Monthly Archives: October 2012

Monday Motivator – October 29

I have talked with many college students over the years and some had a variety of strange and interesting views about the Bible. More than a few thought that God hated them. They took the words from Deuteronomy 5:9 soberly, “I, the Lord, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” That view of God was too much to imagine. I remember a few who had been adopted and they saw themselves as illegitimate due to their circumstances. Others knew of their parents’ failings in life and thought, “Wow, my parents are real sinners. That must make me a real bad person in God’s eyes.”

I counseled them that their problem was with how they read the Bible, or better stated, how they misread the Scriptures. For example, they forgot to read the next verse in the Deuteronomy 5 passage – verse ten says, “…but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

Instead of revealing hatred, God’s commandments demonstrate his love for us. Knowing that the tendency of an earthly father who chose to make and worship others gods would set in motion a series of bad circumstances for his kids, God said (Deuteronomy 5:8), “You shall not make for yourself an idol.” No autographed jerseys of Moses or Joshua, moments on Mediterranean Idol TV shows to meet the woman who sang about the parting of the Red Sea, or finding memorabilia from the leftovers of the march to the Promised Land that you can sell on oldarcheaology.com.

Parents should be aware that their sins, spiritual neglect, or failure to distance themselves from the ungodliness of the world can negatively influence their children. Children can suffer for the sins of their parents in the sense that they generally follow the patterns and habits set out by them. Every action has a ripple effect of some kind. It is evident that kids may follow (and repeat) the path of temptation, compromise, evil habits, and attitudes they see in their parents to their own destruction. But that does not have to be the case.

The Bible is the best selling book of all time, and it takes time to understand its meta-narrative, contents, Old and New Testament framework, and overall continuity. The meta-narrative (i.e., big theme) is understood from the words – creation – fall – redemption – consummation.

We all suffer from the impact of the sin of our first father and mother in a garden long ago (Genesis 3:1-7). Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God brought short and long term judgment as well as set in motion the greatest rescue operation of all time. The greatest love story of all is often summed up in the children’s song, “Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so…” It’s why Jesus died for us according to John 3:16, Romans 5:8, and Hebrews 9:15.

We can worry that God no longer cares for us, but that is not what the Scripture reveals. Nehemiah 9:17 records these words, “You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” The Psalms echo that “His love endures forever.”

I realize there are parts of the Bible that trouble us. But the meta-narrative focuses on the character of God – He did not leave us in a sin-stained condition, but worked redemptively to bring us back to a favorable status with Him. Grow devotionally. Keep reading the Bible. All of us need to learn to correctly read, study, and handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Do not let one verse confuse you about who God is. He is good and His heart is kind.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 22

I think about the opportunity to take a ride to the International Space Station someday. I know it would take a lot of money, but it would be an incredible “bucket list” achievement, wouldn’t it? From what I read, if I can be patient enough, there could come a day when I could take an elevator to the stars. Scientists have been working on a way to build a 62,000 mile elevator to space – and they say it could happen in ten years or so. It will cost a few billion dollars.

The appeal of rising to great heights is nothing new. For most of human history, people got together to use their ingenuity, “elbow grease,” and technology (bricks and tar to stone and mortar) to reach higher and even attempt to build a tower to the sky.

Read Genesis 11:1-9. Why the attraction of the sky? “So that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered all over the earth (11:4).” The result of the tower building event recorded in Genesis was confusion – exactly what the people sought to avoid. Verse 9 records that “The Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”

Is it any different for us? Do you ever notice how many in our culture tends towards their “15 minutes of fame?” What kinds of towers are you building to make a name for yourself? It is not wrong to work hard, live right, and strive to excel in order to make your parents’ proud that you honored the family name. We all would like to taste what it’s like to “make a name for ourselves.” But everyone cannot be linked with a prize like Nobel, Grammy, Pulitzer, Rhodes scholarship, Academy award, Spelling Bee, or a sports championship.

But to strive for personal glory is not why God created us. Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The writer of Ephesians (Paul) further argued we should, “Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires…and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:22-24). One key from Ephesians is if we chase personal, selfish desires, we will end up deceived and confused. But we were made for good works.

