Monthly Archives: November 2012

Monday Motivator – November 26

A few years ago, Stacia asked one of her friends at M.I.T. named Taylor to read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. He couldn’t put it down one Saturday night and by the next morning felt he had to start following the man Lewis talked about.

If Jesus were to stand in front of you and say, “Follow me,” what would be the first thoughts that would pop into your mind?

I remember a student named John at Harvard who was a critic of organized religion. We met in a freshman dorm on Monday nights for a reading and discussion of the four Gospels of the New Testament. After reading repeated incidents of people starting to follow Jesus after hearing those words “follow me,” John began to hear God calling him with the same two words. He heard it in the architecture of the campus, the original coat of arms that adorns the iron gateways to the heart of campus, and when he was alone with his thoughts late at night. Finally, John consented.

Just two words. That’s all it took to change the future of a freshman raised in a family whose purpose in life was to make money any way possible. Those same words influenced Taylor.

That’s all it took to change another man whose job was to collect taxes from people. An ancient writer recorded the story that long before the IRS could claim to be taxpayer-friendly, a man named Matthew (as some called him), knew every trick in the book to finagle money out of the hands of hard working people. Matthew always seemed to get whatever the Roman government said he should, regardless of the cost to the person or family…he even took extra for himself. His life and reputation consisted of getting money and then getting stuff money could buy.

One day the most famous Person of his time walked up to his tax-collecting booth and said two words that caused him to contemplate his future. Two words made Matthew wonder if he could stand to leave behind all that money (and power?), give up the benefits of ill-gotten gain, and walk away from the corrupt handlers who sat with him on the dishonest side of society.

Read Matthew 9:9-12. Did you notice the result of the encounter in verse 9?

Scripture records his immediate decision. His old name was Levi and his job was to collect taxes. His new name was Matthew and his job was now to be a fisher of men. He obeyed the two words of the visiting Teacher, got up from his desk, left it all behind, and followed Him. Those two words are still being asked and offered today to you, me, and others from the same Person.

Just as Jesus walked up to Levi and said, “Follow Me,” He is calling us to follow Him. He is mobilizing and empowering men and women, boys and girls from across all demographics to build His Kingdom. He wants us to make Him more important than getting rich, pursuing earthly power, prestige, and popularity, and grabbing all the goodies that goes along with it. He wants us to make Him Lord of our lives. Levi answered immediately and became a trusted disciple.

I wonder what God will do with those of us who decide to follow Him as Levi, John, and Taylor did – in response to two words. We have a chance to influence tomorrow’s leaders today on campus. What difference can you make in your area of influence? Serve globally. Seize the chance to ask others to follow Him. The blessings of following Jesus always outweigh the costs.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 19

What is your ideal “lazy scenario?” Is laziness part of original sin? Is part of our human nature an aversion (i.e., a strong feeling of dislike) to activity, purpose, and intentionality? Would you agree that laziness is a root of many evils that we contribute to? How does laziness lead to poor character and a loss of virtue?

Were Adam and Eve too lazy to go and find God and ask for help in light of the apparent lies that Satan was spreading? Examine the times you succumb to temptation and if you are honest, you will find an element of laziness. I know I do. What is your current laziness rating?

Success in anything requires hard work and diligence. Academically, good grades do not come automatically. Emotionally, good friendships do not just happen; they need to be cultivated. Relationships do not grow and develop unless we commit to the work it takes to extend ourselves in ways that are demanding and sometimes uncomfortable. Physically, it is easy to go to your first year of college and put on the “freshman fifteen” because you have more food options available to you. For some, it takes a while to make sure they are burning off more calories from working out than they are taking in at the dining commons.

And we do not want to forget that spiritual growth takes effort as well. Paul told the Roman Christians in 12:11 that they should not “burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.” There are no “couch potatoes” or “armchair Christians” in the Kingdom of God. If you do not apply yourself to cultivating your growth in Christ, your faith will suffer. Whatever you feed – apathy or passion – will grow.

Read Proverbs 6:1-11 and 2 Peter 1:5-8.

I am not advocating a workaholic approach to life, with an attitude that says “24/7, no rest, no play, no balance.” Richard Exley wrote a helpful book in 1987 called “The Rhythms of Life” where he outlined the balance and benefits of work, rest, worship, and play. Everyone needs a framework to manage life, but there is a tendency to seek more than an occasional break from hard work. Exley argues that each of the four areas he writes about are critical for maximum health and we need to put life’s priorities into proper perspective and practice (see the example of Jesus in Luke 2:52). Given the option of rest or work, most of us would choose the sofa and remote control rather than a mop and a broom, or keeping our checkbook balanced.

Yet work has its rewards. When we overcome our natural bent towards laziness and try to accomplish something, we gain a few things: First, the work produces higher grades, better friendships, a healthier body, and a stronger faith. Second, the act of telling our lazy self “NO” is a behavioral strategy that reminds us that we don’t have to give in to our natural impulses.

How are you feeling today? Do you hear the recliner calling? Are you a little lazy even though there is something you need to do? I hope you will agree with the writer of Hebrews when he wrote in 6:12, “We do not want you to be lazy.” You may have to call laziness for what it is: temptation! You can overcome it, like any other temptation, through faith in Jesus (memorize 1 Corinthians 10:13). On a practical level, I urge you to turn off your gadgets twice a week.

Walk wisely. Stop laziness. Be constructive. You will feel better, and you will be better.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 12

Thanks for coming to my funeral. Rejoice that I finished my race and stayed the course. If you wonder about the fork in my hands, it’s meant to signify that I am going to a better place of Providence…and a great banquet meal! One last thing, consider your life in reverse. What would you want people to say about you at the end of your life? Then start living that way now.

