Monthly Archives: April 2013

Monday Motivator – April 29

What is the biggest problem in the church today? A theological issue? Behavioral standards between generations? Growing political pressure to be more “tolerant” and accepting of various social issues? A fractured economy? Whew! What a loaded question.

I think if you asked people at your church you would find a wide range of responses. Some would say “commitment,” meaning the need for Christ-followers, young and old, to stop living for themselves and start living for God; Dedication to service; Facilities for growth; Fresh and innovative leadership; Location; Diversity; And many other good answers.

But imagine a college student saying, “I’ve been following Jesus for a few years now and I am still so excited about my salvation. I love having a worldview that answers the big questions, asks me to be a critical thinker about the world I live in and the choices I make, calls me to live simply and sacrificially, and provides the power to actually live out the values Jesus talks about. It deals with my past, strengthens me for today, and gives hope for the future.”

“But,” she continues, “It seems like a lot of the Christians I meet in church have been saved so long that they don’t have that sort of excitement. They appear to be waiting for a bus to heaven and biding their time. They may think it’s all about them. But I think people need to get excited about their salvation again and put their faith into action.”

She is exactly right! Think about the early church, whose history is recorded in the Book of Acts. The people mentioned there were certainly excited about their faith. While believers prayed on one occasion, Peter was miraculously released from prison (Acts 12:5-17). Rhoda was so excited to see him that she left him standing at the front door to go tell the others! Lydia heard of Jesus at Philippi and immediately began living out her faith (Acts 16:14-15). Paul and Silas sang songs of victory in prison after a severe beating (Acts 16:20-25). The first believers knew the joy of salvation and spread that joy, and the church grew in numbers, influence, and blessing.

Read Revelation 2:1-7.

When did you accept Christ as Savior and Lord? How would you describe that experience? Do you have that sort of excitement about your salvation, or have you been saved so long that it is almost boring? Has your experience possibly become routine? Go to church, hear a sermon, go home. Read your Bible, but never discuss it with anyone. Ho hum. Go on a spiritual retreat, sing the songs, pray once, get emotionally charged up, but then go home. Ho hum. Booooring, huh?

God spoke directly to some of the Christians at Ephesus, one of the first churches. In Revelation 2:4, He addressed their lack of excitement by saying, “I hold this against you; you have forsaken your first love.” He urged them to repent (i.e., change direction) and promised judgment if they did not renew their love and devotion for Christ and His Word. This should result in a focused devotion to Him, purity of life, love for truth, and actions that line up accordingly.

God is excited about the salvation He’s given us. He wants us to be as excited as He is. Let’s cultivate that same sort of passion to know Him and make Him known. Look hard at your life and if need be, start fresh today to regain that joy. Like the student above, leap for joy at what God has done for you. Think theologically. If you’re happy and you know it, show it.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 22

What part of creation amazes you? The stars in the sky? The ocean and its inhabitants? A puppy dog? The human body? How about spiders?

Some people are afraid of spiders. I enjoyed the 1950’s B movie called Tarantula, where a professor is experimenting with growth hormones to increase the world’s food supply. A spider escapes from the lab and grows to gigantic size and wreaks havoc. I remember a mission trip in the 1980’s in Jamaica and waking up one morning to see a spider bigger than my hand on the wall of the place we were staying. That one did not cause much havoc due to my size 12.5 shoe.

Tarantulas are big, powerful spiders created with a hard exterior shell and extra sensitive fine hairs to detect food. When they attack their prey, their response is so fast that it cannot be captured in milliseconds. When not coming out of their holes for food, they manage to survive quite well.

But this adept creature is defenseless against the Pepsis wasp. This species of wasp is usually a deep, shiny blue and loves nectar. Its sting is painful to a human and fatal to its prey. But it needs a live tarantula for its offspring to survive.

When its time to lay her egg, the female Pepsis wasp goes spider hunting. She first checks to see it is the right species of tarantula. She then extends her stinger and readies to plunge it into a section of the spider between its legs and body. She grabs the spider leg and after a struggle drives the stinger in, pumping poison into the tarantula (no cheering, please). In seconds, the spider is immobile. The wasp then drags the spider to a hole she dug earlier and drops it in. She follows it down, glues her egg to its abdomen and leaves. When the baby wasp hatches, it feeds off of the tarantula until it is ready to fly.

Amazing huh? The tarantula never wins. The smaller wasp survives on the larger spider. Who came up with this idea? Not the tarantula or the wasp.

Read Psalm 105:1-11. Genesis 1:25 says God created all the wild animals.

