Monthly Archives: September 2012

Monday Motivator – September 24

Are you a good singer? How critical is that ability to worship God? How often do you put worship and prayer together? How do those disciplines help you “see” God? When is the best time for you to encounter God? How often? How do you nurture these encounters?

I saw a wonderful show recently on world famous orchestras. One performer that was enthralling was the harpist in one segment. It is amazing that a person can add so much to a performance by his or her strong, agile fingers literally gliding across the strings. The melodic, precise stroking of the harpist gives a heavenly feeling to the environment.

Harps have been around a long time. The best-known harpist in the Old Testament was David, who later became the second King of Israel. He learned to play his instrument in the fields as a shepherd, and I wonder who made such a portable device. In later life he wrote many of the Psalms that were written down and assembled in the Old Testament, many which were praise songs to God, accompanied with a harp. They are a rich part of the musical heritage of the Church, and have deep and meaningful poetic power for those who reflect on them.

Read Revelation 5:1-10.

The four living creatures and twenty-four elders in Revelation 5 introduced a new song of praise of the Lamb (i.e., the Lord) because He alone was found worthy to open the scroll (v 8). Each creature held two objects in their hands: one was a harp – an instrument to worship God; the other was a golden bowl. In the Old Testament scenes of the Tabernacle (see the Book of Exodus), it was a flat pan used by the priests to carry incense in worship. In Revelation 5, the author instructs us that bowls full of incense were “prayers of the saints” (v 8). What an image!

The elements of worship and prayer are significant features that affect our relationship with God. They naturally come together when we enter His presence. Think about it: we open our Bible and read about God. As we learn about His character and actions (“He is good and loving toward all He has made”), it seems natural to begin to worship such a wonderful Being. We often feel a need to express our feelings in words or song, even if we cannot find the right words or even sing a note. There also seems to be a sense of prayer as we come into contact with the Creator of all things. We recognize we are in the presence of greatness, majesty, and grandeur. We find ourselves kneeling (at least in our thinking, if not physically) as we bow to express our praise and adoration to the Lord of Heaven and earth, the sea and the dry land. We instinctively feel our need for cleansing in the presence of such royalty. The sheer light of His person is dazzling.

Worship comes from an old word – “worth-ship.” God seems so untouchable or beyond our comprehension in one sense, yet there He is, approachable. He beckons us to come into His presence. Stunningly, we are able to do so because of what Jesus did on the cross. He made a way for sinful humanity to be able to connect once again with the One who created everything.

How do prayer and worship come together in your life? How can you learn to utilize them when you go before God in private and public worship? Take some time to review your use of a “harp and a bowl” as you enter God’s presence. It will deepen your experience with Him.

Grow devotionally. Give God “worth” by honoring and depending on Him.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 17

I know college students who are happy to be back at school. Sure, they enjoyed being home over the summer to see their parents and friends, and they worked hard at their summer job near or far from home (even overseas) to make money and gain work experience.  But they feel more at home back in the rigors of classes, dorm life, and extracurricular activities, including their participation in Greek life, intramural or varsity sports, or Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship.

I know Chi Alpha staff around the country are elated that school has begun. They worked hard over the summer shoring up their financial support needs, raising money for fall blitz projects like “Welcome New Students,” preparing talks for weekly large group meetings, reviewing their student leadership expansion plans, prayer-walking their campus, and nailing down short and long term planning that includes spring break outreach and next summer mission options. But now it’s show time! They planned to work and now it’s time to work their plan and extend God’s Kingdom to more areas of their campus community.

We are constantly faced with decisions that threaten to alter the course of our lives. Should you take advanced physics on top of a full load of classes, while working part time, and being a student officer in three different student organizations? Should you maintain your frenetic pace at the expense of the international students who just arrived and live near you? Is being busy more important than extending hospitality by making time in your life for one more friend? How important is it to you to be sexually pure? To handle your money well? To have a good name?

Is it time to get serious about your spiritual growth and service as opposed to being a sponge, and merely living off of what you see others doing? Should you think now about using your spring break for something other than hanging with friends in a warm climate and consuming stuff?

There is nothing wrong with fun. God actually invented it. But we live in the most prosperous country in the world, with the greatest freedom and opportunity, and we are some of the richest people on the planet. A sacrifice isn’t a sacrifice if you do not lose something in the process.

Read Hebrews 11:24-28.

Moses knew about loss and sacrifice. As the adopted son of the Egyptian Pharaoh’s daughter, he had the best that the highest civilization of the day could offer. But he chose instead to identify with his enslaved people, the Israelites (Hebrews 11:25-26). Moses made a difficult, but right choice, “to be mistreated along with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” What does it look like to choose to be a follower of Jesus today?

Chi Alpha staff regularly choose to invest “in the few for the sake of the many,” knowing students will graduate and move on, and the process starts over. Our staff raise funds for their salary, insurance, and retirement in order to serve in a place where most folks never say thanks.

Students involved with Chi Alpha are taught and expected to learn, practice, and replicate godly character. That involves speaking the truth and sharing the truth. It requires preserving your principles and acting on them. It means knowing what you believe and why, being who you are, and standing up for both. A decision to be like Christ is one most folks are not eager to make.

