Monthly Archives: June 2013

Monday Motivator – June 24

One of my favorite reads of the last year was Who Is This Man? by John Ortberg. In the book he details a leader of unimaginable influence – Jesus. Here is a brief excerpt: On the day of his death, it looked like whatever small mark he left on the world would rapidly disappear. Instead, his impact on human life and history has been unparalleled.

I have reflected on the influence of Jesus and his Kingdom on my life as I finished my 31st year of service with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries. I have thought about some of the lessons I have learned and adopted as my own due to the values, vision, and mission of Chi Alpha, but also through deep and satisfying relationships with so many colleagues in University Christian Community, The Navigators, Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Youth with a Mission, Baptist Campus Missions, and the Assemblies of God.

Here are five lessons embedded in my life as a result, and ones I believe others should emulate:

First, is my loyalty to Christ and the Word of God. I learned early on from the students who lead me to faith in Christ as a college student the reality of Ephesians 2:19-20. “You are no longer aliens or strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” That foundation is Scripture and Jesus. Barbara and I have built our family and ministry on Christ and the Bible, paying careful attention to both.

Second, is my practice of being grounded in the basics. I read Richard Foster’s, Celebration of Discipline, as a young leader and then heard my Navigator staff buddy, Andy Puleo, explain The Wheel illustration. I have been practicing the 12 disciplines Foster described and using the components of The Wheel (Scripture, prayer, fellowship, and witness, with obedience as the foundation), as the framework for my ongoing strength and motivation. Jesus said He would empower me to become like Him, as He has kept His word.

Third, is my trust in God’s promises. My first pastor, John M. Palmer said, “Faith is relying on God to do what He said He would do.” I was taught to look at the character of God in Scripture (as well as His promises) and pray and live accordingly.

Fourth, is my devotion to passing on the faith. One significant aim of those of us in campus ministry service is the idea of spiritual reproduction. We all know college students will one day graduate and leave, so our vision is to pass on the vision, character, and skills of Jesus to others, who in turn can pass them still on to others. This concept of third-generation discipling is clear in Matthew 28:20 when Jesus said, “…teaching them to obey everything I commanded you.” Notice the line of effort: I…you…them.

Fifth, is my commitment to the Great Commission. I have read Scripture and history about what Jesus commanded and what the followers of Jesus have been up to since his death, burial, and resurrection. Chi Alpha and all of our sister campus ministries have been consistently working to multiply college students into Christ-centered laborers to take the influence of Jesus’ teaching into every nation, thereby helping fulfill Christ’s Great Commission. Whatever else happens, evangelism and discipleship must be taking place and each generation must do its part.

Serve globally. I hope all of us find an anchor in these 5 lessons and continue a godly heritage.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 17

What are some things you need to bring to God in repentance?

I heard a story about a thief who broke into an office building. He was able to grab a large sum of money from petty cash boxes left unlocked, various electronic devices that he hoped to sell through a pawnshop, and some clothes from a locker. He heard a cleaning person coming and took off, but he did not get very far.

You’ve heard the saying, “loose lips sink ships?” Well, a week later the police captured the man while he talked rather loudly (no doubt due to the ale he was drinking) about his good fortune and waved large bills around in his hand. Someone took notice and alerted the police about a guy not known for having it together suddenly buying adult beverages for anyone interested.

Following the burglar’s arrest, the owner of the building that he broke into took an interest in him. He learned the thief was an addict who needed money to get off drugs. So the owner decided to help the man by suggesting he go into a recovery program like Teen Challenge and he accepted. The owner even assisted him to get into a facility nearby. Nine months later he was “clean” and even decided to ask God to be the strength and guide of his life.

Next, the owner did something incredibly generous – he offered him a job at the same office complex he broke into.

“If he wants to pay off his debt to society and our company,” said the owner, “we would be prepared to offer him a good job on the condition that he stay clean and off of drugs. The company will keep a quarter of the man’s wages until he pays back the cost of the burglary.”

The former thief was shown grace by a man who helped him deal with his drug problem. He was offered a job in spite of his offense. And he repented and turned away from his former lifestyle.

Read Nehemiah 1-2:8.

Nehemiah, like the thief-turned-employee, repented of the sins of ancient Israel and prayed to God for mercy (1:4-11). He was allowed to go back to Jerusalem, the capital city of his people, the Israelites, and to rebuild its walls…to start its restoration. God’s grace moved in the heart of Artaxerxes, King of Babylon, who gave Nehemiah a new position. He went from being a cupbearer (and wine-taster) to being a governor in Judah.

Whether you can identify more with the thief or the cupbearer, both of their stories illustrate a path to help you make a fresh start, regardless of your circumstances. God has shown you grace in so many ways. Life, breath, health, air, food, water, parents, siblings, abilities, personality, opportunities, setbacks, strengths, second-third-fourth chances, and on and on and on.

Take time to reflect on how God has shown you grace over the past few weeks. In response to His favor, will you repent of the sin in your life and honor Him? Start this week with a change of heart. It is never too late to humble yourself and ask God (and others) for help.