Everything created required a Creator and Master Planner. That Great Designer is the God of Scripture. The Bible describes His creative genius in Genesis 1-3, as well as Psalm 90:2, Colossians 1:16-17, and Hebrews 1:2 and 11:3.

No one exceeds God in creativity and design. His works are marvelous writes the Psalmist – too awesome to be put into mere words, yet even the rocks cry out as they reflect on who God is. Every time we study His character and His works, such as the tarantula and the wasp, we are overwhelmed. For a personal growth project, watch the Ken Burns PBS series on America’s National Parks. Listen for the narrator to describe the view of those who worked tirelessly to see that these areas of the United States were eventually set aside for the benefit of all Americans. They saw the beauty of the land and the creatures in places like Yosemite and recognized the transcendent hand of God behind its creation. God alone is to be praised.

Grow devotionally. How can you use the wonders of creation as a witness to the reality and power of the one True God. Look around today. Creation is a finger that points to God.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 15

I heard the phrase from one or both of my parents, several of my teachers and a few coaches when I was younger. It is the idea, “Do not wish your life away.” One of my coaches actually sat me down for a face-to-face discussion of where I thought I was going. He wanted to be sure I was thinking of living my life well, and not just daydreaming about coasting through life.

I am amazed by the stories I hear or articles I read about people in the news and the grief they deal with due to the choices they make (some good, some not so good, and some out of their control). People deal with trouble and problems in various ways, and their stories are interesting segments or vignettes. Sometimes they are more than even mere obituaries, because they hold something that tugs at my heart. There are little bits of information that makes it personal.

I read about men who worked hard and make lots of money, but sacrificed family life and time with their kids; people who marry once, twice, and still cannot find happiness; A male movie star or athlete who marries and has a child with more than one woman, then walks away; People who carry bitterness around way too long; Soldiers who die too young in the service of their country; People who delay doing the things they desired to do, and now it is too late.

As I read these sorts of stories, I think: Am I spending enough time wishing for something to happen someday in the future that I miss out on an opportunity I have today? What am I waiting for? Am I waiting for just the right time? Am I delaying because I do not sense or feel the proper feeling? What is stopping me from doing something right now?

Read Colossians 4:2-6.

The ancient writer of the 1st century letter to the Colossians in the New Testament is a man named Paul. He wrote to give instructions to some of the first Christians in Colosse on how to live like Jesus intended them to, and he told them to “make the most of every opportunity” (4:5).

Paul said to “devote yourselves to prayer and be watchful,” meaning to continue steadfast, or persevere (with strength and fervor), in prayer. Be spiritually aware and awake to what is going on around you on campus, in your city and state, around the country, and globally. Be alert to the things that may detour you from being devoted to godly resolve and living to honor Christ. Satan and the weakness of human nature will try to cause you to neglect prayer and get distracted. We must discipline ourselves in prayer and obedience in order to pursue Christ and His purposes.

Paul was confidant God was working on his behalf by opening and shutting doors to guide his life and service. Paul said to pray for open doors…knowing the fruitfulness of our lives and our witness depended on God’s providence. Be sure your speech is pleasant, kind, and gracious. May it be “seasoned with salt,” so it is appropriately marked with purity, not corruption.

How are you spending your time, energy, talent, and resource in these uncertain days? Take the opportunities God gives you to pray, witness, serve, study, excel, and live the best you can with God’s help. Don’t wish your life away by waiting for the perfect time. That time is now.

As you look around campus, your neighborhood, and the world, what opportunities are available to you? Serve globally. When opportunity knocks, open the door, and make a difference.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 8

I just spent two days with three of my Chi Alpha colleagues (Karen Keyser, Georgetown University, Josh Moran, University of Virginia, and Blane Young, American University), as we co-taught a Support Raising Training (SRT) Seminar at the University of Virginia for 29 college students from Chi Alpha groups in the Northeast. The students are graduating this spring and “giving a year” of mission service either in the U.S. or overseas.

The students were inspiring to be around. But I was more impressed by the character and leadership of Karen, Josh, and Blane.  I watched them teach and interact with the students and thought about the investment they make every day as they serve and work with students on their respective campuses. Karen, Josh, and Blane are three of the sharpest and most capable people I know in the Body of Christ. I silently said a few times in the SRT, “Way to go, God. You did well when you made and empowered Keyser, Moran, and Young.”

