Monthly Archives: February 2013

Monday Motivator – February 25

Do you believe words matter?

When is the last time you grabbed a dictionary and thought, “There are 200,000 words in here. I need to find 5 new ones to use that would strengthen my vocabulary and add value to others?”

It is amazing how words come into our language and usage, we use them for awhile, and then they go away. Think of how commercials, sports, entertainment, movies, and pop culture create words like “Whazzzup?” “Is that your final answer?” “Who’s your daddy?” (I know I dated myself with those three). It is good that phrases come and go, because they often add spice and humor to our conversation, but also have a shelf life.

Yet there are also words and phrases that come and do not go away. Words that we would consider gross, impolite, even obscene. Words that stick in our thoughts, jokes, and conversational groups that are dirty and disgusting, and are worse than sticks and stones.

Read James 3:1-12. How tamed is your tongue?

Did you ever wonder why some words are considered poor selections and why we should avoid them? As followers and imitators of Jesus, the answer is simple. They destroy our testimony. Christians are people bent on becoming more Christ-like as they read and obey the teaching of Scripture and depend on the power of the Spirit to enable them to walk as Jesus did (1 John 2:6). As representatives of Jesus, using vulgar or obscene words drags His name into a place where it does not belong and hurts people.

Do you have some pet words or phrases that you know are not a good witness and dirty up your vocabulary? Do you ever use God’s name in vain? If off-color language is a problem for you, seek God’s help to get rid of it. The Holy Spirit has the power to guide you toward better selections of the words you allow to come out of your mouth.

Ask some friends to help you monitor your word choices. How can they help you be accountable to eliminate words that are better left out of usage? It took over a year, but I helped a student learn to change their tendency to cut themselves down with their own words after growing up in a home where their father modeled that behavior.

My mentor John Maxwell talks about giving people the Triple-A treatment. Everyone feels better and acts better when you give them attention, affirmation, and appreciation. The next time you meet someone, start by giving them your undivided attention for the first thirty seconds. Affirm and show them your appreciation in some way (maybe with words?). Point out a strength, characteristic, or accomplishment that you see in them.

Ephesians 4:29-30 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Make that your new word goal. Memorize those verses. Ask God to help you live that way. Decide to change your vocabulary choices. Live communally. You cannot give a good witness by using bad words.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – February 18

We have heard the story over and over, haven’t we? He or she had everything by the time they were in their 30s: wealth measured in millions of dollars, a thriving career, fame, magazine covers, toys like sports cars, a clothing line or music label. Money, by their own admission, was everything. Since their youth, their driving ambition was to win, and through winning, reap the rewards of the good life.

I read of a doctor recently who chose the quick way to big bucks – by switching from ophthalmology to plastic surgery. It paid handsomely. In the first year, his cosmetic enhancement clinic “was raking in millions.” But in March of last year he, a light smoker, was struck down by terminal lung cancer. And his attitude changed quickly.

He realized that wholeness and happiness didn’t come from enriching oneself. “I’m a typical product of today’s society,” said the doctor, in an excerpt taken from one of his speeches last November. “From my earliest memory, I’ve always been under the influence and impression that to be happy is to be successful. And to be successful is to be wealthy. So I led my life according to this motto.” Yet he died last fall at age 40.

If anyone thinks they can achieve success monetarily and that will solve all of their problems, they will be proven wrong. History records that Solomon, one the wealthiest men of all time, was not immune to despair over poor choices and a God-less existence. The worst part of this too-often-heard story is that it is unnecessary and preventable.

Read Luke 12:13-21.

The Bible is full of wisdom that should steer anyone away from believing that financial success alleviates life’s struggles and pains. The man in Luke 12 figured he had planned wisely. But he learned otherwise too late.

Each of us should set financial goals. Wasting money is no better (or holier) than hoarding it. But as you set goals, be aware that when you die, your financial planning will not benefit you anymore. If and when you have a family, you will want to provide for them financially. But after you die, your spiritual planning kicks in – assuming you prepared. What sort of eternal investments are you intentionally making now?

Security is more than a future planning issue – regardless of your stock portfolio. For some, a large bank account compensates for deficiencies they feel in other areas. Again, money cannot merely substitute for gaps in your spiritual life. This was at the root of the doctor’s sad and early demise – his love of money contributed to a short-lived life.

The Scriptures argue that only a relationship with the Living God can help someone deal with the ups and downs that life throws our way. A big bank account might seem like a great strategy to help avoid life’s pain, but it is only a mirage. And regardless of the fame and fortune you amass while living, you cannot take any of it with you when you die.

Everyone who chases riches will encounter this lesson, and some will wise up too late. Will you? Think theologically. Our security is not in our investments. It’s in God.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

 

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Monday Motivator – February 11

Imagine you have the ability to “see through lists of numbers” and understand the complexity and code(s) they sometimes attempt to hide. God has created and wired many people with the intuition and genius level math skills to break codes and decipher puzzles.