I think of my wife who lives for Christ in her work as an accountant with Oxfam. My friend Keith Wasserman and his team at Good Works serve the poor and homeless in southeast Ohio. Many of our alumni honor Christ in the marketplace – Bob Chaney as a professor of Math at a community college in Dayton, OH; Kris Horton as a plastics engineer in Michigan; Huzie Yeh as an elementary teacher and Chris Dollard as a social worker, both in Boston, MA; Buyiswa Ndibongo as a doctor in South Africa; Lynne Michaelson as an engineer in Providence, RI.

All of us who follow Christ are called to participate in the greatest rescue operation of all time. God called and blessed Abraham in Genesis 12 and said he and his descendants would be a light to the nations. Revelation 7:9 indicates a day is coming when history concludes and people of all nations, tribes and tongues will honor the Lord and Savior of all, Jesus Christ.

Until Jesus says His redemptive mission is over, we need to continue to go and make disciples of all the nations. That is why college ministry is so strategic: if we reach the university with the gospel, we can reach the world. Be the best “you” you can be, wherever God leads you. But for fame and popularity, let’s leave the stars to God and aim to please Him in whatever He created us to do here on earth. Serve globally. Our story should lead to God’s glory.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 15

How deeply are you in financial debt? You can’t serve Visa, Discover, MasterCard and your Master at the same time. Statistics show that a majority of college students get sucked (suckered?) into credit card debt while in college. It is not much prettier in the grown-up world.

Christians are supposed to be living lives under the Lordship of Jesus, right? Our choices should reflect our worldview and His character and concerns, right? Yet studies continue to reveal that Christians give woefully little money to the work of God. Many barely tithe, give offerings, or much to the cause of missions (less than 2% of their income one study showed).

So I propose a solution: go ahead and hold a debt reduction revival. First, cut up the credit card(s) that you cannot handle; Second, complete a review of your spending the past six months to a year to see where your income and expenses actually are; Third, prepare a budget to live by; Fourth, aggressively reduce your debt in the next six to twelve months. Fifth, recognize the sort of changes in your spending habits you will need to learn and embrace. Sixth, share your plan with a trusted friend who has shown that they can handle their finances. Give them permission to inquire about your progress and ask you tough questions if need be. Seventh, start saving.

Imagine where you could be one year from now if you saw the danger of credit card debt. I know from working with people that debt can make them do some mighty desperate things.

Read 2 Kings 4:1-7. Note that Proverbs 22:7 says, “The borrower is subject to the lender.”

In the 2 Kings passage, a prophet’s widow was desperate because her creditor was coming to take her two sons away as slaves to satisfy her indebtedness. By comparison, that makes 20% annual interest on any purchase look pretty good, right? But please avoid high interest rates.

There are practical and supernatural ways out of debt. I’ve heard of churches that paid off the debts of its church members. Those who received help had to be members and were expected to give to others once they get their “house” in order. They were expected to follow steps like I listed above while the other members gave until their debts were taken care of.

Imagine what that church is like! The generosity of those people must have seemed like a miracle, similar to what happened in 2 Kings 4. All the poor woman had left was a little oil and Elisha told her to get as many jars as she could and start pouring the oil she had into them. Once she filled all of them, the oil stopped. She then went and sold the jars of oil and was able to pay off her debts…and…she and her sons had enough oil left over to live off of.

For many of us, divine assistance is as simple as following the lessons taught in the Bible. If you pay attention, Scripture is full of principles that will keep you away from irresponsible choices and out of financial debt. In my work with students, I much preferred teaching prevention than providing a cure. If you are in financial debt from your college spending habits, don’t dig a deeper hole. Learn from your mistakes and take proper steps to get back on track.

Let the “Master” teach you how to deal with the pretenders (i.e., MasterCard) to your heart, mind, and soul’s health. Rather than being a slave to credit, you can find and gain a “visa” to financial freedom. Walk wisely. Debt does not pay.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 8

Do you have a mouth that is out of control? What did you say recently that you regretted as soon as you said it? Are you concerned that you need help? How willing are you to submit your tongue to the Lord on a daily basis?

Imagine a friendship, family, work place, school, neighborhood, city, state, country, or continent that was famous for banned words. None of us really believe the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” because we have first hand knowledge of the damage of words. So to be proactive in today’s increasingly intolerant society, let us agree on key words to be eliminated, or at least reduced, in their usage.

For example, is 9-11 too casual a phrase to describe the terrorist attacks and deaths of 3,000 people? No one seems to call the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 12-7. Or how about the following three words:

No-brainer (who doesn’t have a brain?)