I know that Chi Alpha Campus Ministries is committed to influencing our world for Jesus Christ through collegiate student ministry on campuses nationwide. I recognize the university is one of the most strategic and influential centers in any culture or society. I believe the minds and hearts of young people are more open to new ideas and philosophies in their college years. Without a doubt, what happens on the university campus ultimately impacts all of society. Yet I saw again this past weekend that when missionaries like Karen, Josh, and Blane touch a student, they touch the future. And when they touch the future, they change the world.

Chi Alpha staff are passionate about Jesus and His global mission. They equip students to be followers of Jesus, helping them to grow to maturity as leaders in the kingdom of God. They invest their time talking about Jesus and His teachings with students, teaching them to live out and pass on their faith, mentoring students in critical thinking, and caring for those in need.

Knowing that most students will end up in the marketplace, Chi Alpha staff teach students to recognize work as a divine calling and an opportunity for genuine ministry. They are equipped with the tools they’ll need to serve in a local church and to reflect the character and ministry of Christ while on the job. In addition, they provide opportunities for students to participate in missions. While reaching out to international students on campus is a staple of campus ministry efforts, spring break and summer mission trips to every continent happen every year. Chi Alpha partners closely with mission agencies around the world to mobilize students for compassion and service ministries, pioneer student work worldwide, relief and building projects, fasting and prayer walking vigils, and outreach focused efforts.

Read Matthew 28:18-20. You know what? The evidence is that Chi Alpha staff are doing just what Jesus commanded – making disciples. And I just spent two days with 29 of them.

I believe every college student should have the opportunity to study at the feet of the world’s greatest teacher.  People like Karen Keyser, Josh Moran, and Blane Young are making that dream a reality every day on the campus they serve.

Walk wisely. If I were a college student, I’d get as close to people like Karen, Josh, and Blane as I could. They model what it means to live life well. Pray for and affirm your Chi Alpha staff. Urge your parents to financially support them. They are making a difference for eternity.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – April 1

What separates Christianity from the religions of the world? Relationships: with God (vertical) and people (horizontal). Our faith is all about relationships. We need God and one another.

I believe that people (fearful and hesitant that they are) are eager for intimate, steady, whole, accountable, mutually supportive relationships today, yet are not sure how to find and cultivate them. I suggest that the 3-pronged mentoring model we use in Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship could be the answer. Church leaders have watched our missionaries in action and rediscovered it. Christian College leaders have been inspired to create mentor match ups between students and professors. Parents have seen their college age kids benefit from the relational structures established in our small groups. The culture of our time has recognized the vacuum of relationships that exist and the climate is right for learning through relationships.

History records two learning models. The Greeks leaned toward a “classroom model,” where the environment was academic, cerebral, and more information based. The teacher is up front and the students sit passively and listen to a lecture. It is the quickest way to disseminate information, but it is not the most effective way for someone to learn.

The Hebrews utilized a “coach model,” where the atmosphere was relational, experiential, and involved on-the-job training. The teacher invites the student(s) to travel with him/her and learning takes place through life-on-life. The coach/mentor uses verbal instruction, demonstrates the principle they want the student to embrace, lets them try their hand at it, and gives them feedback on their performance. The best way to learn is to experience something firsthand, discuss it with an experienced practitioner, all in a context of accountability and assessment.

Read Mark 3:13-15. Notice the “with Him” principle?

Jesus called the first disciples to be with him (relationship), and out of that context, he taught, modeled, and sent them out to learn and practice putting Kingdom habits into daily action. What a beautiful picture of the mentoring process. Many of us have seen a similar example from old movies where a toymaker, blacksmith, or shoemaker is involved in a shop on a cobblestone street. The camera shows purposeful activity – an old shoemaker at work making shoes, but with an apprentice next to him. The younger person is less experienced, but is observing and learning all he/she can. That is why they are there, attempting to practice and perfect what the “master” has shown, in order to one day produce goods and services for the community. As they work, the old person is also giving feedback and encouragement to the young learner.

It is a natural process of a developmental relationship. Today we often ask students, “What classes are you taking?” as opposed to “Who are you studying under?” I suggest the focus should be on the mentor, not so much the material.

Our Chi Alpha model suggests we all need a Paul, a Barnabus, and a Timothy. The framework for spiritual health involves having a mentor who is ahead of us, a peer or accountability partner beside us, and a mentoree who is following us. The three legs of this relational stool provide incentive, because we all need 1) someone to pour into us, 2) someone in a mutually supportive friendship (iron sharpens iron), and 3) someone we can pass on what we are learning, so they can imitate us (or better yet, Jesus). Live communally. Live like God because relationships matter.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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