I read an article about Meredith Knox Gardner, the United States most famous “cryptanalyst,” who worked with many other gifted people during the Cold War with Russia in order to find and unlock codes that would turn the numbers into clues. The goal was to understand and thwart Soviet spy efforts starting back in the 1940’s.

Today computers are used to do the same sort of work in seconds. But in the days of World War 2 and following, when espionage was common, it called for people like Gardner to find spies, many of whom worked in the government. I am glad there are people who have this ability, especially when it comes to dealing with those who hearts are aimed at evil purposes.

Most of us would look at a sheet of numbers and see nothing – I struggle with Sudoku puzzles. But in the first century people heard a strange sort of story being told by Jesus and wondered how they would figure it out. Men and women were confronted by parables and experienced a similar reaction as some of us would feel if asked to figure out a puzzle of numbers.

Parables are usually stories designed to explain a simple truth, but parables about the Kingdom of God were designed to hide the truth from certain people. That is why Jesus had to explain them to His disciples. His religious enemies and critics just walked away understanding nothing – ignorant and blind as ever.

Read Matthew 13:10-17.

As we study the Bible today, we will often come across content and ideas that seem hard to figure out and understand, especially in a world that ignores and trivializes God’s wisdom. But Jesus promises the Holy Spirit will guide us into truth. He said the Spirit will enlighten us about truth in Scripture and show us how to apply it to our lives, so we can become more like Him.

If you have never trusted in Christ, you do not yet have the Holy Spirit to lean on to help you. The Bible may seem like an awkward book of ideas, stories, teachings and narratives. Your first step is to begin a relationship with God through Christ. The ability to understand Scripture is just one of the benefits of knowing Jesus.

If you have trusted Jesus, ask the Spirit to guide your reading and study. He inspired the writing of Scripture. He knows your heart. He can make God’s Word clear to you and then empower you to practice what you read and become convinced of. He even motivated Gordon Fee and Doug Stuart to write How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, and How to Read the Bible Book by Book, as helpful tools to aid us in our growth, so pick up a copy of each for your library.

Hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on Scripture involves no decoding ability or math skills – just a trusting heart – open to the wisdom of the Word of God. Ask the Spirit to guide your study of Scripture. May you see and understand God’s character and purposes more clearly. Grow devotionally. To better understand the Bible, consult the Author.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – February 4

He was forcibly relocated to the University of Babylon in 605 B.C. when his city was invaded by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. He was young, smart, talented, and an outlier, so the King’s men took him away from his family and home in Jerusalem. Everything he knew and was familiar with was swapped for a new life in Babylon. The King’s goal was to strip away the moral center, worldview, and heritage of young leaders from cities and cultures in and around Babylon, and absorb them into the leadership pipeline of the Babylonian Empire.

This young man was given a room in the palace, and access to the King’s food service and chef that produced food and wine for the leadership of the Empire. The best of the best of the young people who were taken from their homes and countries were given three years of re-education. If after three years, any of them proved bright, teachable, and cooperative, they would enter into a lifetime of prestige, luxury, and privilege (not to mention comfort) in the King’s service.

But the young man was smart enough to recognize what Nebuchadnezzar was up to. He understood that eating the King’s food and believing the state propaganda was designed to put him on a path of compromise and abandonment of everything that made him who he was, especially when it affected his status as a son of Abraham, and a follower of the One True God.

Read Daniel 1:8 to see his decision. “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”

I heard Andy Stanley say about Daniel’s situation: “Daniel understood something that most of us usually miss when it comes to the ebb and flow of culture. Daniel realized the principle that compromise does not erase the tension we feel…it only weakens our resolve.”

All of us grow up in a culture of family, neighborhood, school, state, region, etc., where competing ideas about morality, finance, politics, relationships, and religion are implied, practiced, ignored, and even in regular conflict. What our parents teach and model is often threatened outside the home. Other cultural ideas attempt to entice us to step over the boundaries (i.e., standards of behavior and matters of conscience) that our parents and families provide.

Daniel knew that refusing to obey the King’s order to eat his food would cost him something, maybe even his life. But he was rooted in what his parents taught and believed about the commandments and the Law of Moses. He had made up his mind before being taken off to college that his allegiance to God was more significant to him than anything else. One takeaway from Daniel’s example is to be sure to know what you believe and why before going to school. If you don’t, you may more easily succumb to the myriad of cultural “bait” that draws and woos us to the edge of potential disaster morally, relationally, financially, and spiritually.

Parents hope their children realize the value that “boundaries” provide. It often means doing the exact opposite of what culture says we should do. Christians know it always means trusting God for the outcome (see v 9). Daniel’s simple decision not to bend his convictions was the start of a journey of influence: remember the fiery furnace, the lion’s den, and his job promotions?

If you want to be a person others will follow, be sure you know and live your convictions. Serve globally. We don’t know how God will honor our resolve, but He will honor it.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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