Monthly Archives: July 2013

Monday Motivator – July 29

Have you thought about what is takes to be a truly effective servant leader? I believe some of the keys are character, competence, charisma, chemistry, and priorities and concentration.

A person who knows his or her priorities but lacks the concentration to implement anything knows what to do but never gets it done. If her or she concentrates but has no priorities, they may have excellence without progress or accomplishment. But when they harness both, they have the potential to achieve great things. A friend and colleague of mine and his wife illustrate these principles by the choices they have made to serve in campus ministry.

Harvey Herman got introduced to campus ministry right after college and seminary in the early 1970’s in Springfield, Missouri. A friend named Sally (who later became his wife) was a catalyst for his early involvement where he saw the vibrancy of committed relationships + intentional discipleship + creative witness + the power of the Holy Spirit. Harv recognized his interest and gifts could work well in a secular college environment and soon moved to Iowa to pioneer a state-wide circuit approach in concert with several Assembly of God pastors located around major campuses like Iowa State and the University of Iowa. 2 Timothy 2:2 had begun.

He and Sally relocated to the University of Nebraska for almost a decade in the 1980’s and built one of the flagship ministries of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries. Their efforts at reaching a campus through building and establishing healthy Christian community and developing a reproducing student leadership pipeline contributed to deep impact in Cornhusker territory.

They moved back to Springfield, MO in the early 1990’s so Harv could serve as the National Director of Training for Chi Alpha, a role he thrived in. Then they moved to Washington D.C. in 1999 to help pioneer and grow the DC Project. Sally served as the coordinator for Metro DC Chi Alpha while Harv pioneered a Campus Missionary in Training (CMIT) effort to train and release new campus missionaries for the Northeast United States. In addition, Harv built bridges to Assemblies of God denominational leaders in the Northeast while helping support and focus the Chi Alpha personnel there as the Northeast U.S. Area Director. Much more fruit was evident.

Finally, Harv and Sally moved to Charlottesville, VA a few years ago so he could again serve as the National Director of Training. Consider a few lessons I have observed in Harv and Sally:

First, effective leaders reach their potential by spending time focused on what they do well. For the past 40 years, Harv and Sally invested in staff and student leaders, who reproduced what they saw in Scripture (and the Herman’s) and transgenerational leadership + global influence resulted.

Second, growth equals change. Harv and Sally model that if you want to get better, you have to take responsibility to keep improving. Through various stages of life and places of leadership (including Sally’s work as a nurse), they have stepped into new arenas of risk, challenge, and learning. Harv completed a Doctor of Ministry degree a few years back because he wanted to deepen his knowledge about leadership and broaden his effectiveness as a servant leader.

Remember that in life, work, marriage, family, and leadership, if you are through growing, you are finished. Growth does not come easy and it is your responsibility. Follow the example of the Herman’s. Serve globally. Set your priorities and concentrate on your strengths today.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 22

Question 1: Have you ever rationalized doing what you knew to be wrong in order to help yourself or others?

Question 2: Why does allowing the end to justify the means move you away from God?

The following stories are true, but names have been changed to protect the students that actually did the things mentioned.

James was caught speeding his freshman year during a late night snack break. He told the police officer he was trying to get his takeout order from Taco Bell back to the dorm before the food got cold. He also used the line from the commercial, “I was making a run to the border…” in an attempt at humor. The cop never even smiled as he wrote the ticket.

Susan was in tough shape after getting caught with answers to a mid term exam. Her teaching assistant (T.A.) called her to her office to discuss the transgression and Susan first attempted to use the blame game by saying two other gals were the real ringleaders. Seeing that would not work, she went to plan B, and started crying. Through her sobs, she tried to elicit sympathy by saying she was under a lot of stress due to a parent being in tough health back home and recently losing her work study job on campus. When the T.A. asked for a number to call home to verify her story, Susan quickly balked and said her mom was feeling better.

Most of us can relate to using excuses to cover up some behavior we are not very proud of. The excuses and lines we make up (often on the spot), may seem humorous in retrospect, but it illustrates what we do much of the time – allow the end to justify the means. You know what I am talking about. Stuff like:

Telling a little white lie “so nobody gets hurt.” “Borrowing” stuff from a lab or work because “my friend really needs it.” Dating and getting too physical with a student who isn’t even a follower of Jesus, because “he or she really needs Jesus.” Adopting language and behavior you don’t normally engage in to feel like you fit in, or to try and impress others, because you say, “it’s a good opportunity to reach out to this group on campus.” You get the picture.