With a week left before my death, I decided to write this letter to the five of you that I helped find faith in Christ. You have been part of my discipling focus and I want to assure you that life can go on even when I am no longer around. Here are a few suggestions for you to consider:

First, Jesus has a future hope for you. Proverbs 23:18 says, “there is surely hope for you.” Look ahead and allow His view of your present and future stabilize how you are feeling at the moment. Psalm 23 is a great text to reflect on because he said he would lead and guide you, so trust Him.

Second, go deeper into truth. Jesus said you will find it if you ask, seek, and knock. It requires effort. I know you have questions about the Bible, dealing with your old way of life, new values, handling your money, and many other matters. I suggest you avoid being spiritually stunted and ineffective by pursuing answers in Scripture. Continue with the five fingers of the Hand illustration I modeled and taught you. You need to 1- hear, 2 – read, 3 – study, 4 – memorize, and 5 – meditate on Scripture. Discipline yourself to get in the Scriptures individually and with a few others regularly like we did. Get with a strong believer in Christ (i.e., a Paul) who can help you explore Scripture, gain greater understanding and clarity, and apply biblical truth.

Third, pass on what you know to a few others. As I said to the five of you when I assembled our group…we were designed to multiply and divide. I invested in the five of you, while you found five to invest in as well. It’s called trans-generational ministry: Jesus influenced Paul, who influenced Timothy, who influenced the “many witnesses” of 2 Timothy 2:2, who influenced faithful people, who would influence others also. See the five layers of the process? Tell your five “Timothy’s” what you’ve seen and heard. Use transferable concepts like I used with you. Surely you can model and teach how to handle the Bible, pray, share your faith, manage your time & money, deal with and overcome temptation, and be a responsible steward of all you have.

Fourth, you will avoid some pain if you continue to work on your character. Half-truths and deception lead to others being hurt and your witness for Christ being watered down. Speak and live the truth. Read Lamentations 1:1-9 – verse 9 says Israel did not “consider her future.” The choices you make today are the building blocks of the person you will be in the future.

Fifth, keep your eyes, mind, and body pure. Remember the GIGO principle – garbage in, garbage out. You’ll find that the more you avoid your old way of life (i.e., impure words, images, and experiences), the fewer struggles you will have with bad memories, old habits, and sinful thoughts in the coming days. Those harmful things are forgiven as far as east is from west. But how will you live differently in light of my passing? What does God want you to be like in 5-10-20 years? Whom will you choose to be? How will you finish your race?

Live communally. Care for one another. Pass on what I taught you. Remember the words from Matthew 28 to “come and see, and go and tell.” I entrust the gospel to you and charge you to pass it on to the five people you are investing in. What you feed grows. Faith fuels your future.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – November 5

Do you have friends who object to miracles? I don’t mean the “Miracle on Ice” in 1980 when the U.S. Olympic Men’s Hockey team beat the heavily favored Russian team for the gold medal. It is common in our popular culture to throw around the word “miracle” rather loosely for unusual or unexpected stuff that happens: “It’s a miracle that I passed the test without studying much.” Or “it’s miracle that the car my dad loaned me to go to school is still running after a bad storm.”

I mean miracle in the biblical sense, as an act of God breaking into, interrupting, or changing the ordinary course of things. I have talked with many people on campus that have a hard time believing that Jesus walked on the water, raised people from the dead, and healed people without medicine or the aid and approval of the government. They argue that miracles are not possible.

Here is my thought process on why we as followers of Jesus can be justified in holding a Biblical worldview that includes the supernatural.

First, the controversy over the possibility of miracles stems from a weak view of God. Once we assume the existence of God, there is no problem with miracles, since God by the definition and revelation of Scripture is all-powerful. The opposite would also be true: in the absence of such a God, the concept or possibility of miracles is difficult and even impossible to conceive. The question then is, “does an all-powerful God, who created the universe, our planet, and all of us, actually exist?” If so, we shall have little difficulty with miracles.

Second, the Bible informs us that nature daily gives us evidence of a powerful and intelligent Creator. People ignore or turn away from this truth, yet God allows them the freedom to worship substitutes instead of Him (Romans 1:18-25).

Third, I believe that natural law operates consistently. I have talked with many in science related fields who believe that the laws of nature are absolute and inflexible, and that there can be no exceptions in history. But I also believe that the laws of nature owe their existence to a Creator and Sustainer who has the freedom (as well as the power and authority) to interact with them wisely (see Genesis 1:1). When God chooses to do so, He introduces a miracle. Christianity is in essence, the story of a great Miracle.

Fourth, C.S. Lewis wrote in his book “Miracles” that a miracle is the introduction of supernatural energy that alters natural law and circumstances. He argues that miracles are rare events, which increase with frequency when God wants to emphasize something. This explains why so many “signs and wonders” occurred during the time Jesus was on earth. Miracles were given as credentials to authenticate who Jesus was as the coming Messiah (John 10:37-38).

Lewis also suggested there is something unique in the style of miracles Jesus performed. Every year for example, God uses natural law to transform water into wine through the fermentation of grapes. But at a first century wedding in Cana of Galilee (read John 2:1-11), we observe God in the person of Jesus “bypass the natural order…or skip a step.” Through miraculous power Jesus turns water directly into wine without the need of a vine.

Think theologically. As the Lord of creation, Jesus’ miracles are an inherent part of His power and communication. They have the supernatural signature of His architectural genius.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

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