPN score updates at the bottom of the screen you happen to be looking at.

That should give us hope as we continue to share the message of Jesus with people around us. I know it’s a two thousand year old story, but its antiquity does not make it outdated. I believe the gospel of Jesus is as fresh and relevant to people living in 2012 as it was in year 12. What religion, worldview, philosophical or political system can deal with the following 5 concepts found in Christianity? 1) The foundation is God’s character and His love; 2) It confronts and deals with systemic evil in culture and in me; 3) It gives people a choice and the power to live life well; 4) It deals with inside and outside restoration; and 5) It offers hope for personal, family, cultural, and global transformation.

The truth of history is that man’s condition does not change and will not change. We might wear better clothes, have better transportation, drink cleaner water, use a laptop instead of an abacus, and be able to talk with someone on the other side of the country instead of face to face at the town gates…but human nature has not changed. All of us have a sin nature, just as everyone else in history had. The ancients needed a Savior, just like we do. The only hope of eternal life with God is salvation through Jesus.

Read John 3:1-17. Note verse 18 – “whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned.”

In this retro world, in which some of the best ideas are from way back – and which we are trying again, do not miss the opportunity to tell your friends about the old-time gospel. It never looked or sounded better. How can you improve how you tell the tale?

I am currently reading a newly released book from John Ortberg called, “Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus.” Jesus is history’s most familiar figure and His impact on art, science, government, medicine and education is immense and not a coincidence. Jesus’ vision for us to lead lives of dignity, compassion, forgiveness and hope continues to inspire and challenge humanity today. Grab a copy to read and discuss with a skeptical friend on your lunch break. Jesus changed everything.

Think theologically. For those who have never heard, the “old story” is brand new.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 20

One of my heroes was John S. Palmer, the father of John M. Palmer, who was the pastor of New Life Assembly of God in Athens, OH when I started following Jesus as a graduate student. Rev. Palmer Sr. was pastoring the A/G church in nearby Jackson, OH, with his wife Ruth at the time. They had three children: John, his younger brother Jim, and their older sister Marilynn, all of whom are great examples of Christ-likeness and consistent fruitfulness. I have benefited from the friendship, example, and generosity of John and his wife Debbie, and Jim and his wife Renee.

But I want to talk about the influence of their dad on my life.

Read Psalm 119:105-112.

John S. Palmer loved the Word of God. I was able to spend time with him as a young Chi Alpha minister when he invited me to speak to his church. He and Ruth would invite me over for a meal after the service and ask how Barbara and I were doing as newlyweds, as well as the growth of Chi Alpha at Ohio University. I recognized the opportunity I had with this amazing older couple and asked a lot of questions about ministry and living life well.

One question I ask people who have been in ministry longer than I were books they had read that had an influence on them. Rev. Palmer said, “I can’t imagine a day without the Bible. The Scriptures are the primary reading material that describe to me who God is, what His creation and plans are, the challenge of good and evil and human nature, God’s redemption of the human race and all of creation, and the work of the Spirit in today’s time to accomplish His purposes.”

Mrs. Palmer added, “We have been pioneering and growing churches for a long time, Mike. We have faced difficult circumstances such as people not interested in God, towns not willing to let us rent space for a church meeting, and spiritual isolation where we did not have people around that we could open up to and pray with. John and I had each other, of course, and our children. But we learned how to rely on the Holy Spirit and the many promises in the Scriptures about God’s trustworthy character.” Rev. Palmer said, “That’s why our Bible was so important to us. Even though we were alone at times as the sole Christians starting another church in another town, we felt God’s presence in incredible ways and He would empower us to press on.”

Rev. Palmer told me stories of how the Bible opened the door of opportunity so he could witness to town leaders and homeowners as he went door-to-door to meet everyone he could. He said, “If Jesus could go to the cross for the whole world, I can go to every business and home in a town to introduce myself and ask if they are interested to hear and discuss the greatest story ever told.”

I had the privilege of being a pallbearer at Rev. John S. Palmer’s funeral in 1986. I reflected on the way the Scriptures had been a “light” and “lamp” to him (see Psalm 119:105). I wrote in the margin of my first Bible that he read the Bible through every year as a habit and had read the New Testament over 450 times. The Bible is powerful force in a believer’s life. It brings each of us to the truth of God, and, it brings God to each of us. I learned many things from John S. Palmer – but one truth was that I needed to read (and live) God’s Word every day. I continue to hide God’s Word in my heart through hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating.

Grow devotionally. A Christian cannot survive without the nourishment of the Word of God.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 13

Christians are supposed to represent Jesus to the world around them. But Christianity has an image problem. Something has gone wrong. Recent studies reveal that young people use words like “hypocritical,” insensitive,” judgmental,” “anti-homosexual.” The picture young Americans have of Christians is they are ”unchristian…” that Christianity is no longer as Jesus intends. (Read “unchristian” by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons for more).