Serve globally. The road less traveled makes all the difference now and for eternity.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 10

Coming to theaters at Christmas is Les Misérables, starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway in a story of broken dreams and unrequited love, sacrifice and redemption. The movie (and award winning) musical is based on the novel by Victor Hugo, and compares and contrasts two philosophies of life. During the horrible days leading up to the French Revolution, the main character of the story (even hero?) is a man named Jean Valjean. He steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family, is caught, and spends 19 years in prison doing hard labor.

A local priest had faith that Valjean could be redeemed and reaches out to him. Valjean later becomes a successful businessman. But another character in the story, police inspector Javert, believes the old idea, “once a thief, always a thief” and hounds Valjean for years.

Javert has no room in his mind or heart for forgiveness, second chances, or leniency. The law is the final arbiter and must be strictly applied. He obeyed it without question, wore it as a symbolic badge of honor, and used it as a whip on others. By contrast, Valjean has been transformed by the kindness and efforts of the priest, and becomes generous and forgiving.

At the end of the story Valjean has a chance to kill the relentless inspector, but he tells him of his redemption and allows him to escape. The compassion, self-awareness, maturity, and kindness Valjean shows Javert unnerves and haunts the self-righteous policeman. He later stands on a bridge over the Seine River and screams, “He is a better man than me,” right before he jumps to his death. Javert chose suicide rather than change. Even though I gave away the plot and ending, I still suggest you see the film, because Jackman, Crowe, and Hathaway are three of my favorite actors, and this is a story that should resonate with all of us.

Read Galatians 2:15-21 and reread verse 16 – “Man is not justified by keeping the law.”

It is true that Javert had the law on his side. But he was a mean, ruthless, unforgiving, and obsessive person. Valjean had 19 years of breaking big rocks into smaller ones behind him. He chose to listen to a concerned priest hoping to point him to a better way and found in his heart space to receive God’s forgiveness (and the priest’s). Then he began to pass it on to others.

That is what the message of Jesus is all about. It’s a new way of thinking, a new way to live. The law cannot save. It can only condemn (Galatians 2:16). Salvation comes by grace and they who receive it demonstrate its effects by their changed life of grace, compassion, and forgiveness.

It is not an issue of being a better person – especially if you define “better” as one who keeps the “law” best and doesn’t hurt anyone (subjectively speaking, of course). It’s experiencing the transforming love of Jesus through faith, and asking him to empower us to live like he did – in a kind, loving, non-judgmental manner that He Himself modeled and called us to. I don’t know about you, but I need help to live like Jesus. It’s called having a better…a redeemed heart.

Are you quick to notice and condemn wrong behavior in others? Why? Do you set higher legalistic standards for others than for yourself? Which of your friends makes you feel uncomfortable by judging you? Who eases your mind by their loving and forgiving approach?

Walk wisely. God’s highest law is the law of love. Ask God’s help to be a better person.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – September 3

What are some things you admire about your parents? Have you ever told them? If not, when will you?

What are some things you do not like or admire about your parents? Have you ever talked to them about those things? Have you prayed for them to grow in that area? Have you practiced humility and extended love, acceptance, and forgiveness to them?

You often hear parents talk about when their kids were young they seemed to think that their parents could do no wrong. Later on they have to come to grips with this assessment, and it is not easy to deal with. Often a child will refuse to accept an honest “I do not know” in response to never ending questions and they insist on a satisfactory response (sometimes in tears). If they are honest, many parents had moments when they tiredly feigned ignorance or appeared to not be capable of keeping up with Bill Nye, The Science Guy.

Most kids, in spite of their shrugs, raised eyebrows, half-hearted smiles, and even criticisms, struggle with the idea that their parents might have flaws, lack knowledge, and not be perfect.

But no man or woman – was, or every will be perfect. And it is not only children who have a hard time with accepting limitations in others. All of us have felt hurt, let down, betrayed, belittled, ignored, insulted, and even manipulated. We know what it feels like when a friend tells us a lie, or lies about us, fails to understand, or even does something we do not approve of.

We remember the sense of loss from a broken friendship or first (or second or third love). We sting from the memory when a much-loved and respected coach, teacher, or mentor that we admired does something we know is wrong. And we are nearly devastated when a deeply loved and highly respected parent makes a bad choice that brings shame on them and the family.

Read Romans 3:9-24.

Moses met with God way back in the Book of Exodus and received the Ten Commandments from Him. The first four deal with relating to God, while the remaining six deal with human relationships. One of the Ten Commandments is “Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). The commandment does NOT read, “Honor your father and mother because they are perfect.”

As you grow through college and young adult life, you will discover many shortcomings in those you love, including and maybe especially in your parents. Remember that the Bible says, “All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Do you thank God for your parents? Do you ask God to bless, guide, protect, forgive, strengthen, and work in your parent’s lives?

Be patient with the imperfections you discover in your parents (not to mention your own). Make space and allowances for their shortcoming, weaknesses, and even failures. Accept them for who they are, and that like you, they too are sinners in need of God’s grace. Live communally. No one becomes perfect by becoming a parent.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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