Read Luke 16:1-15.

Scripture does not support the idea that the “end justifies the means.” God’s standards of honesty and truthfulness are clear throughout the Bible. He calls his followers to be a distinct, holy, and representative people, different because of His transforming grace, influence, and power.

The first century Pharisees used religious rules to control people. Jesus strongly condemned them by saying, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your heart (Luke 16:15).” Both the means and their ultimate motive and goal were wrong in His sight.

Have you ever been more concerned about how you appear before your “family, friends, and colleagues” than the holy gaze of God? Is one of your excuses that you have good reason to support your behavior? Are you willing to consider that your good “reasons” are driven by bad methods and poor thinking? Walk wisely. Choose the right path and leave excuses behind.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 15

In what sort of situation are you most likely to hide your faith? What are you afraid will happen?

Susan told me about her first day of a summer internship as an engineering major in an East Coast city. Most of her co-workers were her age or a little older. She was welcomed into their group, but she soon faced a dilemma. Her new friends often went to bars after work, liked to go to movies, and if they went to a ballgame, they drank and acted rowdy. A couple of the guys tried to get too “friendly” with Susan, and she began to feel uncomfortable.

She let them know that sort of behavior was not what she was comfortable with. Without being condescending or judgmental, she said that her Christian values influenced how she tried to live her life. She added that she liked the various group members and hoped that they liked her. After a few weeks, she found herself accepted by most of the group. One by one, she also had a chance to ask them about their values and spiritual journey, and in turn, had a chance to talk clearly about what she believed and tried to live out.

At school, on an intramural team, at work, or in the lab, many college students feel they should keep quiet about their faith in Jesus. There is often an inherent and clear message our culture brings to keep matters of faith out of the public square (and even the private arena, too). The result is Christian students don’t often feel confident to talk about their personal beliefs and how they affect their lives, even when it is the most natural thing to do. They think avoiding certain subjects will make it easier to get along and that they will not offend anyone.

Read Acts 26:9-32.

Consider the example of the apostle Paul. He spoke about Jesus everywhere. He spoke with fellow inmates in jails, engaged philosophers and religious leaders in the marketplace, connected with common folks (even as they tried to kill him at times), and in the text above, talked openly with King Agrippa about his faith experience on the Damascus Road (started in Acts 9 and retold in chapter 26) and what it had cost him. When Festus interrupted and shouted that Paul was out of his mind, Paul simply kept reasoning with Agrippa (Acts 26:24-27). Paul knew a person with an experience is never inferior to a person with an argument…and he actually had both.

What are things you’ve seen other Christians do to cover up their faith? What was the result? What tends to strangle your interest to share your faith? Are you willing to be courageous and discuss your faith with friends, colleagues, and professors who do not know Jesus?

If you are in a situation where you aren’t sure how to handle your faith, it makes sense to be up front about Jesus’ influence on your life and why you chose to live that way. Be gentle and respectful. Avoid being brash and judgmental. Be yourself and be honest about what you believe and why. One reason you hear, read, study, memorize, and mediate on Scripture is to “be ready to give an answer for the hope in you” (1 Peter 3:15). The Psalmist said in 66:16, “Let me tell you about what He has done for me.” Like Paul, just talk about what you know and experienced.

Live communally. We are not called to keep secrets about God from our friends. Upon hearing Jesus had risen from the dead, the angel said to the female witnesses, “Come and see and go and tell” (Matthew 28:6-7). Let’s reveal Jesus wherever He leads us.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 8

Are you a perfectionist? If yes, how does that help or hurt you? Do you need to talk to someone about this?

Do you know when something is moved in your room? Do you get frustrated when wrapping up a class assignment and have a hard time turning in your work, thinking it could be a little better? Do you get ruffled when someone messes with your computer (i.e., even touches your screen)?

If you answered “yes,” you may be a perfectionist. Not very serious symptoms, right? Now try these: Do you set unusually high standards for yourself? Do you believe that anything less than perfection is failure? Do you find hope in a moment of failure? Do you avoid talking honestly to your parents because you fear what they think of you? Do you avoid God because you think He expects you to be perfect? After all, didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect.”

Jesus actually did say that. But He also said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Jesus did not expect people to clean themselves up before they came to Him. He touched people whom society considered unclean and imperfect (Matthew 8:3, 20:30-34 and Mark 7:32-35). They recognized their own weaknesses, struggles, frailties, and sins, and knew that only Jesus was the One who could help.