But that is only half of the problem.

Young Christians ages 18-29 are leaving the church and rethinking their commitment to the faith. The Christian community has failed to equip young adults to live “in but not of” the world. The Church has dropped the ball in helping young people understand how to follow Jesus in the midst of profound cultural change. (Read “You Lost Me” by David Kinnaman for more).

Read 2 Timothy 2:2. Now quote it out loud…

The leaders of Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship are connecting with the next generation. They are dealing with the immense technological, spiritual, and social changes that define (and even dominate) our times. They are learning how to model and pass on a faith worth claiming in a new context on campus now and in the marketplace later. They are preparing the next generation to live meaningfully and follow Jesus wholeheartedly. They are calling the next generation to rise to the challenge of revitalizing the Church for its mission to the global culture. How?

1. Our staff continue to help students discern the times we live in and embrace the risks of cultural engagement. Many of our Chi Alpha groups are mobilizing young people by helping them match their gifts to a cause they are interested in. UMass Chi Alpha is involved with reducing the impact of sex trafficking and students of all kinds are responding to participate.

2. Our staff helps students leave behind shallow faith by apprenticing them in the fine art of following Christ. University of Virginia Chi Alpha students model transferable spiritual habits that help students experience God and discover who He is, in able to enjoy Him more.

3. Our staff responds to today’s scientific culture by stewarding young people’s gifts and intellect. University of New Hampshire Chi Alpha partners with The Veritas Forum in offering a safe place on campus to debate issues, believe in science and God, and learn how to think.

4. Our staff and students demonstrate the exclusive nature of Christ by rekindling our empathy for the “other.” Our Chi Alpha groups work to connect with those outside the faith to listen to their questions, determine how to “be” Christ to them, and love folks outside their comfort zones.

Chi Alpha staff hear the criticism of the Christian faith raised on campus. They are engaging the unChristian perceptions and hostility. They are constantly tinkering with ways to model and pass on a vibrant, lasting faith, and assist young adults in finding a path to a wholehearted pursuit of Jesus and his ways. Chi Alpha is becoming known more by what it is for, than what it is against.

Chi Alpha’s global mission is reaching students, training leaders, and impacting nations. Serve globally. Pray for us to more accurately represent Jesus to skeptical outsiders and insiders.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – August 6

How would you rate yourself in terms of generosity? Consider your use of your time, energy, words, money, and talent. When is the last time you gave something up in order to help someone else? What was the result of your action(s)? What were the unintended consequences?

Hetty Green was one of the richest women in the United States in the early 1900’s. But she was also a first class cheapskate.

I read a story once about Hetty’s son suffering a broken leg. Instead of taking him to the doctor, Hetty dressed her and her boy up as poor people (I wonder where she got the clothes…did she buy them?), and she tried to get her son treated for free at a clinic for the poor.

Someone recognized her, their charade was exposed, and they were refused service. Instead of paying a doctor, the millionaire tried to treat her son’s leg herself. By the time she realized her son needed real medical care, it was too late. The boy’s leg now had to be amputated.

I hope none of you would be that stingy under any conditions or circumstances. But have you ever avoided helping someone because it might impede your ability to make a particular purchase? Go on a weekend getaway? Or because it would just plain inconvenience you?

The tension is often between a scarcity v.s. an abundance mentality. We assume it has something to do with politics, being sure our needs are met first, or poor stewardship. I think it really comes down to being generous. The Bible is full of examples of giving as a sign of faith and obedience, not just an option only for those with large savings accounts. Jesus said that whether a person on the receiving end is deserving or not, friend or enemy, His followers are called to be generous.

Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-15.

Generosity is a good habit and discipline to cultivate. Jesus taught that it is better to give than receive for several reasons. One, it keeps us from becoming too dependant on the stuff our culture says all of us need, i.e., new clothes, new tech, new smile, new body parts, etc.

Two, our lives are simplified when we focus on giving rather than receiving. Third, the concept of liberality means we use our resources on helping others and not just being consumers. Fourth, we realize God calls us to be stewards of the time, talent, and treasure He allows us to use while we are on the planet. Giving to others reinforces that people are more important than the stuff we accumulate. Fifth, when we are generous, we obey Jesus and we slay the tendency to be self-centered. That sounds like the kind of Kingdom I’d like to be a part of. How about you?

Paul told the Roman Christians, “If it is contributing to the needs of others, let him do it generously” (Romans 12:8). How can change your attitude and actions to become more liberal in your giving? Thank God for what He has given you and use it for His glory by being generous.

What sort of reputation do you want to cultivate? One for being generous, or one as a miser… someone who hoards what they have, even to the detriment of their own family? Hetty Green earned the nickname, “The Witch of Wall Street.” I cannot imagine a worse legacy to leave behind. Walk wisely. He or she who gives generously actually receives more.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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