You may have had a strange start. Walk wisely. A changed heart leads to a fresh start.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 10

A student I worked with in Boston told me part of his story one day. Barry was a disruptive sixth grader in an inner city school when someone stepped into his life and gave him a chance. His father had left the family when he was young, and the statistics said Barry would never graduate from high school and likely end up in jail, like his dad.

But Barry and other kids were removed from their drug-filled, crime-ridden neighborhoods and given an option to attend a boarding school in another part of the city, financed by an anonymous donor. There they received a second chance to experience childhood while getting a better education and learning to see themselves in a new way.

Barry told me the shift was unsettling at first because many of their old friends envied their new clothes and book bags and begged them for money. “Suddenly, we were no longer apprentice hoodlums from the projects.” Barry told me. “We are considered ‘rich’ because we ate well, used manners, slept in safety, were well groomed, and had bright opportunities ahead of us.”

Does this sort of reform school work and produce lasting change? Yes and no. This particular boarding school has a strong track record of helping inner city kids like Barry get away from the troublesome environment of their neighborhood and get a fresh start. Being able to focus on character development along with academic catch-up, with strong faculty role models and host families, contributes to the chance to re-boot your life. Some of the children refused to cooperate and were sent home. Others completed their high school education and graduated with a new sense of direction. Many, like Barry, took advantage of the opportunity and earned a scholarship to college. It all depended on their response.

When we are faced with unwelcome circumstances, we can react with resentment or acceptance. Maybe our professor gave us a grade we did not expect, but in reality it was what we deserved for the quality of work and the weak effort. Maybe our summer employer or school requires us to live in a place we don’t care for. Illness or death in our family may alter our future plans. We have to decide if it’s a God-given opportunity or the end of the road.

Read Galatians 1:11-24.

Just after Saul of Tarsus met Jesus on the Damascus road, the former persecutor of Christians in the first century said, “I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus” (Galatians 1:17). We know very little about this three-year period in his life except that it removed him from his normal environment at a critical juncture. It was during this time that he received the understanding of the gospel (i.e., good news…the message) of Jesus that would radically redefine the direction of his life, even as mentors took him under their tutelege.

What kind of unwelcome change are you facing today? How do you think God may be involved in your circumstances? How do you decide whether you react with resentment or acceptance?

God may put us in new circumstances so we can learn to know and trust Him more. He may even bring a mentor like Barry encountered (initially an anonymous one) to assist in helping you get to where you have better options. That kind of “reform school” can be a life-changing time. It depends on how we respond. Live communally. Be teachable. Learn to embrace change.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – June 3

I’ve got some large hands, which helped me as a catcher, wrestler, and linebacker. A friend of mine was telling me about the size of his dad’s hands. He said he and his siblings used to laugh a bit watching his big, calloused fingers struggle to turn the thin, wispy pages of his study Bible. The pages of his Bibles wore out rather quickly not because of the heavy fingerprints or his strong grip. They were overwhelmed by constant use.

His giant hands were accompanied by a giant hunger and faith, too. The Bible was his guide in life, in worship, in work, in his love for his wife and care of his children, his concern for others, his generosity, and even in his childrearing and discipline.

This dad never used a belt or brush or any other implement when it was necessary to apply a little corporal punishment. My friend (who is my age), said his dad used those plywood hard palms of his – firm enough to create pain, but never to injure.

Many child psychologists, with some justification, argue that a parent should not use their hands to spank a child. They insist this action will result in fear that children will soon be terrified of their parents’ hands. Instead, they should use a neutral object like a wooden spoon as a tool of punishment. Then the children will merely fear the object and not the parent.

Perhaps this is true in some instances. Yet my friend said his father was just as quick to use those hands to pick him up, place him on his lap, and embrace him with love and forgiveness and tender care. Therefore, he and his siblings never cringed when their father approached them. His large hands were mere extensions of a loving heart. My pal added, “I don’t know what Dad’s heavenly body looks like today (he died a few years ago), but I sure hope God allowed him to keep those wonderful, big grippers.”

This conversation reminded me of a valuable lesson about God.

Read Hebrews 12:5-11.

A few thoughts: 1) God disciplines those he loves; 2) His discipline is a sign that we are His children; 3) They are an assurance of His love and concern for us; 4) The purpose of God’s discipline is that we become more like him and not be illegitimate sons and daughters; 5) If we submit to His discipline with a right attitude, it will produce godly character in us; 6) God disciplines us for our good, that we share in His life and holiness; 7) We respect our parents for training, and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we might truly live?

The Scriptures reveal God as a Person of love and mercy, but He also is our heavenly Father who must discipline us to be true to who He is and help us become who he created us to be. He pushes me when I need to get started, points the way when I need direction, lifts me when I need to get over an obstacle, stops me when I go astray, gives me a do-over when I mess up, and hugs me when sorrow comes knocking. That is what you can expect from the hands of God.

No Christian needs to fear the big hands of a just and merciful heavenly Father. Eugene Peterson in The Message writes, “God is educating you; that is why you must never drop out. He is not punishing you, but training you.” Think theologically. Discipline is pain that empowers.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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