Brainstorm (how is it different from merely thinking?)

Car jacking (didn’t this used to be armed robbery?)

I read through the books of Psalms and Proverbs over a thirty-day period, and took some notes on words that might be banned. Note: There are 150 Psalms and 31 chapters of Proverbs. Consider doing what I did by reading five Psalms and one chapter of Proverbs together a day for a month. It is an incredibly rich opportunity to get to know God better. Try reading the chapters out loud, too (maybe sing some of the Psalms by making up your own melody).

If I were to suggest words (and actions) to ban, here are five to consider along with a reason.

Show contempt? Psalm 17:10 says, “A mouth that speaks with arrogance…” is not good.

Demonstrate dishonesty? Psalm 34:13 says, “Keep…your lips from speaking lies.”

Hurt feelings? Proverbs 12:18 says, “Reckless words pierce like the sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Make others angry? Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Spread rumors? Proverbs 20:19 says, “A gossip betrays a confidence…”

My mom told me a long time ago that our words are a window to our heart. Jesus agreed with my mom when he said, “The good man/woman brings good things out of the good stored up in his/her heart, and the evil man/woman brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his/her heart. For out of the overflow of their heart their mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

Read Proverbs 10:8-14.Then write it on your mirror with shaving cream or lipstick as a reminder this week. King David wanted to treat those close to him with kindness, so he prayed for God’s help, “I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.”

Who wants to be healed rather that hurt? Who is willing to give up the sort of words and actions than tend to hurt rather than heal? Who is really concerned with treating their friends and family with love? Live communally. Use no words that hurt. And that includes sticks and stones.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – October 1

I love movies with guys riding motorcycles. The bikes look hot, go fast, and it’s amazing to watch the riders handle them with ease, skill, and daring.

I remember the scene in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, when bad guys were attacking and trying to kill Logan, soon to be known as Wolverine. He escapes with the aid of a classic motorcycle, and ducks and weaves his way out of danger from an assassin in an attack helicopter. It was incredible watching Logan ride through machine gun fire, smoke, and bombs, all the while leaning left and right. Sound fun? Would you volunteer for a ride with Wolverine under similar circumstances? It looked real scary, but wasn’t, if you know how to ride a cycle and lean.

Think about it. To a passenger, it’s always a matter of faith. As long as you lean in the same direction as the driver, the ride is generally smooth. But when the passenger panics, like I did once when I was younger and it felt more natural to sit up straight, it caused problems for my cousin who I was riding with. Luckily, we didn’t crash, but it was scary for a moment. My cousin worked hard and averted a potentially harmful situation. He then told me that incident illustrated a critical principle: learning to lean the right way is necessary to riding a bike well.

Read Romans 8:1-17.

God has created a framework in the universe, on the planet, and in our lives, for our health, safety, and enjoyment. In the Scriptures He has stated that if we decide to lean away from sin and toward Him, we can enjoy a Christ-centered life and move in any direction God is leading us. Think about the protection the Ten Commandments provide. If you do not break any of them, the odds of you living a morally bankrupt, relationally empty, financially insecure life are thin.

Yet sometimes it feels unnatural to lean. Our instincts, as well as the people around us, and the settings we find ourselves in (or put ourselves), can cause us to lean away from God. I still remember walking away from some of my high school friends who would not listen to reason and wanted to vandalize school property for “fun.” Our own wisdom gets us in trouble. We suffer a minor fender bender or a major wreck because of choices we make.

I have learned that trusting God is a lot like riding a motorcycle. At first it seems unnatural, even scary. But as you get used to the speed, how to use your brakes, and get more familiar with how the machine handles, it becomes easier. I know that not trusting God and His ways seems crazy after all these years, but it is as crazy as leaning the wrong way on a motorcycle.

Now compare your Christian experience to riding a motorcycle. Has it been fast, a bit wild, and have you come close to tipping over and crashing? Maybe the reason is you are working against God instead of with Him. How can you lean more in the direction God is going?

Many of my friends ride motorcycles and watching them take turns gracefully is flat out impressive. So is an obedient Christian who is committed to following God’s will. But a person who does things his or her way is like a bike about to crash. What kind of ride are you looking for, if your tendency is to court disaster by not leaning the right way?

Think theologically. To increase sin resistance, lean with God and let the Spirit help you.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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