If you are a Christian, you probably know that trusting Jesus as Savior does not make you instantly perfect. The apostle Paul wrote, “What I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do I do not want to do…but this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19).  He also wrote to the Christians at Philippi, “Not that I have already been made perfect…but I press on” (3:12).

Read Philippians 3:12-21.

Think about the man who wrote much of the New Testament. He was a champion of the early Christian faith. He was a role model of robust faith, intellectual depth, spiritual gifts and Holy Spirit power, a man who would rather die than turn his back on Jesus. He knew that as long as his feet touched the earth, he would never be perfect. But he did not sit back and practice a cheap sort of grace, just waiting for the return of his Lord. He kept trying to pursue Christ-likeness, by saying things like, “…forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on to the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward” (v 13-14).

Paul argues that followers of Christ are heaven bound first and foremost, based on new values and direction. We are born from above, our names are written in heaven’s Book, our lives are guided by heavenly standards, and our inheritance and standing is reserved in heaven. While our citizenship is in heaven, we also have a responsibility to live like Christ on earth. Paul lived to “forget what is behind” (i.e. the corrupt world and his old life of sin) and “run his race well” that would ultimately result in his final salvation in Christ. He lived to be like Christ.

Christians are in a process of becoming more like Christ. It is nothing you can do on your own. Memorize Philippians 1:6 for the times when you feel you don’t measure up. The author of Hebrews wrote, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (12:2). Think theologically. Read the 4 Gospels and do what Jesus says in red and models in black. Nobody’s perfect – yet. Trust Jesus to make you more like Him. Keep your eyes on Him.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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Monday Motivator – July 1

I have been reading comic books since the 1960’s. In some ways my science classes could have been more interesting if we discussed, “Is Spider-Man’s web really strong enough to support him as he swings from building to building?” Or “how does Batman accomplish so much on only 4 hours of sleep, with no apparent use of 5 hour energy drinks?”

I remember asking my physics professor why Superman’s home planet of Krypton exploded? By working backward from the force necessary to leap a building on earth, he tried to calculate Krypton’s gravity. He then suggested that Krypton had an unusually dense and unstable core of material that ultimately exploded. I recall it appeared to be an imminent and inevitable collapse.

Spidey’s question is a bit easier since his creator’s (Marvel’s Stan Lee and Steve Ditko) described the webbing as having the tensile strength of steel, so it could easily support far more than the young superhero’s weight. But what gave it the sticking power after being shot so far and often? Did Spidey actually patent his invention before Post-It and Velcro were discovered?

To a lot of us, physics can seem difficult, technical, even boring and unnecessary. Yet the Bible itself can strike some people in the same manner. Many of its stories, accounts, and narratives create images in our minds of people long, long ago, in beards and bathrobes far, far away, who have little in common with our world today. Often a little sanctified imagination can make the Scriptures come alive with punch and pageantry.

Read John 11:17-44.

As you read the story of Lazarus, try to imagine the setting and feelings of the people involved. Have you lost a family member or close friend because help could not arrive in time? Why did Mary and Martha react the way they did to Jesus coming along after their brother died? Four days after the funeral and burial, was anyone expecting a dead man to come back to life?

How would you have reacted if you had seen what is described in John 11:38-44? If you had stood at the grave of Lazarus, what would you have seen, heard, touched, smelled, and thought? What would your best friend have said after hearing your account of being an eyewitness?

One challenge to each of us who live in the 21st  century is to let the Bible stand and speak on its own terms. The authors of the 66 books wrote to a particular people in a time and context unlike our own. Part of our task is to discover the author’s original intent and reason for writing, as well as understand the type of genre the author is using. Gordon Fee and Doug Stuart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth and How to Read the Bible Book by Book will be of great help here.

But make no mistake: the goal is not to read things into the Bible that aren’t there, but to understand and experience everything in the text. Far from being technical and remote, the Scriptures are filled with truths that can transform our lives today.

Each time you read Scripture, begin with a prayer that the Holy Spirit will bring it alive in ways you have never seen or heard before. Then prepare to be amazed and changed by God. Consider reading the Bible aloud for the next week and see how it changes your experience of His Story. Grow devotionally. Dig deep into the treasures of God’s Word.

Love is a verb,

Mike Olejarz

©2013 by Mike Olejarz

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